Yesterday, October 6, 2013, was ‘Army Day’ in Egypt, a day of national holiday and celebration. Opponents of the July 3, 2013 military coup d’etat seized the occasion to mount protests across the country against the loss of democracy and civil rights. Egypt’s military responded with another display of carnage and brutality. At least 50 people are reported killed by police and military. Hundreds of protesters were arrested and jailed. Two news reports are enclosed, the first of which provides shocking detail of the military and police violence.
In Canada, rallies to protest the coup took place in Toronto on October 5 and Vancouver on October 6.
The military regime in Egypt used the occasion yesterday to release two Canadians from prison, where they have sat for the past seven weeks. But Dr. Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson are not allowed to leave the country. They are still threatened with trumped up charges that stem from their eyewitness accounts of the terrible massacre by the army in Cairo on August 16.
More background on yesterday’s Army Day protests is contained in a report published last week in Counterpunch and reproduced on ‘A Socialist in Canada’ along with background information.
Egypt clashes leave dozens dead on war anniversary
By Amina Ismail, McClatchy News, in Toronto Star, Oct 7, 2013
CAIRO–A day set aside to celebrate the Egyptian military turned into scenes of bloody violence Sunday as Egyptian security forces opened fire on demonstrators sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood in a sign of how the once-powerful group has become the target of official repression. The Health Ministry announced that at least 44 people were dead, but the toll had changed throughout the night and was expected to go higher.
At least 32 of the deaths took place in Cairo and the adjoining city of Giza, where 246 people were injured. Deaths were also announced in the cities of Beni Suef and Minya. The ministry did not say where eight of the deaths had occurred.
The Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police and security forces, said that 423 people had been arrested in Cairo and Giza and it blamed the violence on Brotherhood supporters attempting to crash promilitary rallies called to mark the 40th anniversary of the start of Egypt’s last war with Israel. The military-backed government had warned in a statement from Ahmed El-Mosalamani, the presidential spokesman, that anyone protesting against the military on Sunday would be considered an “agent” conspiring against the state.
But it was an open question whether the Brotherhood demonstrators had done anything to provoke the attacks. Earlier on Sunday, two McClatchy reporters witnessed police openly beating Brotherhood demonstrators, without provocation, not far from the main pro-military rally in Tahrir Square in central Cairo. The two reporters, who had left the pro-military demonstration to cover the Brotherhood protest, were pounced on by security officers, who struck one on the neck with a night stick, stole both reporters’ cellphones and camera, and threatened to haul one away.
The abuse ended only after the reporters proved they’d been at the pro-military rally by producing a poster of Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, the military head who engineered the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in July.
There was no sign of Brotherhood provocation. The beatings took place well away from the crowds that were celebrating the military, and McClatchy reporters witnessed police officers throwing rocks at the protesters. Some protesters jumped into the Nile River to take refuge.
Residents nearby also played a role, refusing to give Brotherhood sympathizers shelter as they sought to flee the security forces’ onslaught.
When police spotted the reporters watching what was taking place, a police officer struck a male McClatchy reporter in the back of his neck and stole his phone from his pocket. He then stole the phone and camera of a second correspondent. “Screw your mother,” the officer told the reporters.
The beatings apparently had the approval of higher-ups. Near Tahrir Square, two officers appeared with broken night sticks. Their commander asked what happened. “We beat Brotherhood,” the officers responded.
The gunfire took place elsewhere, apparently as Brotherhood protesters assembled to march toward Tahrir Square from Cairo’s Garden City district and Giza’s Dokki district. Police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse the marchers, then opened up with live ammunition.
An Associated Press photographer reported that he had seen at least nine bodies on the floor of a clinic in Dokki. All had been shot in the head. The deaths recalled several other Brotherhood demonstrations where protesters were killed, overwhelmingly by gunshots to the head and chest. In the most notorious incident, security forces stormed a sit-in that had been set up to protest Morsi’s ouster. More than 1,000 people may have died in that attack.
