What Amnesty is doing on Egypt, and why
It was early in the morning of 14 August when Mohamed (1) heard the warning.
He was taking part in the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in to protest against the ousting of President Morsi in early July. It had been threatened with dispersal by Egypt’s authorities and Mohamed was trying to secure the Tiba Mall entrance.
That was when he heard it. At 6am a voice came through the loudspeaker. It told protestors to leave the area. But Mohamed was given no time to react.
Less than a minute later, shots rained down as snipers fired at protestors from roof tops and tear gas was thrown into the crowds. He ran through the chaos with tents burning around him, unable to help those trapped inside.
The crowd started to fight back with protestors throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at security forces. Six hours later Mohamed was still there. The fighting had calmed.
But by 4.30 the field hospital set up to help the injured, was shot at. It, too, was set alight with medical staff forced to flee helping only those patients they could safely transport. And by morning all that was left of the sit-in were its charred remains.
Although he was shot in the shoulder, Mohamed lived to share his story with us, one that has been corroborated by other survivors and our researchers in Cairo.
But many more did not. This crackdown was to become the bloodiest incident since the outbreak of the 2011 revolution. At least 288 died and many more were injured.
The cycle of violence
Protestors shot. Hospitals burned. Police executed. Prisoners gassed. The horror in Egypt just keeps on coming.
It might be freshly terrifying and desperately awful, but it is not new.
The security forces committing many of these atrocities are the very same that killed thousands of protestors during the 2011 revolution that ended Mubarak’s rule.
They are the same forces that killed at least 80 protestors during the year that his successor Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was in power.
And they are the same forces that are failing to protect Coptic Christians from sectarian attacks
Authorities are failing Egyptians
But neither the Mubarak nor the Morsi government ever held the security forces to account for the crimes committed. Our calls for an overhaul of the security apparatus went unheeded.
And the new interim government seems to be following suit, breaking its promise to use non-lethal weapons in the dispersal of these sit-ins. It’s failing to provide protection against reprisal attacks on its own forces as well as those thought to support the ousting of Morsi.
Now, over 800 men, women and children are dead and sectarian violence is spreading across the country. We are on the ground, collecting as much evidence of these crimes as we can.
We are doing this because, in the end, the only thing that will stop the cycle of violence is justice. And the only way to ensure justice in such a heated situation is by collecting the verifiable truth
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What we’re doing
Collecting this evidence is not easy. Tensions are high and Egyptian society is becoming increasingly polarised along religious lines.
With the death toll rising every day, many of you have asked us what we are doing. The simple answer is: everything we can.
The evidence our researchers are collecting will not only help get justice for the Egyptian people, it is also backing up our calls on the international community to intervene. (In fact, just today, the EU have met our calls to stop arms transfers to Egypt).
It supports our demands for human rights reform as we lobby governments behind the scenes.
And it lets us know when we need you to act. We only ask you to do this when we think it can make a real difference and our researchers are perfectly placed to let us know when that is.
Please, help them continue this difficult but important work by supporting our crisis fund
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.