Home > Algerian politics, Arab revolution, Arab revolutions, Egypt, Egypte, Islam, Islamisme, Islamist doctrine, Islamists > Egypt: Press Review: A coup coldly planned for months, the old Mubarak guard is back & more on the Republican Guards’ club massacre

Egypt: Press Review: A coup coldly planned for months, the old Mubarak guard is back & more on the Republican Guards’ club massacre

I put together 3 different articles from 3 different newspapers. The first one is from the Wall Street Journal. It is a deep look at the months that led to the military ousting of Morsi.  What we see is that the so-called Egyptian left, liberals, and seculars behaved in a very undemocratic way and invited and encouraged the military to takeover. Months before the coup, the military asked this ad-hoc coalition of Egyptian illiberal undemocrats to deliver the streets. With the help of the old Mubarak guard, shortages of fuel and staple foods were organized and got amplified by the media, which was/is under the control of wealthy pro-Mubarak era operators.  The Washington Post article picks up where the WSJ left and expands its reporting on how the old guard of the Mubarak years is back in full command. What we have now in Egypt is a return of the deep state security apparatus along with the return of the old Mubarak guard and clan. Now, Egypt is as authoritarian as it has ever been.

The third article is, in my opinion, a very serious candidate for a Pulitzer. It is a deep, serious, and thorough investigation by Patrick Kingsley and Leah Green from The Guardian.  The time-line they put together, the videos they used, and the several testimonies they gathered should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Egyptian military, the police, and the Republican Guards orchestrated this massacre, and shot and killed more than 50 Egyptians in cold blood. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the fact that the pro-Morsi supporters attacked the Republican Guards first. All the evidence compiled by The Guardian’s reporters point to one guilty party, and that is the Egyptian Military. The questions that need to be asked and answered are: who ordered this massacre? And why?

In Egypt, the ‘Deep State’ Rises Again

CAIRO—In the months before the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s top generals met regularly with opposition leaders, often at the Navy Officers’ Club nestled on the Nile.

The message: If the opposition could put enough protesters in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president.


ReutersMuslim Brotherhood members and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi prayed in Cairo Friday.

“It was a simple question the opposition put to the military,” said Ahmed Samih, who is close to several opposition attendees. “Will you be with us again?” The military said it would. Others familiar with the meetings described them similarly.

By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Mr. Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him.

Suggestions that Mr. Morsi’s overthrow was planned in advance, as opposed to an emergency response, have implications for U.S. aid. “If there was evidence this…was blatantly premeditated, then it would put more pressure to cut off aid on the [Obama] administration, which is currently trying to avoid having to label this a coup d’état,” said Josh Stacher, a Kent State University political science professor and Egypt expert.

The meetings between the generals and opposition leaders also show the workings of what is known in Egypt as the “deep state”—an assortment of long-standing political and bureaucratic forces that wield tremendous influence. A military spokesman, Col. Ahmed Ali, acknowledged that “there was a process of getting to know people that previously the military had little dealings with.”

An acme of the Arab Spring uprisings came in 2011 when Egyptians overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak. Last year’s election of Mr. Morsi, from the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, suggested Egypt’s democratic transition was moving along nicely, if bumpily. Mr. Morsi’s ouster threatens that transition.

The secret meetings between the military and secular opposition parties were key to the political chess game leading to Mr. Morsi’s departure. The meetings represented a strange-bedfellows rapprochement between two groups long at odds: Egypt’s opposition, and the remnants of the Mubarak regime. Their enmity dates to the 30-year dictatorship of Mr. Mubarak, which used its security services to quash the opposition.

WSJ’s Jay Solomon says that Egypt’s recent tumult has left it with no stable middle between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood – and the U.S., despite a military aid package, has little ability to shape the country’s path.

Today, in a reversal, the opposition and Mubarak-era forces are united. They view Mr. Morsi and his Islamist ideology as a threat.

“Is there a danger that June 30 could become a counterrevolution? Yes. But it can also be a valuable opportunity to reset the transition,” said a senior aide to Amr Moussa, a member of opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei’s National Salvation Front.

The meeting of minds between Mubarak-era powers and the secular opposition has coincided with a resurgence of bare-knuckle political tactics resembling Mubarak-era violence. In the days before Mr. Morsi’s ouster, for instance, a wave of violence against Muslim Brotherhood offices bore similarities to violence on behalf of the Mubarak regime during previous elections in the Mubarak era.

It is difficult to know the attackers’ motives with certainty. Within Egypt they are viewed by many who witnessed the violence as efforts by Mubarak-era power brokers to push Mr. Morsi out using methods that once sustained Mubarak.

With Mr. Morsi out, Mubarak-era figures and institutions are gaining influence. The military chose a Mubarak-era judge as interim president. Other Mubarak-era judges are set to head efforts to draft a new constitution.

Egypt’s opposition and Mubarak-era officials began to mend ties in November, after Mr. Morsi issued a constitutional declaration giving himself sweeping powers in what was widely considered a power grab. Opposition parties united under the banner of Mr. ElBaradei’s National Salvation Front.

Matt Bradley reports from Cairo on the misgivings some secular Egyptians have about the military coup that toppled former President Mohammed Morsi and the damage it has inflicted on the country’s fledgling democratic process.

