Who is the Egyptian military really protecting?

AHMAD EL NASHAR
Published 02.07.2014 23:42
Who is the Egyptian military really protecting?

I sat on the pavement weeping. My clothes were covered in blood. The stinging pain of pellets in my body seemed to diminish in front of the growing pain in my heart. All around me were puddles of blood that were scattered around like small red pools throughout one of the main streets of Cairo. It was Egyptian blood. Some of it was my friends' blood. For the past seven hours we had been in a battle with the Egyptian security forces that were attacking our peaceful sit-in located near a memorial setup to honor the Egyptian soldiers that had died for the country. Behind me was a military unit that was stationed there to protect the memorial building. They were crouched behind a stack of sandbags that did not provide enough protection against the showers of bullets that had been aimed at us.

As I sat crying groups of people from the sit-in started to gather. They appeared from behind the barricades we had built looking dazed and awed, their eyes full of sadness and like many of us some started sobbing at the sight of the battle plain. Some of the groups saw the military post and started moving towards it, they had heard about what happened and their sorrow was now turning to anger. They started shouting and cursing and some of them had already picked up stones that I knew would soon find their way at the soldiers. I stood up with a few friends and together we formed a chain asking the gathering of people to go back. Seeing our state some of the people softened and some asked in bewilderment "Why are you stopping us? Don't you see the state you're in? They are the reason." Yes they were a contributor to the blood bath that took place on July 27, 2013. They were accomplices in a crime that killed almost 150 people and injured more than 1,000 others. It was a crime committed against humanity and I am a witness to that.

The attack had started around 2:30 a.m. from the road next to where the memorial was located. At the beginning it seemed like it would be another skirmish with the security forces where they would fire their tear gas bombs, their pellets and occasional live ammunition. In return we built brick walls using bricks from walkways around us, a technique we had mastered since our sit-in at Tahrir Square two years earlier. We threw stones at the security forces and shot fireworks to keep them at a good distance from the actual sit-in. We had divided ourselves into groups, some picking out the bricks from the pavements, others were taking the bricks to build the walls, others were throwing the stones and fireworks to protect the other groups, and some kept watch to keep us informed of the movements of the security forces. I moved between the group that built the walls and the ones throwing the stones. This continued for a couple of hours during which a few people were shot and many injured.The pavement bricks proved again that they were as good as air in the face of metal pellets and bullets. As the first rays of sunlight started to appear, it became clear that a massacre was going to happen. A number of armored vehicles, the ones that later flattened the brick walls and were equipped with heavy machine guns, had appeared and alongside them stood security forces with sniper units. Police thugs in civilian clothes appeared and they were usually charged with kidnapping anybody they could get their hands on. The attack technique was consistent. First, waves of tear gas bombs would be fired after which showers of pellets and live ammunition would be fired sporadically. Then the armored vehicles would move forward to demolish the walls and the thugs would run at us to grab hold of us.

The first offensive started right after sunrise. Tens of tear gas bombs were fired, many fell suffocating from the gas while others were running in whatever direction seemed to have less gas. So when the showers of pellets and bullets started people were easy standing targets that fell to the ground in groups of twos and threes. I was among a group of people that decided to remain at the front lines to continue throwing stones and fireworks to give those behind us time to run back. We knew how to deal with the gas and could stand the stings of the pellets. However, the shower of pellets and bullets this time was unprecedented and when some of us looked back we saw the chaos taking place. I looked at the military post and could see that they were also suffering from the showers of live ammunition, the sandbags were proving ineffective and the army officer on several occasions stood up waving at the security forces to stop firing. We ran back to help carry the fallen bodies whether dead or injured. As soon as we started our run we knew our backs were exposed and sure enough as soon as I turned the man behind me was hit in the back by a bullet which exited through his stomach, making him fall flat on his face. We dragged his body and as we ran my hands that were supporting his back slipped from the blood running down his back, I stumbled and fell. I instantly realized that I was alone, the group had run on and I was lying flat on the ground alone in the face of the oncoming forces. I crawled to a half built wall I saw to my right and rested my back against the bricks. The bullets whizzed by my head, ears and arms and I sat for a few seconds waiting for the bullet that would end all of this. I looked to my right side and saw the army soldiers leaving their outpost to protect themselves and thought I would not be a coward like them. I looked for stones around me thinking let me die fighting with my head held high.

