Zeinab Mansour, 70, a librarian from Chevy Chase, returned to her native Cairo two years ago to participate in the democratic revolution that toppled Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Last year, the dual citizen voted in Egypt’s first free elections, which led to the presidency of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
On Saturday, Mansour was out on the streets again, this time joining a rally in front of the White House to celebrate Morsi’s ouster by the Egyptian army Wednesday and to ask the Obama administration to support a second chance for democracy in her homeland after a year of turmoil and religious pressure under Morsi and his Islamist followers.
But even as many members of the Washington area’s large, middle-class Egyptian American community welcomed Morsi’s overthrow, calling it a “revolution, not a coup,” others warned that the sudden power vacuum and ongoing violent clashes involving secular, Islamist and security forces could lead to wider religious and social conflict in the poor Middle Eastern nation of 90 million.
“This is a very, very dangerous situation,” said Nancy Okiel, an Egyptian Muslim and staff member at the nonprofit rights group Freedom House in the District. “I am not optimistic at all when I see people dying in the streets, and I don’t think the issue is whether there was a coup or not. The country is very divided, and no matter how it settles, a lot of lives will be lost first.”
The demonstrators, along with many online Egyptian American commentators, expressed frustration at the Obama administration’s cautious reaction to the unfolding events in Egypt. Many suspect that Washington seeks to restore stability in Egypt at the expense of popular demands. The administration, which provides huge amounts of aid to Egypt, accepted Morsi’s election but also has close ties to the army.
“A lot of people are very angry at President Obama, and what he said has been lost in translation,” said Samia Harris, who heads a private school in Woodbridge. “The Egyptian people want freedom, human rights, justice and respect for law, and we want Mr. Obama and his administration to listen to them. This was not a coup. It was a marching order from the Egyptian people.”