Political groups demand that Egypt's military council and government take responsibility for Abbassiya violence

Salma Shukrallah, Monday 25 Jul 2011

Political groups call for an independent committee to investigate the Abbassiya violence as they compare it to the infamous 'Battle of the Camel'

Twenty-one political groups which are currently participating in the Tahrir Square sit-in released a statement on Monday condemning the violence which took place in Cairo's Abbassiya district when thousands of demonstrators were attacked as they were marching towards the military council headquarters.

The statement compared the incidence to the "Battle of the Camel", when Tahrir Square was attacked by hired thugs before the ouster of Mubarak, and demanded that both the ruling military council and the government take responsibility for the violence.

The statement further condemned the media-publicised accusations released by the military council against the April 6 Youth Movement and political movement Kifaya, describing it as an attempt to create strife between the revolutionaries and the people.

The statement added that while the military council claims that the revolutionaries are trying to create strife between the army and the people, in fact the council is creating strife between the people and the revolutionaries.

The statement blamed the violence on the military council's statements inciting hate against demonstrators, causing the death of at least one and leaving hundreds injured. The political groups further demanded that an independent committee is formed to investigate the violence and the official media declarations made prior to the incident in Abbassiya.

The undersigned groups included the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the Free Egyptian Movement, the Popular Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the Democratic Workers Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Mosharka Movement (Participation Movement), the People’s Alliance Socialist Party, the Bedaya Movement (Beginning Movement), El-Waay Movement (Awareness Movement), the Egyptian Current Party, the Progressive Youth Coalition, the Lotus Youth Coalition, the Coordinating Committee for the Awareness Movement Coalition, the No to Military Trials Campaign, the independent ElBaradei for President Campaign, the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement, the Socialist Renewal Current, the Revolution Youth Union, the Democratic Front Party and the Revolutionary Socialists.

The conference in which the statement was read also included several eyewitness stories of some of those who participated in the rally and residents of the Abbassiya district.

Mohamed Abdelfattah Eleiwa, a resident of Abbassiya, said that military police blocked the road and spread inside Nour Mosque located where the rally was passing, after which people came from the side roads to attack the peaceful demonstrators using rocks and glass bottles. He added that demonstrators were locked in from all sides and gun shots were heard being shot in the air.

Mohamed Waked, a demonstrator who was cut off from the rally by the people who attacked, said that he was surprised to realise that some of those who were marching behind the demonstration whom he assumed were protestors started attacking the demonstrators. He added that they could not have simply been angry residents of the area because they were too organised and it was obvious that the whole incidence was plotted and well-coordinated.

"Whenever some of us gathered in a certain spot they would call each other and send orchestrated groups to attack us." He added that, “residents could not be that well-organised. It was obvious that they were being directed from a centralised authority unknown to us.”

One of the wounded named Ahmed Mekky also narrated his case and detailed how the attack happened.

He also stated that Central Security Forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at some point, while he was attacked by a man in plain clothes using a pistol and was wounded in both his legs. Yasmine Abdelaziz, another rally participant, said that she was dragged by some of the men in plain clothes who were attacking the demonstration, who media later claimed were citizens of the area, and taken into one of the military tanks. Abdelaziz said she was beaten using electric tasers by a military official and beaten up by plain-clothed men inside the tank, before the tank moved her to an area in Cairo's Nasr City district where she was let go.

Since Abdelaziz is a tourist guide she had dollars on her, she explained, and added, “I had exactly 12 dollars on me which they later used in pictures to claim that I am a spy.”

Nazly Hussein, another one of the demonstrators, said that all the accusations thrown at them while they were beaten up by the attackers were that they are April 6 Youth Movement members. She added that, “they used April 6 as an insult and said that we were spies as they were harassing us and hitting us.”

"I hold El-Reweiny [member of the military council] who made the accusations against the 6 April and others responsible for what happened,” said Nazly. "If it is as they claimed that these attackers are supporters of the military council then this is a scandal for the council that people like this, similar to the Mubarak supporters who attacked us on February 2, are supporting the council."

Nazly also confirmed that while she was trying to escape the plain-clothed men chasing her, she saw a military official guiding them to her.

An Azhar religious preacher, Hussein El-Naggar, who had participated in the demonstration, also narrated his story, saying that when the attack started the demonstrators were not even allowed to take refuge in the mosque. When he later insisted to the military police that he has to be allowed to enter the mosque as he is a member of the ministry of religious endowments to which the mosque belongs, El-Naggar explains he was finally let in and started preaching from the mosque explaining to the residents of the area that the demonstrators came to do them no harm.

He added some of the residents responded trying to calm the situation down and finally after debates with the military police the injured were allowed in the mosque. El-Naggar said that, “although it was claimed that there were around 300 injured, I can confirm that there were at least a thousand injured.”

Others were present to narrate the incident but ran out of time. Those who had planned to support and confirm the eyewitness stories included writer Ahdaf Soueif.

The groups present warned that, as in the case of the Battle of the Camel, the perpetrators in the Abbassiya violence will be revealed to the public sooner or later.

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