Finally Egyptian forces moved on Wednesday with armored vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters to clear the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo with the result of a fierce violence that killed hundreds. The Health Ministry said there were 600 dead, among them 43 police officers.
Two reporters are among the dead: Mick Deane, a cameraman for the UK-based Sky News channel, and Habiba Abd Elaziz, a reporter for the UAE-based Xpress newspaper. The Muslim Brotherhood says the number of dead and wounded among the protesters is much higher.
The Government imposed a curfew in 14 provinces and a month-long state of emergency across the country that returns Egypt temporary in a situation similar to the one used by the regime of the toppled president Hosni Mubarak, ousted in 2011.
The violence was predictable. The interim presidency warned repeatedly to the demonstrators to abandon the sit-ins or face the dispersion by force. But the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Morsi supporters had said they will stay until the ousted president would be reinstated. Something will never happen with this new regime. The Government announced recently that the diplomatic phase to solve this crisis was over, and blamed in advance the Muslim Brotherhood on the consequences. So the only option left was the force. But the force used against the sit-ins was excessive with scenes that resembled a war zone in Cairo.
Vice president Mohamed El Baradei, former UN diplomat who backed with his reputation the new rulers of Egypt, resigned in protest against the violence. In a letter he says that there were peaceful alternatives.
“Certain solutions were proposed, which could have led to the national conciliation, but things have come this far. Out of experience, reconciliation will inevitably be achieved, yet after paying a heavy price, which, I believe, could have been spared,” he says. “It has become difficult for me to continue bearing the responsibility for decisions at which I do not agree, and I fear their consequences; I cannot bear the responsibility for single drop of blood before God, before my own conscience or citizens. Regretfully, what happened today is only in the interest of advocates of violence, terrorism, and extremist groups; and those words of mine will be recalled one day; and ‘I confide my cause unto Allah.”
The interim government had already raised fears of a return to an authoritarianism with its decision to name 19 generals as provincial governors, reports the New York Times. According to the report of the 25 provincial governors named, 19 are generals, and 6 civilians, two of them judges known as Mubarak loyalists deeply hostile to the Islamists behind Morsi.
Several countries and organizations reacted against the violence.
The US “strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt”, said the White House in a statement in which Washington also expresses its opposition to the return to a state of emergency:
“We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint, and for the government to respect the universal rights of its citizens, just as we have urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully. Violence will only make it more difficult to move Egypt forward on a path to lasting stability and democracy, and runs directly counter to the pledges by the interim government to pursue reconciliation. We also strongly oppose a return to a State of Emergency law, and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process under the law. The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt – and all parties in Egypt – to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned a police crackdown on protesters in Egypt that he said had left hundreds dead and injured. “In the aftermath of today’s violence, the secretary-general urges all Egyptians to concentrate their efforts on promoting genuinely inclusive reconciliation,” his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Germany and the European Union have reacted asking for the end of the violence. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has urged supporters of Egypt’s interim government and its ousted president Mohamed Morsi to renounce violence amid a deadly crackdown on protests Wednesday. “We call on all political forces to return immediately to negotiations and avert an escalation of violence,” he told reporters. “All further bloodshed must be prevented.”
The European Union has said that reports that protesters had been killed in a security force crackdown were “extremely worrying” and called for restraint from Egyptian authorities. “The reports of deaths and injuries are extremely worrying,” Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said. “We reiterate that violence won’t lead to any solution and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint.”