1 Oct 2013

With the Brotherhood in Egypt: from coup to crackdown

Thousands protested after the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi, and hundreds were killed in the crackdown that followed. This is filmmaker Mani’s account of what he saw.

After President Hosni Mubarak was forced to stand down in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood formed Egypt’s first democratically elected government. But in July, this year, the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi and a brutal crackdown that killed hundreds of people followed in August, as the army sought to quell mass protests.

The filmmaker Mani spent weeks with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters at their protest camp in Cairo. When the army moved in on 14 August, he was seized by police, arrested and assaulted in what became the bloodiest day in modern Egypt’s history. Below, he gives his take on the protests, the crackdown and the aftermath.

Clashing with police

On 14 August, I received a call early in the morning from someone at Rabaa Square to say that there was movement from the security forces and that they would very soon storm the place.

I arrived half an hour later and saw the armoured vehicles of the military barring people from getting in from the main streets leading to the square.

I took a backstreet to find a way to get inside. There I witnessed people from the neighbourhood clashing with the police and throwing rocks at them. The police responded with tear gas and live ammunition using automatic rifles.

Polarised society

When I was in Cairo in August, the Muslim Brotherhood obviously expected some kind of confrontation. There had already been peaks of violence in the previous weeks when scores got killed, and the polarisation of the Egyptian society became so high that one could only fear further bloodshed.

But the scale of the violence was totally unexpected. The 14 August storming of the squares and the violence it triggered across the country in days that followed caused hundreds of deaths.

Bleak prospects

The prospects for Egypt are very bleak. Among the liberals and secularists, there are many who want to deny the Islamist movement any role in politics, and either supported a violent crackdown or remained awkwardly silent when it happened.

On the other side, while the Muslim Brotherhood repeatedly rejected violence as a legitimate political means, it has failed to reassure the mainstream society of their real political goals. And more dangerously, it has failed to silence the more extreme among their ranks and among their wider supporters.