Amid clashes of Egypt’s Brotherhood, opposition — the quiet struggle of those in the middle

McClatchy reports: To mark the two-year anniversary of an uprising that led to their ascension, members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood came to the town of Faiyum on Friday with a simple message: The government may not be providing services for you, but the powerful social organization supporting it still can.

They fanned out in this historic, impoverished town and picked up 2-week-old trash thrown between apartment buildings. Brotherhood doctors carried boxes of medicine into makeshift clinics to distribute to the ill. Merchants opened subsidized food, gas and clothing markets.

One hundred miles north down the Nile River and a world away, thousands gathered at Tahrir Square, a now international symbol of its literal name, liberation. The opposition, unable to coalesce around a political platform that can unseat the Brotherhood, was back protesting in the streets, battling police tear gas with rocks, stagnation with chants.

But regular protests in Tahrir have done more to alienate voters than to topple Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. And the Brotherhood’s social campaign no longer buys the votes it once did. There is a patina of disillusionment over millions of Egyptians like Faiyum resident Safa Ramadan, 43, who is too hungry to embrace the luster of revolutionary change, too humiliated to appreciate another handout.

Ramadan’s husband does not make enough money to keep up with rising prices brought by near constant instability. So she pulled her 12-year-old son out of school and made him get a job as a garbage man, or perhaps more aptly, garbage boy. Friday, she stood over baskets of fruit and vegetables, swarmed by flies, and fretted over whether she could afford the extra 10 cents a kilo of tomatoes will cost her this week.

“The prices never go down. They always go up by a lot. What am I supposed to do? Should I pay for school or pay for food?” she asked, draped in a dark headscarf and gown. “Morsi has not done anything for us.” [Continue reading…]

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