For three years, Egyptians have been taking to the streets demanding democracy, social justice and freedom, and for three years they have been denied. They are being cornered over and over into making tough choices, then end up choosing what they deem “less horrible” and the results have never lived up to their aspirations.
As it was during Morsi’s government and during SCAF rule, so it is now. The “with us or against us” logic is all over the place, but the reality is not so black and white.
Everything that has happened from 11 February 2011 to 25 June 2013 has been documented extensively, but what has taken place since has been a confusing acceleration of events that have often been portrayed by the different sides involved from a less than objective angle. It is important to look at what has occurred objectively, and in context, in order to form a well informed opinion. So here it is.
Since 26 June and until today hundreds of people have died, scores tortured and thousands injured. Calls for killing Egyptians have echoed on sit-in stages and marches alike. These are facts that Egyptians live through day and night.
During this past month, while the Islamists’ peaceful sit-in continued in front of Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque in Nasr City, some non-peaceful activities were taking place.
During the night of 30 June, the clashes that occurred by the Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters (where one of our own photographers suffered birdshot wounds, with 19 pellets still in his body), left eight people killed with live ammunition, one of whom a 14-year-old boy. Seventy others were injured.
The sit-ins in two major locations across Cairo continued, one in Nasr City (the Rabaa sit in) and the other by the Cairo University in Dokki (Al-Nahda sit in). Minor clashes between the Brothers’ supporters and local resident throughout Egypt have continued, leaving hundreds injured, with 152 on 1 July alone.
On the morning of 2 July, Mohamed Al-Beltagy, leading Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) figure, said in a statement : “revolutionaries should undertake martyrdom”. So on the night of 2 July came yet another sharp act of violence against the anti-Brotherhood Dokki residents close to the Al-Nahda sit in. 18 people were killed and 200 injured during the clashes; one of those killed was a leading member of the Tamarod campaign. Videos showing Brotherhood loyalists using firearms hit the internet immediately. The next morning, the Islamist coalition called the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy (NCSL) issued a statement saying: We will protect Morsi’s legitimacy with our blood
Then Morsi was ousted, taken to an unknown location, incommunicado along with several of his aides.
By the night of 3 July, the health ministry reported 11 killed and 516 injured across the country, while the Brotherhood said 23 of their supporters were killed by police, army and Tamarod “thugs”.
Meanwhile, Sinai violence escalated to unprecedented levels. Islamist militants attacking police, army and civilians alike has since become an almost daily occurrence. Of course, in Sinai, it is always gunfire and bombings. Scores of soldiers have died during this month.
Less than 48 hours after the announcement of Morsi’s ouster and the militant attacks on security personnel in Sinai escalated, Al-Beltagy said: “Events in Sinai are in retaliation for the military coup, and will stop immediately once the coup is withdrawn and Morsi is back.” These words were on video that also hit the social media networks and TV channels.
On that night as well, Islamists, enraged at the ousting of their leader, appeared on videos vowing to become suicide bombers that will target secularists, Christians, Shias, and “all other opposition forces.”
On 5 July, the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood gave a heated speech on the stage of the Rabaa sit-in, promising that “we will sacrifice our lives for Morsi and bring him back”, to the cheers of thousands. On that same night, violence gripped Egypt, 30 people were killed and 1100 injured in nationwide clashes.
Most of these clashes occurred when Brotherhood supporters began their marches in different governorates. The clashes were mostly between residents of the areas that witnessed the marches of pro-Brotherhood protesters. Videos of residents shot dead in Manial, others of minors thrown off a rooftop in Alexandria flooded social networks.
Sectarian violence also ensued, with the murder of a Coptic priest in a drive by shooting in front of his church in Sinai, and the murder of four Christians in Luxor after Islamists attacked them with bladed weapons. 32 people were also injured in clashes in Luxor.
Then Al-Qaeda interfered, with their leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri sending a video message to Egypt’s Islamists saying : “the battle isn’t over, it has just started… the Islamic nation should offer victims and sacrifices to achieve what it wants and restore power from the corrupt authority governing Egypt.” Calls for more blood and sacrifice echoed through the sit-ins and protests by the Brotherhood and their Islamist supporters.
Whatever their other points of contention, pro and anti Morsi demonstrators agreed on one fact: there was no police force protecting or preventing clashes or bloodshed. Most reports from eyewitnesses mentioned that the police were bystanders, watching people kill each other.
The tables started turning after that bloody Friday 5 July.
