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Monday, July 15, 2013

Egyptians Come To Grips With Political Upheaval

Egypt has seen two leaders deposed in under three years. So how do people in different parts of the country feel now?

The BBC’s Ahmed Maher is on the road to find out, and filed this report from the city of Ismailia.



Well, a top U.S. diplomat is meeting with Egypt's interim leaders today. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is the most senior American official to hold talks with the new government since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. Meanwhile, the Egyptian people are still coming to grips with all of the political upheaval there. The BBC's Ahmed Maher has been traveling around the country to get reaction. He filed this report from the city of Ismailia.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

AHMED MAHER: This Egyptian city on the Suez Canal is deeply symbolic to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded here in 1928. I am at the doorsteps of a mosque established by the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Hassan al-Banna, in one of the city's suburbs.

The mosque is called Al Rahman, Arabic for mercy, and was established with the aim of combining political Islam with charity. It is in the heart of one of the city's overcrowded slums. At the house of one of the Brotherhood's wealthier members, you see charity at work. The building is used as a storehouse for tons of food supplies distributed among poor families during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

As I watch, young Brotherhood members carry bags of sugar, rice and flour to a pickup car outside. Shokrid Halid(ph) is a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.

SHOKRID HALID: (Through Translator) The group has been doing a lot of charity work for many years now. They help the poor, the orphans and young couples planning to get married, and they do it for God, not themselves.


MAHER: Historically, being charitable has served the Muslim Brotherhood well, generating strong grassroots support and unwavering loyalty. The city was a key support base for Mohamed Morsi, helping him to become Egypt's first democratically elected president. But if charity was all that Mohamed Morsi needed to remain popular, he would be safe. Clearly, it was not enough.

There is very little evidence of actual support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the place where they began. We've been traveling around the city all morning and we have hardly seen any posters supporting the ousted president or his group. And next to me here are anti-Muslim Brotherhood graffiti sprayed across the wall of the main government building.

Last month, Ismailia joined the wave of massive demonstrations nationwide against Morsi's one-year-old rule. You just need to go to a market to find that it is the economy, as reflected in the price of food, that locals care about. The cost of basic commodities increased dramatically in the year that Mohamed Morsi held power. And people like Mohammad(ph), shopping for bread and sugar, are deeply frustrated.

MOHAMMAD: (Through Translator) If you bought a packet of butter and found it expired, what would you do? You would throw it away. We elected Morsi, though I didn't vote for him myself. His year in office was all negative, and that's why Egyptians revolted against him, backed by the military.

MAHER: Even spending a day in what was a Muslim Brotherhood heartland, it is hard to find many people who describe the army move against Mohamed Morsi as a coup. Indeed, many appear to be happy to have the generals back in charge, at least for the time being.

HOBSON: That report from the BBC's Ahmed Maher in Egypt. Well, still ahead today, the hit show "Glee" is dealing with the death of one of its main stars, Cory Monteith. We'll talk about that actor and just how the show will manage to go on without him. News is next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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