Cartoon by Carlos Latuff
On the evening of Sunday October 9th, clashes between protestors and the Egyptian army left at least 36 dead and over 300 injured, according to Egypt’s health ministry.
Earlier Sunday, approximately 200 marched from Shuobra, a large neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, toward downtown Cairo. Although there are variant reports regarding who organized the march, the protest was, in part, a response to an attack against a Coptic church in Aswan, a segment of which was burned down by Muslims who said it lacked the proper license to build a dome. The ensuring exchange over whether proper permission had been granted prior to building the dome culminated when Egypt’s state television, referred to as Maspero, reported that Aswan mayor Mustafa al-Seyyed declared the church had not received a building permit for the dome.
On Sunday night, Coptic Christians and Muslims together marched from Shoubra, denouncing mercurial statements from Egyptian authorities, decrying Maspero’s larger role as a propaganda tool, and calling for the downfall of Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
When the protestors reached the Maspero headquarters around 6:00pm, they were met with brutal force by the Egyptian army. Sarah Carr, a journalist for Al-Masry Al-Youm, reported seeing armored personnel carriers suddenly drive “at a frightening speed through protestors… shooting at random,” brutally killing several protestors.
Around 10:00pm, a curfew was imposed over Tahrir Square and surrounding areas downtown to begin at 2:00am and end at 7:00am on October 10.
Through Twitter, Facebook and email listservs, activists on the ground called for needed blood donations from anyone willing and able to travel to the downtown Coptic hospital where victims were being treated. Adding to the maelstrom, thugs outside the hospital attacked wounded civilians seeking medical aid, as well as potential blood donors attempting to make their way inside, according to eyewitness reports.
Many in Egypt view this protest-turned-violent as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF’s), extension of Mubarak’s tactics: inciting sectarian strife in order to legitimize military rule over a country painted chaotic.
Suspicion was reinforced when interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf criticized the demonstrators the next day. “Instead of advancing to build a modern state of democratic principles,” Sharaf said, “we are back searching for security and stability, worrying that there are hidden hands, both domestic and foreign, seeking to obstruct the will of Egyptians in establishing a democracy.”
With respect to intermittent unrest, such as Sunday’s violence, it’s the “hidden hands” of SCAF’s seditious tactics that threaten stability and self-determination for the Egyptian people.