Ten years in the past, tons of of individuals, largely civilians, had been killed when Egyptian forces violently dispersed a sit-in protest by supporters of the just lately ousted Islamist president. The crackdown on followers of Mohammed Morsi was one of many bloodiest incidents of its form, and one among Egypt’s darkest moments. As BBC Arabic’s Sally Nabil studies from Cairo, reminiscences of that day are nonetheless uncooked.
“I want I used to be by no means alive at this time,” says Amr, who took half within the sit-in that lasted for almost 50 days, in Rabaa al-Adawiya Sq., within the east of the capital.
Amr was solely 20 years outdated when he noticed “bulldozers crushing tents, and sweeping no matter got here of their approach”.
“Humanity was killed in Egypt on that day,” he says.
Amr was arrested just a few months after Rabaa, accused of damaging public property and disrupting public order amongst different issues. He spent almost 5 years in jail, earlier than fleeing Egypt in late 2018 and settling within the UK.
He says he took half within the sit-in as a result of he feared his nation would find yourself within the arms of the military generals.
The violent dispersal of the sit-in at Rabaa and of one other one at Nahda Sq. on the identical day weren’t solely unprecedented tragedies in Egypt’s latest historical past, however had been additionally gamechangers that reshaped the way forward for the Arab world’s most populous nation.
When Mohammed Morsi, a number one determine within the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, was elected in 2012, he was the primary civilian to make it to the presidential palace, and by way of a democratic course of. It was a unprecedented triumph for his supporters.
One 12 months later although, anti-Morsi protestors took to the streets demanding his resignation. They accused him of following an Islamist agenda and failing to be president for all Egyptians. The military, a dominant political participant over the previous 70 years, was watching.
Following the protests, the Minister of Defence, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, eliminated Mr Morsi from energy, bringing an abrupt finish to the short-lived civilian rule. Mr Sisi himself was elected president a 12 months later and has held the put up ever since.
‘Our bodies all over the place’
The Egyptian authorities have at all times claimed they repeatedly known as on the Muslim Brotherhood leaders to finish what they known as an “unlawful” sit-in, however that they had been ignored. The state noticed Rabaa al-Adawiya sq. as a rebellious zone that needed to be handled.
It by no means occurred to Amr that reside ammunition could be used. He thought police forces would resort to a lot softer ways like water canon and even tear fuel. He mentioned he couldn’t consider how so many lives had been misplaced due to political divisions.
“Lifeless our bodies had been all over the place,” he recollects. “We could not hold depend. We could not assist each other.”
His respiration grows heavy as he provides his account of the day.
“A protracted queue of civilians, together with ladies and youngsters, had been elevating up their arms, and leaving the sit-in, once they had been shot lifeless by snipers. I noticed them with my very own eyes.”
The authorities mentioned they opened secure corridors for individuals to depart, earlier than they despatched in troops. However in a report, revealed one 12 months after the dispersal, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said security forces “besieged demonstrators for most of the day, attacking from every of the 5 primary entrances to the sq. and leaving no secure exit till the top of the day.”
Egypt says greater than 600 individuals, largely civilians, had been killed. Nonetheless, different counts made by the Muslim Brotherhood, now banned in Egypt, converse of greater than 1,000. HRW mentioned at the very least 817 individuals misplaced their lives.
The vast majority of casualties got here from the Muslim Brotherhood camp, however some policemen had been additionally killed. Violence continued for days after the dispersal.
‘The dwelling martyr’
The mom of a type of officers nonetheless feels the ache of the lack of her son.
Mustafa, says his mom, Wafaa, emerged from the chaos of 14 August unscathed. Two days later, he was shot thrice in a gun battle as he was heading to a police station in southern Cairo.
Mustafa was in his 20s when he died in 2016, after being in a coma for 3 years. Throughout this time, Wafaa by no means left his bedside within the intensive care unit.
“Individuals who knew him known as him the dwelling martyr”, she says.
She controls her tears as she talks to me about her eldest and closest son.
“We have been devastated, every part is tasteless with out him, we aren’t alive.”
There may be not a single wall within the household’s home that doesn’t have Mustafa’s picture hanging on it. Wafaa tries to seek out some solace in her eldest grandson, who was named after his late uncle.
Since Mustafa died, his mother and father have suffered unwell well being, which they blame on their grief.
After I ask Wafaa in regards to the Muslim Brotherhood’s declare that the protests had been peaceable, she is blunt in her response.
“They’re a bunch of liars,” she says angrily.
Human Rights Watch mentioned the killing in Rabaa “not solely constituted severe violations of worldwide human rights legislation, however possible amounted to crimes towards humanity”.
The Egyptian authorities have denied all these prices vehemently. The Ministry of Inside mentioned members within the Rabaa sit-in had been armed and posed a severe menace to legislation and order.
“Up until at this time, once I hear police sirens or a helicopter hovering, I can hardly breathe. I immediately bear in mind,” says Amr, who was arrested just a few months after the sit-in and spent about 5 years in jail.
He says his complete household have been going via trauma since 2013. His youthful brother, who has an amputated leg, continues to be behind bars, accused of belonging to a terrorist group, and his late father was additionally locked up for a few years, accused of protesting with out permission.
“Even when I’ve an opportunity to return to Egypt, the life I as soon as had is gone,” he says.