Three Years After Uprising, Egypt Remains Deeply Divided

Protests and violent clashes erupted throughout Egypt on Saturday, as the country marked the third anniversary of the beginning of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. At least 29 people died in the violence, according to Egyptian officials. Guest host Kelly McEvers speaks with NPR's Leila Fadel, who is in Cairo.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Kelly McEvers, in for Arun Rath.

Today marks the first time the two sides in the Syrian conflict have sat together for talks. Today also marks three years since a revolution ousted a dictator in Egypt. Since then, Egyptians have experienced the first free elections in decades, the toppling of an Islamist government and a resurgent military-led government.

Today, violent clashes between those who support the government and those who oppose it left 29 dead and 700 arrested. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Cairo. Hi, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

MCEVERS: You were out reporting around Cairo today. Tell us what you saw.

FADEL: Well, on the one side, we saw people celebrating, calling for the head of the military, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to run for president, dancing, holding pictures of him, wearing buttons and even some gold Sissi masks. And then on the other hand, we saw protesters, some in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and other secular and liberal activists protesting. And those protests were being violently dispersed, shot at, tear gassed.

MCEVERS: So where were most of the killings? I mean, who was killing who?

FADEL: In the protest that I witnessed myself, it appeared that anybody protesting and saying down with military rule was immediately getting shot at. We were seeing police vehicles swerve through streets and then bear guns and then gunfire. In other parts of the country, we were also seeing civilian on - apparent civilian-on-civilian violence where local residents in support of the military and the state were carrying weapons as well.

MCEVERS: Is there a sense that the gains that were made by the revolution three years ago have been completely eroded at this point?

FADEL: Yes, I think there really are. We've spoken to a lot of the revolutionaries of that time three years ago, the ones that are not in jail really who are saying they feel defeated. They feel that this has failed. And in some ways, it's worse than what it was under Mubarak.

Just today, one of those voices, (unintelligible), was also arrested. She was accused of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. And it's ironic because she's so staunchly anti-Brotherhood but has also been fighting against human rights abuses under this government.

MCEVERS: It sounds like things are really divided now. I mean, how is that playing out in the streets?

FADEL: Well, what struck me the most today watching both people who celebrated and were being protected by the police and those that protested that there was a choice here. You either support the military in this government or you protest and you face possible arrest or even death.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Thanks so much, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you.

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