In the second part of an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm published Sunday, Defense Minister Colonel General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke about about the movements behind the scenes of the protests on June 30, adding detail to his narrative of the events that rocked Egypt this summer.
The first part was published Monday.
In the latest installment Sisi said that on June 25 he spoke with Khairat al-Shater, the deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood and its chief strategist. Shater, according to Sisi, said that if then President Mohamed Morsi stepped down it would be impossible to control militant groups in the Sinai and violence would erupt.
“Those words made me really frustrated,” Sisi said. “I told him you’ll either rule us or kill us. After he saw me become angry, I recognized that he got the message about our stance towards the whole situation.”
Five days later, mass protests erupted, but how massive they were became a point of debate between Morsi and Sisi.
“We expected that between 4 and 6 million people would take to streets on June 30, but eventually at least 14 million were there,” Sisi told Al-Masry Al-Youm’s editor-in-chief Yasser Rizk. “Other unofficial reports said that about 33 million participated.”
Morsi reportedly insisted that only 120,000 people came out to call for his ouster.
Sisi, 58, invoked Egyptians’ agency when speaking about the protests. “People took to streets on that day as they moved from a bad status to a better one.”
“All people participated, ordinary, youth, elites and families. They hoped to see the desired new reality,” he told the privately owned daily.
Many of those that Sisi referenced returned to their homes by July 3, leaving only supporters of the former president in the streets, at two sit-ins in Rabea and Nahda squares. Soon though, the decision was made to clear the sit-ins. While the Cabinet released a statement shortly after Ramadan ended saying they would clear the protest camps, Sisi challenged the conventional wisdom on the topic.
“We gave them 48 days, not 48 hours, and we took the decision to disperse those sit-ins after we got confirmation that there was weapons inside them. In the end the decision came from a judicial order,” he said.
He also asked for a popular mandate to use force against “terrorism,” which many understood to be the Brotherhood, by asking protestors to come out on July 26, “The Friday of Authorization,” to prove that Morsi’s ouster was a not a coup.
Sisi said that the state allowed plenty of time for discussions to reach a political agreement over the crisis, while also respecting the holy month of Ramadan by not aiming to clear the sit-in during that time.
Hundreds were killed in the clearance on August 14.
A third part of the interview will be published Wednesday.