As President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Egypt and the death toll mounted to more than 600 Thursday, Egyptian immigrants in Las Vegas in turn condemned Obama, urging the president to immediately withdraw $1.3 billion in annual aid from the military now accused of shooting many of the dead.
The Egyptian government is saying its military has acted in self-defense and that some of those deaths were carried out by other groups that are difficult to track.
But Egyptian leaders in Las Vegas, Muslims ranging from doctors to engineers to UNLV students, say the U.S. government has “blood on its hands” every day that the military aid stays intact.
“It’s a military coup, but nobody in the U.S. government is calling it that. It’s a massacre that’s being committed by criminals who just happen to be in uniform,” said Osama Haikal, 60, a Las Vegas physician and de facto leader of the Egyptian community here. “And the guns are being given to the Egyptian army by U.S. authorities through military aid.”
Haikal said the U.S. government, as “a good will gesture,” should withdraw the aid, but in the same breath he said he is not holding out much hope — given it’s the U.S. government.
“This is nothing new,” Haikal said in a telephone interview from his office in Las Vegas. “The U.S. always takes the side of the dictator, and it never defends the lives of the innocent. Look at what happened with the Shah of Iran in the late 1970s and look at the way it supported President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in the 1980s.”
The Egyptian immigrants here say it’s only a matter of time before their country heads into civil war. Some say war might be the only solution .
“That’s the only tactic left. The opposition needs to somehow paralyze government operations — by either walking off their government jobs or through a series of boycotts and strikes,” said Mohammed Maybed, 50, a construction engineer who grew up in Cairo but has lived in Las Vegas for the past three years. “But if the government can find a way to govern, and it can do it effectively after all this bloodshed, then I don’t think there is much for the opposition.”
An estimated 700 Egyptian immigrants live in Las Vegas. Earlier this month, the leaders of the Muslim Egyptian community held a two-hour protest outside the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse, pleading for the United States to withdraw aid.
The group of at least three dozen was hoping that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would hear their protests and talk to Secretary of State John Kerry.
They told of their devotion to democracy and democratically held elections and the belief that ousted President Mohammed Morsi should be restored to power.
It was Morsi’s ouster on July 3 that triggered the unrest, pitting the Muslim Brotherhood that supported him against government opposition and those who sided with it.
The Morsi opponents say the government, secular before the free elections, had turned increasingly Islamic, mixing religion with government.
But Samantha Haikal, a UNLV biology student who visits Cairo each year on vacation, said the situation is more complex, and the motive behind the violence isn’t as clear-cut as it’s made out to be in the press and on television newscasts.
She said her aunts, uncles, cousins and nephews all live in Cairo, a place she knows well.
She said many of them have not been hurt by the violence.
“But they’re in the middle of it,” she said. “Democracy in Egypt is a very new concept, and we’re not just talking about blind nationalism versus anti-military versus pro-democracy. It’s not just Islam versus Christian or Islam versus a secular government.”
But one thing is certain, said her father, the physician: “The Egyptians here will remember who was president at the time all this took place.”
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at email@example.com or 702-224-5512.