Remembering Rabaa

It has been six months since the Egyptian army and police massacred over a thousand civilian protestors in Rabaa al-Adawiya square, in Cairo. They had camped in the square for two months, demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who had been overthrown in a military coup July 3. The 14 August mass killing was carried out after security forces encircled the protest site, closing off all exits, then assaulted the protestors with armored vehicles and heavy weapons, burning down the protestors’ field hospitals and the mosque buildings they were occupying. The killing continued for twelve hours.

The Rabaa massacre was the crest of a summer of mass killings by security forces, and violent repressions have continued ever since. The country’s military rulers have banned the Brotherhood, then declared it a ‘terrorist organization’ and arrested some 21,000 political prisoners.

Despite the savage repression, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have taken to the streets in a week of protest in memory of the Rabaa massacre. The demonstrations, organized like flash mobs, are decentralized, popping up in numerous places in the capital and elsewhere in the country, with a few hundred protestors, many of them women and young people, chanting for a time and then trying to disperse before being attacked or arrested.

The following videos, from the alternative news site Rassd, give a sense of the flavor of the week’s demonstrations. Some may be different moments or views from the same march. The four-fingered sign frequently seen here, either printed in yellow and black, or signaled with the hand of a demonstrator, is a symbolic reminder of the Rabaa massacre (Rabaa means ‘Fourth’). Rassd, now a fiercly anti-coup news site, was formed prior Mubarak’s downfall, and was part of the 2011 revolutionary coalition.



Youthful demonstrators in the streets of the vast neighborhood at the foot of the Great Pyramids, in the southwest quarter of Cairo-Giza. Soccer-club supporting ‘ultras’ are a visible presence in this clip; they chant for ‘justice,’ and ‘permanent revolution,’ while holding signs that say ‘revolution on the streets, not on Facebook.’



A largely silent procession marching through Al Matariya after Friday prayers on Feb. 14. A very lower-class neighborhood, as suggested by the heavy presence of the three-wheeled Tuk-Tuk auto-rickshaws, banned from the city’s nicer neighborhoods, and a badge of pride for working-class Egyptians.



A large demonstration in Al Matariya or Ain Shams. At the 24 second mark, a bearded man leads the crowd in chanting, “We are not here to destroy or demolish, only to chant against the military regime,” very much the official Brotherhood line. The camera pauses for a moment at the 35 second mark on a poster hung from an apartment in memory of a family member killed at the Rabaa massacre, one Rifaat Salem Hashim.

Seconds later, a young man waves a lighted Molotov cocktail, leading the crowd in a chant of ‘Bread and freedom, we will burn down the Interior Ministry,’ a sarcastic, rhyming reworking of the revolutionary slogan, ‘Bread, freedom and social justice.’

The contrast with the earlier chants of the Brotherhood’s official, peaceful line suggests that these demonstrations are not the top-down, carefully choreographed Brotherhood marches of the period before the coup and massacres.



A tightly choreographed demonstration in Al Matariya, largely women. The crowd chants “whatever you do to me, Al-Sissi [referring to the country’s military ruler], I will not give up my freedom.”



A more tense air to this march, as the crowd, almost all men, walks through the middle-class avenues of Madinat Nasr, where many of the worst massacres have taken place.



An attack on demonstrators in the eastern city of Suez. Against police gunfire and teargas, the young demonstrators appear to defend themselves with fireworks.



A crowd, mostly children, demonstrating in Al Matariya. The sign held up at the 7 second mark reads, “They lied about us and called us terrorists, but we are your next door neighbors.” The four fingers of the Rabaa symbol have however been rather ominously replaced with Molotov cocktails. In this as in other videos, the viewer has the sense that the vast majority of demonstrators are common citizens and not activists of the Brotherhood.



A nighttime demonstration in the town of Kardasa, a bastion of support for the Brotherhood for generations. Kardasa, scene of deadly raids on the Brotherhood as far back as the 1960s, saw a savage attack on local police immediately after the coup, followed by a violent military crackdown. The sign in the opening seconds repeats the slogan of the 2011 demonstrations which preceded the ouster of Hosni Mubarak: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

International Boulevard Editors