Mubarak-era loyalists had long distrusted Mr. ElBaradei. But after Mr. Morsi’s declaration, the ice thawed. Some influential Mubarak-era figures joined Mr. ElBaradei, including Hany Sarie Eldin, the lawyer for imprisoned steel magnate and Mubarak regime heavyweight Ahmed Ezz.

Mr. Eldin’s joining “sent a message to powerful businessmen who were skeptical about the revolution and ElBaradei that they could trust him,” said Rabab al-Mahdi, a political-science professor at American University of Cairo who is close to NSF leaders.

The two sides needed each other. Opposition parties had popular credibility, unlike Mubarak-era officials. Mubarak figures brought deep pockets and influence over the powerful state bureaucracy.

Some of these figures “are the ones who continue the methods of the so-called deep state,” said Ms. Mahdi. “They are the ones who know who are the election thugs, how to hire them,” she said. They know “which public-sector managers have the biggest networks of employees.”

As Mr. Morsi’s ouster neared, there were increasing meetings between the military and opposition. They included Mr. ElBaradei, former presidential candidate and Arab League chief Mr. Moussa, and another presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahy, according to Ms. Mahdi and Mr. Samih, both close to top NSF members.

Some meetings took place at the Navy Officers’ Club, where the generals said that if enough Egyptians joined public protests, the military would have little choice but to intervene, according to several activists close to Mr. ElBaradei and U.S. officials. “The military’s answer was, if enough people come out into the streets, then it will be exactly like Mubarak,” Mr. Samih said.

Since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt’s activists have proved woeful at grass roots organizing outside cities. But in late April a previously little-known group, Tamarod, separately launched a petition against Mr. Morsi.

Tamarod’s effort took off. Its founders claim they gathered 22 million signatures in less than eight weeks. The numbers are impossible to verify, but were widely reported as fact by state and private media, two hotbeds of anti-Muslim Brotherhood zeal.

In the town of Zagazig, former Mubarak party lawmaker Lotfy Shehata said he rallied support for Tamarod using the same political networks that got him elected under Mr. Mubarak.

As agitation against the Muslim Brotherhood grew, the Brotherhood formally asked the Minister of Interior for protection of their offices nationwide. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, Minister of Interior, publicly declined.

Gen. Ibrahim faced pressure from powerful figures in the former Mubarak camp. On June 24, Ahmed Shafiq—the last prime minister appointed by Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Morsi’s closest rival for president—said in a television interview that he warned the general to not show support for the Brotherhood.

“I told him…the coming days will not be on your side if you do, and these days will be very soon,” Mr. Shafiq said on TV. “They will see black days,” he said, referring to the Brotherhood.

Days later, Mr. Shafiq’s warning materialized. Armed young men began ransacking Muslim Brotherhood offices nationwide.

In Zagazig, an hour north of Cairo, armed men showed up outside a Muslim Brotherhood office the night of June 27, according to neighbors and residents of the building housing the office. As they approached, the electricity went out, according to eyewitnesses not affiliated with the Brotherhood. Gunshots rang out, these witnesses said. Seven Muslim Brotherhood defenders were shot, one fatally.

The province’s deputy governor, a Muslim Brotherhood member appointed by Mr. Morsi, called the police chief and ordered him to intervene to prevent violence, according to local Brotherhood leader Yasser Hag. Mr. Hag said the police chief said he couldn’t help, citing the need to protect 7,000 antigovernment protesters elsewhere.

The police declined to comment. In an interview, Mr. Shehata, the former Mubarak party lawmaker in the area, said police couldn’t respond because they were stretched thin protecting protesters. He said the youths were random mobs and would be arrested if caught.

Another building resident, Mohammed Nasser Ammar, who said he opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, said that as the youths laid siege through the night, he and his neighbors phoned the police many times. “Each time they would say that they are coming, but then they don’t show up,” he said. Other residents gave similar accounts.

Nationwide that evening and in the next few days, dozens of Brotherhood offices were hit.

Mr. Ammar noted the similarities to Mubarak-era political tactics on behalf of then-ruling-party candidates. “The thugs that used to come out then, and the events happening during that time, was pretty much the same to this time,” he said.

—Leila Elmergawi contributed to this article.

After Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s old guard is back and Muslim

Brotherhood is out

By , Published: July 19

CAIRO — When the military ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Zeinhom Hassan Ibrahim slaughtered a sheep, hired a DJ and threw a block party for his neighbors.

Ibrahim, a former parliamentarian from longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party, had lived through the year of Mohamed Morsi’s rule in blinking disbelief, as if the whole world had turned upside down.

But now, things are finally getting back to normal.

Egypt’s new power dynamic, following the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi, is eerily familiar. Gone are the Islamist rulers from the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Back are the faces of the old guard, many closely linked to Mubarak’s reign or to the all-
powerful generals. And for a seemingly broad array of Egyptians, that’s exactly the way they want it.

The overthrow of Morsi has yielded a new appreciation for military rule in a country that so recently shunned it, and a striking return to the way things were before the 2011 revolution against a Mubarak regime that was widely considered irredeemably corrupt and exploitative.

