But just as Egypt’s Islamists have become the enemies of the nation in the aftermath of a coup that ousted Morsi on July 3, many Egyptians have also turned against the Syrian rebels and refugees Morsi had so vocally supported.
Nowhere has the backlash to the Arab Spring been as quick and complete as it has been in Egypt this summer. In two months, the Arab world’s largest country, and the second to revolt in the 2011 uprisings that toppled dictators across North Africa, transitioned from a faltering, post-uprising democracy back into the clutches of a military-backed, unelected government.
Longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011, has been released from jail, pending another trial. And Egypt’s new interim government has led a devastating crackdown against Mubarak’s — and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s — old foes in the Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds and imprisoning many more, including Morsi.
For the Syrians who fled their own disastrous revolution-turned-civil-war to a nation that had, at least initially, seemed like an Arab Spring success, the sudden shift is all the more jolting.
“They used to treat us with respect. Now they treat us like cattle,” said Bilal, 45, who opened a cheese shop last year in a Syrian-packed district on the outskirts of Cairo after abandoning his sweets shop in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Bilal, like most other Syrians interviewed, provided only his first name for fear of becoming a target in a country that has proved increasingly hostile in recent weeks.
The rebel Free Syrian Army, which Egyptian media has tied to the Brotherhood, is no longer seen as a friend to the Egyptian people, Bilal said. “People now look at us and say, ‘You are the traitors. You are the ones doing the killing in Syria.’ ”
Syrian refugees say they are insulted and taunted on the streets, charged double for commodities and services, increasingly mugged and robbed, and are harassed by police. Many said they hope to leave.
Linked with Morsi backers
Two weeks before the coup, Morsi delivered a fiery condemnation of Assad and vowed to support the Syrian revolution — words that proved unpopular at home.
Since Morsi’s ouster, Egyptian television channels have reported that pro-Morsi sit-ins have been packed with Syrians. Some outlets attributed both the Syrian uprising and the rise of Morsi in Egypt to an American plot to destabilize the region. Government officials said the Brotherhood was “exploiting Syrian refugee youth” in its struggle against “the Egyptian people.”