While a few small marches were reported in Cairo, Giza and Alexandria on Friday, no large-scale protests or associated security crackdowns took place on the second anniversary of the forced dispersal of the sit-ins at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square.
Over the past week, the Interior Ministry has issued stern warnings against any street protests commemorating the hundreds of civilian demonstrators who lost their lives at the protest camps, threatening arrests and the use of force against potential demonstrators.
Although 24 months have elapsed since Egypt witnessed the bloodiest security crackdown in its modern history, the exact number of fatalities and injuries associated with this crackdown still remain a source of controversy.
The state-appointed National Council for Human Rights claims that some 632 civilians and eight security personnel were killed in the dispersal of both sit-ins. But local and international human rights organizations have put that number at anywhere from 800 to more than 1,000.
The Rabaa Story Foundation, a non-profit activist group with unclear links to the Muslim Brotherhood, reported that at least 1,110 protesters were killed within the span of 10 hours on August 14, 2013. The foundation staged a “die-in” protest at London’s Trafalgar Square on Wednesday in commemoration of the protesters who lost their lives at Rabea.
Statements issued over the past two days by the International Commission of Jurists, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reiterated demands for a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the bloody crackdown. These rights organizations also called for legal accountability for the security forces and officials responsible for excessive force and acts of brutality.
HRW’s latest statement on Friday said that though two years have passed, no criminal investigations have yet been carried out against any Egyptian security officials involved in these forced dispersals, and furthermore, the victims and their families have not received any form of redress from the state.
The group then rebuked Egypt’s foreign allies for failing to push for justice, stating, “Washington and Europe have gone back to business with a government that celebrates rather than investigates what may have been the worst single-day killing of protesters in modern history.”
In a 188-page report published last year, HRW placed the killings on par with China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.
Ahead of the second anniversary, several local media platforms launched a concerted offensive against the Brotherhood, and against sympathetic commemorations of the Rabea and Nahda dispersals.
Hours before the anniversary of the dispersal, Al-Wafd, the mouthpiece of the Wafd Party, described the Islamist sit-in under the headline: “Weapons, fornication and delusions of legitimacy.” Describing the Brotherhood as a “plague,” Al-Wafd called the protest camp an “armed congregation disguising itself as peaceful sit-in protest,” adding that Brotherhood leaders promoted and practiced “sexual jihad” amongst the ranks of female protesters.
On the privately-owned Sada al-Balad Channel, TV anchor Ahmed Moussa called for wiping away the memory of Rabea, and declared that the forced dispersal of these Islamist protests was “a victory for Egyptians.” The controversial TV host also claimed that Brotherhood members transported corpses from other governorates to Cairo morgues in order to inflate the body count.
In a similar vein, while speaking on the privately owned ONtv satellite channel, anchor Youssef Husseini called on authorities to rename Rabea al-Adaweya Mosque the “Mohamed Mabrouk Mosque,” in honor of the National Security officer who was shot dead in the vicinity.
The mosque has remained closed to all visitors over the past two years, while police forces maintain a round-the-clock presence at its doors. After the dispersal, a G-shaped marble memorial monument was erected outside the mosque, reportedly to commemorate those members of the security forces who died while dispersing the sit-in protest there.
And while the mosque has retained its original name, authorities have indeed moved to rename Rabea Square as “Hesham Barakat Square” in commemoration of the former general prosecutor who assassinated by Islamist militants on June 29.
On Friday, the state-owned Al-Ahram new site and the privately owned newspapers Al-Watan, Youm7 and Al-Wafd all celebrated the renaming.
On the other hand, the Rabaa Story Foundation and the English-language Ikwhanweb social media platforms have called on Egyptians and the international community to keep the memory of August 14, 2013 alive. The groups promoted the use of the hashtag #RememberRabaa on social networking sites.
However, the site doesn’t mention the lives of the eight security personnel allegedly killed by gunmen from within the protest site. Nor does it advocate remembering the churches and Christian properties torched in the wake of the dispersal by Brotherhood members and supporters in several governorates.
Hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and members are currently implicated in court cases in which they face charges of responsibility for the violence at the sit-ins. These defendants are facing harsh prison sentences, and many have already been sentenced to life imprisonment or death.