On Wednesday, I had plans to get in touch with a friend of a friend, Karim Sherif, a 22 year-old engineering student in Cairo, to talk about his experiences protesting against President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government in July.
But when I woke up that morning, I found that he’d sent me a message saying he was unable to get home in time for our Skype appointment. The streets were blocked due to the violence that erupted when the military tried to break up pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in reaction to Morsi’s ouster.
Since then, The New York Times has reported a death toll of more than 600 people in the city. Churches and police stations have been attacked, interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei has resigned, and a 7 pm to 6 am curfew has been imposed in Cairo.
The Economist summarized the violence like this:
Government officials promised action against the protesters, who included women and children; they said it would be gentler than the clashes at the time of the coup, which left scores of pro-Brotherhood protesters dead. The police assault on the morning of August 14th, though, backed up by army units, was one of stunning brutality, complete with automatic weapons and sniper fire. The university camp was cleared first, the Nasr City camp second; by the end of the day field hospitals were full of the dead and wounded.
Meanwhile, I rescheduled my Skype call with Karim. On Thursday, we spoke about what he has been witnessing in his city.
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Although it is not clear whether armed Morsi supporters provoked the military to open fire on protesters as Karim suggests, he is not alone in pinning the blame for violence on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Economist notes that Egypt’s press has returned to its old habits of cheering the government and describing Islamist protesters in Cairo “as either terrorists or the Brotherhood’s paid dupes.”
In this video, The New York Times explores how opponents and supporters of the military have tried to push different narratives of ongoing violence by publishing graphic clips on YouTube.