The military’s new massacres in Egypt

July 29, 2013

Soldiers opened fire on a sit-in protest by Muslim Brotherhood members outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo, killing at least 72 people and injuring scores more. It was the deadliest of clashes across Egypt last weekend between security forces and supporters of the Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who was forced from office at the beginning of July. By early Sunday, the death toll across the country was 80.

Both military officials and leaders of the Egyptian government appointed after Morsi's downfall--including interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the National Salvation Front formed in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood government last year--blamed the Brotherhood for "causing a crisis" and even starting the violence. But eyewitnesses to the carnage that began in the early morning hours Saturday said the soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. Ahram Online reported that doctors in field hospitals where casualties were brought said the victims were "shot with live ammunition that targeted the head or chest. 'These are shots aimed to kill, not to disperse,' [one doctor] said."

Morsi was elected president only one year ago, but he and the Brotherhood lost popular support, especially after they tried to ram through a constitutional declaration that enshrined the political power of Islamist forces. A petition campaign, known as "Tamarod" (Rebellion), calling on Morsi to resign spread across the country, culminating in one of the biggest days of mass demonstrations in world history on June 30. Several days later, the military stepped in to officially remove Morsi from power, appoint an interim president and promise new elections.

The Brotherhood refused to accept Morsi's ouster and organized its members for demonstrations, including the ongoing sit-in near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo. Revolutionaries say the Brotherhood has continued the violent attacks--a regular feature under Morsi--against left-wing opponents and members of the Coptic minority.

Over the course of July, the military and security forces have become increasingly bold in their repression against the Brotherhood. These forces were once associated in many Egyptians' minds with the three-decade dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak that was overthrown in the February 2011 revolution, and then with the repressive rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that followed--sometimes in alliance with the Brotherhood and sometimes in opposition to it. Since Morsi's ouster, however, the security apparatus and remnants of the old Mubarak regime, known as the feloul, have regained some of their former support.

Thus, when Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the armed forces, called for demonstrations last Friday to show a popular "mandate" for the military's moves against the Brotherhood, large numbers answered the call. In the aftermath of the weekend's violence, many of the organizations and leading figures from the Tamarod movement--including three presidential candidates from last year's election, ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi and Amr Moussa--called for an investigation of the shootings, but generally blamed the Brotherhood for the deaths and refused to oppose the escalating repression.

Below, we are publishing three statements by the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt. The first was issued before last Friday's demonstration and opposed the pro-military mobilization, while defending the mass rebellion that led to Morsi's downfall. The two others were issued on Sunday as the death toll from the weekend mounted.

Not in our name!

WHATEVER CRIMES the Brotherhood has committed against the people and against the Copts in defense of its power in the name of religion, we do not give army chief Al-Sisi our authority. We will not go into the streets on Friday offering a blank check to commit massacres.

If Al-Sisi has the legal means to do what he wants, why is he calling people into the streets? What he wants is a popular referendum on assuming the role of Caesar, and the law will not deter him.

Yes, the Brotherhood caused the masses to suffer during the period of their rule, and today, we see the return of terrorist acts in Sinai, Al-Arish, and attacks against the people living in Maniyal and al-Nahda.

Yet the army does not need "permission" to deal with terrorist acts. It has the legal means to do that and more. But it does want more--it wants a popular mobilization behind it in order to increase the cohesion of the state and the ruling class behind its leadership.

It wants to wipe out one of the most important features of the revolution so far, which is the masses' consciousness of the repressive role of the state apparatus and its intense hostility toward them. It wants to make true the lie that "the army, the police and the people are one hand." The army wants the people to follow it into the streets, just a year after the masses were screaming, "Down, down with military rule."

A victim of security forces that opened fire on protesters outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo
A victim of security forces that opened fire on protesters outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo (Mustafa Ozturk | ABACA Press)

They want finally to restore "stability"--that is to say, the return of order and the return of the regime. They want to finish off the revolution, and they will use the Brotherhood to do it. The Brotherhood in only one year of office alienated everyone: the old state, its army and police; the ruling class; the working class and the poor; the Copts; the revolutionary organizations and political parties. The fall of the Brotherhood was inevitable, and people were celebrating the downfall of Morsi even before they went into the streets on June 30.

The military establishment, which had allied itself with the Islamists over the previous two years, decided to break this alliance after the Islamists failed to contain the social mobilization and rising anger in the streets. So it seized the opportunity to get rid of Morsi and cut off the development of a revolutionary movement and prevent it deepening.