Telltale signs of the old guard are cropping up in Egypt’s new cabinet, where Mubarak-era figures abound and Islamists are absent; in the halls of the nation’s justice system, where prosecutors are investigating the nation’s pre-coup leaders on charges of incitement; and in darkened jail cells, where prisoners are blindfolded, handcuffed and interrogated about their adherence to the Brotherhood.

Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the man who delivered news of Morsi’s dismissal on national television, has now assumed the role of deputy prime minister in addition to his earlier titles of defense minister and commander of Egypt’s armed forces. Few observers doubt that he pulls the levers behind a facade of civilian rule.

In the state-run media, the old-guard rhetoric of Mubarak’s 30-year reign has made a full-throated return, with patriotic montages and copious praise for the armed forces. Private networks have gotten in on the act, too.

So far, aside from Brotherhood-led protests, there’s been little backlash against the return to the old ways. Egyptians who once demanded punishment for the “feloul” — the so-called remnants of Mubarak’s regime — say that a year of disastrous Brotherhood rule has put everything in perspective.

“I don’t care if they are feloul, as long as they fix what the Brotherhood did,” said Mohamed Mahmoud, a locksmith who voted for Morsi and later joined the protests to oust him.

Eleven out of 34 cabinet ministers are veterans of Mubarak’s regime. Two were members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, a group that was dissolved after his 2011 fall. Defenders of the old guard say it’s inevitable that the government will include Mubarak-era officials because they are the ones actually qualified to run the country.

“For over a year, the Muslim Brotherhood government proved to be incompetent. So we have to work with these experts from the old regime,” said Ahmed Sarhan, an aide to Ahmed Shafik, the retired air force commander who lost to Morsi by a slim margin in last year’s election.

Amr Moussa, the Mubarak-era foreign minister who tried hard to distance himself from the ousted autocrat when he ran for president in 2012, said that Mubarak associates who fled into self-
imposed exile after the revolution should feel safe to return.

“Now they can come back. They should come back,” Moussa said.

Among the liberal and secular activists who have championed Morsi’s ouster as a popular revolution that reflected the public will, there is little talk of democratic values.

Many say they would like to see religious political parties such as the Brotherhood’s banned. They want the news media, which they blame for some of Egypt’s political strife, to adhere to a more restrictive “legal framework.” And they think Brotherhood leaders should stay behind bars.

While the United States has pushed for Egypt’s various factions to reconcile, and for the military to allow the Brotherhood back into politics, many secular Egyptians recoil at the idea.

“  ‘Reconciliation’ is a very vague term,” said Shadi al-Ghazaly Harb, a member of the liberal Constitution Party, said Thursday at a gathering hosted by the June 30th Front, one of the activist groups that mobilized protesters against Morsi. The United States understands the word from one perspective, he said. “And we understand it from another.”

“We cannot sit with Brotherhood leaders because now their hands are filled with blood,” he said.

Harb and other liberal activists said they had few qualms about drafting a new constitution for the country without the involvement of Islamists. “It’s up to them to get themselves reconciled with the Egyptian people,” said Ahmed Hawary, a founder of the June 30th Front.

Egypt’s generals apparently agree. Since the coup, Egypt’s new authorities have cracked down hard on Islamists. More than 1,000 Morsi supporters have been rounded up for arrest in the past two weeks, at least 535 of whom were later released.

Charges have ranged from rioting and blocking roads to incitement and murder.

The Muslim Brotherhood said Friday that eight of the group’s top leaders had been transferred to a “heavily guarded prison,” as thousands of the group’s supporters demonstrated across the country.

Ahmed Zakaria, a university student, was arrested with hundreds of others last week after security forces opened fire on a sit-in of Morsi’s supporters. He said he was forced to squat with his hands on his head as police officers held a picture of Morsi aloft and shouted “Who is this?” When the detainees stayed silent, an officer answered for them: “This is the big sheep, and you’re all his little sheep.”

Fearful and lawyerless in a jail cell, Zakaria and other detainees scrawled relatives’ phone numbers on paper and hurled the crumpled messages through air vents to the street, in the hope that someone would call.

Zakaria said he was read 13 charges, including premeditated murder, before being released on bail.

To the Islamists, the niche of the persecuted is one they know all too well.

“We have gone back to before the 25th of January,” said Amr Ali al-Din, a lawyer representing Brotherhood detainees, who was referring to the 2011 date when the uprising that toppled Mubarak began. “It’s the same treatment in the prisons, and on the street.”

Sharaf al-Hourani and Lara El Gibaly contributed to this report.

Killing in Cairo: the full story of the Republican Guards’ club shootings

In the early hours of 8 July 2013, 51 Muslim Brotherhood supporters camped outside the Republican Guards’ club in Cairo were killed by security forces. The Egyptian military claimed the demonstrators had attempted to break into the building with the aid of armed motorcyclists.

