- Life Style
A day after Egypt’s military rulers provided their account of this week’s deadly clashes between soldiers and mostly Christian protesters, activists responded with an opposing narrative that accused the army of committing brutalities hitherto unseen under former President Hosni Mubarak.
Armed with videos of the clashes, human rights activists, lawyers and victims’ families who witnessed the incident told their side of the story on Thursday at a news conference. The clashes, which happened on Sunday, left at least 26 killed and more than 300 injured.
“The performance of the military, which always took pride in never firing a bullet at the revolutionaries, surpassed that of Mubarak’s mercenaries. It shed the blood of Egyptians in cold blood and with the cruelest of means, even throwing dead bodies in the Nile in an attempt to cover up their crimes,” read a statement signed by at least 12 political parties and youth groups and distributed to local and foreign media at the conference.
On the stage, Mary Daniel, sister of Mina Daniel, who was killed on Sunday, sat in her mourning black to describe what happened in the Coptic-led march which began in Shubra and ended in tragedy once demonstrators reached the Maspero area in downtown Cairo.
“I was with Mina,” said Daniel. “We marched from Shubra until we reached Maspero. It was a long distance. If we had been armed, people would have resisted us from the beginning. We were peaceful.”
After reaching Maspero, “We saw an influx of armored vehicles, bullets, tear gas bombs and stones,” said Daniel. “The scene was horrible. Even if we were in the middle of a war, things would not have been like that.”
With pain in her voice, Daniel lamented her younger brother, saying, “I wish he were killed by the enemies but he was actually killed by Egyptian bullets. When will Egypt stop sucking the blood of its own children?”
On Sunday afternoon, clashes erupted between the military and the police and thousands of demonstrators, mostly Copts. The rally was held in protest against sectarian discrimination after a group of Muslims attacked a church in a village located in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Aswan.
Tear gas and live ammunition were deployed to disperse the crowd and armored vehicles were seen running over protesters.
Meanwhile, the state-owned TV channels reported that armed Copts attacked the military. An anchor had reportedly called on people to defend the army, a plea that is believed to have incited scores of Muslims to attack Copts. So far, 25 suspects have been identified. They are being interrogated by the military prosecutor.
Thursday’s testimonies challenged claims made by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces at a Wednesday press conference. For almost an hour and a half, Major General Adel Emara, assistant defense minister, denied allegations that the military police had used force, deployed live ammunition or drove armored vehicles over protesters.
Emara insisted that military personnel had exercised the highest level of self-restraint while under attack from protesters. Emara also denied that there was any evidence the military killed the victims, adding, "Did the armed forces kill them? No they did not, for sure." In order to prove the protesters were at fault for the clashes, the military showed videos of protesters beating military personnel.
The military’s narrative has elicited a stir of outrage among politicians and activists who either eye witnessed the incident themselves or saw online videos of the events, including depictions of bloodied heads contorted under the weight of army vehicles. These videos were re-shown at Thursday’s press conference as a rebuttal to the SCAF’s account.
“I did not see any protester attacking the police. Maybe later they reacted and attacked [the police],” said Tamer Al-Mihi, who was at the protest. “I didn’t even see any protester provoking the military.”
Mihi added that he had seen military personnel coming out of armored vehicles to shoot at protesters. “I don’t know whether these were live bullets… I participated in protests on 28 January and we were not faced with the same level of brutality,” said al-Mihi, a member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, referring to the day during the uprising when protesters battled police and Central Security Forces and hundreds of people were killed.
“What I saw could be described as arbitrary killing,” Mihi concluded.
Earlier, Magda Adly, an anesthesiologist and an activist with El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, who attended the autopsy of eight bodies, gave a detailed description of the wounds.
Two victims were killed by bullets that tore through their internal organs, including their liver, kidneys, lungs and spleen, she said. Given the level of damage inflicted, Adly held that the victims must have been killed by professional shooters.
The remaining six bodies were all run over, said Adly. “The wounds must have been caused by a heavy vehicle. Ordinary cars don’t cause that level of damage. They don’t crush front and back ribs, as was the case with the victims,” Adly said.
Her account was supported by Khaled Ali, a lawyer and human rights advocate who was also present at the hospital where most of the bodies were transferred. “The scene inside the morgue was horrific. The corpses were like folded metal sheets thrown on the floor…” Ali said.
He described the incident as “a massacre where the army used all its tools, including the media, the street, weapons and armored vehicles in its fight for power.”
He thought the case should be investigated by an independent commission rather than the military prosecutor to ensure transparency and fairness. “Every crime that the army and the SCAF commit against us goes to the military prosecutor, and then we don’t hear anything about it,” he said.
Those who held the conference also demanded that Military Police Commander Hamdy Badeen, Information Minister Osama Heikal and Aswan Governor Mostafa al-Sayyed be put on trial. They also demanded that the state-owned media be freed from government control and that Egypt’s rulers accede to the Coptic minority’s “just demands.”