Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Maspero Massacre

Today, Egypt's military government killed at least 19 Coptic demonstrators in Cairo:
"Nineteen people were killed in Cairo Sunday when Christians, some carrying crosses and pictures of Jesus, clashed with military police, medical and security sources said, in the latest sectarian flare-up in a country in political turmoil.

"Christians protesting against an attack on a church threw rocks and petrol bombs and set cars on fire, as thick smoke wafted through the streets in some of the most violent scenes since an uprising ousted ex-President Hosni Mubarak in February.

"Hundreds from both sides fought with sticks on a Cairo bridge. Protests later spread to the central Tahrir Square, the focal point of the February uprising. Witnesses said the army had moved into the area...

"'We were marching peacefully,' Talaat Youssef, 23-year old Christian trader told Reuters at the scene.

"'When we got to the state television building, the army started firing live ammunition,' he said, adding army vehicles ran over protesters, killing five. His account could not be immediately confirmed."

My attention was drawn to this my Twitter feed, where people like al-Jazeera English journalist Nadia Abu al-Magd state unequivocally that security forces responded with lethal force to a peaceful demonstration, despite what is on official state media. Hossam el-Hamalawy, one of the organizers of Egypt's leftist opposition, is blunt, and includes video clips:
"The army and police committed a horrible massacre against peaceful protesters today in Maspero, Cairo. Army vehicles ran over protesters. Live ammunition was used. Extensive rounds of tear gas were fired, and showers of beatings from the military police and the central security forces. At least 19 people have been killed, and more than 150 injured. The toll keeps increasing.

"The Army also stormed Al-Hurra TV station and 25 January TV stations, and took them off air. The Egyptian state run TV is inciting the public against the 'Coptic protesters' and even called on the citizens to take to the streets to 'protect the army'!! SCAF is trying to instigate a sectarian civil war."

Despite the lazy sectarian framing of the Reuters excerpt above, this is not sectarian violence, but violence of the regime against its citizens and an ongoing quest to use the threat of instability to preserve its own power. What's more, it has a lesson for those who argue that current regimes are good for religious minorities: Dictators make fickle friends.

UPDATE: Issandr el-Amrani is worried.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



Blogger Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

Brian, is it yet clear if Christians started the fight or if the military did?

11:57 AM  
Blogger Brian Ulrich said...

I have found no eyewitness account saying anything but the military fired on peaceful protestors.

12:11 PM  

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