Clashes erupted on Sunday between Christians protesting a recent attack on a church in Cairo and the Egyptian military junta, leaving at least 19 people dead and more than 180 injured. By KHADIJA PATEL.
At the height of the pro-democracy demonstrations that gripped Egypt in January this year, deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, “If I resign today, there will be chaos". Eight months after Mubarak’s fall from grace, Egypt appears to be descending further into the throes of such chaos.
The state of emergency that was lifted by the interim military government after the fall of Mubarak was again reinstated last month following the storming of the Israeli embassy. As the military junta continues to battle to quell demonstrations against Egyptian relations with Israel, it has also faced a torrent of restlessness against its rule. For many Egyptians, the fall of Mubarak remains symbolic until the remaining vestiges of his regime, exemplified in head of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, are removed. The military government has not endeared itself to the Egyptian people by forcefully ending demonstrations and prosecuting civilians in military courts. The military appears to seek a return to an elusive stability in the country and the Egyptian streets appear to want their revolution to continue unhindered.
On Sunday protesters were infuriated after security forces are reported to have fired live ammunition at Coptic Christian demonstrators who were holding a peaceful march from the Shubra district of northern Cairo to the State TV building in Maspero Square in the city. The Coptic Christians, who are said to have been joined by some Muslim activists, were protesting against rising incidences of persecution against the minority population.
The state’s version of events claims Coptic protesters may have snatched weapons from soldiers and turned them on the military. The protesters are said to have pelted the soldiers with rocks and bottles. Protesters however vociferously deny any instance of attacks against the military and claim that gunfire erupted unprovoked.
As reports begin to detail the severity of the fatalities endured by the protesters, the Egyptian military has reportedly shut down independent television stations that have charged the military for attacking the protesters without provocation or cause. Overnight, thousands of people thronged to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir square to protest against the military. State television however has continued to lay the blame for the attacks squarely with the Coptic protesters.
It is clear that Sunday’s clashes were not clashes between minority Christians and majority Muslims but in the haze of violence sectarian, tensions have been exacerbated.
Whether provoked or not, the military will struggle to excuse the force used against the protesters and in the meanwhile, Mubarak will be proved right. Egypt is indeed descending into chaos. DM
- Riots Over Church Attack in Egypt Kill 19 in The New York Times;
- Deadly Cairo clashes over Coptic protest in Al Jazeera.