Sunday’s papers: Movie protests, US-Egypt relations and strikes

Sunday’s papers focus their coverage on three main news developments: the forced dispersal of anti-Islam movie protests and their repercussions on Egypt-US relations, the bumpy beginning of Egypt’s academic year amid a host of labor strikes and industrial actions across the country.

Riot police were deployed on Saturday in Cairo, Alexandria and Sinai following five days of protests in response to an anti-Islam movie produced in the US known as “Innocence of Muslims.” Protests and clashes centered on the US Embassy in Cairo and Tahrir Square, the US Consulate in Alexandria and the multinational peacekeeping forces in Goura, North Sinai.

The independent Al-Watan newspaper runs a headline reading, “Interior minister leads operation to ‘liberate liberation (Tahrir) Square’ and army declines US Marine offer to guard embassy.”

According to Al-Watan and other dailies, some 220 protesters and “trouble-makers” were arrested from around the US Embassy and Tahrir Square in light of the clashes, and 54 are being interrogated by prosecutors. The liberal Al-Wafd newspaper mentions that five other protesters were arrested for assaulting security forces in Alexandria and attempting to breach the US Consulate.

Al-Wafd, citing the Ministry of Health, reports that 57 protesters were admitted to the hospital after suffering injuries during their clashes with security forces. The paper says that one protester was killed during the clashes. According to security sources, the deceased protester had a violent criminal record.

The independent Al-Tahrir newspaper mentions that two protesters died in clashes with security forces outside the US Embassy. Citing the coroner’s office, Al-Tahrir mentions that both of these fatalities were attributed to live shotgun cartridges used by riot police.

Independent Youm7 reports on, “Investigations into the third party behind the embassy clashes.” The paper adds that “political parties denounce the breaching of the embassy, and unknown assailants are behind the troubles.” The paper, citing the public prosecutor, mentions that two protesters died in clashes with security forces.

Youm7 takes on a religious/preachy overtone with its chief headline reading “Retribution for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) not realized via breaching of embassies.” The sub-headline reads “Prophet Mohamed presented us with the greatest lessons on how to address opponents and withstand defamations.”

An Al-Watan headline reads, “Jihadi Salafi group claims responsibility for attack on multinational peacekeeping forces … pledges to destroy US embassy.” The article says that a radical Islamist group issued a statement via the internet claiming responsibility for the attack on the international forces on Friday in the North Sinai town of Goura which resulted in material damage and five injuries — two protesters and three international soldiers.

The radical group’s online statement says, according to Al-Watan, “We will not return to our homes until the Satan-worshipping Americans are killed. We will fight until the death to uphold God’s religion.” The statement also reportedly mentions that this group is planning a “secretive” attack on the US Embassy which “will bring it down upon the heads of the heathens.” This statement allegedly denounces President Mohamed Morsy’s condemnation of the attacks on US Embassy in Cairo and the US Consulate in Benghazi.  

Al-Tahrir’s chief editor, Ibrahim Eissa, writes an opinion column entitled “Romantic scene between Brotherhood and Americans.” This column argues that recent events have proven that there is a diplomatic “romance between Presidents Obama and Morsy.”

Eissa says that the Obama Administration has no real power-broker to turn to in Egypt other than the Brotherhood, and that the Brotherhood needs US military and financial assistance. He adds that the Brotherhood and Obama administration both made political noises and maneuvers in light of the anti-Islam movie, yet the mutual interests of both parties are similar.

Despite their political differences, the Brotherhood has promised to uphold the Camp David Accords with Israel (the United States' primary concern), along with the siege of the Hamas-led Gaza Strip. According to Eissa, the US also seeks Brotherhood assistance in safeguarding the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and keeping the radical Salafi current under control.

Eissa concludes that Obama may have referred to Egypt as being “neither and enemy nor an ally” because of to political pressure. Yet the Egyptian and US state will remain allies due to their mutual interests, he says, adding that joint military maneuvers are due to be held between Egypt and the US.

According to the Freedom and Justice Newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, “Shockwaves continue to emanate from defaming movie.” The FJP's paper mentions that the “Brotherhood organized 350 protests” nationwide against the anti-Islam movie. Yet the paper also states that the breaching and “assaults on embassies are against the principles of Sharia law.”

Also in Freedom and Justice, “First day of classes dedicated to teaching pupils the morals of the Prophet.” The paper claims that the Ministry of Education, controlled by a Brotherhood minister, would teach students about respecting religion and attempts to defame the Prophet and his God-sent religion on the first day of the academic year.

Meanwhile the first day of school (second day of school in 17 governorates) began with a bumpy start as a nationwide teachers’ strike has been announced. Thousands of teachers launched an open-ended protest outside the Cabinet last Monday, demanding improved pay and working/teaching conditions. This teachers’ strike had (on Saturday) affected a number of schools in the governorates of Port Said, Sharqiya, Beheira, Daqahlia, Minya, Qena, and Gharbiya. Numerous other governorates, including Alexandria, Cairo, and Giza, are expected to witness teachers’ strikes today.

In addition to teachers, custodial workers at universities are expected to strike in several governorates, while a public bus strike (across Greater Cairo) is due to commence today.

“Day of rage and strikes … classes without teachers, universities without employees, and buses without drivers” reads a headline in Al-Watan. The article mentions that 12 universities may be affected by the custodial and administrative workers’ strikes nationwide.

State-run Al-Ahram, however, reports, “Regular schedules and conditions in most schools and universities.” The Ministry of Higher Education claims that only two universities will be affected by the workers’ strike — the Universities of Alexandria and Tanta.

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