Egyptians mark third anniversary of Rabaa

Published 15.08.2016 00:24

The Rabaa al-Adawiya mass killings, when police shot dead at least 1,000 supporters of Mohammad Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, on Aug. 14, 2013, as they dispersed a protest camp, has remained a rallying point for the country's harried opposition and has been called one of the worst days in Egyptian history. Egyptian authorities had tightened security measures in main squares and around vital installations ahead of the anniversary. Cairo was calm as the government has draconically oppressed all opposition groups in the country.

In Egypt the government has always defended the dispersal. Morsi ruled for only a year before mass protests prompted the military to overthrow and detain him. He has since been sentenced to death. Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, who overthrew Morsi after a bloody military coup and has become president, had pledged to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood. The group has been blacklisted and most of its leaders arrested, severely restricting its ability to mobilize followers in protests. Meanwhile, to mark the anniversary, hackers attacked the website of Cairo's International Airport, posting a message promising to pursue the culprits behind the deadly dispersal.

On Aug. 14, 2013, huge crowds gathered in Rabaa Square in Cairo to protest the Egyptian military coup and at around 6:00 a.m., protesters were praying in the square and in Adawiya Mosque, which was heavily damaged by government forces. Protesters in support of Morsi, and pro-democracy protesters did not leave the streets. They chanted slogans against coup leader el-Sissi and the coup. El-Sissi claimed that the protesters were threatening national security, and called on his supporters to hold counter protests in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Arab Spring protests in Egypt. El-Sissi finally gave the order to clear Rabaa Square, which had become the pro-Morsi protesters' main area.

The Rabaa massacre was considered to be the bloodiest so far, with death toll estimates ranging from 800 to more than 1,000. The HRW 188-page report titled, "All According to Plan: The Rabaa Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt," documents the way Egyptian security forces fired on crowds. While the Muslim Brotherhood claims that the death toll was more than 1,500, the HRW report said there was a minimum of 817 deaths.

Meanwhile, Rabaa symbol has gained international fame. A four-fingered hand gesture, the sign has become a world symbol for anti-coup protesters around the globe. At first, the Rabaa sign started as a symbol for resistance against the military coup in Egypt. It emerged by time to symbolize resistance against coups in the world. The hand gesture gained a further prominence when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used it during rallies. While people were resisting against the failed coup attempt, organized by Gülenist Terror Cult (FETÖ) in July 15 and during the democracy vigils, the four-fingered gesture has been the main symbol of democracy.

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