Neither the military nor extremists in the new Egypt, says young Copt
Nagui Damiam talks about the renewed unity among Egyptians demonstrating in Tahrir Square. The Muslim Brotherhood is strong and well organised, but it is far from what young people want. A victory by extremists against the military would trigger a civil war with moderate forces. A Christian exodus has already started.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – “The situation is very unstable and uncertain,” said Nagui Damian. “Young people, Christians and Muslims, are confident that a democratic and secular Egypt can be created. It is for this, we are fighting,” added the 30-year-old Copt who took part in recent anti-military demonstrations in Tahrir Square. For him, those Egyptians who are leading the protest movement do not want to be ruled by extremists or the military. “If radical Islamic groups take over, civil war will likely break out.”
Meanwhile, clashes between demonstrators and police continue in Tahrir Square. Sources told AsiaNews that several people were injured or made sick by tear gas. A three-month pregnant woman died yesterday after she inhaled gas.
Today the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces apologised for the excessive use of force and the death of scores of people, which it described as “loyal sons of Egypt”.
However, the situation of chaos could force a postponement of next Monday’s elections. For many demonstrators, the ongoing violence is incompatible with free elections.
“The massacre of Copts on 9 October, which ended in 28 deaths, brought Christians and Muslims together,” Nagui explained. “Since then, moderate Muslims have expressed their solidarity to Christians and have accused the military of trying to divide the nation.”
This solidarity is visible across the country, especially in the largest cities like Cairo and Alexandria. “In the past six months, various pro-democracy parties have been created with Copts and Muslims,” he said. “Divisions persist but everyone, Christian or Muslim, is fighting side by side against the military and for a new Egypt. For days, they have occupied Tahrir Square.”
However, this unity is not present among political elites, who tend to operate along confessional lines. “Right now, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists are running the show. They have been waiting for decades to take over, and are well organised. Unlike us young people, they are well funded as well.”
“In recent months, the Brotherhood has kept saying that they would win most of the seats if a vote was held. This is based on an election held in the Doctors’ Union, which they won and which they use to project future victories.”
“Many of us are divided over what to do,” Nagui Damian said as he discussed the possibility that the vote might be postponed, as many are demanding in the square. Some “think that putting off the vote might strengthen the military. Others are convinced that voting in the current tense situation is impossible. The risk of manipulation and fresh violence are too high. People should be able to take part in elections without fear.”
“Many Christians are fleeing the country,” the young man noted. “They fear a victory of Islamic parties. Priests, Catholics and Orthodox, as well as the more active members of the community are doing all they can to stop this exodus. Right now, the community must be united. Our duty is to stay put and make free elections possible.”
“We Christians want to do our best in these elections. And we shall do it with moderate Muslims. There are parties led by Muslims who are opposed to the stranglehold of the Muslim Brotherhood and are ready to support pro-democracy movements.”