After examining video evidence and interviewing eyewitnesses, medics and demonstrators Patrick Kingsley finds a different story – a coordinated assault on largely peaceful civilians. ‘If they’d just wanted to break the sit-in, they could have done it in other ways. But they wanted to kill us,’ a survivor says

Muslim Brotherhood supporters run for cover outside the elite Republican Guards base in Cairo early on 8 July 2013. Photo: Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty
At 3.17am on Monday 8 July, Dr Yehia Moussa prepared to kneel outside the Republican Guards’ club in east Cairo for dawn prayers. For a few more short hours, Moussa would remain the official spokesman for the Egyptian health ministry. But he was outside the club that day in a personal capacity. Along with about 2,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Moussa had camped outside the gated compound in protest at the removal of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, who they then believed was imprisoned inside.Like everyone else, Moussa knelt with his back to the barbed wire fence protecting the entrance to the club. A few feet away were Dr Reda Mohamedi, an education lecturer at al-Azhar University, and beyond him Dr Yasser Taha, an al-Azhar biochemistry professor. All three were friends from university days, and had shared a tent that night.Within the hour, Taha would be dead with a bullet in his neck and Mohamedi would be unconscious, a bullet through his thigh. Moussa would have gunshot wounds in both legs and be missing most of his right index finger.

All three were victims of Egypt’s bloodiest state-led massacre since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, in which, according to official figures, at least 51 people were killed by Egyptian security forces and at least 435 injured. Two policemen and one soldier were also killed with 42 injured. The military has said that the assault on the protesters was provoked by a terrorist attack. At about 4am, according to the army’s account, 15 armed motorcyclists approached the Republican Guards’ club compound. The army said that the motorcyclists fired shots, that people attempted to break into the compound, and that the soldiers then had no choice but to defend their property.

However, a week-long investigation – including interviews with 31 witnesses, local people and medics, as well as analysis of video evidence – found no evidence of the motorcyclist attack and points to a very different narrative, in which the security forces launched a co-ordinated assault on a group of largely peaceful and unarmed civilians.

The army turned down four requests to interview soldiers present at the scene.

A spokesman did provide footage of at least three pro-Morsi supporters using some form of firearm some time after the start of the massacre. But the earliest act of provocation the army has been able to prove – a protester throwing stones – comes at 4.05am, more than half-an-hour after most witnesses agree the camp came under attack.

Video supplied by the Egyptian military showing a Morsi supporter with a firearm


Call to prayers

Many of the Morsi supporters gathered outside the Republican Guards headquarters shortly after 3am on Monday had been camped there since the previous Friday. They had blocked off the road – Salah Salem Street, one of Cairo’s main thoroughfares – and set up tents. On the first day of the sit-in, three protesters had been shot dead by state officials. But by 3.17am on Monday, when the imam called the camp to prayer, all was calm. Women and children strolled among the tents. A platoon of soldiers stood idly behind the barbed wire fence. A few dozen protesters manned the barricades the pro-Morsi demonstrators had erected on either side of the sit-in, 300 metres up the road in both directions. Others were still asleep. But most gathered to pray – filling the junction between Salah Salem Street and Tayaran Street, the half-mile-long side street that leads all the way to the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the site of an even larger pro-Morsi sit-in.

“It was so quiet,” remembered Dr Mostafa Hassanein, a young medic on overnight duty who walked back to Rabaa from the sit-in at around 3am to catch some sleep. “People were praying. The army was quiet too. Some of them were talking to protesters at the wire.”

What happened next is highly disputed. But most witnesses agree an attack on the protest started shortly before 3.30am, as the worshippers knelt for the second and final time.

“At the second kneel of the prayers,” said Moussa, in testimony corroborated by many others at the scene, “we could hear noises from the sides of the sit-in. So the imam interrupted his du’a [a religious invocation] and finished the prayers very quickly.”

At either end of the demonstration, the watchmen manning the barricades had begun to clang together pieces of metal – an alarm used during the 2011 revolution to warn protesters of an imminent attack.


Army on the move

Two hundred metres to the west, high up in a penthouse apartment, Seif Gamal woke to the cacophony. An engineer in his 40s who describes himself as unaffiliated to any political movement, Gamal and his family had been unnerved by the protesters’ presence. Now he looked outside to see what was causing the alarm.

Advancing eastwards up Salah Salem Street, past the Mostafa mosque, were several armoured police vehicles, followed by armed men.

“Many armoured police vehicles were coming with many soldiers,” said Gamal, whose name has been changed to avoid reprisals from state security. “They came slowly and stopped 100 metres short of the barricades before starting to shoot a lot of teargas – followed, around two minutes later, by a lot of firearms.” Gamal said it was unclear at this stage whether the men were firing live rounds.

Realising the gravity of what he was witnessing, Gamal fetched a camera and began record the scene on video. The time on his watch, he said, was 3:26am. The footage was later uploaded by a friend to YouTube.

When it begins, the air is already thick with police teargas, and protesters can be seen gathering at the western barricade to see what is going on.

On the opposite side of the sit-in, protesters rising from dawn prayers were sprinting to the eastern barricades, near the Sayeda Safiya mosque – where a similar assault was taking place.

“When we finished the prayers, we rushed to the source[s] of the sound, because we thought it was thugs,” said Dr Mohamedi. “But when we got there, we found it wasn’t thugs but security forces shooting teargas. The teargas was coming from vehicles and soldiers were standing behind the vehicles. Then the soldiers started marching towards us firing.”

