One year on the disbanding of the MB sit-ins in Cairo, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report which claimed that excessive, disproportionate force had been used by the security forces to break up the encampment, alleging likely crimes against humanity. Egyptians claim that the report is biased and has flagrantly downplayed the MB violence while it considerably exaggerated the force used by the police. Since Watani had reported first-hand the events during that period: what led to the sit-in, what went on in the camp and spearheaded on its podium, and what happened in the aftermath of the disbanding, we will here reprint excerpts of our stories that will reveal just how biased the HRW report and western media coverage is. Several of the falsifications included in the report have also been tackled by our editor-in-chief Youssef Sidhom in the editorial of Sunday 24 August 2014.
It is an undeniable fact that for Muslims, the allure of political Islam is irresistible: Islamist rule secures both prosperity on earth and a direct ticket to paradise. At one point in their recent history Egyptians, whose wide majority are Muslim, decided to take the Islamist Muslim Brothers (MB) for their word and catapult them to power. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, Egypt got her first Islamist majority parliament and Islamist president, the MB Muhammad Mursi in June 2012. Never mind that Mr Mursi won by a very thin margin in elections the results of which are still contested in court; the ultimate outcome was that political Islam finally made it to Egypt’s top authority.
It took a few months for Egyptians to realise they had made a momentous mistake. The MB rule brought nothing at all that was even remotely related to prosperity or freedom. The President seized sweeping powers and took care to undermine all democratic practice. Egypt’s interests played second fiddle to the Islamist pet project of a pan-world Islamic caliphate; Egyptians felt that their very Egyptianness was seriously threatened.
On 30 June 2013, exactly one year on Mr Mursi’s swearing in as president, some 33 million Egyptians took to the streets to demand the ouster of Mursi and his MB regime. On 3 July, the military backed the people and fulfilled their wishes.
The MB retaliated with a vengeance. They waged against Egyptians a terror campaign which, according to one of their senior figures Sheikh Safwat Higazy, would be “terror you never imagined existed”. Another senior figure, Muhammad al-Beltagy, vowed that there would be peace in the Sinai Peninsula only once Mursi was reinstated. True to their word, Jihadis who had gained a foothold in the Sinai during the Mursi rule waged an untiring campaign of attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians, killing and injuring dozens of them. In Egypt’s major towns, the MB conducted daily violent demonstrations during which they captured, tortured and killed their opponents. In the Delta town of Mansoura, a taxi driver was killed for trying to drive through a MB demonstration that held the traffic, and in Assiut in Upper Egypt, the young Copt Abadir Edward was caught by the MB and tortured, and was only saved from being buried alive by Divine intervention. The full story of Edward was printed in Watani International, 11 August 2013, P2. All through, western media insisted the MB were ‘peaceful, unarmed protestors’.
On 2 August 2013, wataninet.com carried a post https://en.wataninet.com/egypt-arab-spring/egypt-post-30-june/victims-of-the-muslim-brothers/1567/ which reported that the Association of the Victims of the Muslim Brothers called upon Egyptians to gather in Tahrir Sqaure that evening, especially those who had documents to prove they had been victims of violence by the MB. The purpose was to register all the victims of the MB, those who were killed or injured during or after 30 June 2013. The data thus far collected indicated that victims of MB violence amounted to some 1000 persons. The spokesperson of the association Khaled Batran called for justice, that the rights of the victims should be restored, and the culprits taken to account.
Volkhard Windfuhr, chairman of the Cairo Foreign Press Association (FPA) issued on Sunday 11 August the following statement:
“Dear colleagues members of the FPA,
“Without taking sides in the internal conflict, I consider it our duty to make our members aware of a seriously increasing danger for our journalistic performance and even lives. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues succumbed to fatal attacks. They were not just victims of chaos or normal fire exchange, they had been fired at on purpose, not by police or army officers, but by the self-proclaimed ‘peaceful demonstrators’. Today I myself happily escaped a mean sniper attack on the 15 Mayo Bridge at Zamalek. The criminal was not a policeman either, I have witnesses for that fact—normal Egyptian citizen bypassers.
“I was not there for press coverage, but just heading for a coffee shop to meet friends.
“It is outrageous what these aggressive ‘protestors’ commit. They attack people at random, attack their own State—attack public buildings and an ever increasing number of churches und houses and shops of Christians. It is not my job as FPA chairman to bother you with political analyses, but I feel forced by my conscience and professional moral to express my strong disappointment that the war which the ‘protestors’ fight against the State of our host country only scarcely finds an adequate due coverage. But it is never too late, Take care!”
The above news item was posted on watainet on 18 August 2013 https://en.wataninet.com/egypt-arab-spring/egypt-post-30-june/warning-against-islamist-protestors/1468/.
The MB waged a six-week sit-in in two spots in Greater Cairo, in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in the east of Cairo and in Nahda Square in the west. These sit-ins mushroomed in numbers to include some 90,000 protestors who camped in the squares, disrupting normal activity and traffic in the neighbourhood and turning the lives of its residents into living hell. Over and above, the podium microphone blared 24 hours a day messages of intolerable hate and threats to Egyptians.
