Egyptian-Canadians call for peaceful end to Egypt's troubles

Egyptian-Canadians are keeping a close eye on Egypt's growing crisis and calling for a peaceful solution regardless of their political stance, weary of the bloodshed that has killed hundreds since Wednesday.

Many Egyptian-Canadians believe media have misrepresented the conflict

Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi protest in Cairo Friday during a so-called day of rage. (Muhammad Ham/Reuters)

Egyptian-Canadians are keeping a close eye on Egypt's growing crisis and calling for a peaceful solution regardless of their political stance, weary of the bloodshed that has claimed more than 600 people since Wednesday.

"Whatever side you fell on, no one likes to see dead bodies," Kareem Aly, 24, told CBC News from Egypt's north coast, about 50 kilometres outside of Alexandria. "I think we're all praying for peace."

Aly was born in Canada and lives in Ottawa, but visits Egypt — his parents' home country — frequently.

He said he is worried about what will happen over the next several days.

On Wednesday, riot police dissolved two sit-in protests staged by ousted president Mohammed Morsi's supporters in Cairo. During the confrontation, 638 people died.

The deaths prompted more protests, causing the military to impose a state of emergency and month-long nighttime curfew.

Angered by this decision, more Muslim Brotherhood supporters flocked to Cairo's streets Friday for a so-called day of rage. As many as 60 people have reportedly been killed so far on Friday.

Montreal-based Egyptians have staged multiple protests already. Four men have organized a peaceful picket protest for Sunday, calling for a democratic Egypt as a resolution to the violence.

Scherif Gress, at an Egyptian restaurant in Montreal, said he knew the political situation was heating up, but he never thought it would come to this.

"I always knew that there was a lot of different points of views in Egypt, but to see it escalate the way it has over the last few days is actually very sad to me," Gress said.

Safety concerns

Rami Iskandar moved from Egypt to Canada last year with his family. He's not surprised by the recent violence, but worries about his wife who is currently in Egypt visiting relatives.

"What I can say is take care ... because it's a little bit dangerous these days especially for Christian families," he said.

Hany Rizk was born in Egypt, but has lived in Toronto for 22 years. One of his brothers still lives in Cairo, and he said he is "100 per cent" worried about his family's safety.

"The situation is very bad actually because the business has stopped. Everybody stay home … It is dangerous to walk in Cairo right now," said Rizk.

On Thursday, Rizk said his wife could not reach her family for a long time, blaming dysfunctional telephone lines in Egypt. When they finally communicated, relatives couldn't say much about the situation in Cairo because the military has advised everyone to stay at home as much as possible.

Rizk echoed Iskandar's sentiment of Christian Egyptians being particularly vulnerable.

He recalled his reasons for moving to Canada, saying that after graduating from a university commerce program, he was denied a bank job.

"You are Christian. You expect you're going to work in a bank?" he recalled being told.

Now, he says, Christians can be stopped on the street and ordered to convert to Islam — though Rizk will only refer to it as "their religion," referencing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ahmed Deif, an Egyptian-Canadian Morsi supporter, said he's disappointed by the changes.

"Imagine after tasting the sweetness of that, and having all these dreams, suddenly you find the military regime coming back again in its most wildest form — in the form of a coup."

Western media coverage questioned

Some Canadian-Egyptians at home and abroad expressed frustration over what they say is Western media's misrepresentation of recent events in the country.

Aly said the situation in Egypt is "completely different" from what he has heard reported by North American news outlets.

Many Egyptians almost glorify the army for its role in ousting Morsi, he said.

"They have a lot of respect for the army and a huge sense of ... gratitude because of what they did by kicking out Morsi," he said.

Aly said Egyptians have maintained their gratitude to the army throughout the latest developments.

"There was a strong sense of the army should be getting rid of these protesters, should be getting rid of the sit-ins," he explained, saying the protest was not as peaceful as some media made it out to be.

Rizk believes the army is in the right as well. "[The] army is protecting Egyptians and this is what the Egyptians want," he said."

Amin Meleika, Egypt's consul general in Montreal, said many Egyptians seem to share Aly's point of view.

Meleika said many Egyptians have called him "to express their desire to clarify the situation."

With files from Evan Mitsui, Sandra Abma