Angry Luxor set to join Egyptian revolt this weekend |
Valley News Dispatch

Angry Luxor set to join Egyptian revolt this weekend

Ariana Drehsler | For the Tribune-Review
Infuriated Luxor residents protested against the appointment of the governor from the Gama'a Islamiyya, whose group was behind the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians. They protested for days, lighting fires and locking the governor's building.
Ariana Drehsler | For the Tribune-Review
Ahmed Kareem, 37, is a tour guide syndicate board member. He plans to protect the ancient temples, tombs and museums in Luxor ahead of Sunday's nationwide protest against Muhamed Morsy. He expects violence. 'It's a war. ... We need a miracle.'
Ariana Drehsler | For the Tribune-Review
Muhamed Bakry, 59, is the head of the Gama'a Islamiyya in four of Egypt's southern provinces and is the head of their Luxor Building and Construciton party. 'If the Gama'a Islamiyya was using violence, we would have forced (Al Khayat) into the governor's house with the power of the guns, and we are capable of that.'
Ariana Drehsler | For the Tribune-Review
Luxor demonstrators set tires on fire in protest of President Muhamed Morsy's decision to appoint a governor from the Gama'a Islamiyya. The governor resigned, but many Luxor residents say they will still protest on June 30, 2013.
Ariana Drehsler | For the Tribune-Review
Muhammed Hassan was a witness to the 1997 massacre perpetrated by the Gama'a Islamiyya. 'It was a bloodbath; there were puddles of blood everywhere.' He willl join the nationwide protests in Luxor on June 30, 2013, calling for president Muhamed Morsy's resignation.
Ariana Drehsler | For the Tribune-Review
Workers from the bazaar in the West Bank of Luxor say they plan to attend the protest on June 30, 2013, against Muhamed Morsy in Luxor. Tourism in Luxor has been hit hard since the 2011 revolution.

MEDINAT HABU, Egypt — Muhammed Hassan vividly remembers the November day in 1997 when six Gama’a Islamiyya gunmen charged a 3,400-year-old mortuary temple in Luxor.

“My cousin was a guard and was sitting in the police kiosk, and they took their guns out of their jackets and killed him,” he recounts.

A temple custodian, Hassan hid as the Islamists slaughtered 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. He crept out 45 minutes later to find “a bloodbath … puddles of blood everywhere.”

Helping to remove the bodies, he saw “one woman holding her child … when they died, they were stuck together. That was the most difficult thing for me to see.”

Like many workers at one of Egypt’s most popular tourist sites, Hassan plans to join a national protest on Sunday against President Mohamed Morsy and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

Opposition leaders hope to send millions of demonstrators into the streets and to collect 15 million signatures on petitions demanding Morsy’s resignation.

Only a few thousand turned out for the last opposition rally in Cairo.

In Luxor, protests erupted last week when Morsy named Adel Al Khayat, a leading Gama’a Islamiyya figure, as the local governor; Al Khayat withdrew when residents barred his office door and burned tires in the street.

Many here resented his connection to the group behind the 1997 massacre. Many believe his selection reflected an Islamist assault on tourism, near collapse since Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

In the past, Hassan says, 20,000 tourists visited Luxor daily. “Now we are lucky to get 400, 500.” Only five of the normal 320 tourist cruise ships sail the Nile, according to guides.

Hassan calls out to a fellow guide, Adel Asad, to ask his opinion about the state of things. “Luxor is dead,” Asad yells back, and the ousted governor “is an idiot, like the president.”

That’s a sentiment heard often here.

A good gauge of unrest

“Morsy doesn’t understand that Egypt is too big for him,” says Aly Araby, who runs a tourist shop outside Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, site of the 1997 massacre. With tourists all but gone, he worries, “Where will we get our food?”

He predicts “all the people in Luxor” and nearby villages will join the protest on Sunday.

In a 2½-hour televised speech on Wednesday, Morsy conceded some mistakes, suggested amending a controversial 2012 constitution and criticized his opponents.

Yet, as Sunday nears, the growing division — and impact — of his yearlong presidency can be seen, heard and felt everywhere.

Soldiers are deployed in many cities. Traffic is snarled in long lines as fuel supplies evaporate. Electrical blackouts, rising food prices and lawlessness intensify the public rage and alarm.

Luxor is a good gauge of how such unrest has surged, because it has rarely witnessed protests.

During the 2011 revolution, tour guide Ahmed Kareem formed a small group to oppose then-dictator Hosni Mubarak. But “whenever a tour bus came, we would put our signs down and wave at the tourists,” says Kareem, 37, a leader of the local guides’ syndicate.

Last week, hearing rumors of a Brotherhood attack, anti-Al Khayat protesters grabbed sticks and metal poles and went looking for a fight.

Ashraf Ahmed, head of a Luxor shopkeepers’ syndicate, says “the biggest mistake of my life” was voting for Morsy in 2012’s presidential election.

As he walks past empty tourist-bazaar stalls, another man says people “want the downfall of the beards” — meaning Islamists, who typically are unshaven.

Ahmed, 41, believes Morsy and the Brotherhood hate tourism. “We will fight with them until they die,” he vows.

Illustrated with AK-47s

Not everyone opposes the embattled president and his party, however.

In the Luxor office of the Building and Development Party, Gama’a Islamiyya’s political wing, Muhamed Bakry insists the group is “not practicing violence any more because we have found the means to express ourselves peacefully.”

Bakry, who leads the Brotherhood-allied party in four provinces, says last week’s unrest in Luxor proved that point: “If Gama’a Islamiyya was using violence, we would have forced (Al Khayat) into the governor’s house with the power of the gun — and we are capable of that. … We are just a peaceful party.”

Yet a pro-Morsy petition passed out by some of his followers shows an illustrated hand giving the “Peace” sign — a hand outlined in tiny AK-47 assault rifles.

Asked about it, Bakry, 59, professes surprise: “Just because a member started it, that doesn’t mean this campaign is the Gama’a Islamiyya. We just support it to support the legitimacy (of the presidency).”

Kareem, the local tour-syndicate official, doesn’t want a democratically elected president to be ousted because of something like Sunday’s protest. “For sure, it will not be peaceful,” he predicts. “Hidden powers on both sides don’t want peace. It’s a war.”

He voted for Morsy in 2012 and is disappointed. He resigned from a liberal party he helped to found, because of disillusionment with it.

He no longer trusts either political side.

“We are the victims,” he says. “We need a miracle.”

Betsy Hiel is Trib Total Media’s foreign correspondent. Email her at [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.