Egypt’s short-lived experiment with democracy has taken a gruesome turn, culminating in hundreds of deaths and a return to the repressive state of emergency that had gripped the country for 30 years.
And the situation might get worse.
A senior Muslim Brotherhood member said protests “never stopped throughout the night, and we will continue our sit-ins and demonstrations all over the country until democracy and the legitimate rule are restored in Egypt.”
Essam Elerian also said he wasn’t deterred by calls for his arrest.
“They can arrest me and 100 of us, but they can’t arrest every honorable citizen in Egypt,” Elerian told CNN Thursday. “They can’t stop this glorious revolution.”
His words came a day after security forces stormed camps filled with supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy.
At least 421 people were killed and more than 3,500 injured during clashes in the country Wednesday, the health ministry said, according to the state-run EGYNews site.
Those killed include 43 police officers, the interior ministry said.
It was the bloodiest day since the 2011 revolution to oust Morsy’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
A violent backlash on the streets was followed by a return to a repressive state of emergency, evoking Mubarak’s rule. A new world, just like the old world.
Egypt has declared a state of emergency that bars people from gathering without prior permission and lets police jail them indefinitely.
It is the kind of stifling police state that the nation lived through under Mubarak — before he was thrown out of office in a popular uprising in 2011.
More violence, polarization
On Thursday morning, state-run TV reported Morsy backers were attacking police stations, hospitals and government buildings.
Egypt’s new government has refused to back down, criticizing elements of the protest movement and ordering them to leave two spots where they’d been gathering in Cairo for six weeks.
The government has issued a month-long state of emergency. This a loaded term in Egypt, given that Mubarak long ruled under such a decree that barred unauthorized assembly, restricted freedom of speech and let police jail people indefinitely.
Clashes and gunfire broke when security forces raided camps for Morsy supporters Wednesday in Cairo, leaving pools of blood and bodies strewn all over the streets.
Security forces rushed in, bulldozing tents and escorting away hundreds. Some mothers and fathers managed to whisk away their children, gas masks on their faces.
The story of what exactly transpired depends on whom you ask. Who attacked whom? Who opened fire? Who was to blame?
Morsy supporters accused government forces of waging a “full-on assault” on what they said had been peaceful demonstrations calling for his restatement.
The government said it felt compelled to act to ensure stability, praising security forces for their “calm” and claiming some activists intended to undermine the government.
The Muslim Brotherhood vowed to remain defiant despite the attacks, but cleared from the camps where most of their supporters had gathered.
The revolution that led to the ouster of Mubarak, who’d kept a firm grip on power for 30 years, was followed by Egypt’s first democratic elections.
Morsy — a leader of the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood — won the presidency in that 2012 vote, but was forced out by the military last month.
Rather than uniting Egypt after Mubarak’s fall, divisions intensified during his time as president.
Critics accused him of being authoritarian, trying to force the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic agenda and failing to deliver freedom and justice.
Morsy’s backers say the deposed president wasn’t given a fair chance, and his supporters have been unfairly targeted for expressing their opinion.
Though he has not appeared in public since he was taken into custody, his supporters have amassed on the streets nationwide to slam military leaders and demand his reinstatement.
For weeks, the two makeshift Cairo protest camps had become cities unto themselves. Supporters slept in tents, and vendors hawked everything, including haircuts and masks. Children played in inflatable castles and splashed in kiddie pools.
In light of the ongoing violence, the United States is considering canceling next month’s planned biennial military training exercise with Egyptian forces, an official in President Barack Obama’s administration said.
The interim government quickly put together after Morsy’s ouster also got a major setback.
Mohammed ElBaradei — a secular leader who was one of Morsy’s biggest critics before joining the government that replaced him — submitted his resignation Wednesday as vice president saying he didn’t agree with decisions being carried out by the ruling government and “cannot be responsible for a single (drop of) blood.”
A day of violence, bloodshed
Both camps, Nahda, near Cairo University and the larger one near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque — were cleared.
But the larger protest proved trickier. Facing heavy resistance, the military called in special forces.
Bursts of rapid gunfire filled the air, as did wails.
The dead included cameraman Mick Deane, who’d worked for UK-based news channel Sky News for 15 years and for CNN before that. Habiba Abdel Aziz of Gulf News, who was in Egypt on her own time having celebrated the Eid holiday, also died.
And Reuters photojournalist Asmaa Waguih was shot and wounded, and was undergoing treatment in a hospital.
The fighting wasn’t limited to the capital.
Morsy backers reportedly besieged churches in Sohag, setting fire to Saint George’s Church, a tour bus and a police car, state media reported.