Home > Interviews, POLITICS > Who caused violence in Egypt? – Interview

Who caused violence in Egypt? – Interview

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Laaska News Oct. 11,2011
Kudashkina Ekaterina           AUDIO

Photo: EPA    
Interview with Dr. Omar Ashour, Director of the MA Program in Middle East Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.
The situation is quite complicated; this was a protest by both Copts and Muslims over demanding equal citizenship rights for demanding the united law for governing the building of warship places like mosques and churches who are demanding a reaction to one of the churches that was somehow attacked in the south of Egypt, in Upper Egypt. So that was a reaction to mainly continuation of some of the discrimination and repression policies by both Copts and Muslims to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces. And it seems it ended up in a very violent and chaotic situation, we have now 24 Egyptians who are dead, both Muslims and Copts. We have more than 200 injured in various places. There was a severe crackdown, we have seen very disturbing images on YouTube and on other social network websites of armed vehicles, threatening people, threatening protestors, hitting them, very violent situation, there was a soldier who was killed yesterday, there were many civilians who were killed. I think it is a big question mark on what has escalated the situation to that level, why there was that severe and vicious crackdown by the army and central security forces on protestors. The timing is very critical, because today was supposed to be the last day in the emergency law according to another agreement by the SCAF and the political parties, by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the political parties. So there are a lot of question marks and the situation is really unfortunate and highly problematic and sensitive right now.

As far as I understand a spokesman for the army said that there was something like he put it – a hidden hand responsible for the violence; how appropriate, how relevant is that?

It can be always a hidden hand, we cannot just blame the problems of Egypt on these hidden hands or on these evil secret forces that are playing in the background. I think this is unacceptable. There are very clear conditions and causes for what happened yesterday. We believe in transparency, this is a post-revolution Egypt, this is not Mubarak Egypt anymore. There has to be clear transparency and responsibility for the ones who escalated the situation, 24 people were not killed by hidden hands, they were killed by bullets, somebody fired these bullets and somebody gave whoever fired the bullets an order to fire the bullets, because that is a hierarchy, and I think there should be a very clear process of holding whoever killed yesterday, whoever injured yesterday, whoever threatened protestors with armed vehicles yesterday, has to be held accountable.

You said that there were certain very specific causes that actually brought on the situation like this. Could we expand a little bit on those causes?

There is a very frustrating sense in Egypt now, a very frustrating feeling that the revolution didn’t move ahead and solve the economic problems, the social problems, the political problems in Egypt, there is a very strong feeling that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is unwilling to continue with the democratization process in Egypt. Various fractions and parties in the Egyptian society are quite frustrated with that, among them obviously various Coptic communities in Egypt who are thinking that they supported this revolution to get equal citizenship rights; various Muslim communities who thought they supported the revolution for a better, fair, and a more democratic and more transparent Egypt. They didn’t see this develop, anyway under the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces, the SCAF. And I think that this sense of frustration, on the one hand, and this sense of incompetence, on the other hand, by the Supreme Council, is what is really causing, this is the general picture of what is really causing the tensions and the violent clashes in Egypt. But also on the microlevel, what happened in Upper Egypt a few days ago has a direct cause, because it led to the protests in Cairo and it led to the protests elsewhere, and it is not a sectarian or religious protest. I have friends, who are Muslims, and they were in the demonstration yesterday, and two of them were injured. I have friends who are Copts and they were in the demonstration yesterday. It was a demonstration for equal citizenship, for a freer Egypt, and for the freedom of warship and freedom of religion equality in Egypt, and it ended up by a severe crackdown by the military, unfortunately.

What you are saying is extremely important, because as I was scanning the papers including the English language Egyptian papers, I got an impression that the media is trying to present this violence as sectarian violence, and of course what you are saying now is key. But why would someone want to present it as plainly sectarian violence, is that just because that actually removes the attention from the real problems – it is not exactly the government but anyway – the forces who are now at the helm of the country are experiencing – or is my impression wrong?

I think that this is to a large degree right. Unfortunately the state media, the state controlled TV is now reverting to the old ways of Mubarak, putting anything as if it were sectarian, and solving these divisions in the Egyptian society. It kept on saying the Coptic protestors, it kept on showing the soldiers who were injured, two of them were injured kept on repeating, the focus on them, the camera focused on them, and they are saying: Oh, they were holding the cross, and they beat us, and we were trying to protect them. I mean – who would try to attack a soldier when he is trying to protect you, you are attacking a soldier when he is firing at you. One of the Egyptian TV broadcasters comes out and says – now the army is calling for the people to protect it, I mean – the army has arms…It is just the way to say: ok, this is a Coptic demonstration and calling for the majority of the Egyptian people, who are Muslims, to come and protect their Muslim army. So this is a way to broadcast on the national TV, it is just quite appalling on the one side, and I don’t know what is the strategy, because obviously if the strategy is divide and conquer to solve these divisions within the Egyptian society so that you can control it, whoever is at the helm of the power, so that he can control it, I think this is a very  reverting  back to the Mubarak days, to the old days of Mubarak, and I think it didn’t work for Mubarak, it ended up putting Mubarak in trial in the end, and I don’t think it will work in the aftermath of Mubarak as well.
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