There have been countless analyses of the bloody military coup in Egypt that occurred four years ago this week, which still continues to influence the Middle East deeply. Subjects like studies, commentaries and factors leading to the coup and Western support for it have been discussed in countless op-ed articles. In this article, as an Egyptian who witnessed that fateful night and is still haunted by vivid memories of it, I am going to tell you briefly about how I felt that day.
Actually, the sit-in staged that night in the Rabaa and Nahda Squares had begun before the coup. In fact, it had started well before the military issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the president.
It was a protest held to defend democracy against the Tamarod movement and to counter a call made on June 30 for people to take to the squares to topple the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi. Later, it turned into a sit-in to resist a coup that was launched against Egypt's fledgling democracy.
The sit-ins in the Rabaa and Nahda Squares began on June 28, and lasted for nearly 48 days. Those days, I went to Rabaa Square many times, but I do not remember how many times exactly, since I used to go there without my family's knowledge. I could not stay there at night.
But I felt comfortable there. There was a fraternal feeling among the people and everyone was doing their best to help each other. There were people with different ideologies, but all had a common goal and cause to save our fledgling democracy that had not even completed its first year yet. We wanted to protect our vote that we had cast in the first free election in 60 years.
That day, not only the aspirations and ideals of Egyptians, but also those of people across the region were run over by tanks in Rabaa Square. Aug. 14 marks the day when hundreds of civilians resisting to save the motherland from a military tutelage were slaughtered, and is when a common sense of humanity died. The Rabaa and Nahda Squares are where people were burned alive and where dreams of democracy cherished by the people of the region were crushed.
I was about to go out again on the day they set fire to the tents of protesters in the squares. Since my internet went off at night, I wanted to have a look at the news on TV. When I switched on the TV, I saw that the military started the greatest massacre in the history of modern Egypt. Around 1,000 people were slaughtered. Even enemy militaries had not treated people so brutally during war. They had not burned people alive. But our own military and police did it in our own country.
When my internet connection came back, I began to watch the videos that state TV did not broadcast. I tried to learn about friends in the square. As I watched videos, seeing troops slaughter civilians in their path, old and young alike, burning them alive, I had mixed feelings.
I was alternating between such conflicting thoughts as, fortunately, I didn't go there. Otherwise, I would have also got killed, and, I wish I was there, together with my friends at that difficult moment.
To make a long story short, it has been four years since the Rabaa and Nahda massacres took place, but the effects of the trauma linger on. Children who saw their mothers die, and mothers and fathers who saw their children die in their arms have not yet been able to recover from that shock. And, the perpetrators of that massacre have not been punished. On the contrary, they have strengthened their hold on power through the support they received from the West.
Former general, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the leader of the junta regime and the perpetrator of the deadly coup, continues to stay in power thanks to the political support he receives from Europe and the U.S., and aid from some Gulf countries despite his crimes. Those Western leaders shaking hands with such a blood shedder show how Europe is moving away from its own values.
We remember with respect the victims of Rabaa who rebelled against injustice, holding their heads high. Who held freedom dearest of all against all odds. Who sacrificed themselves so that their country could take its well-deserved place among civilized nations in order to revive and rebuild it.