Conflict & Justice

Egyptian military forcibly quells protest in Cairo


Hundreds of Christian Copts protested outside the state television building on October 4, 2011, after a church was burned in the southern Aswan district and demanded that the governor be sacked, the channel reported. Sectarian clashes are frequent in Egypt where Copts, who make up 10 percent of the 80-million-strong population, have been the target of attacks and have repeatedly accused the authorities of systematic discrimination.

Egyptian military soldiers used batons to disperse a protest of several hundred demonstrators in downtown Cairo in the early hours on Wednesday morning, according to eyewitnesses and local reports.

Videos circulating on social media websites showed Egyptian soldiers and police officers kicking and beating at least two people with batons. Demonstrators and security forces could also be seen hurling rocks into the opposing camps.

Several hundred Coptic Christian protesters assembled outside Egypt’s state television headquarters on Tuesday evening to demand "greater equality" in the wake of a somewhat rare occurrence of sectarian violence in Upper Egypt.

Late last month, hundreds of people reportedly attacked a Christian “guesthouse” that was thought to be an unlicensed church in village near the southern city of Edfu, according to the Associated Press.

Al-Ahram Online, a division of the popular state-funded newspaper, reported that “Muslim extremists” burned down a 71-year-old church in the same village.

In Cairo, protesters took to the streets around the television building to demand greater protection from Egypt's transitional military-led government.

“I want to see a strong reaction to the destruction of the church. It’s not nearly enough to promise to build a new one; we have sufficient money to build 100 churches,” Sameh, a 36-year-old protester, told Al-Ahram Online.

Egyptian security, however, eventually used force to quell the demonstration, reported the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper:

Military forces fired in the air Wednesday to disperse the demonstrators. Some protesters were arrested, while unconfirmed reports said a number of demonstrators were injured. Central Security backup forces arrived at the scene to prevent protesters from regrouping.

It was unclear what started the clashes between protesters and the military.  

Jihan Hafiz, a 25-year-old journalist who filmed this clip of a man being beaten, said that both demonstrators and security forces were throwing rocks at each other during the protest early on Wednesday.

“It became very chaotic.  The security forces were chasing people near the scene," Hafiz told GlobalPost.  "The man in the video tripped and they started beating him violently."