The United States reels when a private citizen kills three spectators, or a classroom of children, or dozens of moviegoers. And we should. Those are tragedies. Tragedies that are so unimaginable that part of the discourse surrounding them becomes a collective effort at understanding how they could be possible.
So imagine how it must feel to see the other side of a day in which hundreds — several hundreds — of your fellow countrymen are gunned down or torched or beaten by a group that calls itself the government. It is impossible to imagine, as governments are supposed to be legitimately convened, not self-anointed, and governments of any provenance are not supposed to kill their people. Reality, though, is pushing the limits of our imagination.
Egypt’s President, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted from power in a military coup that occurred on July 3, 2013. Since the coup, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party has been staging sit-ins to protest his forced exit. On Wednesday of this week, the military regime swept the streets of Cairo, breaking up two protests being staged in the capital, in crackdown that left hundreds of Egyptians dead.
Here are 6 things you need to know about the crisis in Egypt:
1. The death toll has risen to 638 victims. Nearly 4,000 have been injured.
2. The bodies of many of the dead remained in Cairo morgues and at a city mosque on Thursday. Under Islamic tradition, bodies are supposed to be buried within 24 hours of death. Victims’ families are accusing authorities of erecting artificial hurdles to make it harder for them to obtain permission to bury their loved ones.
3. Yesterday, Egypt’s military-backed government authorized the use of live ammunition to stifle any remaining opposition. Supporters of both Morsi and the military plan to re-take the streets on Friday anyway.
4. President Obama announced that the U.S. would no longer participate in joint military operations with the Egyptian Army next month, but he made no mention of the $1.5 billion in aid that the U.S. supplies to Egypt in military and economic aid.
5. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged $12 billion in aid to Egypt, seemingly giving them more influence over the country than the United States wields. The UAE has said Egypt’s military government “exercised maximum self-control” in response to the protests.
6. The Egyptian government agreed with that assessment, insisting that they fired only in self-defense and were not even responsible for many of the deaths. The country’s ambassador stated that “[w]hat the Egyptian government did, and the police, is an obligation from any state towards its people, to defend its interests and to protect them.”
Morsi supporters plan further protests for today, and Egypt’s interim president urged reconciliation, even as he threatened that his government would not be “lenient.”
Can you imagine?
Check back next with for the 6 Things you’ll need to know.
Image Source: Maged Helal via Flickr.