Amid protests against Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi for usurping all powers of the legislature and judiciary, a long-standing dispute between Egyptian residents and the Egyptian government has brought another face of Morsi to light.
At 5 am Sunday, November 18, Egyptian police forces staged an attack on citizens living on an island in the Nile, a piece of prime agricultural land.
Al-Monitor.com who reported the event in the English press quoted a witness who was one of the attacked.
“First they used batons and electric prods. When people resisted, holding on to their land, they used live rounds,” a man named Mahmoud said. “[The troops] came in four boats. They were beating every creature in sight, man or animal. They were burning everything they came across.”
Mahmoud was able to escape in a motor boat that he had access to. He and a group of friends escaped the assault amid “screams of pain” emanating from those left behind.
“There were children sleeping in the shacks. I carried some with me. They were trembling in fear. […] Other [residents] were jumping in the Nile to escape the bullets,” Mahmoud continued.
One person was reported killed in the raid, a number were wounded and about five were missing.
Protests from citizens in disbelief erupted on the mainland later that day. Sahar Ahmed was quoted as saying, “I didn’t believe our military killed civilians, but now I’ve seen it. They took us by surprise and attacked without a warning. We didn’t have anything to defend ourselves with.”
For those who thought Morsi would be different from the iron-clad rule of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the assault by the military on its own citizens was a rude awakening. One factor leading to the 2011 rebellion against Mubarak was his appropriation of financial interests for the state at the expense of the poor.
In this particular case, the government of Egypt tried to evict residents of the island in 2007 to sell the property to a private investor. The lush scenery with its fresh air and view of the Nile made it a most desirable – and expensive -- piece of real estate for the government to sell to a developer.
In 2008, a court ruling affirmed the residents’ right to stay on the land. Still, a statement released Sunday, military spokesman Col. Ahmed Ali said the land was registered under the army’s name in July 2010. That was five months after the Higher Administrative Court upheld a 2008 ruling giving the residents the right to stay.
Mahmoud has submitted papers showing he is the owner of his land.
Sunday night, as protests continued, Nagat Ahmed said, “I supported Morsi, but I regret it. Mubarak’s hell is better than Morsi’s heaven.”