Gamal had a clear view and was adamant that the attack was unprovoked. “I’m sure of that,” said Gamal. “The police shot first. I didn’t see any motorbikes, and I didn’t hear any gunshots before.” He added that sticks were the only weapons he had seen the protesters holding. “It was not a reaction to an attack. There was no attack from the demonstrators. They were praying. The police came slowly and surely towards the demonstrators. It was a plan.”

Gamal’s account is disputed by two residents who live further down the road.

Noha Asaad, cited in American media, said that security forces responded with gunfire after protesters guarding the western barricades used birdshot. Her neighbour Mirna el-Helbawy, a journalist who was also interviewed by many western outlets, agreed “it was obvious” that those in the sit-in fired first.

But it is unclear how either resident would have been able to see how the fighting started. The medics at the makeshift field hospital half a mile away in Rabaa al-Adawiya said the first dead body arrived there at around 3.45am. Yet Helbawy told the Guardian she may not have looked down from her balcony until as late as 3.46am, by which time – according to her own tweet (in Arabic) timestamped at 3.42am local time – firing had already started, calling into question whether she would have been able to work out who fired first. [The time on the tweet below will reflect your timezone]

Meanwhile, Asaad said she did not look outside before at least 3:55am, while her original witness statement on Facebook said the fighting started at 4.15am.

Ninety seconds into Gamal’s video – by his reckoning at around 3:28am – one protester can certainly be seen firing what looks like a single-shot firearm towards security forces. But the soundtrack to the footage shows this is clearly not the first shot fired.

Excerpt from Seif Gamal’s amateur video showing a protester firing at security forces


Blood on the streets

Taha Hussein Khaled, an English teacher, had travelled down from Kafr el-Sheikh, an industrial city in the north, for the sit-in. When the clanging started, Khaled was one of the first to rush to the western edge of the site, fearing the protesters were under attack from anti-Morsi civilians. But reaching the barricade, Khaled realised the attackers were far more threatening: state security officials firing first teargas and then, he said, live ammunition.

“We stood our ground … [but] eventually the teargas became too much so we started to fall back,” Khaled said. “I went through the bushes in the middle of the road to avoid being seen. And that’s when I was shot. At 3.40am. I was running up Salah Salem Street, planning to turn right up Tayaran Street. Then I was shot through my left thigh.”

Muslim Brotherhood supporters run for cover as security forces fire tear gas after shooting. Photo: Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty

A few metres behind him, Yehia Mahy Mahfouz, a teacher from Sohag, a small southern city, decided to hold his ground as police and soldiers advanced past the barricade. “As they [security officials] approached, I remained in place,” Mahfouz said. “I wanted to tell them that there were women and children praying. Then a soldier hit me with his gun. I felt dizzy and then I fell on the ground. I was beaten on my jaw. Around nine soldiers surrounded me and beat me up with sticks.”

In Gamal’s video, one captured pro-Morsi protester can be seen being beaten by security officials.

Excerpt from Seif Gamal’s amateur video showing a protester being beaten by security forces

Back at the centre of the sit-in, outside the club entrance, there was pandemonium. Parents scurried here and there, trying to find their children. Those who had been asleep emerged from their tents to hear Mohamed Wahdan, a senior Muslim Brother, shouting through the imam’s microphone – calling on the soldiers to have mercy on a peaceful protest.

Nearby, from about 3.30am, 30 protesters including Dr Yehia Moussa formed a human chain along the barbed wire fence protecting the entrance to the Republican Guard club.

“We wanted to make sure that nobody threw any rocks or bottles to provoke them,” said Moussa. “After about two or three minutes, the soldiers in front of the Republican Guard club started to put on their gas masks. Then two central security [riot police] vehicles came out of the Republican Guard building. They [the officers inside] were also wearing gas masks. They started to shoot teargas bombs to the far ends of the site first. And then they started to fire horizontally at human height level. Some people got hit [by the gas canisters].”

Protesters run as security forces fire tear gas at them

Ten minutes later, once the teargas became too much, many in the human chain sank to their knees. Moussa broke free, and tried to find something to soothe the stinging. On the other side of the junction, he found a bucket of water, which he used to wash his face and eyes. Then he tried to force his way back across the junction to the wire. But there was too much teargas, so Moussa took refuge instead behind the truck that had acted as a makeshift stage for the imam during dawn prayers.

To his right, coming from the eastern edge of the sit-in, he could see that at least one armoured police vehicle – followed by both police and army officers – had broken the sit-in’s defences. Their colleagues approaching from the other end would not be far behind.

“I could hear and see them shooting live rounds,” Moussa said. “They were already about 20 metres away.”

According to those in the camp, the casualties now came thick and fast.

Mohamed Saber el-Sebaei (top) and Mohamed Abdel Hafez (bottom)

Mohamed Saber el-Sebaei said he had still been holding his prayer mat when he was hit.

“I was taking cover with another guy behind some rubble and I felt something hit my head,” he said. “I held my prayer mat in my hand and I started to cover my head with it. But I couldn’t stop the bleeding because there was so much blood.”

Protester Mohamed Abdel Hafez – who was hit by a live round in his stomach – said he had been sleeping in his tent only minutes before becoming one of the first casualties. “I was asleep and woke up to the sound of shooting,” he said later, in hospital. “I got up and I was shot.”

