Egypt clashes kill 10, undermine Army narrative of democratic transition
This weekend's renewed violence in Egypt, including the documented use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, has further eroded confidence in the ruling military council.
In Cairo today, security forces clashed with Egyptian protesters for the third straight day after a brutal Army crackdown on demonstrators yesterday, marking an escalation of violence by Egypt’s military rulers.Skip to next paragraph
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The fighting came in the middle of Egypt’s staggered parliamentary elections, which have progressed relatively smoothly despite street clashes that raged the week before the vote began.
But this weekend's renewed violence, including the documented use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, undermines the Army's narrative that Egypt's democratic transition is on track.
The fighting also shows a disturbing pattern of systematic violence which, coupled with a lack of accountability, has further eroded confidence in the ruling military council to provide stability and leadership at a sensitive time of transition.
'A new red line'
Clashes that started early Friday escalated when the Egyptian Army launched a brutal attack on demonstrators Saturday. Troops swept through the central Cairo street where the protesters had congregated and into nearby Tahrir Square, beating and arresting protesters and onlookers alike.
Photos and video showed soldiers stripping a woman of her shirt and dragging her across the pavement while beating and kicking her. Videos and photos also show soldiers firing handguns at protesters as the soldiers attacked. Ten people were killed in the clashes, at least seven from gunshot wounds.
Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, says the high number of deaths by live ammunition at the hands of the Army, which has been seen as a disciplined organization, is a new and startling development.
“We've seen this kind of shootings by police and Central Security Forces in the past, but most previous violations by military personnel were through excessive violence in the form of beatings or even in Maspero ... running over protesters with armored vehicles," he says, referring to the violent crackdown on mainly Coptic Christian protesters in October. "But this is the first time we have this clear indication that members of the armed forces used live ammunition to gun down protesters.”
“This is yet again another turning point, another red line crossed by the armed forces, who until very recently always claimed to have never pointed a gun at any Egyptian citizen,” he adds.
Nearly half of a civilian advisory council recently appointed by the military leaders resigned over the weekend in protest of the violence. Some have called for early presidential elections to transfer executive power out of the hands of the ruling military council, known as SCAF.
"The SCAF is the biggest threat to Egyptian democracy," says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. "The SCAF is also the biggest threat to Egyptian stability and security."
'They smash the cameras and tell lies about us'
In an apparent effort to keep the news of the crackdown from getting out, Army officers yesterday stormed into apartments and a hotel overlooking Tahrir square from which journalists and citizens had photographed and videoed the violence. The officers confiscated and destroyed cameras, throwing recording equipment used by Al Jazeera English off a balcony.