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Nahda, Egypt's forgotten sit-in tragedy

CAIRO (AA) – One year ago Thursday, Egyptian security forces violently dispersed two protest camps set up by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The Rabaa al-Adiwiya Square sit-in in Cairo, however, received much more local and international attention than the smaller sit-in staged in Giza's Nahda Square.
"The sit-in started on July 1 of last year, without prior planning," Mohamed Said, a survivor who helped coordinate with the media at the Nahda sit-in, told Anadolu Agency. That was the same day then-defense minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi gave Egypt's rival political camps 48 hours to resolve their differences, as demonstrators amassed in Tahrir Square and other parts of Egypt against the one-year rule of Islamist president Morsi.
Pro-Morsi protesters, for their part, took to eastern Cairo's now-iconic Rabaa al-Adawiya Square to show support for the elected leader.
At the same time, groups of Morsi supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiya groups, as well as the Salafist Raya Party, camped at Giza's Nahda Square.
"The first night in the Nahda sit-in passed safely," Said recalled.
"But the second night, 15 protesters were killed in clashes with police and unknown assailants in Giza," he added.
On July 3, al-Sisi announced a transitional plan that included appointing the Supreme Constitutional Court head as interim president.
While anti-Morsi protesters celebrated, his supporters flocked to Rabaa and Nahda squares.
"After the [military] coup was announced, we expected the sit-ins to be dispersed at any moment," Said remembered. "Security forces would violently attack any protest that set out from Nahda to nearby areas."
"We made sure we had a well-organized media center, with cameras functioning at all times to garner support as Rabaa had," he said.
Said, who had worked as a reporter for a pro-Morsi satellite channel prior to the elected leader's ouster, said he had learned through sources that security forces planned to clear the two protest sites on August 14.
"They attacked us at 6am," he remembers. "Nahda Square's only field hospital was awash with slain and injured protesters."
The Nahda sit-in was cleared completely within a few hours, while the dispersal of the larger Rabaa sit-in continued.
By evening, security forces had seized and cordoned off both squares, while Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim declared the operation a "success."
According to the National Human Rights Council, the dispersal of both protest camps that day left 632 people, including eight policemen killed.
But the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, Morsi's main support bloc and the sit-in organizers, said thousands were killed.
In a new report based on a year-long investigation, Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Egyptian security forces of "systematic" killing of 1,150 demonstrators, suggesting the killings probably amount to crimes against humanity.
It said that a minimum of 817 demonstrators were killed in Rabaa and 87 in Nahda.
The New York-based watchdog suggested that al-Sisi, who later won a May presidential poll, and Interior Minister Ibrahim should be investigated for their roles in what it described as the "largest killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history."
The government, for its part, has denounced the HRW report as politicized and biased.
By Islam Mosaad

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