Q&A on the Deadly Dispersal of the Sit-Ins in Egypt
1. What’s your opinion on the use of force by the Egyptian police against the protesters at the sit-ins who called for reinstating President Morsi? Was it right for the military to oust President Morsi? Did this move resonate with a majority of the Egyptian people?
2. Did you witness the police trying to disperse the protest camps? If not, do you have friends or family who witnessed it? What did they say about it?
3. What’s next for Egypt? Are there any prospects for peace in Egypt?
4. What’s the atmosphere in Egypt currently? What do people in Egypt talk about, worry about, and/or hope for?
Mohamed Khairat, 21, Founder of Egyptian Streets, an online media based in Cairo
1. The forced dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins was regrettable but unfortunately, the government was in a corner and the forced dispersal was necessary as a result of the inability to reach political consensus. However, labeling it as an “attack” or a “massacre” is inaccurate. A massacre implies that those at Rabaa or Nahda were helpless, unarmed, and did not fight back while security forces simply opened fire. The reality was different: we saw [an] exchange of live ammunition by both sides and casualties on both sides. It is true that the police may have used a heavy hand, but if the police were not restraining themselves then we would have seen the number of those killed on that day quickly enter thousands or tens of thousands. It is important though to remember that any loss of life is regrettable and a loss for all of Egypt and not just one side of the ‘fight.’
The military only stepped in to oust Morsi after millions came to the streets, showing [the people] had lost all confidence in the former president. Because Egypt did not have a lower house of parliament, there were no legal ways for Morsi to leave office, and therefore the military had to intervene in order to respond to the aspirations of the majority of the Egyptian population. It is also important to remember that Morsi continuously isolated his opponents—and the majority of Egyptians—by often referring to those protesting against his rule as “thugs” and “criminals,”,and by not ruling inclusively. He promised to be the President of all Egyptians, but ended up being the President of no one.
I had actually tweeted 15 minutes before the dispersal that the dispersal was going to happen within 15 minutes. At the time, I was unsure and relying on rumors, but those rumors ended up being true and I ended up covering the first few hours of the dispersals almost exclusively as many Egyptians and reporters in Egypt had been asleep at the time.
I was nervous as I was unsure whether the dispersal would be successful, whether it would lead to a great loss of life, or whether it would simply fail. Reading, hearing, and watching tear-gas fall over Rabaa, I was shaking with anticipation with each tweet I sent out. I ended up being awake for almost 48 hours, covering every minute of the events closely. However, at the time I felt a relief when the police started moving in: for weeks the anticipation had been building, and every night was filled with rumors, and so finally seeing it happen was almost unbelievable.
2. I did not witness the events personally—only through television, twitter, and news articles.
A friend was inconveniently at Rabaa at the time and had slept over at his friend’s place for just that one night in order to visit Rabaa. He woke up before the dispersal to loud sirens and the police warning all those at Rabaa to remain peaceful and to leave the sit-in. He was stuck in the apartment as all the teargas started falling, and remembered hearing gunshots coming from within Rabaa and outside it. When the violence started getting bad, he went downstairs, took his car, and left. He found that the police had barricaded side streets, and said that a police car escorted him out safely.
3. I expect violence to continue in Egypt for a few days to a few weeks. After that period, I believe the situation will subside and security forces will be able to re-stabilize Egypt and establish order. Peace is very achievable in Egypt—there just has to be parties that are willing to engage in peaceful, and diplomatic dialogue. If no dialogue occurs, then the violence will continue for a few weeks, leading to more loss of life, but will still eventually subside.
4. The mood in Egypt is disturbing. Many are treating the deaths of Islamists as “the deaths of terrorists,” believing that they had it coming. At the same time, many Islamists and Morsi supporters have been cheering the deaths of security forces, saying that the police and army are the real terrorists. The fact that we’ve reached the point where a person’s life has been devalued to such an extent is extremely worrying and shows the polar differences in Egypt’s society.
Overall though, the majority of Egyptians I have spoken to are hopeful and believe that the situation will become peaceful and that we will achieve the future we truly want to see: a peaceful, democratic Egypt that represents all Egyptians.