They want to lead this movement in a "safer" direction by getting rid of the Brotherhood to restore the old order. This strategy has seen the old regime's cronies, police and army being cleared in the courts, while their crimes are added to the charge sheet against the Brotherhood.

On top of this, they claim that they were responsible for the January 25 revolution as well. We do not want to find Morsi on trial for the murder of the martyrs of Port Said and others. It was Mubarak/Morsi's police who was responsible. The most important thing is to open the door that was closed with Morsi's agreement: Justice for the martyrs.

The crimes that Morsi committed were committed with the military, the police and Mubarak's state. They should all be tried together. Giving the old state a mandate for its repressive institutions to do what they want to their partners-in-crime of yesterday will only give them a free hand to repress all opposition thereafter.

They will repress all protest movements, workers' strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations. We cannot forget that the crimes which the Brotherhood committed around the country took place under the noses of the police and army without them intervening at all to protect protesters or the people.

The masses going into the street on Friday is damaging to the revolution, whatever the participants in the protests might think. Giving the army a popular mandate to finish off the Muslim Brotherhood will inevitably lead to the consolidation of the regime, which the revolution arose to overthrow. We must use the downfall of the Brotherhood to deepen the revolution, not to support the regime.

We have to deal with the Brotherhood at a popular and political level, responding to their acts of violence with the utmost firmness. We must build popular committees to defend ourselves against attacks by the Brotherhood and to protect our revolution, which will not subside before it overthrows the regime, and before it wins bread, freedom and social justice and retribution for all the killers of the martyrs.

Revolutionary Socialists
July 25, 2013

This translation first appeared in Socialist Worker (Britain)

Against the massacres and the military's "mandate"

A NEW massacre shocked Egyptians when they learned about it at dawn on Saturday, adding to the bloody record of the Interior Ministry and the military, just hours after the millions-strong demonstrations for the "mandate" from the people demanded by the Ministry of Defense. This is the first tidings of the mandate are to whitewash evidence of the state in confronting protests by force of arms.

We defend the right of the populace--all of the populace--to express their opinion by every means of peaceful expression, from demonstrations and sit-ins to strikes. This right was one that the January revolution won, thanks to the blood of our martyrs. We condemn this massacre, which claimed the lives of dozens of the poor from the provinces and the youth of the Brotherhood.

Nowhere among them were their leaders, who we see only upon the stages or the satellite channels supported by America, calling for violence in the name of religion. We don't see any of their names or their children among those murdered or injured. Yet they urge the youth to face down the brutality of the police, who have decided that their "mandate" means confronting protests with murder.

The guns aimed at the breasts of the Brotherhood today will quickly be turned around to take aim at the breasts of the revolutionaries and those protesting against the regime among the workers and the poor, on the pretext of keeping the wheels of production turning.

The Brotherhood today is reaping some of what it has sown by the hand of its own Interior Minister, who this past January killed dozens of people, and by their crimes against the residents of El-Manial and Bayn al-Sarayat and Giza and others, the most recent victims coming on Saturday at Al-Qaed Ibrahim and on Sunday with the attacks on churches. These have created a mighty wave of popular anger against the Brotherhood that is being exploited by the army and the police to gain their mandate, on the excuse of combatting terrorism.

The omens of a return of Mubarak's dictatorial regime are lost on no one. We have witnessed the clearest of these signs in the speech of the new Interior Minister yesterday about the return of men fired from the state security services to their old jobs of tracking political and religious activities. We have seen it in the threat to use the emergency law to disperse the sit-ins, and the intervention of the army in the workers' sit-in at Suez Steel, among others.

This feeds our doubts about the role of the current government and the extent of its involvement in these crimes, particularly Hazem el-Beblawi, the prime minister who was the first to support the military's "mandate" in the march at the presidential palace. It begs questions as well about those elements rejected by the revolution because of their positions after the massacre.

It is impossible for the armed forces to disperse the sit-ins and end the crisis, but it is possible for them to deepen that crisis. There is no true solution to the current crisis of our revolution other than a political path that adopts a clear vision for transitional justice, including guarantees of retribution against all those who have committed crimes against the rights of the people and our revolution--the figures of Mubarak's regime and the military council, and also the Brotherhood and its allies.

