Turmoil in Egypt resurfaces

Egyptian residents pass political graffiti of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi

Egyptian residents pass political graffiti of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi /Source: abc.net

Political protests result in violence, and human rights abuses against women

Article: Rikkeal Bohmann – News Writer

Protests in Egypt have violently escalated as recent clashes between pro and anti Morsi supporters have resulted in 83 deaths. These clashes are only part of the dramatic events that have unfolded since ex-President Hosni Mubarak stepped down after protests calling for democracy erupted across Egypt in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring.

On Jun. 30, 2012, Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president, receiving 51.7 per cent of the vote. Since then, Morsi became a controversial figure with various events that quickly unfolded during his first few months of power. On Nov. 22 of his first year in office, Morsi declared greater powers for himself – he would have immunity from judicial review and the courts would be barred from dissolving the constituent assembly, the group in charge of drafting and creating the constitution, and the upper house of parliament, which had a large Islamist population.  On Dec. 4, over 100,000 Egyptians had marched on the Presidential Palace demanding cancellation of the soon to come referendum which would decide the fate of the new constitution.

The next day, Islamists attacked an anti-Morsi sit in. A few weeks later, the two-round referendum came to a close, where the low voter turn out gave 68.3 per cent favour for the new constitution. A few days after the referendum ended, the Egyptian Central Bank stated that the foreign reserves have fallen to a “critical minimum”. Many Egyptians were angered by the economic plummet Egypt faced.

On Jan. 25, 2013, the second year anniversary of the start of the revolt against Mubarak, hundreds of thousands protested President Morsi being in power. Clashes began to take place between the anti and pro-Morsi supporters all around Egypt.

Fast forward to Jun. 30, when millions of Egyptians came together with the message of wanting to see President Morsi out of office. Eight people were killed that day during clashes outside of the Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters in Cairo.

As the protests continued into the next day, the Egyptian military gave Morsi and his opposition an ultimatum to either resolve their disagreements or the military would fix the situation for them. A day later, military officials stated that three things will happen if no conclusion was made: Morsi would be forced out, and replaced with an interim administration; the Islamist based constitution would be stopped from proceeding; and new elections would be called within a year. Morsi made a late night speech that same day pledging to defend his legitimacy and vowed to not step down.

On Jul. 3, a military coup had taken place. The Egyptian Military Chief announced that Morsi had been replaced by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Mansour Adly, until a presidential election could be called. No time frame for elections has been given yet though.

That same day, a darker revelation was brought to light by the Human Rights Watch(HRW). During only four days of protests, beginning Jun. 30, 91 rapes and sexual assaults had occurred in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Surgical intervention was needed for some women. “The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW.  Figures came from the Egyptian Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault and Nazra for Feminist Studies. The violence women are facing in Egypt during protests holds them back from participating in everyday life activities.

After only been sworn in the day before, on Jul. 5, Adly dissolved the Upper House of Parliament, while at the same time, Morsi supporters had huge protests calling for his return. At this point, at least 30 had died in the clashes between anti and pro-Morsi supporters where clashes had occurred in Cairo and Alexandria.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who were accused of trying to gain a monopoly of power during Morsi’s rule and who had also supported Morsi, are now claiming that those who support them are being killed mercilessly by troops, police or thugs who are supported by the current interim administration, who control the police. Social networking websites have made it clear through videos and witnesses that those who support Morsi use rocks, firebombs and firearms against their opposition, who behave similarly.

As of Jul. 28, 83 people have died in the conflict between the two opposing sides in Egypt. That weekend was when the worst of the violence so far had occurred.

On that Saturday, police and armed men in civilian clothes opened fire on Morsi supporters as they sought to expand their sit-in camp by moving to a nearby main boulevard. Many civilians, sometimes armed, often join the police to demonstrations. These civilians often appear as plainclothes police to outsiders.

Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed el-Beltagy called for international intervention at a Cairo sit-in stating, “We want intervention by the international organizations… to rescue our people. We urge Egyptian people to come to our rescue… the people are slaughtered like sheep.” El-Beltagy has an arrest warrant on him for inciting violence currently. Authorities have admitted to the large majority of those killed in Cairo were those protesting for Morsi’s return, but added that some police were also wounded.

The international community urges both sides to reach peace. The United States and the Arab League both would like to see an investigation on the violence going on in Cairo and Alexandria. The United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said in a statement, ““The Secretary-General appeals to all the people of Egypt to address their differences through dialogue and again renews his calls to all parties to engage in an inclusive and meaningful reconciliation process.”

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