Egypt’s Bloody Friday
by Stephen Lendman
Egypt’s bloody crackdown continues. On Friday, scores more died. Some estimates say close to 200. More on that below.
On August 16, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ikhwanweb headlined “Statement: Friday of Rage,” saying:
“Despite our deep pain and sorrow following the August 14 Rabaa massacre and others committed since the bloody coup, the crimes of the coup regime have only increased our steadfastness and firmness in rejecting it and determination to remove it.”
“The struggle to overthrow this illegitimate regime is an obligation, an Islamic, national, moral, and human obligation which we will not steer away from until justice and freedom prevail, and until repression is conquered.”
“Our revolution is peaceful, and we will continue to mobilize people to take to the streets without resorting to violence and without vandalism.”
“Violence is not our approach. Vandalism only aims at distorting the image of our peaceful revolt and finding justifications for the coup leaders to continue to govern.”
“We call on the great Egyptian people to gather in all revolutionary squares on the Friday of Rage.”
Million man marches were urged nationwide. Supporters were asked to converge at over two dozen Cairo mosques.
Scores died in Friday’s March of Anger clashes. Reuters said “Islamist protests descended into a bloodbath across Egypt.” Dozens were killed in Cairo alone.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood official Amr Darrag said he was in a peaceful march with his wife and daughters. Gunmen atop a hotel opened fire.
Security forces confronted them on an overpass. They used live ammunition and tear gas. “We are dealing with vampires,” he said.
“They intentionally killed us. My analysis is that they would like to force people to go to violence, because this is the only explanation.”
On August 15, The New York Times headlined “Attacks on Protesters in Cairo Were Calculated to Provoke, Some Say.”
Their ferocity against pro-Morsi supporters “appears to have been a deliberate calculation of the military-appointed government to provoke violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, a number of Arab and Western historians of Middle East politics said Friday.”
“The objective (is) to demonize the Islamists in the eyes of Egypt’s broader populace, validate the July 3 ouster of the Islamist president, and subvert any possibility that dialogue would reintegrate the Muslim Brotherhood into Egypt’s mainstream politics.”
“Some drew parallels to Algeria” decades earlier. Horrific mayhem and repression followed.
According to Professor Hugh Roberts:
“Given the propaganda of the state-supported media in Cairo, tarring the Muslim Brotherhood with the terrorist brush, making them enemies, not just a nuisance, is setting them up for being completely crushed and eliminated.”
Professor Tarek Masoud added:
“Clearly for some segments of the security apparatus, there was an anxiety over the reinclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process.”
“Precisely because these negotiations might have gotten somewhere, they wanted to stop the Muslim Brotherhood in its tracks.”
“You could pick no better strategy than the heavy-handed manner in which they dealt with these protests.”
Secularists and Islamists want no part of state-sponsored repression. Longtime US military aid bears much responsibility. Nonviolent unity’s the best antidote. It remains to be seen what follows.
Western governments urged restraint. They stopped short of meaningful action. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah endorsed government tactics. His government supports Egypt’s battle against “terrorism,” he said.
Abdullah fears a homegrown Arab Spring. The Kingdom’s been rocked by protests. So has neighboring Bahrain.
Dissent subjects anyone to arbitrary arrest and detention. Activists are especially vulnerable. Short-lived MB empowerment upset traditional Egyptian rule. Abdullah fears something similar at home.
On official Al-Ekhbariya TV, he said Egypt’s targeted by “haters.” He warned that protesters challenging state authority seek to “waken sedition.”
The Abbas led Palestinian Authority expressed support for Egypt’s military. Doing so shows what Palestinians face. A PA statement said:
“Egyptian national security is vital for Arab national security.”
“Anyone who tries to tamper with or threaten the Egyptian state or the security and stability of the Egyptian people is carrying out a plot against the unity of Egypt that targets the security and stability of Arab nations.”
“We are fully confident that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will remain a guard over Arab and Islamic nations.”
PA security forces attacked peaceful pro-Morsi supporters in Hebron. Arrests were made. Palestinian journalists were threatened. They were prevented from covering what happened.
Hamas condemned Egypt’s crackdown. So did the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They want mass killing stopped. They want international community action, not talk.
Both sides aren’t backing down. MB supporters vow continued resistance. Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) promises escalated crackdowns. Saudis and Gulf Emirates pledge support. Expect lots more bloodshed ahead.
Following Friday prayers, Cairo protesters chanted “Down with military rule!” They brandished shoes at helicopters circling overhead. Doing so insults Arab culture.
Heavy gunfire echoed throughout central Cairo. Bystanders fled for safety. Dozens of protests filled streets nationwide.
One protester perhaps spoke for others saying:
“Sooner or later I will die. Better to die for my rights than in my bed. Guns don’t scare us anymore. It’s not about the Brotherhood, it’s about human rights.”
Egypt’s media hardened its anti-MB rhetoric. State television headlined “Egypt fighting terrorism.” Morsi supporters said security forces attacked nonviolent protesters. They did so nationwide.
Neighborhoods on the periphery of clashes looked like ghost towns. A government statement said:
“The Egyptian armed forces, the police and the great people of Egypt are standing as one hand, in the face of the brutal terrorist plot by the Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt.”
After Friday’s violence, MB officials called for daily protests. Things are totally out-of-control. Egypt’s a dysfunctional police state.
On August 17, Russia Today headlined “Mosque under siege: Hundreds of Cairo protesters barricade themselves inside following deadly clashes.”
Nearly 100 died on Friday. Hundreds took refuge overnight for safety.
“An estimated 1500 people trapped inside Al Fath mosque in Cairo’s Ramses Square have asked for ‘a safe exit’ at the end of the (7AM) curfew.”
