Egyptians in South Florida expect worse for their country

Escalating violence has sparked fears among Egyptians in South Florida about a new civil war and threats to democracy, and has raised anxiety about their families.

Mohamed Osman returned three days ago after visiting his parents in Egypt. He spoke with them on Wednesday as the military clashed with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, leaving more than 275 people dead. The military declared a monthlong state of emergency.

“What happened today is the worst thing they have ever seen,” Osman said.

His mother was shocked at the images she saw on television. The current violence, Osman said his parents told him, was worse than any they experienced during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the ’50s and ’60s.

Osman, 42, said he left Egypt to study in the U.S. and had to decide after his studies whether to return. He decided to stay.

“I saw how friends were imprisoned by the government for protesting,” Osman said.

The situation in Egypt is not expected to improve anytime soon, Osman said.

“As long as the military is in charge of power, I don’t see any democracy for Egypt,” said Osman, a cardiologist in Fort Lauderdale. “I am afraid Egypt is slipping into a military dictatorship.”

Another local Egyptian, Mohamed Behairy, said his brother was among the protesters on Wednesday.

“It is unbelievable and depressing what happens there,” Behairy said.

Behairy said his brother told him many bodies of the dead were later burned.

“We all lost some friends and relatives,” said Behairy, also a cardiologist.

The deadly violence sprung from deep disagreements between Morsi and the military and the threat of a new civil war, said Mohammad Shakir, director of the Asian-American Advisory Board in Miami-Dade.

“Here we go again, as Ronald Reagan would say,” Shakir said.

Shabbir Motorwala, vice chairman of the advisory board, also expressed concerns about the situation’s implications for the Muslim world.

“Maybe people expected too much from the new democracy,” Motorwala said.