Exactly one year ago, security forces cleared out two Muslim Brotherhood six-week long sit-ins. Here is the full story:
On 30 June 2013, a popular revolution erupted demanding the immediate ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. International media put the number of Egyptians who went out on the streets across all governorates at approximately 23 million.
Egyptians protest against Islamist President Morsi outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, 30 June 2013 (photo: theatlantic)
The massive anti-Morsi demonstrations led the then defence minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, speaking on behalf of the Armed Forces, to give Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood an ultimatum: take steps to meet the people’s demands, or the army would intervene. When Morsi failed to act within the ultimatum’s 48-hour deadline, in conjunction with mass popular demand, on 3 July 2013, Al-Sisi removed him from the office of president.
Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, defence minister in 2013 (photo: raainews)
In response, Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters set up two sit-in camps. One was erected at the Al-Nahda Square in Giza, and another at Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square, located in the Nasr City district of eastern Cairo. The word camp may be misleading, as the sites were veritable towns, operating like microcosms, fully equipped with food vendors, and designated spots for washing and relieving themselves, if they did not instead use facilities in neighbouring buildings or schools. During the six-week long sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya, pro-Morsi supporters called for his reinstatement while consistently refusing any negotiations or possibility of reconciliation with the state, thus all initiatives aimed at solving the stalemate had failed, including efforts by Gulf states, the European Union and the United States.
Muslim Brotherhood members at Rabaa Al-Adaweya
Throughout the six weeks of camping at Rabaa and Al-Nahda squares, Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members were given several ultimatums to end the sit-ins before the intervention of security forces. Safe passage was promised to all protesters, but they refused to comply.
From 4 July to 14 August 2013, Brotherhood supporters used Rabaa and Al-Nahda as starting points to several marches held everyday in Cairo. Hundreds, if not thousands, of eyewitness reports attested that Islamist protesters wreaked terror in the streets of Cairo during their marches. Many of them were armed, eyewitnesses said.
The Brotherhood took over the Abdel-Aziz Gawish School, nearby Rabaa, and used its classrooms to torture police officers and civilians opposing their ideologies. The school also doubled as a military camp to train Brotherhood militias.
A policeman who was tortured in Rabaa
Three meetings gathered top police and army officials before the final decision was taken to clear the areas. On 14 August 2013, at 7am, security forces tightened their presence around the Brotherhood camps in Rabaa and Al-Nahda. Security used loudspeakers to direct the Islamist protesters to safe exits.
In Rabaa, as Central Security Forces were busy taking the Islamists who opted to leave the camps peacefully to safe streets, a police officer was shot at the hands of a Brotherhood member. The wound was fatal.
Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in camp set up by supporters of Morsi in Rabaa Al-Adaweya, Nasr City district, Cairo (photo: vosizneias)
Muslim Brotherhood members went on a shooting spree, killing and injuring police officers and civilians. Security forces retaliated and intervened to disperse the Rabaa camp, meanwhile at the Al-Nahda camp, similar incidents took place.
Dispersing the two camps lasted a few hours. Health Ministry figures estimated the casualties at 638 dead, and close to 4,000 injured. The Interior Ministry stated that 114 policemen, including 30 officers, were killed during the dispersal of the Rabaa and Al-Nahda camps.
Member of the Egyptian security forces speaks to a woman holding a stick as they clear Al-Nahda sit-in camp near the Cairo University campus in Giza, Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 (photo: vosizneias)
A security source later revealed that seven completely burnt bodies were discovered in Orman Park, nearby Al-Nahda Square. The bodies showed clear signs of torture inflicted before they had been burnt.
Member of the security forces being dragged and stripped of his vest by protesters after his police vehicle was pushed off the 6th of October bridge by protesters (photo: vosizneias)
A police vehicle is pushed off of the 6th of October bridge by protesters, nearby Rabaa Square in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 (photo: vosizneias)
While there are conflicting reports about what happened on that fateful day, this is the story that many Egyptians experienced. The tumult that became a mundane reality for Egyptians over the past few years is something to be remembered, yet at the same time a dark chapter in our history that cannot continue to overshadow the country’s path forward.