Chants and screams mix and muffle in the streets of Cairo. Buildings throughout the capital burn as large clouds of smoke funnel through doors and windows. Police collide with angry protestors by the hundreds, and now, all eyes are on the Egypt uprising once again. Egypt has declared a ‘state of emergency’ as the death toll in Cairo stands at 500 dead after violent clashes between police forces and supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi on August 14.
How and Why The Violence Broke Out
Following the Muslim Brotherhood leader’s removal by military forces in early July, hundreds of his backers have been stationed on the streets of Cairo, setting up camps and staging sit-ins calling for his return to office. The tension between the vocal protestors and interim Egyptian government came to a head in the early morning hours as police officials entered two main camps: Nahda camp, a small site located on the campus of Cairo University, and Rabaa Adawiya Mosque, a location that served as temporary housing for hundreds of supporters. Armed tanks and bulldozers plowed through the sites cracking and forcibly removing the protestors, setting off retaliation efforts by those opposition fighters. After hours of gunfire, bodies lined the streets.
International analysts are labeling this the deadliest day of clashes in the Egypt uprising since protestors called for the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak more than two years ago. In a statement to the press a day after the violence, US President Barack Obama said the country “strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government” and “supports human rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest.” The US has been providing military support and aid to the country during its democratic transition, but as a result of the clashes, US-Egypt military exercises have been ceased.
Obama’s sentiments were echoed by leaders throughout the international community. Rachid Ghannouch, leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, also denounced the government’s actions. Turkish President Abdullah Gul compared the crackdown to the government-anti-Assad movement violence in Syria, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon openly disagreed with the actions of the interim Egyptian government, and the organization has not made a decision to step in.
The Political Fall Out
Shortly after the crackdown, newly-appointed Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei officially resigned.
ElBaradei was one of the officials who urged Morsi to resign after protests on the two year anniversary of the “Arab Spring” began to grow. The Nobel prize winner and former UN executive said it had “become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions,” many of which he disagreed before they came to pass.
The Likely Humanitarian Issues Faced
As the body count rises, it’s unclear where the country will go from here. Egypt’s health ministry continues to keep count of the casualties. An estimated 3,000 people were injured in the violence as hospitals with outnumbered medical staff struggle to treat hundreds of bloodied, wounded survivor. Makeshift medical tents in the campsite areas are not able to manage the large groups seeking treatment.
The world continues to monitor the situation as the watchful gaze of the international community remains on Egypt.