While the US State Department has not released any significant travel advisory for Egypt since December 3rd, violence has spiked in the last twenty-four hours.
Rumors have spread in the west claiming protests turned violent and potential gun battles ensued in an incredibly tense Egypt over the past several days. Unfortunately, those rumors became reality last night.
Based off multiple YouTube videos uploaded this morning, we now know clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and their opposition at the Presidential palace in Cairo included at least several pistols and one shotgun being fired into the crowds. The validity of these videos has been confirmed by undisclosed sources situated in Cairo.
Egyptian President Morsi, a supporter and member of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, fled the Presidential palace only a few days ago to an undisclosed location and recently returned sometime in the past sixteen hours. Upon returning to the Presidential palace, he has ordered the deployment of tanks and military troops to the Presidential compound after last night’s violent protests.
The YouTube videos do not show any large scale gun battles like we witnessed in war zones however, the protests last night did result in at least five people killed and 600 injured. How many of those victims died or were injured from gun-fire remains unknown at this time.
The ongoing two week crisis over the president’s implementation of near-absolute powers and the hurried adoption of a draft constitution is not forecasted to end anytime soon. More protests are forecasted and with the deployment of army assets to Egypt’s capital is a sure sign protests will rapidly turn more violent than they already have become.
So why has the US State Department not released any travel advisories for Egypt in the past three days? More importantly, why has the State Department not placed Egypt on their website as one of the thirty-plus nations with travel warnings?
According to the State Department, “Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country.”
Again, US policy is filled with subjectivity. What does long-term mean? Should a year of prolonged civil unrest be construed as long-term? Egypt’s recent revolution initiated in January 2011. While the revolution resulted in the ousting of a former dictator and the people elected a new leader through a democratically processed election, continued struggles fueled with violence can be witnessed in Egypt.
Freelance journalists, news reporters, and even children of diplomats have been held against their will in the past year by government and opposition parties in Egypt. Only a few weeks ago, Security forces physically assaulted Mohamed al-Qamash, a journalist at Al-Siyasi magazine, while he was covering clashes at Simon Bolivar Square near the US Embassy in Cairo.
So the question remains, why will the US State Department not issue a current travel advisory and place Egypt on its list of thirty-plus nations identified as a hostile location giving warnings to US citizens traveling abroad to Egypt?
Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is the author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors (scheduled release December, 2012). You can follow him on Facebook