Hazem El-Beblawi, Prime Minister during the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins, has said the decision made at the time to disperse the sit-ins were tough but necessary.
With the first anniversary of the dispersals upcoming, El-Beblawi told Daily News Egypt: “My heart remains reassured of the decision”, and if he had the chance to face the decision again, he would take the same steps to restore state prestige and rule-of-law.
El-Beblawi said regarding his testimony before the fact-finding committee, poised to submit its final report regarding what happened during the dispersals to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, that “sometimes we are forced to make tough decisions that have negative effects, but on the whole, are positive.”
He added that the dispersal took place in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
He added: “The protesters were first to open fire on armed forces. The police acted with the utmost restraint, defending only themselves against bullets indiscriminately shot from protesters that climbed the roofs of houses next to Raba’a square.”
El-Beblawi added that the first injuries were among the police force, and that they made every effort to minimise losses.
El-Beblawi said the state endured the protesters’ transgressions of occupying public squares, blocking traffic and preventing citizens from entering their homes.
“Public opinion accused my government of negligence and inaction,” when in fact, he said, they were studying all implications of the decision to disperse the sit-ins. They also took into account the necessity of implementing the decision after Ramadan and Eid, he said.
Adly Mansour, former interim president of Egypt, issued a decree on 21 December last year following the sit-in dispersals, a series of church attacks, and the Republican Guard clashes. The decree ordered the formation of a national fact-finding committee to gather and document the events of 30 June and its aftermath.
“The cabinet, in coordination with the National Defence Council and the armed forces, took the decision to disperse unanimously,” El-Beblawi said. “No plan is implemented exactly as it is laid out, and we did not expect the protestors to react as they did to the dispersal.”
The Minister of Interior was charged with swiftly restoring security and discipline to the streets.
El-Beblawi said: “There were no disputes surrounding the dispersal but discussions did touch on the fear of many casualties. The decision was made through a majority.”
More died than anticipated in Rabaa Al-Adaweya, with fewer casualties in Nahda, as protesters in the former were armed and on rooftops to clash with police and fire indiscriminately. Events in Kerdasa also witnessed very few deaths.
El-Beblawi said that the government did not negotiate with the Brotherhood, nor did they charge anyone with the role of mediator, despite bodies such as the European Union voluntarily offering to do so.
However, he said, the protesters refused to leave their “legitimate” places until former president mohamed Morsi returned to power. At this point, the government realised that a friendly solution was impossible, El-Beblawi said.
“Regarding uncertainty, the police were keen on avoiding from violence as much as possible, but had to defend themselves,” he said. The troops addressed crowds of protesters via microphone, informing them that paths had been cleared for them to leave the square safely.
“I do not think that there was any solution other than dispersal at that time,” said El-Beblawi, adding that the action was taken in response to violent protests that blocked roads, occupied public squares, and restricted movement for citizens, preventing them from entering their homes and portraying Egypt to the world as an unstable and weak nation.
El-Beblawi continued, saying that “Our goal was to restore the state’s authority to the streets and the decision to disperse the sit-ins was made politically in coordination with the armed forces.”