Violence is escalating in Cairo again, and German politicians are concerned about developments. And not just politicians: people are taking to the streets in Berlin to support the deposed government.
"My brother might have been shot, I don't know." The Egyptian student, calling himself Rashad, has to pause before he can continue. He says he was on the phone with his brother late on Sunday. His brother had told him that he wanted to go into Cairo with some other people, to demonstrate "for our President Mohammed Morsi," as Rashad calls the former head of the Egyptian government, removed from office by the military on July 3 following days of mass protests.
The protesters had been accusing Morsi of economic mismanagement and they said he was overseeing a creeping Islamization of the country, but Rashad thinks what happened was nothing short of a coup against a democratically-elected president. "The military took away our democracy," he said, which is why he did not try to stop his brother. "I told him, 'Go, if you think you can change anything.' " But he has not heard from him since.
Early on Monday morning (08.07.2013), dozens of people were killed in clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters in front of a military building. Doctors said that hundreds more had been injured. There are conflicting reports about whether the demonstrators had tried to storm the officers' club of the Egyptian Republican Guard where, according to rumors, Morsi was being detained. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed their demonstrators had been attacked during their morning prayers.
Travel warnings ramped up
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed concern about the continuing troubles in Egypt. Via Twitter on Sunday, he called on all parties "not to resort to violence in this tense situation. Steps must be taken quickly to return to a democratic transformation process." Five hours later came the next message from the Foreign Ministry's official Twitter account: travelling to Egypt was extremely inadvisable, except for visits to tourist spots on the Red Sea. Meanwhile, EU Foreign Affairs representative Catherine Ashton called for elections in Egypt "as soon as possible."
Rashad wouldn't mind seeing new elections, but the diplomatic statements don't go far enough, as far as he is concerned - he wants the German government to take a clear position on the violence. "Germany must support us," he said. In the evening, he intends to take part in a pro-Morsi demonstration in Berlin with his wife and son. Other events have also been planned in Berlin over the next few weeks, perhaps even months, "as long as it takes till the military goes."
Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the German Bundestag, doubts whether diplomatic appeals will have much effect on either side in Egypt. "The chance of having any influence from abroad, at least for Germany and Europe, is relatively limited," he told DW.
But the center right politician is in favor of a continuation of Germany's development aid projects in Egypt, which are aimed at improving the quality of drinking water, health care, and education. "All these things are useful, because they help the Egyptian people," he said. Only if the situation in the country were to become so chaotic that these projects could not be maintained effectively, would they have to be stopped. Such a development was "unfortunately not beyond the realms of possibility."
Polenz believes that the main reason why the Egyptian military intervened against Morsi was to protect its business interests, which range "from tourism all the way to the production of consumer goods." But Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had failed both on the important issues of economic development and the integration of other political forces. According to Polenz, Egypt now faces the question of whether it will go the same way as Turkey, where the army has maintained a strong position for decades, but has gradually relinquished its influence in favor of democratically elected parties, or whether it will copy Algeria in the 1990s, when the army intervened following an Islamist election victory. "The country fell into a civil war and is still a military dictatorship today."
The search for a new transitional leadership in Egypt - promised by the military - has been unsuccessful so far. According to media reports, the Salafist al-Nour party vetoed the naming of Mohammed ElBaradei, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), calling for a more "neutral" figure.