′They weren′t terrorists. They didn′t deserve to die.′ | World| Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 15.08.2013
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'They weren't terrorists. They didn't deserve to die.'

In 2011, Nihal Saad Zaghloul took to the streets to demand a better future for Egypt. Two years on, she watched from her window as other young Egyptians were shot in the streets and her hopes for peace and justice faded.

Nihal Saad Zaghloul is an Egyptian activist who started the Bassma/Imprint Movement in the summer of 2012 in order to help stop sexual harassment and assault in the streets of Cairo.

DW: How did you experience events from your room in central Cairo, just 10 minutes away from Rabaa Square, the largest of the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps.

Nihal Saad Zaghloul: I woke up to gunshots and people yelling on the street that the army was shooting at them. People were running and screaming and crying. Then I started checking Facebook and Twitter. That's when I knew that the army and the police were attacking - that started at 6 a.m. By 7 a.m. they had completely cleared the Nahda sit-in, and they were still trying to clear the Rabaa sit-in, which is just next to my house. I kept calling my friends and they were saying that it was a second massacre, and that snipers were shooting them from above. Then they told me that they were surrounded.

In response to the violent clearing of the Nahda and Rabaa camps in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Muslim Brotherhood called for solidarity protests in the streets. Your home is just 10 minutes away from the Rabaa camp. What did you see from your window?

Photo Title: photo of Nihal Saad Zaghloul An Egyptians activist and Co-Founder of Imprint Movement, holding a sign written my body is mine and my right also, and never let any one insult others. Copyright: Nihal Saad Zaghloul

Nihal Saad Zaghloul protested in Tahrir Square and against sexual harassment in Egypt

There were protesters coming from all around. As soon as people ran into my street, they were shot at so that they would move back and so that they couldn't help the people in the sit-in. The army started shooting tear gas at them, so some of them started picking up rocks and throwing them at the police. The police responded with tear gas and the army fired live ammunition.

Meanwhile, the clearance of the Rabaa camp continued. What news were you able to get of your friends who were trapped in there?

So far, two of my old friends from university have brothers who have died. One is 19, and the other is mid-20s - my age, I think. They died today. They were not terrorists. I know them very well, I know their families. We eat together, we work together, we volunteer to make this society better. They did not deserve to die like this.

On your Twitter account, you posted a message saying that "it is no longer about being pro-Morsi or anti-Morsi. It is now about being pro-humanity, or not." What did you mean?

Many people were justifying (the killing of Muslim Brotherhood supporters). But the people in Rabaa were human beings, they were not terrorists, they were not people who did any kind of vandalism in the past. We should not punish them for the mistakes of others. I'm not saying that the Islamists did everything great, but at the same time I cannot punish someone for another person's crime. The generalization that "they all are bad," that's what's getting us into this mess. When you see another human being getting killed, you don't stop and ask: "What is his political affiliation?" "What is his religious affiliation?" before you decide whether to help him or not. This is what I meant.

Riot police vehicles fire tear gas at members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi around Cairo University and Nahdet Misr Square on August 14, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Hundreds were killed when military and police forces cleared out pro-Morsi protest camps

Although yourself a veil-wearing Muslim, you were critical of President Mohamed Morsi and his policies. Were you glad when military intervention resulted in his ouster last month?

No. What I hoped the people would do was to oust him politically. We pressured the government to bring forward the parliamentary elections. Once you'd elected the parliament, you could have pressured the parliament - your representatives - to remove Morsi. That way, you would have ousted him politically. You would have had a parliament and a constitution and everything. If you were capable of mobilizing all those people on June 30th, then you were quite capable of mobilizing the people to elect your candidates.

You have been a vocal protester and activist for several years now. When you first started demonstrating in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring in 2011, what did you hope for?

I was hoping for a better life. I was hoping for equality, social development and justice. That is what I was hoping for.

And where are those hopes now?

The outcome of this massacre will only bring more grief and more violence onto the streets. Violence breeds more violence. You cannot correct a wrong with another wrong. If we think that the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamists are going to go back in jail, as happened in the 90s, then we're wrong. They will continue fighting, and a lot more people will die.

What I'm afraid of is the real terror that will come after this massacre. Whether we like it or not, we can't kill them all off and a lot of people will want revenge. Egypt for the past 30 years has been governed by force, not by the law. Everybody in Egypt - the politicians and the followers of those politicians - is armed. There's going to be another war. I'm afraid of a civil war. I want this bloodshed to end, but I don't know how it will end now.

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