Cairo no longer looks the way Ahmed Saeed remembers it from a dozen years ago.
When Saeed returned there with family in June, the streets were dirty, garbage was everywhere, and cars lined up at gas stations for hours, said Saeed, an Amherst resident.
Saeed visited Egypt with his parents and three siblings for what was supposed to be a five-week vacation beginning June 18.
They cut short their trip after political tensions and demonstrations resulted in the military ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in late June. He is home safe now, but Saeed, an American who lived in Egypt from 1994 to 2001, expressed grave concern about the nation’s future.
“It’s going to escalate because people are upset,” he said. “The people who voted for Morsi, they feel as if their vote didn’t count.”
More than 600 people died and nearly 4,000 were wounded Wednesday and Thursday in violence that erupted when riot police – backed by armored vehicles and bulldozers – smashed two sit-ins in Cairo where Morsi’s supporters had camped for six weeks calling for his reinstatement.
It marked the deadliest conflict in Egypt since former ruler Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011 in the Arab Spring uprising.
“I didn’t think we would come to this point,” said one local pharmacist who is a dual American and Egyptian citizen and has strong ties to Cairo, where she worked for several years as a science journalist.
The woman requested anonymity out of fear of political retaliation against her if she returns to the country and against her friends, with whom she is in daily contact by email, Skype and other online communication.
One of her closest friends, a pediatrician, volunteered to treat the wounded at makeshift medical tents set up in the squares where the clashes occurred, the local woman said.
“She’s traumatized. It got bloody. The use of force is scaring us to think that we’re back to before the first revolution,” the pharmacist said. “She says, ‘I don’t even know which side is right.’ ”
The pharmacist, who has lived in Amherst for about two years, had voting rights in Egypt and returned to Cairo for the 2012 elections that brought Morsi to power.
“The whole point of the first revolution was to get a democratic state. I was happy to vote,” she said. “I did not vote for Morsi the first time. The second time around I voted for Morsi, because the other guy was from the past regime.”
But the woman said she and many of her friends who voted for Morsi are not members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the religiously conservative organization that backed his election.
“Most of my friends are really against the Muslim Brotherhood,” the pharmacist said. “All of us who were not Muslim Brotherhood voted for him, just so the other guy wouldn’t get elected.”
Now, she added, “They’re basically saying the people that voted, our votes don’t count.”