A need for stability

I walked up this mountain many times in the past couple of years, usually to a background of growling truck engines and honks as residents of Zabaleen drove to or back from work.   But as I made my way up yesterday, a particularly chilly Thursday morning, I could hear echoes of cries of war.  There were no loaded trucks in site, no sacs filled with garbage ready to be turned to treasure.  Instead, a few army tanks, presumably guarding the entrance, stood with soldiers atop, as sorrowful eyes walked passed and shattered glass led the road.

I was headed to the funeral of residents killed in Muslim-Coptic clashes Tuesday night.

Thousands mourned the dead at Thursday’s funeral at Samaan El-Kharraz Church, the cave-like church up in the monastery.  The scene was heart-aching.  Families broke up in wails, with more than one person fainting briefly. The message of the sermon: be patient and remain close to God.

As Egypt has been swept with a series of unsettling events post revolution, Tuesday night saw hundreds of residents from Zabaleen face-off with neighboring residents from Sayeda Aisha, resulting in a total of 13 deaths, 5 of which reportedly Muslims, and 165 injuries.  Event details vary according to whom you speak to, but here are some that were told repeatedly:

1.       Zabaleen residents were attacked for bringing a main road, by their entrance, to a standstill when they staged a sit-in in protest of the burning down of a church in Helwan, an hour outside Cairo

2.       Thugs hired by aids to former president Hosni Mubarak attacked peaceful protesters, in line with numerous attempts to incite chaos in the form of a counter revolution

3.       Army personnel and Sayeda Aisha residents attacked Zabaleen protesters merely because they were Christians, with some saying the move was orchestrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an influential Islamist movement and Egypt’s largest opposition group

The reasons behind the attacks vary, but most fingers point at the army which in recent weeks has been criticized for arresting and beating up peaceful protesters, trying ordinary citizens in military courts and allegedly being complicit in violent acts perpetrated by armed thugs.  Regardless, young innocent lives fell as they fought for their beliefs, and that’s a crime.

In Zabaleen, the prevalent sentiment among residents was that the army betrayed them.

After the funeral, I went to see Mourad.  It was the first time I see him after the revolution, and I was surprised to find he wasn’t overjoyed with Mubarak’s downfall.  I had known that he hadn’t been able to go out to work ever since Jan. 25, which in itself means he hasn’t made much money for more than a month and half.  But after chatting with him for a while, I figured that the main reason he wasn’t happy was because he is afraid.  He’s afraid of the uncertainty the future holds, for him and his family.  He fears going out to work and being attacked, assaulted or arrested all together. “We don’t know if the next government will be any good, we don’t know anything,” he said in a defeated voice, which is never character of Mourad.

I got to know that the family is no longer sleeping in their home because it’s deemed unsafe at night.  They are now sleeping at his father in law’s house, also in the greater area of Manshiyet Nasser but seem to be a better place to be at during such circumstances.  The small yard in front was not filled with the usual mounts of garbage waiting to be stored.  Emptied sacs were flattened to the ground like they’ve been there for days on end.  Much of the little furniture they had wasn’t there anymore. He said that they needed to rescue what they could from the rising water caused by the lack of sewage.  It looked and felt empty.

While the country is plunged in instability, Mourad’s home is plunged in water, and now all he hopes for is a means to move to his new home and more stable Egypt.

– post and photos by Heba El-Sherif, key translator for Zabaleen

(some photos from the funeral)

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~ by zabaleen on March 11, 2011.

2 Responses to “A need for stability”

  1. Can you suggest a way that we can support this community during this difficult period? I have more money than time, but both are on offer.

    • Thank you for the comment Emily.
      There are several NGO’s in the area that would gladly accept your donations.
      Although, I would recommend that you make direct contributions to families in the area. They could use the help more than anyone.
      Please feel free to contact us directly for more info on how to help:
      zabaleenproject@gmail.com

      Thank you for you interest in the project!

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