Nahda Square is adjacent to the botanical gardens of Orman, founded in 1873 by Egypt’s king Khedive Ismail. Watani’s Georgette Sadeq reported on the unspeakable damage wreaked by the MB on the garden in a story entitled “Flowers now blossom where ruin was planted”, printed by Watani International on 27 April 2014, P1 https://en.wataninet.com/features/flowers-now-blossom-where-ruin-was-planted/199/. Ms Sadeq wrote: “I was near tears at the ruinous damage worked to the garden and its public and research facilities at the hands of the Muslim Brothers (MB). The thought I couldn’t help uttering was: ‘My God! They have uprooted the beauty and planted ruin. They replaced the flowers and greenery with debris!’ Sayed Hussein Ghanem, manager of Orman Gardens, told Watani: “The MB broke into the garden in large numbers, camped inside, abused the facilities, and built brick toilets near the children’s garden. They used the hoses with which we water the internal garden as swings for their children, tying them to the branches of trees. They erected about 30 tents supported on bamboo poles from the garden; these tents housed some 3000 people.”
“We called the police and military to drive the squatters out,” Mr Ghanem said, “but back then this was not possible since Egypt was being accused by the international community of exercising violence against the MB. On the ground here, however, the truth was quite the contrary; it was the MB who were violently exploiting the situation in their favour. The squatters remained camped in the gardens till 14 August 2013 when the police finally dispersed the sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda. During the sit-in I would go to the garden together with some of the employees every day and the MB, who by then had everything in the garden under their thumb, would check and search us every time as we entered. We accepted this quietly so as not to provoke them into causing more damage to the garden. The area where they camped, about three feddans, was a total wreck. Garbage was strewn everywhere, as if they had planted it there. Some of the rare plants, especially cacti, were stolen, and the lotus leaves were used as hats to protect them from the heat of the summer sun.
“When the army finally came in on 14 August they had to enter the garden with an armoured vehicle through the main gate. Although the gate was huge, part of it collapsed.
“On the same night the sit-ins were dispersed, the contents of the herbarium were destroyed or stolen. The herbarium was in a separate building, and it housed a treasure trove of plants and facts about them and their origin, as well as equipment, files and a cupboard called ‘the King Farouq Cupboard’ which held special divisions for rare plant specimens.”
On 18 August 2013, Watani International printed on its first page the story “Double standards by any other name”, in reply to the question: “How does the ‘free world’ deal with events in Egypt?” https://en.wataninet.com/egypt-arab-spring/egypt-post-30-june/double-standards-by-any-other-name/1497/
Watani poses the question: Why is the western media ignoring the atrocities committed by the Islamists; the killings and savage torture of their opponents? According to a report by the Ibn-Khaldun Centre for Development Studies, during the period from 29 June to 2 August 2013, 82 persons were killed at the hands of the Islamist Mursi supporters, and 44 were tortured, 22 among them to death. The real figures are bigger, the report said, given that these were the cases that came to their attention. The executive manager of the centre, Dalia Ziyada, told the media that the centre was still following up on similar victims, but had hastened to publish its report in view of the horrendous truths it had uncovered. The Journalists’ Syndicate was also compiling a file on the cases of torture of Egyptian reporters at the hands of Islamists, the most recent being Aya Hassan of al-Youm al-Sabei and Muhammad Mumtaz of Veto, who lived to tell of their horrific encounters with the Islamist protestors at Rabaa al-Adawiya in the east of Cairo. Then Yolande Knell of the BBC writes a long report on how the Egyptian media is against the Islamists and doesn’t report from Rabaa. Near the end of her report, she says the Mursi supporters do not allow Egyptian reporters in.
So much for MB atrocities, sit-ins, and violence and wreckage. The dispersal itself was tackled by Youssef Sidhom in an editorial on 16 March 2014, https://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/the-nchr-fact-finding-report/374/ as well as in today’s editorial. In both articles, he focuses on the details the western media, and now the HRW report, insist on falsifying. Major among them is the claim that the protestors were not given sufficient warning to safely exit the camps, that the violence was mainly on the part of the security forces, or that it was ‘excessively disproportionate’ to the event. In his editorial of 16 March, Mr Sidhom discusses the report by the factfinding commission of the National Council for Human Rights, which he accuses of overzeal to appear non-biased in favour of the security forces.
“The violations committed by the armed MB during the dispersal are reported [in the NCHR report] in detail. These include the use of civilians as human shields by putting them directly in the line of fire. The report confirms that the shooting started at the hands of the armed MB inside the camp, and that the first victim to fall was a policeman. However, it ignores the fact that armed MB—some of whom were trained snipers—mounted the rooftops and balconies of surrounding buildings and opened fire on the police. The report condemns the police for firing back, claiming the action was excessively disproportionate with the event. I don’t know of a response that could have been more legitimate or more in ‘reasonable proportion’ with being fired at by concealed snipers. In the same peculiar vein, the report brushes over the scene of events during the dispersal, and fails to convey how the armed MB turned it into a horrendous killing ground.” The failure was, sadly, repeated by the HRW report.
For the Watani files which chronicle the Egyptian scene since the 30 June Revolution in 2013 and until Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was elected Persident:
20 August 2014