Day Five in Cairo: On the Massacre

By Sarah Eltantawi

The night before last, Egyptian security forces committed a massacre of pro-Morsi supporters on the 6 October Bridge and at Raba’ al-Adawiyya square.

Massacre feet

I believe at this point, having had enough opportunity to look at available evidence, that the police in concert with armed civilians fired upon pro-Morsi protesters who were blocking the 6 October bridge and at Rabaa al-‘Adawiyya square.  I think those they fired upon were unarmed, or if they were armed, it was with very light if not negligible weaponry.  Having said that, I think the MB has a sizable arsenal, including weapons imported from abroad — ones that were not used in the context of this massacre.

I think this having read media reports and human rights reports, and for the simple reason that now that the bodies have been counted, it is clear that the vast majority of casualties and all of the deaths (as far as I know) are on the pro-Morsi side.

This was a criminal massacre by state security services that have a long track record of acting with criminal disregard for civilian life.  I think the struggle against Egyptians’ notoriously brutal security services is one of the main ongoing struggles of the revolution and one of the main impetus’s for the Jan 25 revolution.

The Muslim Brotherhood, while in power, despite being ruthlessly targeted by said security services over sixty years, did absolutely nothing to reform it during their rule, and in fact embraced it.  This is more evidence that rule for the sake of rule was the name of the game.

The 6 October bridge is some distance from Rabaa al-‘Adawiyya, suggesting that the protests are expanding to other parts of the city.  They are also near Cairo University and I heard reports of a sit in near Batal Abdel-‘Aziz street in Mohandaseen last night.

Pro-Morsi supporters have a right to peaceful protest in non-military areas, in keeping with international human rights and diplomatic norms.  That is a fact and I am stating it clearly.

However, I do not support continued sit-ins for the following reasons:

Practically speaking, on the best of days in revolutionary Egypt, we are a long way away from having the power to temper the murderous impulses of the security services.  These days, there is a pro-military mood in the country that virtually guarantees that the security services can act with a freely murderous hand with very little push back from the public, the vast majority of whom support the police and the army against the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters.

Therefore, if they remain in squares throughout the country, and especially if they choke major highways, there is a virtual guarantee that there will be more bloodshed.  Furthermore, the longer they stay outside, the worse their fortunes will be when they finally (and inevitably, one way or another), leave.

Why is it inevitable that they leave?  Because their public support in Egypt is very small in real numbers and as a proportion of the population.  That number will continue to decline as Egyptians tire more and more of the protests.

I think the Muslim Brotherhood leadership understand this, but makes the following calculation:

They refuse to back down, because they feel this is their one chance at power, and they fear going home to face a possible round up by security services.

They traffic in martyrdom politics and its logic, which says that their best chance is to continue these struggles and sacrifice some people for the “jihad” (these people will all be inevitably poor).  While I do not think this strategy will win them much if any local sympathy (and will probably backfire), it may well win international sympathy.  But not enough, in my opinion, to reinstate Morsi.  That ship has sailed.

On social media, I have seen pro-Morsi supporters and those outraged by the massacre compare the pro-Morsi cause to the American civil rights movement and the Palestinian struggle, among other historical analogies.  I do not think this issue bears much resemblance at all to those movements.

This is how I read it:

There was a popular revolution on June 30 to remove President Morsi, which included large swaths of the population calling for the army to come back and take power.  The army did that, with a popular mandate.  There is no doubt that there was sabotage both by the army and the deep state along the way, but the Muslim Brotherhood squandered their opportunity in several fatal ways — politically, culturally, and technocratically.

I have never doubted that there was a popular revolution on June 30.  But now that I am in Egypt, I consider those who argue their wasn’t about as conspiratorial as those who claim man did not walk on the moon.  There is no question about this.  The Muslim Brotherhood is deeply unpopular here, and Egyptians do not want to be ruled by them.  I have written about this elsewhere and will not rehearse the reasons again here.

Governments need a mandate to govern.  Pro-Morsi supporters believe the elections Morsi won a year ago with 1.3% of the vote against the old, just deposed regime gives them that mandate until the next elections.  I disagree.  This is a revolutionary context.  This is not a society that has been conducting elections for generations.  The weight assigned to the revolution in this society is far greater than the weight assigned to this instantiation of the ballot box.  For several reasons, the Muslim Brotherhood lost their legitimacy.  The Egyptian people do not want them to rule.

Therefore, their sit-ins are not going to result in tangible gains for them, and will lead to more bloodshed.  The security services are criminally negligible and have demonstrated their brutality time and again.  For complex reasons that I have tried to explain elsewhere, the Egyptian people stand with the security services at this time.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters should go home, accept that they have lost this battle, and refrain from any guerilla attacks of any kind. They should regroup, and learn how to work with other groups in Egypt to increase good will toward their organization.

If more of Egypt starts to look like this, the site of Sadat’s assassination (by Islamic militants) yesterday, which now resembles a war zone in Syria:


it would be justifiable, I’m afraid, to hold Morsi supporters as culpable for the destruction of Egypt as the murderous security forces.

One thought on “Day Five in Cairo: On the Massacre

  • June 23, 2014 at 3:18 am

    You made some decent points there. I checked on the internet for more info about the issue
    and found most people will go along with your views on this


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