Egyptian Police Clear Brotherhood Sit-Ins, at cost of Scores of deaths, injuries

On Wednesday morning, the State Security police in Egypt used earth movers to tear down the barricades around the huge sit-ins at al-Nahda Square in Giza and Rabia al-`Adawiyya square in Cairo. They left one street open at each location and demanded the crowds disperse, saying that no one would be pursued who voluntarily left. Police then advanced into the squares, firing tear gas. Some early reports spoke of 120 dead in the first 40 minutes, including two policemen (9 policemen were said to have been wounded). Alarabiya was still only reporting 5 dead several hours after the push against the squares began. Egyptians tweeting from the scene said that police had encountered armed resistance from some of the Muslim Brotherhood and traded fire with them. Some two hundred protesters were arrested in the first couple hours of the assault.

[Killings rose into the hundreds through the day.]

Columns of black smoke rose ominously over the capital. France24 reports:

The government stopped all trains from running in the country, to prevent the Brotherhood crowds from reassembling outside Cairo.

Press reports said that the Interior Ministry had ordered police to clear the standing protests on orders from the cabinet of PM Hazem Biblawi, on the grounds that they were interfering with traffic and creating a nuisance for families living in the area.

The Egyptian press has been reporting for a couple of weeks that there were sharp divisions within the interim government regarding how to deal with the large Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, which were demanding the reinstatement of deposed president Muhammad Morsi. The Interior Ministry, Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Mustafa and the Defense Minister Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wanted to use force to disperse the pro-Morsi demonstrators. Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Baha Eldin and Vice President for foreign affairs Mohamed Elbaradei are said to have called for a gradual approach, of simply not allowing anyone who left the square to return and counting on attrition to thin out the crowds over weeks. They argued that anything that looked like a massacre of Brotherhood members would weaken Egypt’s standing in Europe and the US. Others in the government wanted to disperse the crowds by force immediately. While last weekend it seemed that Elbaradei had prevailed, by Wednesday morning the hard liners had won out.

The government crackdown on the Brotherhood sit-ins may have been provoked by the attempt of Brotherhood supporters to march on the Interior Ministry, and by the clashes that broke out on Tuesday between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators.

Euronews reports:

The interim government’s announcement Tuesday of 18 new provincial governors, 11 of them former military generals, had raised alarms among civil society groups that the ambitious military was consolidating its control over the country.

The violent dispersal of the Brotherhood supporters of deposed president Muhammad Morsi has further polaraized Egyptian society between the religious fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and nationalist forces supporting the military. The military had appeared to wish to treat the Brotherhood members as members of a conspiratorial and manipulative covert organization. They may now have a green light to proceed in that way.

27 Responses

  1. The lineup of new governors is farcicial. So many of them are guilty of atrocious crimes and opposition to the 2011 revolution. The interim government is rapidly going down the tubes as Mansour repeatedly placates its pro-despotism elements.

    Can anyone doubt that these governors hate the liberals with extreme fervor? Support will rapidly erode once suppression of “secular” factions swings into full force. There are already signs that labor policy will be a major fulcrum of conflict.

    • There are already signs that labor policy will be a major fulcrum of conflict.

      This is something I’ve been wondering about: where is the left – the youth and labor – in all of this?

      Do they not matter in Egyptian politics unless they are aligned on one side or the other of the MB/military divide?

      • the unions were universally for Rebellion/ Tamarrud, said Morsi policies were driving factories into the ground

        • What Morsi policies? He was in office less than a year in a post-revolution period, how can he turn around an economy that just suffered a terrific body blow? Besides, all economies tank in post-revolution period, all of them without exception.

          Tamarrud is a movement financed by the Saudis to create instability inside Egypt and was helped by pro-Mubarak billionaires.

  2. I doubt it, Steven, and I doubt that YOU know “these governors hate the liberals with extreme fervor” either. Omniscient, you’re not. There are other ways of interpreting why these people were chosen as governors. Yours seems to me to be the least likely. Stability in a powderkeg situation is the most likely reason, a unified command so to speak. Only time will prove to you and others that the military will be handing over the far greatest part of power to civilian rule, a truly democratic one rather than a secretive power-hungry sectarian fundamentalist group that would suppress 80% of the rest of the population because of its narrow superstitous ideology. Egyptians by and large want a modern state.

    Regarding alienation of the MB in Egypt. They never deserved to be persecuted for all those decades they were ostracized and suppressed. Simultaneously, once in power they did not care that they had begun altering the identity of Egypt and bending it toward fundamentalism in ways that alienated the rest of the entire Egyptian population. That was their operating plan and principle, which quickly became completely obvious and manifest to the rest of the population.

    • Many of these governors can be judged by their own words, as well as by their deeds in previously held positions. Such individuals have not suddenly changed their mentality since 2011 and are quite likely to start reasserting their previous behavior patterns to a hazardous degree. You can say that is the least likely interpretation, but a growing number of non-MB liberals, leftists, and others Egyptians are rightfully worried that recent events are by driven by forces that do not care what they think. It is unsurprising there was condemnation and expressions of reservations about these gubernatorial appointments from across the political spectrum.

