On the evening of the 14th of March I went with two others down to the Coptic Hospital. Reports were coming out once again that members of the armed forces were using force against the protestors, who were mainly Copts, at Maspiro. The injured, reportedly 14, were all released when we got there but there were several people still gathered outside the hospital. Among the injured were Christians and Muslims. This is their story.
The night of the 13th of March, they told me that Abouna Mitiaz (not sure of the full name) had informed them that the sit-in was over. Certain agreements had been met and they were to leave. Some left and some stayed until the morning. They were scheduled to leave at 6 am since it was already late and they didn’t want to be out during the curfew. They told me that they did not hear any threats or direct commands to leave from the Military and that they were only staying until the next day. One man added that it was very natural that after a protest many leave the place, but there are always those stay. They told me that there were only about 300 people. Al Masr Al Yom reports that there were thousands refusing to leave during curfew hours.Regardless of how many people were there, the whole area had still been blocked off as it had been for days with tanks and barbed wire and essentially a little town had been set up in there with even a canteen that provided food for everyone. This canteen was supplied purely through donations and it was claimed to have a total value of 50,000 EGP or more. They told us that the night before, the 12th, the tanks had moved in closer and made the whole area smaller. They have interpreted this to mean that the whole event was planned. One man also reported that they received a warning at about 3 am, the night of, from one member of the armed forces.However, it was at about 3:45 when the military moved in with violence. Through the shouts of “Allah Akbar” the military started breaking crosses and beating the people. Some protestors, out of fear and confusion, threw themselves into the Nile, not knowing what was happening. Many were afraid to leave the little area since it was in the middle of the night. They kept saying, “If we went out we would be breaking curfew, yet if we stayed in, we would get beat…so we threw ourselves into the Nile.” Only one gunshot was heard but most injuries were from batons and tasers. A lot of talk was about the canteen and the food that was destroyed and trampled. They kept talking about the young girl that had been protecting it and how she refused to let the military get in. Apparently there was a truck coming to pick up the food so that it would be moved in the morning, but the truck was not allowed to enter the area and was even damaged. Cameras, phones and wallets and ID cards were stolen. One woman reported that there were children being hit and that members of the armed forces were waving their guns at the people. Some ambulances came to help the injured and these too were not allowed to enter the area and also damaged, according to the people reporting the incident.
They told me that all they wanted was their rights and what they did not understand was how this happened. They told me that the only way that this could happen was by some higher authority ordering it. They kept saying that it was the military who did this and not once in my perception showed any signs of anger at Muslims. In fact, (in regards to the famous canteen) they said that the food had been donated from all Egyptians.
As of now I do not know of any official statement from the military although an apology was requested along with fees to pay for medical bills for the injured. We do not know if this has actually happened or not.
Here are my thoughts…
This whole incident, and many other similar stories are bringing to light what many Egyptians don’t want to see. This is quite simply horrendous and terrible and we are closing our eyes to the terrors of the military because we don’t want to admit that they are just as bad as the old regime and the Amn Dawla. Yes, martial law, blaa blaa but martial law does not mean using force without reason, torture and now there are reports of virginity tests on young girls who were detained!! These are crimes against humanity and if we would not stand for the SS then we cannot stand for this. I am now hearing reports of protests against the military and saw one myself a few days ago. This is the beginning and a small beginning but it must continue.