Thornberry laments prospect of civil war in Egypt

Posted Monday, Dec. 10, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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Mary Thornberry is frustrated by the political protests that are again ravaging her beloved adopted country of Egypt.

Frustrated, the former resident of Fort Worth watches as bloodshed, violence and protests continue over a constitutional referendum - seen by some as a victory for democracy and by others as the ultimate betrayal - that President Mohamed Morsi continues to push.

"I am infuriated and disgusted at the political turn of events," said Thornberry, who made international news last year by defending herself during violent political protests with a rolling pin after being trapped in her apartment. She ultimately escaped the country unharmed.

Despite leaving last year, Thornberry returned to Egypt and her tiny apartment near Tahrir Square in Cairo earlier this year.

Now she hears much noise - gunfire from rubber bullets and other ammunition - during ongoing protests. And she knows tear gas is frequently used.

"Some anti groups say (they) will maintain their positions in Tahrir to keep the square in their grasp" rather than risk letting the Muslim Brotherhood control it, she told the Star-Telegram in an email.

She said the atmosphere is "undoubtedly" as dangerous as it was last year, when violent political protests erupted against then-President Hosni Mubarak.

"Therein lies the potential for civil war," she wrote in the email. "The anti-protesters and pro-protesters will be literally at each others throats unless reined in by some power."

As a result, Thornberry said many people who are "financially able" have already left the country, seeking refuge and safety elsewhere.

"The lower economic classes are enraged," she said. "Some of the middle classes ... have now come to the realization that 'things are bad.'"

But she said she's fine - and staying put - for now.

She's able to leave her apartment and move somewhat freely.

And she has made plans on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to share a meal with fellow Americans living in Egypt.

"I am okay at present," she said.

That wasn't the case last year, when she became a focus of national news during the beginning of the uprising that swept Mubarak out of power. Her son, Phil Derrick, alerted media to her plight -- being trapped in her apartment building amid the protests.

For days, she was believed to be the only tenant left in her apartment building overlooking Tahrir Square as activists took over the building.

She stood guard at her front door, preventing people from entering by using her "armory" - which included a rolling pin and kitchen knife - to hit hands reaching through shattered glass to unlock the door.

Ultimately, an Egyptian who works for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo helped her leave the building - dressed in traditional attire, including a long skirt and hijab, the headscarf worn by many Muslim women - and go to the airport.

She moved to Egypt about 15 years ago to study ancient Egyptian history. Before that, she and her husband, James Derrick, lived in Fort Worth about 20 years.

Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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