One last thing. It’s important to mention that the interim government actually consists of many brilliant ministers. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nabil Fahmy, is a great, well-educated diplomat who will surely lead the country’s foreign policy to new lengths. Other Ministers, like the Minister of Environment is also a well-established minister that, with enough support from the people of Egypt, will be able to ensure the environment becomes an issue that Egyptians see must be tackled.
The Big Pharaoh, 34, Blogger in Cairo
1. Personally, I was against the decision to clear the sit-ins. I believed we could have lived with the two camps in spite of their problems. The cost of clearing the sit-ins, in [terms of] human lives and politically, was outrageous.
We all knew the sit-ins were armed. And we knew people were tortured there. Still, the vast majority of those killed were unarmed and innocent.
As for removing Morsi, it was inevitable. Towards the end of his presidency, Morsi became very unpopular and the largest [demonstrations] in the country’s history happened against him and his organization. And since we’re a country with no viable constitution and rights, the army had to act when the largest [demonstrations] in the history of the country rose up against the former president.
I was horrified. One month before the clearing of the sit-ins, I warned that it was a big mistake to do so. Also, I was horrified by the violence perpetrated by [the] pro-Morsi [people] against Christians and against poor police soldiers. What [the] pro-Morsi [supporters] did to the Christians [hasn’t happened] since the medieval period!
2. It was the scariest thing ever experienced.
3. Currently, things are not looking good and I don’t see any chance for reconciliation in the near future.
4. Worry. Intense [worrying.] [The] army does enjoy popular support though, it is the only institution people can trust and I don’t blame them. The revolution provided no political leaders.
Nadine Sabry, 29, Equity Portfolio Manager in Cairo
1. For me to tell you whether I think the attack on the sit-ins supporting Morsi was the right move or not, let me begin with were I think this all began.
In early June 2012, during the second round of presidential elections when ex-President Morsi was running against Ahmed Shafik, the Muslim Brotherhood was threatening the nation and its voters that if Ahmed Shafik won, they would cause chaos in the streets. The Muslim Brotherhood threats didn’t end there. Even during their rule, they would threaten any journalist or revolutionary who was opposing any of their political moves. I am a firm believer that any political party or religious society should not threaten Egypt, and Egypt will not stay quiet and accept it either. That is why on June 30, the masses, a wide array of the Egyptian population, took to the streets calling for early elections. I was there, and I am, to this day, amazed [of] the full representation of Egyptian society and the sheer number of the crowds. Unfortunately, given Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s stubbornness, and with no method of impeachment, yes, I believe it was correct [for] the military to listen to the masses in the street and oust President Morsi.
Now [about] the sit-ins: I live right by the Nahda sit-in and I have to say that the one month long sit-in was not peaceful. We endured a couple [of] nights of violent shooting and chaos in our neighborhood. The sit-ins needed to end; Morsi was not going to be reinstated. The only question that I have is “was there a more peaceful way of ending this sit-in?” I mourn the lives lost and send my condolences to families [that lost their loved ones.]
At first, I was scared of the fight and its repercussions, and then I felt some sort of relief that my neighborhood and country will finally be free of these ongoing threats. Finally, when we started to hear of the lives lost, I began to feel sad and the questions began.
2. I witnessed the events on TV, as I was not home during the clearing of the [sit-ins], and from what I have witnessed there was violence from both parties.
3. The army is doing a good job of restoring some calm to the streets of Cairo, but it is too early to tell whether this will remain. There might be [a] one-off terrorist attack in the nation but I believe that the majority of the Egyptian people want to live in peace. There will be peace and there will be democracy, but it will just take us some time.
4. People talk about hope, fear, relief and worries. It is a time of mixed emotions. Egypt will prevail, it will just take us some time, and anyone who thought [peace] would come a couple of years after the revolution [has been] naive. It will take a decade at least. But Egypt will prevail.
Abdelrahman Magdy, 25, Entrepreneur in Cairo
1. I consider these attacks to be a part of state-terrorism against pro-Morsi protesters and yes; the military ousted Morsi through a [full] fledged military coup with popular support in the [streets]. I’m not sure if it’s the majority, but large [numbers] of people wanted Morsi out, including myself, but we were thinking of early elections, not the military.
I thought the violent dispersal of the sit-ins were expected, but never thought of the amount of violence [used]; live ammunition on groups of civilizations (sic) didn’t sound like the “[violence]” we thought of. The photos and videos coming out of this operation showed a catastrophe on every level. The military showed its ugly face again.