On 6 July, the arrest of Brotherhood and Islamist leaders began, most accused of inciting violence. And the leaders of the Brotherhood continue to refuse dialogue “until Morsi is freed and reinstated as president of Egypt.” One of their leading figures, Safwat Hegazy, was videoed saying that huge escalations are being prepared and we will free Morsi “tonight”, a few hours before the dawn of 8 July.
On the dawn of 8 July, the military struck back, killing 51 and injuring almost 500 Islamist pro-Morsi protesters at the sit-in they held in front of the Republican Guards Club headquarters. In a matter of a few hours, blood filled the area. Conflicting reports on how that attack started become irrelevant in the face of an army killing protesters.
For the following two weeks, arrests of Brotherhood leaders and loyalists continued with a staggering 647 detained at once in relation to the Republican Guards Club violence. The detainees were charged with murder, attempted murder, attacking public institutions and possession of weapons, among other charges. Following that, some leaders were transferred to a high security prison, as a “precautionary measure”.
Two weeks of human rights organisations’ condemnation of the Republican Guards Club killings, the arbitrary arrests, the shutting down of TV channels. Back and forth discussions and negotiations with the international community. Unanswered calls for a national dialogue.
Two weeks of sporadic violence and clashes, where for example, four pro-Morsi women were killed in Mansoura, clashes at Al-Azhar that ended in the detainment of pro-Morsi protesters. News was flooded with headlines like “bomb found in Giza tunnel,” “attacks on police station in Aswan,” and “random shootings in Heliopolis.”
What remains consistent, however, is the violence in Sinai, with disturbing news every single day, mostly of attacks by “unknown” gunmen on security personnel and checkpoints. Civilians were not spared either; three died and 15 were injured when an RPG missed an armoured personnel carrier and hit a bus of civilian workers.
The Rabaa and the Dokki sit-ins continue, though.
On 23 July, the anniversary of the 1952 Revolution, which is mostly an armed forces day, Islamists went on marches. Over the span of two days, clashes and death tolls were on the rise, mostly pro-Morsi protesters. By their sit-ins in Rabaa and Al-Nahda, clashes led to 9 dead and 86 injured.
Meanwhile, a court ordered Mohamed Morsi be detained for questioning over suspected collaboration with Palestinian militant group Hamas.
On Wednesday 24 July, General Al-Sisi called on “Egyptians to take to the streets to give the army mandate to fight terrorism.” Human Rights groups issued their condemnation and rejection of the requested mandate, with the international community calling for Morsi’s release.
While many remained at home, sceptical of giving an unlimited mandate to the army, millions responded to Al-Sisi’s call on Friday. Cheers greeted the army helicopters and F-16s flying over the demonstrations. Television channels, both private and state-run, showed live broadcast from Tahrir Square and Itihadiya where anti-Brotherhood demonstrations converged. All day long, TV channels ran patriotic songs from the victories of the past. TV anchors and show hosts displayed the highest possible forms of unprofessionalism. While clashes and deaths were ongoing, Egyptians at home were watching a celebration that looked like winning a world war without breaking a finger.
And although all the channels were showing the same image from the same spot, they had the audacity to tell their viewers the day before, that it was “their” decision (and not the state’s) to broadcast the love-soaked demonstrations in support of Al-Sisi’s fight against terrorism.
Overnight, and while TV viewers and demonstrators were celebrating their win, pro-Morsi protesters were in another world. Attempting to extend their Rabaa sit-in, they built roadblocks that would in the morning paralyse the capital. In Alexandria, where violence resulted in 10 deaths and scores of injuries, pro-Morsi protesters were filmed using guns. Some anti-Morsi protesters were taken hostage in a mosque and beaten up, with “special” treatment to those who happened to be Christians. One of those tortured inside the Alexandria mosque was 6 April founder, Ahmed Thabet.
When the police struck at Rabaa that night, over 70 pro-Morsi protesters died and a couple thousand were injured. Doctors there have reported patients suffering gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest. The Rabaa sit-in was turned into a small warzone, while their opponents were celebrating to the sounds of music in the Itihadiya palace, and foreign reporters were taken on army helicopters to witness the glorious day of “Egypt against terrorism”.
What the Islamists kill over the span of a month, the army and police kills in two rounds. Egyptian blood is being spilt on the bumpy road to democracy, and Egyptians are expected to pick a side. “You are either with us or against us,” both camps say. You are either an infidel or a traitor; there is no third choice here. Why are Egyptians always put in this corner, always having to choose between the bad and the worse?
There is always that minority of Egyptians who do not bow to the stability-versus-security choice. Those few who decide not to side with violence or dictatorships of any kind. These are the ones Egypt is counting on to continue the struggle for democracy.