Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Show-down in Egypt

The BBC Arabic was busy all morning covering the Egyptian military's dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood protest/sit-in/camp.

The military has the added distinction of also being the Egyptian government right now. The military became the government after it kicked the Muslim Brotherhood out. You can already tell that this won't be pretty.


First, the anchor Mr. Anton – the one who always looks troubled – was talking to someone from Lebanon on the phone. I think the man in Lebanon was saying he held the military as responsible for the violence. Mr. Anton said back to him: But the Muslim Brotherhood lost many chances at dialogue, at compromise, at reaching out to people, at being inclusive. There’s people that say they hold a large part of the responsibility for bringing on this crisis.

The man in Lebanon said: No, maybe the people in the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in made political mistakes, maybe they did this and that, but that cannot be a justification at all for killing them (because people were killed when the MB sit-in was broken up.)

Then, they went live to a US press conference by a spokeman of some sort. He said the US condemned the dispersal of the sit-in, and that the current Egyptian temporary government (erected in by the military) had not done enough to finish its transitory role and move on to elections. The trusty BBC English-Arabic interpreter was doing his usual smashing job at translating. They were talking about Egypt, then more Egypt, then more Egypt, then all of a sudden someone asked a question about US Airways. I waited a bit to see what US Airways had to do with protests in Egypt. Turns out, nothing! The interpreter kept right on going, he didn’t miss a beat, but the person behind the camera was just as taken aback as I was at the sudden change in topic, so it took them a while to move back to Mr. Anton and move on to more Egypt-crisis.

Mr. Yousef calls in: I just wanted to tell you this is all the fault of the Muslim Brotherhood! I heard (or I saw) that there was absolutely no violence at the protest until a shot rang out clearly from the protestors’ side, aimed at the police. This is an armed sit-in! These are enemies!

A guy on the Muslim Brotherhood side called in. He sounded very, very tired and sad. Mr. Anton asked him, do you take any responsibility for what happened today? The tired-sounding guy said: who is responsible, the people who were killed or the people who did the killing?

Mr. Anton said, but there were western journalists present, and they have confirmed today that they saw lots and lots of arms amongst the people at the sit-in. How do you claim that the protesters were completely innocent?
The tired guy went on sounding tired.

Then Mr. Anton turned to a guest from the Muslim Brotherhood in his studio. That guy said: there have been journalists amongst the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in for weeks! How come none of them ever saw arms, or reported seeing weapons? Why is this all of a sudden coming out?

Then Mr. Anton talked to another guy on the phone. This guy was supporting the military, and spoke against the Muslim Brotherhood, and said that other countries, like the US, also disperse protestors (he was probably talking about Occupy Wall Street.) So why shouldn’t Egypt?
Mr. Anton told him, yes, but in other countries when they disperse protestors, you don’t end up with 149 killed, and 1400 wounded. Those numbers had just come out at that moment from the Egyptian Ministry of Health as the casualty counts. (the official statistics as of this evening are at almost 300 dead, I think.)

The guy on the phone had a ready answer: Oh, but 25% of those are from the police! As a result of the protestors’ live fire. (I don't know where he got that number from.) And by the way, the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to have dead people, so they can claim more martyrs and get people more passionate. It’s all their fault. By the way, the MB started the firing of weapons. And also, by the way, did you notice that there were women and children amongst the protestors’ sit-in? They did that so that they could hide their weapons behind an innocent fa├žade.

Mr. Anton turns back to the MB guy in the studio, who was shaking his head:
"No!" says the MB studio guy. "He says we wanted more martyrs. Indeed we did not. He said that we fired at the police first. Sir, all the photos confirm that the police fired at us first! And by the way, the presence of the women and children is the biggest evidence that this was a completely peaceful protest." 
(It was all going so fast I could not write down everything that he said! Remember that most everything here is paraphrased to the best of what I can remember. Sometimes when I put quotes, it's just to make it more clear who was speaking, not that I wrote down their comments word for word.)

The argument over weapons continued later during the “Have Your Say” Program. A very angry Muslim Brotherhood man called in, yelling. Finally, the program’s moderator told him, “we are talking about the weapons that were in the protestors’ camp, and the fact they would not allow police in to search the camp, they would not allow in monitors, no one could tell what kinds of weapons and how many were in there, or if the sit-in was truly peaceful.”
The MB guy kept right on screaming: no! I’ve been in those camps, I never ever ever ever ever saw any weapons in there, never ever ever ever (he was trying to help Taylor Swift write her next song.)
What the moderator said next was the best thing ever: "Please, sir, without screaming, without screaming, please sir. I’m certain many other people share your views, thanks for calling in."

And here are pictures of the weapons found at the camps. The Muslim Brotherhood says these weapons were all planted to make them look bad. Whatever the story is, the coverage that I saw did not reveal huge weapons stashes. Again, who knows.


Contrary to appearances, the Muslim Brotherhood was not caught with a stash of wine in its camp. I think the bottles in the bottom picture are just Molotov cocktails, I'm not sure of the correct term, but I think it is a bomb in a bottle. And I found this out by watching the news, not by any curious snooping of my own. 

But don’t worry, before you thought that the Egyptians were going to spend all day pointing fingers at each other, another caller announced that this was all the fault of the American and the European hegemony and – and – aw, shucks, the line cut off at that point, I didn’t hear how he was going to support this.