      Hopefully this transition will indeed lead to a “greater degree of democracy” and end up establishing a clear notion of civilian control. However, the events of the past few days provide rational reasons to be extremely worried about the intentions of the Interior Minister and many other leaders with so much clout. The massive death toll (which was NOT inevitable) and the lengthy state of emergency do not bode well. There are other political forces trying to reassert their own dominance that are every bit as problematic and even dogmatic as the Brotherhood.

  3. There really is no cause for alarm. After all, there was no coup in Egypt. In the words of some US commentators it was merely a “military revolution” or “the second revolution”. The leading neocon champions of democracy approved what has happened in Egypt. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute in a column on July 7 wrote: “If democracy is the goal, then the United States should celebrate Egypt’s coup… Rather than punish the perpetrators, Obama should offer two cheers for Egypt’s generals and help Egyptians write a more democratic constitution to provide a sounder foundation for true democracy.”

    Frank Gaffney, from the Center for Security Studies went even further and in an article on July 4th, he wrote: “On the eve of our nation’s founding, Egypt’s military has given their countrymen a chance for what Abraham Lincoln once called ‘a new birth of freedom.”

    When the Egyptian revolutionaries were calling for the removal of President Mubarak, the other great advocate of democracy in the Middle East, Tony Blair said: “Mubarak is very courageous and a force for good.” When Mubarak was toppled, this champion of democracy predicted: “His fall is a pivotal moment for democracy in Egypt”. After the coup, writing in the Observer, he praised the army and said “the Egyptian army had no alternative but to oust President Morsi from power, given the strength of opposition on the streets.” I am sure that at the time when his and President George Bush’s popularity was at an all time low, he would have advocated the use of force by the army to remove the unpopular government, especially given the strength of opposition on the streets to the Iraq war.
    More recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed strong approval of the Egyptian military’s removal of former President Mohamed Morsi in a statement he made to Pakistan’s Geo News on August 2. Kerry said the military was “restoring democracy” when it ousted Morsi, which he said was at the request of “millions and millions of people.”
    link to uk.mg.bt.mail.yahoo.com?.partner=bt-1&.rand=e0rl18ge2ss5q#mail

    Welcome to the new version of democracy! Does anyone wonder any more why Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning have no place in this new democratic world?

    • More recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed strong approval of the Egyptian military’s removal of former President Mohamed Morsi in a statement he made to Pakistan’s Geo News on August 2. Kerry said the military was “restoring democracy” when it ousted Morsi, which he said was at the request of “millions and millions of people.”</i?

      A statement that the notoriously poor-spoken Kerry immediately walked back, unlike every one of the other examples you gave.

      Oh, and where does the American threats over military aid made towards the generals, which were never made towards the Morsi government, fit into all of this?

      Apparently, that has much less to do with American policy towards Egypt than Bradley Manning.

  4. Although the NYT is currently unavailable, I thought this opinion piece from the weekend worthwhile, not just wrt to Egypt, but wrt all would-be revolutionaries.

    The American Revolution was a relatively simple affair, the French much messier and more filled with “lessons.”

    link to nytimes.com

    My heart goes out to Egypt as hopes are again dashed and worse.

    • To his credit, today Secretary Kerry strongly condemned the massacre. I wish there had been a stronger denunciation of the coup, which the American officials are still reluctant to call it by its proper name, earlier on because it might have prevented this dreadful massacre. Until we are prepared to stand by our principles and condemn dictatorship and military rule everywhere, including in the countries that are allegedly our allies, our support for democracy will not be believed and will seem hypocritical. Even at this late hour, a strong condemnation of the coup and the state of emergency may prevent similar occurrences in other countries.

  5. Obviously, a very sad situation for civilians – who always pay the heaviest price in this social explosions.

    From a 30,000 foot perspective, the (so-called) liberals in Egypt are now on the horns of the proverbial dilemma. They are all in, given their support of the military’s ouster of Morsi. But how does the brutal measures taken by the security forces gibe with their “liberal” notions of civil society? They can’t get off that tiger. And unless the Ikwahn backs down, this has all the makings of a fight to the death.

    • There are only civilians. This is not an armed conflict with 2 armies. On one side, you have the military with guns. On the other side, you have their unarmed civilians cousins. The results: the guys with guns massacre the unarmed guys. Is that surprising? No. So, let’s not act as if this was some kind of an accident, rather than the norm for dictatorship, that no one imagined or warned against.

    • They can’t get off that tiger.

      I don’t know, John. They’re already gone back and forth since spring 2011.

      They led the protests against Mubarak, then they led the protests against Morsi.

  6. Congratulations. Finally the champions of democracy, liberal values and human rights have prevailed with the help of self styled desktop warriors for these causes. After all what is a couple of lives here and there in order to achieve these lofty goals! Now Egypt will once again see days of peace, prosperity and progress as the 21st century Pharaohs assert their historical control and establish absolute and total domination of the fortunate inhabitants of the valleys and delta of the great Nile. Great days are ahead for them, just waiting around the corner. Let us welcome the beginning of this new golden era for Egypt. Kudos to those who made it possible. Good job. Keep on the good work.

