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Remembering the Rabaa massacre

Smoke rises at Rabaa al-Adawya square following clashes between supporters of the ousted president Morsi and riot police in Cairo, Egypt on14 August 2013 [Ahmed Asad/Apaimages]
Smoke rises at Rabaa al-Adawiyya square following clashes between supporters of the ousted president Morsi and riot police in Cairo, Egypt on 14 August 2013 [Ahmed Asad/Apaimages]

Four years ago today the Egyptian army stormed a sit-in at Cairo’s Rabaa square and slaughtered 1,000 people who were protesting against the removal of the country’s first democratically elected President, Mohammed Morsi. People were shot, burnt alive and suffocated with tear gas. Security forces blocked the entrances so that ambulances couldn’t get in to treat the wounded.

What: Rabaa Massacre
When: 14 August 2013
Where: Egypt

What happened?

After Morsi was ousted in a military coup on 3 July 2013 the Muslim Brotherhood called for counter-protests at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares. Some 85,000 people joined the sit-ins.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been demonstrating outside the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo for 47 days when security forces attacked at around 6am on 14 August 2013.

An Egyptian student holds the Rabaa sign during a protest against the military rule on 18 February 2015 [Amr Sayed/Apaimgaes]

An Egyptian student holds the Rabaa sign during a protest against the military rule on 18 February 2015 [Amr Sayed/Apaimgaes]

Security forces shot indiscriminately into the crowd, set fire to the tents people had gathered in and threw tear gas into the masses. Armoured vehicles and bulldozers advanced on the protesters.

Some 1,000 people were killed, thousands injured and over 800 people were arrested.

What happened next?

Supposedly liberal figures like the author Alaa Al-Aswany endorsed the massacre, as did the state media. “They are a group of terrorists and fascists,” Al-Aswany said.

Despite the fact that the police and army opened fire and used excessive force, since that day not a single security officer has been brought to trial or been held accountable for the massacre.

In 2015 the government renamed the square after Hisham Barakat, the public prosecutor who presided over the acquittal of Hosni Mubarak.

Authorities widened their crackdown, not just targeting members of the Muslim Brotherhood but anyone who opposes the regime. They arrested thousands, tortured them, denied them medical attention in prison and forcibly disappearing them.

Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights both conducted independent investigations into the massacre and concluded that it had been launched on predominantly unarmed protesters.

Despite this the international community resumed arms exports to Egypt shortly after the massacre and have generally sought to strengthen ties with the Sisi regime.

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