Now back to Mr. Anton who suddenly said, “we have breaking news! The vice-president of the temporary government (that the military put in) has resigned, Mr. Mohammed El-Baradei.” At that point, he did not have all the details, but as expected it was later revealed that he resigned in protest at the violence. Do you know why he did it? After all, this is not normal Arab behavior. Arabs like to pick a side and support it at all costs, even if that side begins behaving barbarically. It’s because Mr. El-Baradei used to be a UN weapons inspector, and in the lead-up to the Iraq War he worked really closely with Dr. Hans Blix, who is Swedish and one of my favorite people ever. Clearly, some Swedish goodness rubbed off on Mr. El-Baradei!

And actually, it seems like the Egyptians agree, at least those who wrote in to the BBC Arabic. They read out three of the comments, I guess they had been randomly picked. One said: I really respect Mr. El-Baradei. Another said: Mr. El-Baradei is the only one out of the liberal politicians who really takes seriously what liberal truly means. And a third said: his resignation does not take away the fact that he is responsible for this worst act of violence that Egypt has seen in modern history (if, of course, by ‘modern history’ he means since last year.)

Mr. Anton started asking the MB guy still in the studio about who was responsible for the burning churches in Egypt (there’s been a bunch torched today, see more below.) The studio MB guy started skirting and yapping about other stuff, saying, we don’t do any violence! But Mr. Anton pressed him: what about the churches burning in Egypt today, who is responsible?
The studio MB guy started stuttering really badly: we don’t do any violence! There’s violence all over Egypt today, in Sinai, in Suez, in Alexandria, in who knows where else.
Mr. Anton: yes, and the churches burning in Egypt today, who’s responsible?
The studio MB guy: starts stuttering even worse. "The people responsible … the people responsible … the people responsible are those who committed the massacres today! That’s who."

Now, check out these pictures:


These are Muslim Brotherhood protestors leaving the sit-in camp after the dispersal. If you look carefully, you can see kids in both pictures, and I saw many others. This is really sad, they must have seen all the violence, and maybe are amongst the killed. I don’t think that Arabs really know how to care for children. I'm speaking generally, I'm sure some specific families are top-notch. But in general, we pay lip-service to the idea, and I guess most parents love their children, but if Arabs really loved their children, they would have sat down and talked to each other rather than always be screaming and shouting and throwing rocks/tear gas/bombs and trying to kill each other. Arabs can make a big show of loving their children, but where are the actual loving acts of building a safe, stable, peaceful, free society that is good for their children to grow up in? There is a society like this, it exists in Sweden, and all Arabs ever do is sit and trash-talk my darling Sweden. As if they have any room to talk. 

Part 2 - the universal condemnation of the military's actions

The BBC Arabic ran through a list of everyone who had condemned the military. The UN was first, I just didn’t get a chance to catch a screenshot of it. Then the EU, and then the UK; then Iran (I think), Turkey, and Qatar. So that is the importance that countries and institutions get ordered in. Of course, they had already showed multiple US press conferences live and on repeat, so the US was covered.

Quotes and flags from the institutions as they condemned the Egyptian military

Part 3: the temporary Egyptian prime minister defends himself and his military
The PM gave televised remarks and immediately started talking like the typical Arab man:
"Sure, we have to have restraint, but things got to a point that no country would ever allow, if it respects itself" (justifying everything under the guise of respecting oneself is a key Arab trick). "When people don’t respect the law, the law has to come in and guarantee that the law is respected" (this sounds like what Saddam and Mubarak and all the old friends would have said.)

And for good measure, he threw in some nice words about the holy month of Ramadan and the nice holiday of Eid, yes, that will convince everyone for sure!


The temporary Prime Minister would like to speak

Part 4 (and the last part): Who was burning churches in Egypt today? 

 These are the different cities where churches were reported burned today. There are six cities on this map, but multiple targets were attacked in each one.
Two people were discussing/debating this, a new guest representing the Muslim Brotherhood and a leader of the Coptic Christian church who now lives in London.

The Coptic leader: Today in Minia, six churches were burned. The people in Minia say it was the MB who did it. And the police just disappeared (in cahoots with the arsonists). And everyone knows who the fanatics are in that area. It was not just churches that were burned, but also Coptic schools. 

The Muslim Brotherhood guest: We did not do it. (With very little conviction in his voice or face, by the way. He knows that MB supporters did it, he is just wishing for the sake of PR that they had been otherwise affiliated!) Such acts are not done by anyone who respects any single thing. Let’s not forget that a there was a church burned the other day in Alexandria, some non-MB guy admitted he had done it so that he could increase civil unrest.

The Coptic leader from London: no, we’ve been dealing with MB treating us badly for 50 years. We see it all with our own eyes, and all this time we always hear the same thing from the MB. They'll say, "oh, it’s the Shias doing it, oh, it’s someone else." The MB absolutely do not accept any opposing opinions. We met with the former president Mursi (from the Muslim Brotherhood party), and all his henchman did was to exaggerate and lie the whole time. We are simply used to this from the MB. 

At this point, the BBC moderator said that since the specific MB henchman mentioned was not present, and so could not defend himself, they had to move on.

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