By Alex Emslie
A crowd of about 100 Egyptian-Americans from around the Bay Area gathered at San Francisco’s Civic Center Sunday calling for the U.S. to halt billions of dollars in aid to the Egyptian military until violence that skyrocketed last week is stopped.
Clashes between military forces and Egyptians opposed to the army’s ouster of elected president Mohammed Morsi claimed about 900 lives since security forces opened fire on protests in Cairo Aug. 14.
The military is also arresting members of Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Protesters have attacked police stations and government buildings in retaliation. Violence continued through the weekend as the death toll approached 1,000, with more than 5,000 wounded.
Santa Clara resident Hala Yacout said her brother was shot and killed in Cairo on Wednesday. She said Egypt’s parliament and constitution need to be reinstituted.
“Not because they are good or bad, because they were elected,” Yacout said. “Because that’s the only way to provide safe life in Egypt, to restore democracy.”
Many others in the crowd also said they had friends or family killed or wounded in Egypt last week. They all said they were torn, supporting neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the military, but still hopeful for democratic rule in Egypt.
“Actually, I’m one of the people who oppose Morsi, and I think that his rule wasn’t up to the standard we hoped for after the January 25th revolution,” San Jose resident M.A. said, referring to the uprising in 2011 that deposed former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak. “But I believe in the democratic process, and I believe he was democratically elected.” She asked to only be identified by initials for fear of reprisal when traveling to Egypt.
She said she hoped to see Morsi removed through the electoral process. Now she’s fearful for her country, again under the rule of a military council with strong ties to the Mubarak regime.
“What happened was a bunch of people behind closed doors decided to take over the presidency,” she said. “They just want people to shut up and not say their opinion and brutally kill people because they are saying that they don’t like this process.”
The Obama administration has not called Morsi’s ouster a coup, a term that would legally forbid aid to Egypt’s military.
“The U.S. should not take sides, (but) they are because as it is they are funding the Egyptian military to the tune of $1.5 billion every year,” Oakland resident Mohammad Talat said.
“They have to at least suspend this and declare that it’s only going to continue once a democratically elected civilian government is in place,” he said.
Talat was one of several in San Francisco Sunday who were still grieving the death of Assem El Gammal, an electronics engineer well-known in the Silicon Valley Egyptian community. Friends said he was shot to death Wednesday near the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo.
“He was shot multiple times,” Talat said. “He wasn’t there doing anything related to terrorism. He was there expressing his opinion.”