A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, August 16, 2013

How Many Died on Egypt's Bloody Wednesday? And Now What?

Officially, during the Egyptian Revolution of January-February 2011, the total number of dead was 836. In the conflicts that followed the departure of Mubarak, the number was in excess of 300 but imprecise.
The current official death toll for Wednesday stands at 525 but nobody (including the government) considers that final. Over a hundred bodies seen by Western TV cameras at the Iman Mosque and presumably not included in the total were taken away after a government raid yesterday and may or may not ever show up in the count. Ursula Lindsey at The Arabist offers some of the official numbers:
Dead (according to Ministry of Health, and still counting): 525

Wounded: 3,500

Churches, monasteries, Christians schools and libraries attacked (Source) : 56

Days that Mohamed ElBaradei lasted as a civilian figure-head of the army-run "second revolution" before resigning in protest: 28

Other resignations: 0

Justifications presented by Egypt's non-Islamist media and political parties for the gratuitous murder of hundreds of their fellow citizens, and commendations of the security forces for their "steadfastness" and "restraint": too many to count.
The Muslim Brotherhood is claiming immense numbers in the thousands. I don't believe them but don't believe that even the government believes the official numbers yet, and tomorrow may be another bloody day.
"All of them are killers": Nobody's innocent
Whichever side you're on, please consider a few numbers: though far less than Egypt's losses in the wars with Israel, no day of domestic unrest in Egypt even remotely comes close to this. The official toll for Black Saturday of 1952 was 26. In the 1977 food riots the official fatalities were 79.  The whole conflict with Islamists in the 1990s, including the notorious "Siege of Imbaba." had no days with deaths in more than the two figures. The "Battle of the Camel" in February 2011 left only 11 dead. The Maspero demonstrations of October 2011 left only 28 dead, and the "Battle of Mohamed Mahmoud" and other serious lashes took a handful of lives but injured and maimed many more.

The present numbers also exceed, for one day, the total dead claimed by the Iranian opposition for the 2009-2010 election protests is between 36 and 72 over several months.

It may be worse than we know. I know that there were armed forces on both sides, and I know that the Brotherhood continues to attack targets with arms, including churches. At this point the issue is not who started it or who can stop it, for perhaps we have reached Yeats' nightmare:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I can't put it as well as Yeats, but I can't see a positive outcome just now for a country I love. I cannot imagine it becoming Lebanon in the eighties or Algeria in the nineties or Syria today. But I'm looking for the bright spots and not finding them. I hope all sides pull back from the brink, because otherwise, it may go there.


David Mack said...

Well said. Americans should be modest in commenting on this. The likes of Antietem, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and Petersburg may lie ahead.

Anonymous said...

I see the great democrat Sisi is reportedly ready to release the former great democrat and president for life Mubarak.

Democracy in Egypt marches on over the bodies of protestors. 36 of whom were shot apparently "attempting to escape".