The deaths of Brotherhood supporters stood in sharp contrast to the scene inside Tahrir Square, where tens of thousands gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the1973 war, which ended in Egyptian defeat but is hailed here for having led to Israel’s agreement to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control.
At least a dozen tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed at the entrances to the square, the iconic plaza where pro-democracy demonstrations nearly three years ago drove Hosni Mubarak from the presidency. Smiling and laughing, thousands passed through checkpoints with metal detectors to demonstrate their support for the military, whose toppling of Morsi ended the administration of Egypt’s first democratically elected president.
If the crowd found the location ironic, that realization didn’t dampen their enthusiasm, as the ululating trills of women and the boisterous cheers of men celebrated the return of military rule. Military helicopters flew overhead and a military band kept the crowds entertained.
Hundreds injured in protest crackdown in Egypt
By Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal, in The Globe and Mail, Oct 7, 2013
Clashes between protesters and security forces in Egypt on Sunday left at least 42 people dead and more than 246 injured, the health ministry said, as supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi continued to press for his reinstatement despite a months-long crackdown on their ranks. The pro-Morsi rallies amounted to some of the largest since he was ousted more than three months ago, demonstrating his supporters’ resilience even after security forces arrested thousands of Muslim Brotherhood leaders nationwide.
On Sunday, police fired tear gas and bird shot at throngs of Mr. Morsi’s mostly Islamist backers who had organized counterprotests to pro-military celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of Egypt’s first successful offensive against Israel during the Yom Kippur War, police and witnesses said.
Activists from Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood said the police used live ammunition to subdue the pro-Morsi crowds – a claim that couldn’t be independently confirmed and that Egypt’s Ministry of Interior denied.
The anniversary of the war, which Egyptians and many Arabs refer to as the October War, arrives at a uniquely charged moment more than three months after the military ousted Mr. Morsi at the behest of tens of millions of protesters.
The military, and the civilian government it ushered into power, for months have taken pains to draw equivalencies between their fight against Mr. Morsi and his once-ruling Islamist supporters and a military strike that many Egyptians consider a rare victory over the neighbouring Jewish state.
In fact, the war ended in a United Nations-negotiated truce after both sides suffered heavy casualties. But Israel’s eventual land concessions in the Sinai gave former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat the political capital he needed to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979 that remains a bedrock of regional stability.
But even as Sunday’s organized celebrations sought to project an image of national unity, the divisions that have cleaved Egyptian society were obvious on the streets of Cairo.
The violent riots that stretched across swaths of Egypt’s capital contrasted with the lively pro-military rallies that filled city squares only blocks away with flag-waving families singing patriotic songs and watching traditional Egyptian folk dances.
As night fell on downtown Cairo, the dull thud of tear-gas shotguns seemed to merge with the blast of celebratory fireworks.
With its rigid hierarchy nearly broken by thousands of arrests that have yet to yield any trials, Brotherhood activists said they relied on social-networking sites to identify rallying points – a tactic used by the largely leaderless protest movement that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
“It is not a hierarchical system. No one is leading – it’s all made by the anti-coup coalition against the coup,” said Yasser Al Fakharany, who described himself as an “anti-coup activist.”
Mr. Fakharany said police used live ammunition on Sunday afternoon to push back proMorsi protesters as they approached a bridge connecting Cairo’s western suburbs with Tahrir Square, the focal point of Sunday’s anniversary celebrations.
Hani Abdellatif, a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, the agency that oversees the police, denied police had used live ammunition. He said police intervened to prevent pro-Morsi protesters from attacking shops and local residents in several Cairo neighbourhoods.
“Of course live ammunition wasn’t used and this is a fabrication of events,” he said.
And from another Globe and Mail report on Oct 7:
Further confrontations may shake Egypt this week. An alliance that includes Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has urged Egyptians to stage more protests against the army takeover from Tuesday and gather on Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday.