London — The violent raids on pro-Morsi sit-ins by Egypt's security forces were strongly condemned at a press conference of the Muslim Brotherhood in London yesterday. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi was accused of heading a "fascist system" that "murdered democracy", and the international community was accused of staying silent whilst crimes against humanity were being committed.
Mona al-Qazzaz, spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, had a personal message for head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. "As a young Egyptian before anything else, I tell General al-Sisi, the leader of the military junta, 'You're backing a dictatorship'. I'm telling him, Sisi, you're getting older, but we will get our democracy back. We will have our dream of a free Egypt back", she said.
At dawn, on August 14, Egypt's security forces attacked the protest camp at Rabaa Square in Cairo's Nasr City. According to Fatima Said of the British Egyptians 4 Democracy organisation, the field hospital at the site was at full capacity with injured protestors and the bodies of their dead comrades after only 30 minutes .
"In ten minutes, ten people were killed. In fifteen minutes, fifteen people were killed...There was a person dying every single minute."
Both Said and al-Qazzaz quoted figures they had received from the spokesperson of the Rabaa field hospital who stated that so far 2,600 deaths had been counted, and there were over 8,000 injured. These numbers are several times higher than the official death toll as confirmed by the Egyptian Ministry of Health which currently stands at 638.
Said also said that there had been reports of the Ministry of Health refusing to release the bodies of those who died during the protests from morgues unless their relatives sign a statement saying the deceased died of natural causes.
Egypt's democracy, too young to fail
Chris Doyle, the director of Caabu, the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, said that Wednesday's violence was both preventable and unnecessary. He feared the disastrous consequences of the deadly raid and suspected that the state of emergency - an infamous strategy used by former president Hosni Mubarak to oppress the Egyptian people - would last significantly longer than the single month it is currently set for.
Doyle remarked that he didn't perceive the current events in Egypt as a failure of democracy. "Whilst there was a democratically elected president, Egypt was not yet a fully formed democracy", he argued. "Democracies take time to mature. They require a free and independent judiciary, responsible media and an independent opposition that understands its role within politics - all of which were still lacking in Egypt's infantile democracy."
Unilateral and excessive violence
In response to inquiries from Think Africa Press about the ongoing civil unrest on the streets with reports of clashes between Morsi's opponents and supporters, attacks on government buildings and the burning of Coptic Churches all over the country, al-Qazzaz responded by saying, "Any reports about violence from our side are not credible. You can hold me accountable for that, you can hold the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for that.
"The Muslim Brotherhood is peaceful, has been peaceful and will always be peaceful", she continued. "Our peacefulness is a strategic and a moral obligation. We condemn any violence against any minorities. We hold the current authorities responsible for any violence."
Al-Qazzaz also said she believes that 80% of the protestors who have been on the streets since the clashes on 8 July at the headquarters of the Republican Guard where it was believed Morsi was being held prisoner are not affiliated with any political party, but instead represent a spontaneous movement. "It is the people who stand together against the military coup, against human rights violations", she said.
Even though she did not intend to justify violence, and in fact condemned the attacks on government buildings, al-Qazzaz said that she does understand where the violence comes from. "The state has led a massacre against its own people, and the people are angry", she said. "All the violence we're seeing on the streets is coming from one side; it's coming from the side of the military junta and its civilian facade."
The state violence in Egypt has been widely condemned. In response to the Egyptian military's use of force against civilians, US President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that joint military exercises planned for next month have been cancelled. The UN Security Council meanwhile met to discuss the crisis and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.
However, there are fears that today will bring more violence as over 45 planned protest marches take place in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for people to take to the streets after Friday Prayers in a "march of anger". Meanwhile the security forces have deployed troops on the streets in Cairo and Alexandria, preventing protestors from entering squares and key intersections.
Joris Leverink is a student of Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development at SOAS, and an editor for the revolutionary online-magazine ROARmag.org. He currently specialises in the history of the Malian political crisis.