Amid the chaos, at least 100 protesters fled into the nearest residential tower block, banging on any door they could find and asking for shelter and vinegar – a homemade remedy for teargas. The residents showed them up to the roof, where the police later arrested them. One petrified 11-year-old was still there by the afternoon.

Moussa was also one of the earliest casualties – hit by police birdshot on his left knee. He could stand the pain, just about, so he stayed at the truck until he was hit again two minutes later – by a live round just above his right knee.

The second injury was too much to bear, so Moussa turned and staggered for cover up Tayaran Street.

“It was there that I got my third injury. I felt a pain in my fingers. I looked at my hand and two-thirds of my right index finger had been shot off.” Other protesters carried him to a nearby car, in which he was driven to the nearby Health Insurance hospital.

Hours later, while being transferred elsewhere, state television employees phoned him – as they often did after serious incidents – for a live interview on the casualty count. Moussa told them that he had been there himself, and that it was a massacre – before being cut off by the channel. Later in the day, he would be fired from his job as health ministry spokesman for spreading misinformation.

Dr Yehia Moussa’s live TV interview is cut off


First body in the field hospital

Up at the makeshift field hospital half a mile away in Rabaa al-Adawiya, Dr Alaa Mohamed Abu Zeid – the doctor responsible for recording the number of at the hospital – said casualties started arriving at around 3.45am. Days earlier, doctors had taken over a large room in the mosque compound, set up six beds, and filled several shelves with medicine – expecting to deal with simple maladies such as flu or heat stroke. They were not prepared for what happened that morning.

“The first case was a shot to the head,” said Zeid, a radiologist who also volunteered at field hospitals during the 2011 revolution. “Part of the skull was missing, and the brain matter was seeping out.” The man was dead.

Realising something serious was going on, the hospital manager woke all the doctors, and asked them to prepare for an emergency situation. But they could never have been ready for what happened next. There were only six beds, and in a worst-case scenario, doctors had expected to deal with just 25 cases at any one time.

“But this was a massacre,” said Zeid. “We couldn’t cope. All the time, we wondered when it would stop. But it didn’t.” By 4am, Zeid said there were already three dead people at the field hospital. Between 3.30am to 7.30am he claimed the hospital had received 12 dead bodies – often driven up Tayaran Street in private cars or motorcycles – and around 450 injured.

“Some people had bullets that came through both the back and the chest – which suggests they ran to one side, where they were shot, and then ran to the other side, where they were shot again,” said Zeid.

Victims of violence are brought to the field hospital

Dr Mohamed Lotfy, in charge of the clinic’s pharmacy, had also volunteered as a medic during the Libyan civil war. “It was the same kind of cases,” he said, “as if we were in a war zone.” Lotfy felt particularly emotional about it. While he may have been safe at the hospital, his mother, wife, two daughters and son were down at the Republican Guards’ headquarters. “You can imagine how it feels to be running things over here,” he said, “but to have your heart and mind over at the massacre.”

By 4.30am, most of the clinic’s medicine supplies had begun to run out. Those with minor were being sent to state and private hospitals in the area, where many complained of waiting hours to be treated – or even being turned away by officials frightened of involvement in a highly politicised situation. By 7am, Zeid recalled he had to roll up his trouser legs because there was so much blood on the floor.

“Regardless of how well-equipped a hospital was, no one would have been able to deal with what happened,” said Zeid. “We were working and crying at the same time.”

Zeid said the most heartbreaking cases included a 10-year-old boy, wounded by birdshot. A six-month-old baby was also brought in unconscious from the teargas, Zeid said – before being revived. While no child died during the incidents, these cases dispel the myth that the army and police did not harm women and children. Dr Khaled Abdel Latif, a surgeon working in the field that day, reported treating at least 20 women for teargas asphyxiation, while the Guardian met two women who were shot.

At one point, Dr Yasser Taha – Moussa’s friend, and a well-known face to many of the doctors – was brought in on a stretcher, a bullet wound in his neck. “We couldn’t believe it,” said Zeid.

One of the doctors, Samer Abu Zeid – a heart specialist used to seeing blood in trauma situations – collapsed to the floor and broke down in tears.

A man reacts alongside a woman and child after seeing the body of a family member killed in the violence. Photo: Ed Giles/Getty Images


Chaos on Salah Salem

Positions of protesters and security forces along Salah Salem

Dr Mostafa Hassanein, the doctor who had returned to Rabaa at 3am to sleep, was woken by the hospital manager at 3.45am. “He said there was an emergency situation, an attack,” remembered Hassanein, who emphasised that, while obviously sympathetic to the pro-Morsi protesters, he was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “I ran there. I took my pack with all my first aid – cotton wool, Betadine disinfectant, stitches, vinegar spray to overcome the effect of the gas bombs – and I arrived there about 4am, 4.10am. As I went down Tayaran Street, I could hear shooting and teargas from outside the Republican Guards, but I couldn’t see it. And as I was running, I ran past the wounded being brought the other way … One of the protesters came to me with a shot arm. He was screaming very loudly, and the [bottom of the] arm was attached just by the skin. There was nothing I could do for him.”

He added: “I saw women and children running back. Other people were running there to defend the wounded with stones and used teargas canisters, and burning tyres. They wanted to create as much smoke as possible to prevent the snipers from shooting.”

Dr Mostafa Hassanein with his tear gas treatments

In the fray, Dr Mohamedi tried to help more vulnerable protesters make their way back up Tayaran Street towards Rabaa al-Adawiya.

At one point, he ran into an old woman who was choking on teargas. “I’m looking for my son, I can’t find my son,” she told Mohamedi, after he tried to help her. According to Mohamedi, he replied: “We’re all your sons: let me help you.” But she refused again, saying: “It does not matter if something happens to me – but my son is my life. I need to find my son.”

So Mohamedi left her there, and headed up Tayaran Street, where he was shot through the inner part of his right thigh. “I saw the officer who shot me,” Mohamedi said. “He was one of those who came from Sayeda Safiya mosque [to the east]. He made it to [the bottom of] Tayaran Street, and he shot me from about 30 metres away.”

At around the same time, Hassanein was also arriving at the junction of Salah Salem and Tayaran, which by now had mostly been cleared of people. On his way he said he saw at least one unarmed protester shot in the head. “I would say this. At that time, at 4.15am, when I saw that guy shot in the head, there was no protester with arms. Some had sticks and wore helmets, but that was it. I swear those who were shot in the head were not carrying guns.”

In among the chaos was Dr Ahnam Abdel Aziz Gharib, an assistant professor of microbiology at Zagazig University. Once the teargas became heavy, the veiled Gharib hurried to and fro, trying to find her 21-year-old son, who has asthma. “As I was running from one tent to another trying to find him, they were shooting at us from different directions. I couldn’t find him but everybody decided to take cover on the floor. And while I did that I was shot in the back with birdshot – and I began to cough up blood.” Later, X-rays would show she was hit by 75 pellets. A few are still inside her lungs, Gharib said.

Dr Ahnam Abdel Aziz Gharib showing her X-rays

“A young officer in a dark suit, who I believe was a state security officer, walked to me and told me to get up, and I said I couldn’t because I was injured. Then he put a rifle in my face and said ‘get up or I’ll kill you’, so I got up.” Gharib says she was taken down the road and held – along with several other detained casualties – next to the same central security vehicle that she believes she was shot from. “On top of one vehicle was a CSF [central security forces, the police’s paramilitary wing] officer with the weapon I was shot with. I started to beg them, I said I was a mother, a university mother, let us get to the ambulance. But they did not have any mercy, they said the ambulances could not get there because of all the walls we’d built. They kept us there until the sun was up. The sun was already in the sky by the time they let us go.”

Some of those detained were not so lucky. Half a mile on either side of the sit-in stand two mosques – the Mostafa mosque to the west, and the Sayeda Safiya mosque to the east. That morning, many of the protesters from the sit-in had gathered in both buildings. Nineteen-year-old Islam Lotfy – studying to be a pharmacist like his father Mohamed, one of the doctors up the road at the field hospital – was one of those at the Mostafa mosque. At around 3:30am, Lotfy was in the mosque’s bathrooms, washing his face. Suddenly, he heard the gunfire outside. Alarmed, he poked his head round the door to the courtyard outside the mosque. There he said he saw several policemen who ordered him back inside. Shortly afterwards, Lotfy said two rifles were poked through the bathroom windows. Despite, Lotfy said, having done nothing that morning except wash his face, the teenager was about to be arrested.

“Someone came and broke the door,” Lotfy continued. “There were four of us inside. He ordered us outside, made us lie down on the ground and tied our hands with plastic strips.” Then they were led handcuffed to a police van.

“We had our head down and so I didn’t see any shooting, [I could] just hear it,” Lotfy said. “Members of central security and police were bashing people’s cars on both sides of the street.” Lotfy said prosecutors would later attempt to frame the protesters for the police’s vandalism.

Inside the vehicle, Lotfy said it was hellish. “[It] was meant for 15 people, but there must have been 50 inside. It was very uncomfortable, people were passing out, and there was damp on the ceiling from people’s breathing.” Then the vehicle was driven inside the Republican Guards’ club, where the prisoners remained until 9am.

“We thought that people were beginning to die, so we started banging on the sides,” said Lotfy. “Then they let us out, us and the other people from three other cars.”

A similar round-up had happened to the worshippers at the Sayeda Safiya mosque up the road. At the Mostafa mosque, only some of those inside were arrested – before the majority barricaded themselves inside. (Resident Mirna el-Helbawy was later adamant that two protesters climbed the mosque’s minaret and began to fire on security forces.) But at the Sayeda mosque, everyone was detained.

“To their surprise, a group of police surrounded the mosque,” alleged Khaled Nooruddin, a lawyer who is acting for the detainees. “The police ordered them very disrespectfully to walk about of the mosque in twos and to throw away their phones. They walked out of the mosque as if they were war criminals.”

Nooruddin said that like those taken from the Mostafa mosque, the 50-odd arrested protesters were crammed into a van meant for 15. Again, the protesters claimed that policemen vandalised nearby cars, perhaps in an attempt to frame them. Again, they said they were driven inside the Republican Guards’ club, where they had to bang on the side of the truck to allow them some fresh air. “At one point, they got them out, made them lie on the ground, and then walked on them in their military boots,” Nooruddin said of the police. “One of the officers came to one of the prisoners with a picture of Morsi and asked him who it was. When [the protester] said it was President Morsi, [the officer] said: he’s not a president, he’s a sheep. And then he beat him up.”

More than 600 people were arrested that Monday. Like many others, Lotfy Islam was interned until Wednesday morning, denied legal representation – and charged with murder, attempted murder and possession of arms. “I’ve never done anything violent,” Lotfy said. “I didn’t throw any rocks. I was just protesting peacefully.”


Street fight in full swing

Snipers shooting at protesters from rooftops

Some of Lotfy’s fellow protesters undoubtedly did throw stones. By 4.30am, an hour after the shootings first began, the action had almost entirely moved from Salah Salem Street to Tayaran Street, the side road that leads to the larger Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in. Army snipers fired on protesters from the bottom of the road, and from the roofs of nearby military buildings. Hundreds of Islamists, fearing that security forces might attack Rabaa itself, and outraged at their earlier treatment, set about hurling stones back at them. Some built barricades, others set tyres on fire to create smokescreens.

Timestamped army footage supplied to the Guardian shows that from 4:59am onwards, pro-Morsi streetfighters included at least three gunmen armed with simple single-shot firearms. At least half a dozen threw petrol bombs at security forces from ground level, while pro-Morsi supporters themselves said that two men launched fireworks at the army; and that three men scaled the roof of one residential tower block to throw more Molotov cocktails. Footage also shows protesters throwing basins and toilet bowls off a roof.

But the army was still using excessive force against what was even then a largely unarmed group of protesters.

A wounded Muslim Brotherhood supporter outside the Republican Guard club. Photo: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Military snipers continued picking off unarmed civilians. Footage shot by a journalist – Ahmed Assem, working for a newspaper linked to the Brotherhood – appears to show the moment of his own death at the hands of an army sniper.

Ibrahim Raof, another film-maker unaffiliated to the Brotherhood, said that his unarmed brother, standing well back from the frontline, was hit by a sniper bullet that ricocheted off the ground into his stomach. Raof also reported, like several other protesters, that nearby hospitals were unwilling to treat the injured protesters for fear of retribution.

“I carried [my brother] all the way to the [Rabaa] field hospital,” said Raof. “In the field hospital we found it was a live bullet.” They stitched him up and Raof took him to two other Cairo hospitals, which refused to admit him. Raof added: “So then I had to drive him without any medical instruments all the way to 6 October [a city 10 miles west of Cairo] to the Zohour Hospital.”

The injured are rushed to ambulances as gunshots ring out

Hassem Mamdouh, a quietly spoken computer programmer who had been about to leave the sit-in by taxi when the attack started at 3:30am, also reported being targeted by army snipers – despite being comparatively far from the clashes. “They started to shoot at us who were standing further away,” said Mamdouh, who spent most of the streetfight wiping people’s faces with Pepsi, a makeshift teargas antidote. “I managed to duck down, but one person who was with us was shot because he did not take cover in time.”

Down near the bottom of Tayaran Street, Dr Khaled Abdel Latif – on leave from his day-job as a surgeon at Zagazig hospital – had set up another tiny field hospital, in which three people died that day. Latif noted repeated abuse by the military and police, saying that officers made several attempts to storm the tent, that the overwhelming teargas in the area had made treatment at times impossible. As Latif finally left the tent at 7am – leaving behind one old man trying to resuscitate the corpse of his dead friend – police arrested his colleague Dr Ashraf as he treated a patient. “You either come with me, or I shoot you,” Ashraf was told.


The battle is over

Egyptian army soldiers stand guard at the Republican Guard club. Photo: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Fighting eventually stopped at around 7am, three-and-a-half hours – and 54 deaths – later. But the killings did not end there. On Wednesday morning at 6am, the body of 37-year-old Farid Shawky, an engineer from Hurghada, was found dumped at the bottom of Tayaran St. His body showed evidence of torture – electric shock marks on his nipples, wrists and ankles, and heavy bruising on his shoulders.

Adli Mansour, the interim president, announced a judicial investigation into the killings though previous inquiries have shown that the army is unwilling to submit itself to outside scrutiny. The military has been reluctant to give a full account of the incident. There is also a striking absence of critical reporting on it by Egyptian state and independent media, while pro-Brotherhood TV channels have been shut down.

In a highly charged and polarised political atmosphere, where there is widespread feeling that the Brotherhood has received its comeuppance and the Egyptian military is immune from civil prosecution, there is growing outrage among the victims that the truth will never come out.

“I want to emphasise that this is a massacre,” said Dr Alaa Mohamed Abu Zeid at the Rabaa field hospital this week. “Everyone we received had the same story. It’s impossible for them to agree to the same lie.”

Nursing his three gunshot wounds in a hospital in north-east Cairo, Dr Yehia Moussa agreed. “If they’d just wanted to break the sit-in, they could have done it in other ways. But they wanted to kill us.”

Blood flows down Salem Saleh. Photo: MCT / Rex Features
  1. moha
    July 25, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Thanks your blog entries are very informative. Keep it up…

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: