The mind-numbing killings in the early hours on Saturday of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy by the state security forces, notorious for using excessive force during the Mubarak-era, has alarmed the country’s secularist youth, who fear the heavy-handed return of the old guard.
The secularist Tamarod movement-the core supporters of the military coup that removed Mr. Morsy from power on July 3-have sounded the alarm, apprehending the return of personnel and the discredited policing culture that was prevalent during the bygone years of the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.
For several hours till the break of dawn on Saturday, the police and armed men in plainclothes unleashed heavy violence, including teargas, birdshot and live rounds to disperse pro-Morsy crowds that were apparently trying to block the Sixth of October bridge, Cairo’s lifeline. By morning 72 people were dead, according to the health ministry’s body count. The Muslim Brotherhood—Mr. Morsy’s parent organisation -- however, said the story of the overnight carnage was even grimmer, claiming that the bloodbath near the bridge, not far from the pro-Morsy sit in Nasr city had taken 120 lives.
The short stretch of Nasr Street famous for the spot where former President Anwar Sadat was slain during a military parade more than three decades ago, between the bridge and the pro-Morsy encampment had become a virtual killing field on Saturday morning.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch is reporting, based on field visits by researchers and analysis of video footage, that the protesters were shot and killed over a period of at least six hours, during clashes with the security forces on a major Cairo road. It quoted doctors and medical staff present at field hospitals where the wounded and the dead were being brought that the “majority of the bullet injuries were to the head, neck, and chest,” suggesting targeted shootings. “They had orders to shoot to kill,” said Gehad El-Haddad, a Brotherhood spokesman.
Stunned by the casualties and the excessive use of force, Tamarod spokesman Mahmoud Badr warned in a statement that the movement does not support adoption of “extraordinary measures, or the contradiction of freedoms and human rights". The group has been dismayed by Saturday’s assertion during a presser by the interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim that departments of state security, used for combating extremism and monitoring political and religious activity, which had been disbanded after Mr. Mubarak’s exit had now been reinstated. Mr. Ibrahim added that a reshuffle of police officers would be announced on Monday, and would include personnel that had been excluded before.
Rejecting the minister’s stance, Mr. Badr stressed that such comments "are unacceptable" as they violate the principles of the January 25 Revolution, which had brought down Mr. Mubarak. "We will never accept the return of Mubarak's state security [apparatus] or the chasing of political activists under any name," added Mr. Badr.
Equally incensed by Saturday’s bloodbath, the April 6 Youth Movement, another secular organisation that pioneered the anti-Mubarak revolt on 2011, called for the interior minister’s resignation.
Simultaneously, it also demanded the arrest and trial of Muslim Brotherhood leaders "who incite violence". The perceptions of the two youth organisations that were at the heart of the anti-Morsy demonstrations that culminated in the coup were echoed by interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei. He acknowledged that the security forces had used disproportionate force in dealing with Mr. Morsy’s supporters.
Despite the interior minster’s dire warnings at the press conference of a fast approaching crackdown, the pro-Morsy crowds in Nasr city were digging their heels. "For us, if we die, we meet our creator and we did so for a just cause... Either we die or we succeed," AFP quoted Mr. Haddad, the Brotherhood’s spokesman as saying. The Brotherhood has so far been steadfast in its demand for Mr. Morsy’s reinstatement to the presidency.