Witnesses to Friday Tahrir clashes pin blame on Muslim Brotherhood
Randa Ali, Sunday 14 Oct 2012
Handful of protesters injured in recent Tahrir Square clashes allege that members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood were ultimately responsible for Friday's violence

The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate hosted a press conference on Sunday at which several eyewitnesses to Friday's clashes – and some of those injured therein – told their version of events, with many pinning the blame on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The conference was organised by several post-revolution political forces, including the National Front for Justice and Democracy and the Popular Committee for Defending the Revolution.

"Egyptian television was reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood had not mobilised on the streets, while at the same time we were being beaten by the Brotherhood's militias," activist Rasha Azzab, who was in Tahrir Square from 12pm to 6pm, alleged.

Azzab, who had been far from the square when the clashes erupted, said she had not believed reports that Brotherhood activists were attacking protesters until she reached the flashpoint square and saw members of the group wielding batons and stones and chanting "God is great; Purge the square of the traitors."

"For those who are surprised that the Brotherhood is acting like this, it's because they want to consolidate their power," Azzab claimed.

Dr Yehia Salah, who is known for treating many of the protesters who received eye injuries during last year's uprising, was also present at Sunday's press conference. His son was hit in the head with a stone during Friday's clashes.

"He was hit while urging people to stop fighting," Salah alleged, noting that the clashes had left over 150 injured. "Someone hit him with a large stone from a short distance, which caused a fracture to his skull."

A number of other people injured during the clashes also shared their own personal accounts of the day's events.

"I was participating in a march organised by the Popular Egyptian Current, the logo of which I wore on my arm," said Nashwa Rashad, pointing to her left arm, now in a sling.

As she reached Tahrir Square, she went on to recount, stones were being thrown everywhere.

"I was face-to-face with a Muslim Brotherhood member who I know from earlier protests," Rashad alleged. "He ripped the logo off of my arm and cursed me. When I cursed him back, he hit me in the stomach with a big stone."

With black eyes and his head wrapped in bandages, Reda Abdel-Latif accused Brotherhood members of beating him up near the Egyptian Museum and calling him an "infidel" for running an anti-Brotherhood Facebook page.

"I was never before beaten by the Muslim Brotherhood," said a visibly distraught Abdel-Latif, before hurriedly leaving the press conference.

Mohamed Waked, a leading member of the National Front for Justice and Democracy, blamed both the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi for Friday's debacle.

"A protest was planned two weeks ago to push for several demands and to hold Morsi accountable for what they saw as his failure in his first 100 days as president, which is their right as opposition in a democratic state," Waked stated.

"The Muslim Brotherhood chose to hold a protest on the same day, and that, too, is their right," he added. "But it's not their right to protest the chants of other groups; they objected to any slogans that weren't to their liking."

"Before 3pm, the protests did not seem orchestrated; not all those taking part were Brotherhood members," conceded Waked, who went on to allege that, at roughly 4pm, a pre-planned assault was launched from the premises of the nearby museum.

"This coincided with a tweet by Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Erian, in which he called on group members to meet at the museum," Waked said.

As clashes escalated on Friday, El-Erian urged Brotherhood members via Twitter to gather at the Egyptian Museum for a 4pm march on Egypt's Supreme Court.

Brotherhood members, for their part, have denied responsibility for the clashes, attributing the attacks to unknown assailants.

Waked went on to question why Morsi's decision to replace the prosecutor-general had been postponed to before the protest when it was subsequently announced that the decision had first been issued 15 days ago.

"We will shout whatever slogans we want," said Waked, stressing that any attempt to stifle protest or free expression would be doomed to failure. "The last one who tried to do so is now in prison," he added, in reference to ousted president Mubarak.