Remembering the Victims of Raba'a and Al Nahda Squares
This was not a joke. While addressing a community gathering of Canadian Egyptians in Toronto, last July, Egyptian Minister of Immigration, Nabila Makram said "This country is always inside us, inside our hearts. We cannot accept any word about it. Anyone who says a [negative] word about our country – what will happen to him? Will be sliced up," as she made a slashing motion across her throat.
She later claimed that it was a joke!
"We know well that Ms Nabila Makram is a minister in a government that has already imprisoned tens of thousands of dissidents in addition to the systematic torture and enforced disappearance of critics of her government," Amr Magdi of Human Rights Watch wrote on Twitter.
In fact, this is consistent with the policy of Abdel Fatah El-Sisi since he overthrew the first democratically elected (late) President Mohamed Morsi in a military coup, July 3rd 2013.
Today, August 14 we commemorate those who were the first victims.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most popular political group at the time, called for peaceful protests at Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares.
They were joined by all those who opposed the military coup d'état and protests developed into large-scale sit-ins. Protesters slept, ate, prayed, and lived at the squares for 45 days under the burning sun of Cairo.
Many hoped the sit-ins would succeed in pressuring the military to restore Dr. Morsi to the presidency.
To defeat their opposition, the military-backed government, officially ordered the dispersal of Rabaa and al-Nahda on August 14, 2013 with armoured vehicles, bulldozers and hundreds of security forces moving in the early hours.
The brutal dismantlement of the sit-ins on August 14, 2013, saw soldiers and police shoot dead more than 800 protesters at Raba'a square in a matter of hours. Hundreds more were killed in Al-Nahda square. The exact number of the victims will never be known as countless bodies were not identified.
After a year-long investigation, New York-based HRW documented the events that led to the mass killings, interviewing witnesses and reviewing video footage.
Based on the findings of its 2014 report, HRW concluded the killings "likely amounted to crimes against humanity" and "were part of a policy".
Despite a wealth of evidence implicating the Egyptian army and police in killing the protesters, no one has ever been brought to trial and the Egyptian government has yet to transparently investigate the massacre.
Last year, HRW called for an international, independent inquiry into the tragic event of Raba'a to no avail.
"Five years on from the Rabaa massacre, the only response from authorities has been to try to insulate those responsible for these crimes from justice," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's director for the Middle East and North Africa. "Without justice, Rabaa remains an open wound. Those responsible for the mass killings of protesters shouldn't count on being able to shield themselves from accountability forever."
We will always remember the victims of August 14 2013 and continue to press for accountability.
About ECCD: The Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy (ECCD) is a politically independent, non-affiliated pan Canadian organization that advocates for democracy and human rights in Egypt. The ECCD has chapters in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.
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