2. I didn’t personally witness the events, [but] our family doctor got shot in the chest and died in the dispersal while trying to save lives in Rabaa. A friend of mine was also shot [and is] in a critical condition, and two entrepreneurs within our social circle were killed, plenty were arrested.
3. I really don’t know. I can’t see any end in sight, both parties don’t mind getting involved in a long-term conflict to impose their will.
4. My generation (in their 20s) is extremely disappointed. Our dream for a better Egypt that had a push with [the] January 25th revolution is gone, and now replaced with the pain of all this bloodshed and the full return of [a] Mubarak-like regime. Plenty [of people] are talking about immigration (sic), we’re considering to start a program to facilitate legal immigration (sic) for entrepreneurs willing to start businesses abroad.
Maher Hamoud, 36, Editor in Chief of The Daily News Egypt, based in Cairo
1. I think the attack was very poorly studied and it is a clear violation of human rights basics (sic) by both the police and the military. In “formal democracy” concepts, yes [it was correct for the military to oust Morsi.] But in mass uprising dynamics, it is called “revolutionary approximation,” where the people masses wanted Morsi deposed, and the military responded and applied the demand of 23 million [people]—those who signed rebel confidence withdrawal documents. Morsi had only 12 million votes in poorly managed and manipulated elections.
I felt very sad for the loss of lives and thought that this country [had] no single wise political entity, either opportunistic [like the] Muslim Brotherhood, the military, [and] Mubarak’s remnants or amateur [like] everyone else.
2. No, I was in Stockholm for a week. [I am] currently in Ghent, Belgium for a couple of weeks writing a research [paper.]
Yes, I had some friends who were there besides my team covering the news in Cairo. Friends feel very shocked and sad, especially for the violence and the amount of blood. Team members say that those protesters lived in a different and isolated world in the two squares they occupied.
3. It will all be over relatively soon, once Muslim Brotherhood leaders voluntarily (in a deal) or forcibly stop motivating their extremely obedient members and supporters. […] I don’t think it will take that long till it happens.
Peace will genuinely prevail, if the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to practice politics under proper democratic conditions and secular principles. If banned, we’ll [see] 1950s scenarios. [They will be] an underground group working in the shadow, which [has been] proven [to be] very wrong and dangerous to have.
4. People are very disturbed by the amount of blood shed that they [see] on TV or share on social media networks, despite the majority of them [supporting] the [army’s crackdown] on the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist supporters. Society is [gradually] becoming fascist in a schizophrenic fashion; torn between Egyptians’ peaceful nature and [their] hate [against] the Muslim Brotherhood, and how [the Muslim Brotherhood] gave such a bad image of Islam in the past year in manipulative political games since Mubarak’s fall.
[The people] are worried about a probable backlash of violence from other radical Islamist groups, [the] economy, and state sovereignty. They hope that all their worries are not realized.
Patrick Ervin, 43, American Teacher in Cairo
1. If the same situation had occurred in any other city with protesters sitting in the street for weeks at a time, any government would remove them by force if necessary. In my opinion, the removal of the protesters was brutal and swift. The military was within its right to remove with force, but the government should never encourage Egyptians to march or protest as they did in July 2013. Once the military was faced with gunfire, they had the right to use live ammunition to control and disperse the crowds.
People of Egypt do not know how to demonstrate peacefully and recent history tells us that most protests in Cairo turn violent.
The consequences to the forceful removal may move the Brotherhood underground, making it more difficult to follow their actions.
In my opinion, the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi was a military coup. Most countries [that] provide aid to Egypt, struggle with how to characterize the actions of the military because by definition, it was a coup. I think Egyptians voted for the Brotherhood without fully realizing the long-term consequences. In democracies, we have to wait until the next election to change our government leadership. It’s frustrating but that’s democracy.
The act of removal of President Morsi was in line with the will of Egyptians. President Morsi and the Brotherhood managed the government and their roles within the government to the detriment of the country, forming a constitution that promoted their agenda, and neglecting the real issues of unemployment, safety and crime prevention, sexual harassment, tourism, oil production, and securing their economy.
Sadly, the actions of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military will have lasting implications.