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Egyptian-Minnesotans rally against violence in Egypt
Around 50 Egyptian-Minnesotans rallied in Peavey Park in Minneapolis August 23 to raise local awareness of the recent upsurge of violence in Egypt. More than 900 protesters have been killed and many more injured and imprisoned in and after the August 14 crackdown by Egypt's military.
"Hey Minnesota, make some noise! Egypt, Egypt, hear my voice!" the crowd chanted, many holding signs denouncing the violence. "No more killing, no more fights! All we want are human rights!"
As they chanted, organizers handed out yellow sheets with printed hands on them holding up four fingers — a symbol now synonymous with the Rabaa el Adaweya protest camp that was dispersed during the August 14 crackdown.
"The rally here, we want to say two things," said Tamer Sharaf Eldin, one of the main organizers at the rally and a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota. "To raise awareness of the killings, and to correct the understanding that this isn't a civil war, but a military coup that the U.S. needs to recognize."
A civil war is fighting between citizens, said Eldin, but rather the fight in Egypt is a one-sided fight between unarmed citizens and a well-established military — a military, Eldin emphasized, that is telling lies to justify the crackdown. "They say that the protesters are armed," Eldin continued, "but this is not true."
Hamdy El-Sawaf moved to the U.S. 33 years ago but still has family back in Egypt and fears for their safety. He said he wants to see democracy restored and hopes the rally will educate his local neighborhood about the social injustices back in Egypt.
"[Hosni] Mubarak is out of prison as of [last Thursday] and innocent people are in [prison] now," said El-Sawaf. "What kind of justice is that?"
Ideally, said El-Sawaf, the U.S. government would recognize the coup and halt the $1.5 billion in foreign aid to Egypt, the majority of which ($1.3 billion) is military aid. "That's our tax money. It's a huge discrepancy," said El-Sawaf, "if it was all humanitarian [aid] we would accept it."
Another protester, Basma Abd El Rahman, said she wants to see General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, head of the Egyptian military, kicked out of power in hopes that false arrests, arrests without trial and murders will stop.
The coup is directly affecting Minnesotans as well, said Abrar Rageh, another organizer at the rally. According to Rageh, one family from Minnesota she recently spoke with went to Palestine on a family vacation, but since the coup, Israel won't let the family back through their borders.
"Israel isn't letting them out because of the coup," said Rageh. "They've been stuck there since before the coup."
While some protesters at the rally may be supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, most of them are simply legitimacy-supporters like her, said Rageh. "The coup is an illegitimate government. For the first [Egyptian] democratic election in 7,000 years and for it to be over this fast? It's like we got punked."