Muslim Brotherhood HQ Burned and Looted

CAIRO -- During the 2011 protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak, one of the first targets was the Egyptian president's party apparatus: On Jan. 28, protesters set fire to the headquarters of his National Democratic Party, a large office building looming between Tahrir Square and the Nile.

Some Egyptians are now giving their country's new rulers the same treatment. On Monday, vandals looted and burned the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in the Cairo neighborhood of Moqattam. The incident, which was the culmination of clashes throughout the night, was the most significant violence in the capital following a day of largely peaceful protests. Five people were reportedly killed at the site, while the police and the army declined to intervene.

Once inside the Brotherhood headquarters, the protesters were quick to strip it bare. Video taken by an Egyptian television station showed that the building had been gutted: The rooms were bare of furniture, air conditioning units were stripped from the walls, and windows were shattered. Outside, photographs showed Egyptians climbing on top of the burning hulk of the building, while others showed vandals hauling out its contents.

Protesters removed everything in the headquarters that wasn't nailed down -- and some things that were. Egyptian journalist Ahmed Khair, who was present at the scene, tweeted a photograph of an Egyptian carting off a wooden door. Khair also posted a photograph of a young Egyptian making off with the office sign of Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater, who some suspect is the true power behind President Mohamed Morsy's government.

But for many Egyptians, the destruction of the Brotherhood headquarters is a worrying sign of what could come next. Egypt's Health Ministry reported today that 16 people had been killed over the past several days of unrest -- most, if not all, losing their lives in violence with fellow civilians, rather than clashes with the security forces. It also represents a challenge to the opposition organizers' strategy: In an interview before the demonstrations, Mahmoud Badr, a founder of the "Tamarod" movement that organized the petition calling for Morsy's resignation, described how opposition supporters would take to the streets completely unarmed. "We will be very careful to keep everything peaceful, which was our aim from the beginning," he said. "We will not be dragged into any violent clashes."

The Tamarod campaign has now delivered an ultimatum to Morsy: Resign by 5 pm on Tuesday, or face a sustained campaign of civil disobedience. What that will look like, and what it will mean for Egypt, is still unclear. But it seems we are soon going to find out.



On the Ground in Tahrir, Egyptian Politics Appears Poised for Real Change

CAIRO -- Here's a secret: Until right now, many journalists in Egypt had gotten tired of covering protests. They're hot, you know what protesters are going to say, and they never seemed to carry any potential for change. Starting June 30, that just changed.

Protesters have gathered in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace in the neighborhood of Heliopolis to call for the departure of President Mohamed Morsy's administration. As evening fell in Cairo, the capital braced for demonstrations that seemed set to carry on until late in the night. For the first time in months, Egyptian politics seems to be on the cusp of real change.

The daytime crowd in Tahrir crossed religious and socioeconomic lines -- old women in black hijabs shouted irhal, or "leave," next to youths carrying crosses, who chanted "Christians and Muslims are one hand."

Protesters carried red cards -- both a reference to a soccer penalty and a message to Morsy that they wanted to force him from the political playing field. "This is not a warning, this is a red card, you donkey," read one poster (it rhymes in Arabic).

The reputation of the Egyptian military has also undergone a significant revival among anti-Muslim Brotherhood forces. Cheers erupted from the crowd when army helicopters flew over the square; one protester turned to me to explain, "They're here to protect us."

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has become the bête noire of protesters, who blame Washington for propping up the Morsy administration. Tattered pictures of U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, with a giant red "X" through her face, littered the ground of the square. Meanwhile, a large poster declaring "Obama Supports Terrorism" had pride of place at the center of the demonstration.

The ideological divide among the protesters is very real, but they have united behind a shared hatred of the ruling Islamist government. "Morsy, you are my shoe," "Down with the government of the murshid," and "leave, leave you sheep," are all popular chants among the crowd at Tahrir. The door of the iconic Café Riche, a short walk from the square, features Photoshopped pictures of Egyptian intellectuals Rifa'a al-Tahtawi and Taha Husayn holding Tamarod ("rebel") petitions calling for Morsy's downfall.

What comes next is still unclear. As protesters converge at the presidential palace, many fear that the country stands on the precipice of violence between the government's supporters and opponents. A roadmap for the country, should the protesters force Morsy from office, also remains vague. But one thing is clear: Egyptian protests suddenly got interesting again.