  7. So does this mean the US will stop selling Egypt F-16s and other hi-tech weapons? I doubt it.

      • Ouch! that’s gotta really hurt… Except if one applies a poultice of money’n’materiel. Seems the expensive exercises (costly to US taxpayers) might be down for the moment, but if you read the report in the Washington Post, you get a little more context:

        President Obama on Thursday canceled a joint military exercise with Egypt while leaving more than a billion dollars in annual aid in place, in a measured response to the government’s violent repression of opposition demonstrations.

        link to washingtonpost.com

        And per the Post article and a little more googling, this ain’t the first time the Administration delayed, postponed, put off this “annual cooperation exercise,” which, per the strategies that AFRICOM is implementing, is just one tiny part of setting up a joint military cooperative, under the benign eye and arm of the US, that crosses the entire continent, with interoperable militaries in every nation that counts, ready to ‘preserve the peace’ and ‘assure security’ and ‘serve the national interest.’

        Oh, and how about those F-16s that are being ‘delayed?’ link to aljazeera.com

        • Hey, JT, I know this game!

          “Why don’t Muslims denounce terrorism?

          Uh, they do. Here are some examples.

          “OK, but why don’t they denounce it more?

          It’s been less than 24 hours. How about more “let’s see” and less regurgitation of your very favorite catch phrases?

  8. “When the only tool in your toolbox, or the only tool you know how to use, is a Great Big Mutha____in’ Hammer…”

    Gee, I wonder if what Sasi’s STASI did there was “in the national interest”?

  9. According to AP, 278 dead across Egypt, 1000s of injured, On top of that, 3 journalists were killed and several of other reporters/journalists injured. One of the journalists (i think her name is Habiba Abd Elaziz with the Gulf News newspaper) was shot in the head according to her colleagues. All of this carnage took place in a couple of hours.

    What’s new really? We knew that this was going to happen. So we shouldn’t really be surprised at all. This is the military modus operandi. Whenever they got involved in politics, massacres of unarmed civilians follow them.

    And the state of emergency won’t resolve this crisis. It will only make it worse.

  10. “Alarabiya was still only reporting 5 dead several hours after the push against the squares began …”

    Alarabiya was lying.

  11. Some think ‘the military’ is like the French Armee before 1914, the soul of the nation and culture. Is what you see in Egypt what you want, what you would trust, to establish a World Security Thingie, under US leadership of course?

    The peddlers and jokers who are selling the theme that ‘the military’ is the best institution to help us humans “manage change” and “respond to crises” in what the smarter ones among the Brass know pretty surely is coming, are the worst kinds of charlatans, and all you have to do is look at how ‘conflicts’ start up and are maintained and exacerbated and enlarged. No negative feedback to tamp them down, except exhaustion, a genteel sufficiency of dead bodies, and bankruptcy, viz. Egypt and Syria and so many others.

    For those who have not taken the opportunity to intellectually bathe in the cesspit of militarianization yet, here’s a .pdf that, in one place, exposes the kind of idiot wargamer-Risk!-player’s-idiot-delight thinking that is going to get us all killed (it’s available from many sources, including in Word format I think): link to fas.org

    It’s titled “Final Report – Defense Science Board Task Force on Trends and Implications of Climate Change on National and International Security.” One of the many gems is this little snip, there are way too many to even start to choose from:

    The United States and its developed world allies should be prepared to support, both technically and financially, civil projects that increase resilience and provide ways to adapt to forecasted climate change effects. As in the case of foreign military sales, such support could serve to boost world markets for construction and agricultural equipment, seeds, and medical supplies.

    Ibid., at 77-78. So bland, so horrific. In a nutshell, what so much of this is all about…

    You want to trust the MI-EverythingElseToo-C to “manage” the crises this report lays out, in the infinitely bureaucratized way they propose, or give them the world’s wealth in an open checkbook to do all they propose to do in this “report,” which indicates that the US security structure will magnanimously agree to undertake the enormous charge of “securing” the whole planet?

    Extra points: Who said “War is nothing but a racket,” and who said, “It’s a syndicate, and everyone has a share”?

  12. Juan, you and the commentors are giving a wrong picture of what happened today in Egypt. The initial hour of the clearing of Nahda and Rabaa began with armed MB firing on the secuirty, earth movers not employed, loud warnings to vacate and tear gas. Security did not beat people, but escorted them out. I watched & here is another eyewitness account at Nahda. link to sherifazuhur.wordpress.com
    Trouble began later because pro-Morsi/MB left women inside Rabaa and some fired back, killing police. The trains stopping had no effect – because MB were mobilized in Alexandria – attacking churches, pro-Morsi and the Bibliotecha Alexandria & all over upper Egypt. No-one needed to take a train. The Muslim Brotherhood do not stand for freedom & they need to make a deal & convey to their 3rd and 4th level henchmen that they must cease violent attacks. Then they can participate as is the plan in Egypt’s new government. As for your commentors. Wow! Clearly they don’t care in the least about Egypt.

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