We call to all of the proud revolutionary and social forces, to the free people among the workers and students and professionals and farmers and everyone else. We call upon you to participate in building a fighting revolutionary front so we can together confront both this increasing military fascism, as well as the opportunism and the crimes of the Brotherhood. This front must complete the goals of the January revolution and its second wave on June 30 against all those who betray it--the feloul, the military and the Brotherhood. It must achieve the goals of bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity for which the revolution still rages in Egypt.

Glory to the martyrs, victory to the revolution, disgrace upon the murderers--every murderer. All power and wealth to the people.

Revolutionary Socialists
July 28, 2013

Translation by Jess Martin

The Copts are being massacred

THE BELLS of the churches rang at the time of evening prayers, and the Copts fasted along with Muslims for Ramadan, while the state media sang a song about our heroic nationalist battle and the unity of the Egyptian people, both Muslim and Christian. But only a day later, there were efforts by supporters of the deposed president to break into three churches in the village of Degla in Minya, bombarding them with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and firing bullets at the Mary Girgis Church in Port Said. The families sought the assistance of the police/security forces, but got no response.

You might be shocked by this position of the police/security forces--after all, they dispersed the people yesterday to protect them from "potential terrorism." So where are they now?

Actually, where were the police throughout the era of Morsi--while the crimes were committed against the Copts of Egypt, with the aim of their forcible expulsion? Not one of those involved in the police saw it as their role to stop any one of those crimes against the Copts, except when they struck against the funerals of particular martyrs. Where were they throughout the era of the military council and the era of Mubarak?

And what about our free and impartial media, which documents the crimes of the Muslim Brotherhood, but doesn't mention the sectarian crimes occurring in the Sinai, like the murder of three Copts, among them a priest? What about the ongoing threats against Copts by extremists? Or perhaps the media is returning to sectarianism, following its incitement against the Copts while they were being run over by tanks at Maspero.

Of course, the sectarianism of the Brotherhood and its allies isn't a new development, since they were sponsors of sectarian strife throughout the period of the military council. They continued in their inflammatory sectarian rhetoric throughout the period of Morsi's presidency. And now, since June 30, the Brotherhood has persisted in its crimes, attacking churches and chanting sectarian slogans in their marches.

The regime is both the creator and protector of sectarianism, always invoking it as cover for the crudeness of its corruption, just as the Mubarak regime did with the Saints Church, to cover its rigging of the parliamentary elections in 2010. They use it to scatter the ranks of the revolutionaries, as the military council did with its successive attacks on the churches, beginning with Atfih and ending with the Maspero massacre. They use inflammatory sectarian rhetoric to portray every opponent as an enemy of Islam, as the Morsi regime did.

The regime will continue to feign ignorance on the issue of the Copts, and the state will continue to turn a blind eye to sectarian crimes until there is a catastrophe--at which point we see a traditional scene between the priest and sheik, with pleasant slogans repeated, which do nothing to prevent these crimes from recurring.

First among the responsibilities of the state is to protect the Copts and their houses of worship, not to tolerate their expulsion. Or doesn't yesterday's "mandate" from the demonstrations include that clause?

The experiences of the past few weeks have demonstrated with overwhelming evidence that the state and its institutions do not bother very much about our blood, which has flowed before the eyes of the police and army while they, on more than one occasion, stood by watching without batting an eye.

But the most important point is that this experience has proved that the masses are capable--despite the steep cost--of deterring the attacks on the neighborhoods with their popular committees, which they had to improvise because of the intentional negligence of the army and police in protecting their neighborhoods and homes.

Now we must organize our popular committees to protect ourselves from recurring assaults and to apply pressure on the negligent state apparatuses to undertake their responsibility to protect the people according to the framework of the law--without needing the "mandate" of anyone.

Yesterday, army tanks stopped on Mohammad Mahmoud Street in Cairo, in front of a graffiti tribute to the martyr Mina Daniel, to remind those who have forgotten who his killers were, and why he was martyred, and for what ends--to recall his unachieved dream and his blood, for which no one has been held accountable.

Mina died, but during the occupation of Tahrir that toppled Mubarak, he had sung with his Muslim friend, "The revolution is sweet and beautiful while you're with me"--recognizing that the revolution could not claim victory without their unity. He knew that his freedom and dignity could not be achieved except by a revolution against the dictatorial regime of Mubarak.

Let us complete the path that Mina began, recognizing our enemy however it changes its face. Let us remember his struggle and achieve his dream.

The Office of Issues of Persecution
Revolutionary Socialists
July 28, 2013

Translation by Jess Martin

Further Reading

From the archives