Security forces besieged Al Fath mosque. They claimed “armed elements (were) shooting security forces and police from inside the mosque.”
Activists cite state-sponsored violence. They blame SCAF. Hundreds in Al Fath mosque fear for their lives. They fear arrest and persecution if they go outside.
On Saturday, Egyptian security forces cleared pro-Morsi supporters from the mosque. They did so after hours of standoff.
They stormed the mosque. They fired tear gas. Heavy gunfire was heard. Police dragged people outside. Al Fath served as both field hospital and morgue.
Egyptian blogger Mohamed El Dahshan calls ongoing violence “a fire that will burn us all.” Brute force assures more of it.
It “galvanizes” and “radicalizes” both sides. It “validate(s) their confrontational position(s).” It makes reconciliation harder. It risks letting things spin entirely out of control. It risks possible civil war.
AP’s Matthew Lee continues challenging State Department spokespersons. On Thursday he asked if canceling joint Bright Star military exercises “simply sends a message of disapproval?”
“Or is intended to cause (SCAF) to step back, rethink, and change what they’ve been doing?”
Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki responded saying:
“(W)e want to sustain our relationship with Egypt. (W)e will continue to assess and review our aid in all forms.”
“We can’t determine on behalf of the Egyptians what steps they’re going to take, but we can only encourage them to continue to take productive steps forward.”
“We didn’t feel, given the events of the last 36 hours, that this was an appropriate exercise that should continue.”
Lee pressed for clarification asking “is (this) more than just sending a message of disapproval. (Is it) intended to get the Egyptian military to change its behavior? Is that correct?”
Psaki: (T)here are a number of steps we’re taking to continue to encourage Egyptians from all sides and all parties to get back on a productive path.
Lee: Okay, but I’m confused. Then why don’t you do something that you think will have an effect and will change the calculation of the Egyptian military so that they stop killing people in the streets?
Psaki: (Y)ou heard the President say – and I think this is an important point – America cannot determine the future of Egypt. It’s up for the – up to the Egyptian people to determine that.
We continu(e) to engage with officials in Egypt, with our partners in the region, about how to move towards a productive path forward.
It’s a number of pieces, and we continue to work at it.
Lee: Right. But the number of pieces you’ve taken this far have not yet, or not had the desired result. Is that correct?
Psaki: Well, Matt, this – no one has ever thought this would come quickly or easily.
So we’re continuing – but we believe the door remains open for dialogue and to return to a long-term sustainable democracy.
That’s why we’re continuing to work with all parties on it.
Lee: But you’re not arguing that what – the steps that you’ve taken thus far have successfully advanced your goal, are you?
Psaki: (T)he end result is what’s important.
Lee: Okay. The end result – yes, I would agree the end result is what is important.
But is the Administration confident that it is pursuing the right, the appropriate policy to bring about what its goals are in Egypt, given the fact that what it has done thus far hasn’t been successful in doing that?
Are you confident that the policy that you’re pursuing will produce the desired results?
Psaki: Well, we can’t look into the future, Matt. We evaluate every day what the appropriate steps are.
Lee: And you believe that you’re – well, that what you’re doing now and have done to this date is appropriate and adequate to bring about the goal that you say that you want?
Psaki: Well, again, reaching the goal is up to the Egyptian people to reach. We can’t do it on their behalf.
Lee: I understand, but to encourage them to get there. Do you think that what’s been done thus far is effective?
(D)o you think the Administration (is) confident that the steps, that the policy that you have pursued thus far in Egypt and also in Syria (is) worthy of a President who not so long ago won the Nobel Peace Prize?
Psaki: Yes, Matt
On August 14, Lee and Julie Pace headlined “US: Egypt Violence ‘serious blow’ to peace efforts,” saying:
“Obama administration officials signaled no change in US policy toward Egypt or clear consequences for the mounting violence.”
“The US has avoided declaring Morsi’s ouster a coup, a move that would force the administration to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid to the strategically important nation, and officials said they continued to believe that step is not in America’s national security interests.”
“They said they we’re engaged in a continual review of policy toward Egypt but stressed that there were no changes to announce.”
Bodies pile up. No one’s sure how many died. For sure it’s many more than official reports. Thousands were injured. Hundreds were arrested.
Robert Fisk calls ongoing violence “a most shameful chapter in Egyptian history.”
“The police – some wearing black hoods – shot down into the crowds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters from the roof of Cairo’s Ramses Street police station and surrounding streets.”
“They even fired at traffic on the airport highway. And to see their terrible work, you had only to climb the pink marble steps of the Al-Fath Mosque – sticky with fresh blood yesterday evening – and see the acre of wounded lying on deep-woven carpets and, in a remote corner, 25 shrouded corpses.”
“Dr Ibrahim Yamani gently lifted the bandages from their bodies: shot in the face, shot in the head, shot in the chest.”
“So now we have the Ramses Square Massacre – these bloodbaths seem to come by the week, if not by the day.”
Perhaps another tomorrow. Perhaps every day. “Forget democracy,” Fisk added. Martyrs attest to today’s Egypt. Grieving families understand best.
A Final Comment
According to AP, SCAF’s considering banning the Muslim Brotherhood. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi submitted a proposal to do so.
Government spokesman Sherif Shawki said legal options are being explored. Beblawi gave Ministry of Social Solidarity the task. He didn’t elaborate further.
Throughout most of its 85 year history, MB’s been banned and/or subjected to crackdowns. Previous officials faced arbitrary detentions or imprisonment.
It’s happening again now. Doing so assures protracted confrontations. It assures continued blood in the streets.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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