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Shootings Reported At Demonstrations In Egypt


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

This is a week when Egypt is divided on what democracy means. In what amounted to a second uprising, millions of Egyptians poured into the streets to demand that their democratically elected president step down. When he balked, the army ousted Mohamed Morsi, which led his supporters to say it is a dark day for democracy there. Today, thousands of Morsi supporters are out protesting that military coup, in demonstrations that have reportedly turned violent.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is following events in Cairo overlooking Tahrir Square, and joins us to talk about it. And, Soraya, what do you know about what is happening out there in the streets of Cairo?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, behind me, it's a celebration, but it's a completely different scene across town where our correspondent Leila Fadel is at the moment. This would be near the Republican Guard headquarters. And what's been happening there is that protestors who are supporting Morsi have flooded the streets. They've been trying to march toward those Republican Guard headquarters, and a shooting broke out.

The Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson says three pro-Morsi protesters were shot and killed. The military is denying it, but there are plenty of military police officers, soldiers, tanks that are making it impossible for people to move around.

And what we just heard behind us was an Apache helicopter. The military is also traversing here, but in a very celebratory way. They're trying to do a victory lap, if you will.

MONTAGNE: How do the protests supporting the deposed President Morsi - which are about what you're looking at - compare to the protests we saw against him in recent days? I'm sorry, you're not looking at there in Tahrir Square. Those are protests that were against him.

NELSON: Right. I mean, the difference is that the military is very much engaged now. This has much more of the flavor of what we saw back when Hosni Mubarak was being overthrown, where the security forces were pushing back. So when the actual anti-Morsi protesters were out here, there was no sign of security forces, and they were very much out there when there was violence, and there was certainly some. It was between the pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi forces.

MONTAGNE: And, you know, right at this moment in time, the two sides are framing this abrupt change of government very differently, aren't they? Tell us about that.

NELSON: Yes, certainly they are. The supporters of President Morsi, or former President Morsi are seeing this as a coup, a military coup, plain and simple. And the other side is looking at it as a revolution, basically, a rebirth of the revolution and of the nascent democracy here. So it's - there's no compromise between the sides. There's no discussion between the sides. And the military seems very determined to subdue the people that are calling it a coup.

MONTAGNE: Well, just, you know, break it down just briefly. How can it be so different? I mean, he was democratically elected, so how - let's say - can those who wanted him out say that this is a revolution?

NELSON: Well, the feeling was that Morsi was not willing to talk to anyone, to share power with anyone, that he was really trying to set himself up as another autocratic ruler, just this time of an Islamist bent. And so, you know, the protesters feel very strongly that that shouldn't be forgotten, despite how things are progressing in the last 48 hours.

And the military seems to be very determined to keep national security, you know, what they're calling national security safe. But they've also been very aggressive and very surgical in arresting all the Brotherhood leaders, arresting anyone who might help organize this anti, you know, coup movement, if you will, or anti-new revolution movement.

MONTAGNE: And they say, of course, the people behind Morsi say, you know, he won at the ballot box. So, you know, he was the president. But Friday has been a popular day for protests in the Arab world, because people gather for Friday prayers. Are people you're talking to think these protests will go on past today?

NELSON: Well, certainly, it's going to be of a different flavor. I don't think we're going to see pro-Morsi supporters in Tahrir Square chanting the way we've seen the anti-Morsi supporters chanting. So I think we're going to see more of the violence that we saw during the first revolution back in 2011.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, speaking to us from Cairo. Soraya, thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.