Although the political dispute between the State and the Islamists intensified after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the May 2012 Abbaseya clashes count as the first main bloody confrontation between the countries’ two political entities.
In defiance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) delay to hand power over to a civilian entity, protests were organised outside the Defence Ministry. Clashes between protestors and the military police occurred during the protests. The majority of the protesters were supporters of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who also chanted against the then-Election Law
The prominent Salafi preacher was banned from running in the 2012 presidential elections after the committee to regulate elections found out that his mother holds US citizenship.
At the time, the Election Law stipulated that both parents of any presidential candidate must hold only Egyptian nationality.
For many ultraconservative Salafis, preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismailand his radical ideas seemed like an interesting alternative to the competitive Muslim Brotherhood and the pragmatic Salafi Al-Nour Party.
The clashes began when “unidentified assailants”, referred to as “thugs” by the protesters, attacked the sit-in. What followed was the heavy deployment of army and military police forces, who later clashed with demonstrators, leaving more than 10 dead, including one army conscript, and tens of injuries.
Afterwards, the army dispersed the sit-in, and a curfew was imposed in the district of Abbaseya.
After the dispersal, Abu Ismail announced that not all of the protesters were his supporters and accused the army of using thugs in the violence.
Critics of the SCAF argue the army facilitated the way for the more conservative yet organised right wing, the Muslim Brotherhood, to take control of the country’s parliament and presidency, to counter the already rising and ambitious leftist and liberal tendencies after the 25 January Revolution.
After their ouster, the Brotherhood and the majority of the strong Salafi movement in the country returned to oppose the Egyptian state, after having spent one year in power.