Current Magazine

The Military and Maspero

Posted on the 18 October 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
The smoky haze created by the social fire called the Maspero tragedy still blankets Egypt.
As I have reported in earlier posts, deadly clashes between the military, unarmed Coptic Christian protesters, and thugs left at least 26 dead, and more than 300 injured last week. The SCAF has promised to form a fact-finding committee. The clashes were some of the worst violence the country has seen since the January 25th Revolution. ("Egypt Army seeks probe into Cairo clashes,", October 11, 2011) 
International rights groups condemned the Maspero violence, including the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Human Rights Watch, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Some have called on the US to withhold military aid to Egypt. Military aid to Egypt may be worth as much as 1.3 billion dollars. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spoke on the phone with Minister of Foreign Affairs Amr Mohamed to offer condolences to the victims of the Maspero violence. ("US rights groups slam Egypt's military for Maspero violence, Al Masry al Youm, October, 12, 2011)
The Egyptian military denied charges that the military used live ammunition on protesters, and also denied that army vehicles crushed demonstrators under their wheels. Members of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces denied at a press conference that soldiers used weapons or force during the protest. (Rana Khazbak, "Military denies use of forces, accuses protesters of armed violence in Maspero, Al Masry Al Youm, October, 12, 2011) However, online videos, as well as credible journalists present at the scene give credence to these allegations. ("Egypt's Army Defends Actions in Protest Crackdown," Al Masry Al Youm, October 12, 2011) General Mahmoud Hegazy, a member of the SCAF asserts that the armed forces "would never and have never opened fire on the people." (Ibid) The Army pins the blame for inciting violence on foreign elements.
Major General Adel Emara claims that tear gas was used for riot control. He claimed that a soldier was driving an armored vehicle to disperse the crowd, when the vehicle was set on fire. He claims the driver was badly injured. (Khazbak,"Military denies use of force") Initial hospital reports show that most victims were killed by gunfire, or by being crushed by military vehicles. Emara accused the protesters of possessing firearms and antagonizing the armed forces. (Ibid.) He showed a video of protesters setting civilian cars on fire, and claimed that the priest was inciting people to violence. He called soldiers involved in the incident "martyrs."
According to a Reuters report on October 11, 2011,  the SCAF is increasingly viewed as a new autocrat, borrowing a page from Mubarak's handbook. Christians and Muslims alike, reports reuters, say that the army's reaction during the Maspero event was as brutal as any of Mubarak's tactics. The Egyptian citizenry is increasingly impatient with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, 75, the leader of the SCAF and a veteran of the 73 war against Israel.
Al Masry Al Youm, Egypt's most respected independent newspaper, condemned the military's actions in the Maspero tragedy. (Al Masry Editorial, "The military has gone too far, Al Masry al youm, October 11, 2011) They state a peaceful protest was met with excessive force by the military and the police. They urge that all those responsible for the violence be held accountable. The paper called for an elected government as soon as possible.
As long as no presidential election is held, reports Reuters, executive power will remain in the hands of the military. Amr Hamzawy, an activist and political force, and also a faculty member in my department at AUC, stated that " the partnership between the authorities, . . . the SCAF, the cabinet, and the citizens, is over. "( "With Clashes, Egyptians Lose Trust in Military Ruler," Al Masry Al Youm, October 11, 2011)
The Muslim Brotherhood blames remnants of the NDP, the party of Mubarak--now disbanded--for the violence in Maspero. MB Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie says that NDP members had threatened to set "Egypt on fire," if they were banned from political activity. He recommended an elected parliament, and an Ombudsman. (DPA, "Brotherhood supreme guide: NDP remnants behind Maspero bloodshed," Al Masry Al Youm, October 12, 2011)

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog