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Inside Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Show No Sign of Backing Down

August 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
It's 'all or nothing' for protesters in Cairo who so far show no signs of backing down despite continued use of force from security forces. Jeffrey Brown is joined by Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers to discuss how the Muslim Brotherhood is rallying support and Egyptian reaction to the U.S.'s response to the violence.
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JEFFREY BROWN: The day’s developments prompted protests elsewhere in the Muslim world as well against the crackdown in Egypt. Thousands of people gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, condemning the violence in Cairo. They waved images of Mohammed Morsi and chanted their backing for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Pakistan, crowds in Karachi also criticized the Egyptian regime, and they attacked what they called U.S. support for dictators in the Muslim world.

But, in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah endorsed the actions of Egypt’s interim leaders. He called it a fight against terrorism.

We get more on the situation in Egypt now from Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers. She’s in Cairo and spoke with us a short while ago via Skype.

Well, Nancy, welcome.

You’re under a curfew now, I know, but what can you tell us about the latest about what’s going on around you there tonight?

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NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Well, most of the country is relatively quiet, compared to this morning, when there were street fights all over the country.

And most of what we’re seeing now is activity in the Sinai. There are some buildings on fire here. And there’s a lot of anxiousness, if you will, in the country, as the Muslim Brotherhood has said that they’d like these protests to continue for another week, which portends potentially more violence and more instability.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you about. There are really no signs whatsoever that they’re backing down at this point, that they are calling for continued rallies. Is there any debate within the Muslim Brotherhood that you can discern about what should happen next?

NANCY YOUSSEF: No.

In fact, we talked to some of the leadership within the Brotherhood and they said they can’t back down, because to back down would be to acquiesce to military rule which, from their perspective, was one of the things that the 2011 uprising was supposed to end.

And, also, frankly, they have no incentive at this point to back down, in the sense that there are no negotiations going on. There’s nothing for them to gain, in the sense of political participation, and so for them, it’s all or nothing. And, frankly, they have the advantage of a lot of people, Brotherhood members and sympathizers alike, who think that they have been wronged in this last week.

And I think there’s an interest from their perspective to take advantage of that momentum and really try to get back some of the ground that they lost on July 3, when the military forced Mohammed Morsi, who is a Muslim Brotherhood member, to step down from the presidency.

JEFFREY BROWN: What about the regime? In addition to what it’s — what they’re doing in the streets, how are they trying to rally public support? What kind of rhetoric are they using?

NANCY YOUSSEF: It’s incredible, the amount of rhetoric they’re using. There are simple things like having pictures of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the minister of defense, who announced Morsi’s ouster, his posters now hanging all over the country. On state television, every channel has a graphic in the corner that says “Egypt fighting terrorism,” referring to those who support Mohammed Morsi.

There are statements coming out from them and video coming out from them saying — purporting to show the Brotherhood attacking them, setting churches ablaze, shooting on to the police. There are funerals that are televised of police officers allegedly killed by the Brotherhood.

And so there’s a very active media campaign to convince and show the public that they are in fact defending the state from people who threaten it, not the other way around.

JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I noted in the piece you wrote tonight for your paper, you said, for the first time Friday, Egyptians spoke of potential civil war and asked how their nation compared to Algeria. It’s really getting to that point from people you’re talking to?

NANCY YOUSSEF: Yes, because there’s no room for negotiation for either side. Nobody is talking about finding a settlement.

The negotiation effort that was led by deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and by the European Union, and by local interlocutors here failed. And they couldn’t — and in those negotiations, they couldn’t even agree on minimal things. And so both sides seem to think that they are — have the moral high ground in this battle.

And so you start to — you are starting to hear people refer to the other side as them and us vs. them. People are asking, are we going to be like Algeria, which also erupted in civil war in the ’90s, when — after the first round of elections in which the Islamist won were canceled? So their Islamists didn’t even get to office when that civil war broke out. It was quite ugly and it went on for years.

And you’re starting to hear concern that Egypt is headed on this path between the rhetoric, the divisive nature, and the number of deaths. These are deaths that haven’t been seen here ever. The deaths that we have seen this — in the past 72 hours are more than all those killed during the 18 days of the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

And so it is that shock and the polarization that is really spurring this worry amongst everyday Egyptians about where their country is headed.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Nancy Youssef in Cairo, thanks so much.

NANCY YOUSSEF: Thank you.