The Lingering Impact of the Rabaa Killings

Ten years ago, Egypt experienced one of its darkest moments in history – the violent dispersal of a sit-in protest by supporters of the recently ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. The crackdown on civilians in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square not only resulted in hundreds of lives lost, but it also reshaped Egypt’s future and the Arab world as a whole.

The sit-in protest in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square lasted for nearly 50 days, with people demanding Morsi’s resignation due to accusations of following an Islamist agenda and failing to represent all Egyptians. The army, a dominant political player in Egypt, intervened and removed Morsi from power, bringing an abrupt end to civilian rule. Current President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was elected and has since held the post.

The events of Rabaa and another sit-in protest at Nahda Square on the same day were unprecedented tragedies in Egypt’s recent history. The Egyptian authorities claimed they repeatedly called on the Muslim Brotherhood leaders to end the “illegal” sit-in, but their calls were ignored. The state saw Rabaa al-Adawiya Square as a rebellious zone that needed to be dealt with.

The violence that unfolded on that fateful day left hundreds of people dead, with differing reports on the exact number of casualties. The majority of lives lost came from the Muslim Brotherhood camp, but some policemen were also killed. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that security forces besieged the demonstrators, leaving no safe exit until the end of the day.

The pain and trauma from the Rabaa killings still linger ten years later. Many survivors, like Amr, who participated in the sit-in, carry the burden of witnessing such atrocities. Amr, who spent five years in jail before fleeing to the UK, recalls the use of live ammunition and the sight of civilians, including women and children, being shot by snipers.

The Egyptian authorities have vehemently denied allegations of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The Ministry of Interior claims that the participants in the Rabaa sit-in were armed and posed a serious threat to law and order. However, Human Rights Watch disputes these claims, condemning the killings and stating that they constituted serious violations of international human rights law.

The families of those killed in the Rabaa massacre continue to suffer. Wafaa, the mother of a fallen policeman named Mustafa, feels the pain of her son’s loss every day. Mustafa survived the initial chaos of the Rabaa events but was shot two days later in a gun battle. He remained in a coma for three years before passing away in 2016. Wafaa and her husband’s health deteriorated since their son’s death, blaming it on the overwhelming grief.

The impact of the Rabaa killings goes beyond the individuals directly involved. Families have been torn apart, with members imprisoned and accused of belonging to terrorist groups or protesting without permission. The trauma associated with the events of 2013 continues to haunt many Egyptians, with triggers like police sirens or helicopters causing individuals to relive the painful memories.

The Rabaa killings not only scarred Egypt’s past but also continue to shape its present and future. The wounds are deep, and healing requires acknowledging the pain, addressing human rights violations, and fostering a society where such tragedies are never repeated.