The next moment two things happened simultaneously. A group of my friends that had managed to get behind one of the walls further back saw me and decided to charge, at the same moment some of the army soldiers fired back at the security forces. The showers of bullets immediately stopped, I looked up and saw the security forces pulling back. More protestors charged running forward after the thugs and the security forces. Some of the protestors who had seen the army fire back naively shouted, "The army is with us." Knowing that this was a load of nonsense I ran among them shouting "the army is not with us, they're just protecting themselves, pick up the bodies and going back behind the barricades." I looked toward the army post and saw the ranking officer talking on his cellphone and my mind and heart knew he was talking to the security forces. Some of us started picking up the bodies to carry them back. Motorcycles and cars started arriving from the field hospital to help move the bodies to the hospital. Others insisted on moving forward to push the security forces back and it worked for 15 minutes.

While I was picking up an injured man to put him on one of the motorbike ambulances I looked toward the army post and saw the soldiers returning behind the sandbags, the ranking officer was actually directing one of the soldiers to take pictures of the protestors who had run forward and my heart sank again. A minute later a new wave of tear gas bombs poured down on us and a new wave of attacks started. The new groups that had run to the front were newcomers and were unaware of the tactics. Some of us saw that and ran forward to carry the fallen. As I ran forward, head low and bent forward, I saw the bodies fall around me and tears filled my eyes as I heard the screams of pain of those injured. We were being mowed down by the pellets and bullets.

At one instance I was carrying an injured man when a car stopped next to us, the door flew open and a man in a white coat stuck out his head and hand to help pull the man in and a bullet struck the doctor in the back making him slump forward and the car sped away. I looked toward my right and saw the ranking officer standing looking around at the massacre taking place. I asked a man running past to take the injured man I was carrying and then ran to the army officer. He saw me running toward him and I saw him pointing his machine gun toward me. "Please, please help us carry the bodies. Just fire some shots that will push them back and give us time to take our friends and brothers," I pleaded. He waved his hand at me with an arrogant look and told me to stay away. I came closer begging "In the name of humanity, not religion, or country or anything else I am begging you as a human we just need a breather to carry the bodies." He locked his machine gun, aimed it at me, and his cold voice said, "Take another step and I will kill you." I realized from his eyes and tone the uselessness of my effort. I looked at him and then back at the scene and then ran to a body lying next to me pull it back to the sit-in.

By the time I reached the nearest wall we had built the security forces had stopped their offensive. A truce had apparently been agreed between the leaders of the sit-in and the minister of interior upon which orders to the security forces were given to pull back. I walked back to the battlefield, the stench of blood was everywhere and individuals were sitting or lying on the floor sobbing. Hearing the army officer's voice shouting, I turned to the army outpost and saw a young man waving his hand at the soldiers, I started running fearing for the man's life. He was cursing the soldiers, the officer and the Egyptian army. I pulled him back telling him I will deal with them later, let us pick our battles one at a time. The man looked at me confused, hurt, angry and helpless. With tears filling his eyes he walked away praying that we rid the country of the military tyrants. I turned to the officer telling him, "For now I will make sure no one comes near you, but mark my word your end is near."

The legendary Jamal Abd el Nasser was a childhood friend of my grandfather. I was raised on the heroic stories of Egyptian military soldiers and leaders. We were told constantly in school of a statement mentioned by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that Egyptian soldiers were the best soldiers on earth. We were told that the Egyptian army was loyal to the Egyptian people, to us. We were told that the Egyptian army only pointed its weapons to the external enemies of the state. Many years ago, before the sit-in and the revolution, I learned that we were fed lies and illusions about the Egyptian military institution. This story, among many others during these past three years, has given me firsthand experience of how the Egyptian army is not loyal to the Egyptian people and is capable of pointing its weapons against Egyptians. This story has demonstrated that the current Egyptian military institution is willing to commit crimes against humanity. This story has left memories and feelings that will continuously ignite my relentless efforts to expose the evil nature of this institution and its horrendous activities.

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