News / Middle East

Cairo on Edge as Military Warns of Crackdown

Cairo on Edge as Military Warns of Crackdown on Campsi
X
August 07, 2013 3:48 PM
Egyptian authorities say they will not tolerate the massive sit-ins by members of the largely Islamist opposition, but threats of dispersal are being dismissed by the thousands hunkering down in the encampments. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports on the possible repercussions of a forceful evacuation.
Elizabeth Arrott
— Egyptian authorities say they will not tolerate the massive sit-ins by members of the largely Islamist opposition, but threats of dispersal are being dismissed by the thousands hunkering down in the encampments. 

Cairo is on edge. Opponents of military rule said they would stay in their protest camps until ousted President Mohamed Morsi was re-instated. Authorities, citing national security, said they would use any means necessary to clear the sites.

Some of the protesters said the camps posed no threat. 

Ahmed Abu Bakr, a professor at Suez University, was among a group of men marching out of the camp for a rally at a security office.  He waved aloft his Koran.

"All of the military say that we have weapons here, that we have machine guns here.  But no one has anything.  Nothing here.  Just our Korans," he said.

But some of the marchers flashing peace signs were also carrying sticks.  Others wore helmets and gas masks, in anticipation of clashes. 

The march ended peacefully, but there has been deadly fighting in the weeks since opponents of the military-backed government have taken to the streets. For all the talk of peaceful demonstrations, pro-Morsi computer engineer Ahmed Omar ruled out the idea of Gandhi-like passive resistance. 

"They're going to definitely fight back.  That's not going to happen right now," he said.

Rights groups pointed to past overreach by government forces and argued against a crackdown. But they also said security concerns were real. 

Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef said the Muslim Brotherhood, the main force behind the protests, was trying to escalate the tensions, and noted some of their members have guns.

"Security agencies believe that every day that passes with these sit-ins continuing allows for the planning of an escalation and potential counter-attacks on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood in the sit-ins,” said Morayef.

But acting on those fears, she said, could prove disastrous.

"I would argue because the police doesn't know how to exercise restraint, and always ends up using excessive force and killing around protesters, that the cost of a forcible dispersal is not something from which Egypt can ever recover," said the researcher.

Some hoped the military's warnings - including helicopters buzzing the sit-ins, dropping flyers telling protesters to leave -- was part bluff. 

"They will keep them just like that and then most likely they will besiege them, cut the supplies and just gradually they will be withdrawing, you know.  Some would leave.  That's it.  But I don't think they will go all the way," said political sociologist Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo.

He said that at least one moment of crisis has passed - in the immediate aftermath of Armed Forces chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's call last month for a “mandate” to oppose “terrorism.”

Sadek said the military knew all too well what a deadly crackdown on Islamist forces could bring.

"They may start the last suicidal stage, you know, terrorism.  It can include planting bombs here and there like they did in 1992 against tourism and it can also be a wave of political assassinations.  It is possible now. I don't exclude it," he said.

There may be larger forces at play urging restraint, including the stream of foreign officials visiting Cairo, their presence a possible deterrent to a show of force. But after they leave, and after the holiday, Eid, ends next week, the danger of a showdown could re-emerge.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid