On Sunday, a series of bloody clashes in Cairo, Egypt left 44 dead and more than 240 injured. The clashes occurred on the 40th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur war against Israel. The military-backed government had hoped to use the holiday to celebrate the armed forces, whose chief ousted former President Mohamed Morsi in a coup on July 3rd. Pro-Morsi demonstrators, however, had different ideas.
Many Egyptians accused Morsi of trying to acquire more power than given to him as well as mismanaging the economy. His overthrow was supported by some portions of the population and strongly opposed by others.
Thousands of pro-Morsi activists and security forces clashed in chaotic scenes that raged for hours as the weekend drew to a close. Morsi supporters were seen firing birdshot and firebombs as police responded with guns and tear gas. In some cases, pro-military crowds and Morsi supporters lined the streets and pelted rocks at each other.
According to an Associated Press photographer in the city, by late Sunday evening, the city resembled combat zones with fires burning, smoke rising, debris strewn across the street, and sounds of gunfire piercing the air, which was thick with the smell of tear gas.
But the battle zones contrasted with the carnival-like mood of Tahrir Square in central Cairo, where thousands of military supporters waved Egyptian flags, blew whistles, and cheered for army General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a key figure in Morsi’s overthrow. Jets and helicopters provided a powerful display of military hardware.
Late on Sunday, el-Sissi and interim President Adly Mansour attended a firework extravaganza in Eastern Cairo, despite the violence prevalent in much of the city.
433 Morsi supporters were detained across the nation, according to the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Supporters of Morsi marched in several cities. Last week, the Ministry warned that it would retaliate against any “attempts that may disturb the 6 October celebrations,” according to the Mena state news agency. The health ministry added that there were two additional deaths outside of Ciaro in the cities of Delga and Bani Suef. There were also reported clashes in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.
Since the July ousting of the former president, hundreds of Islamist demonstrators have died in violent protests. Morsi and other senior Muslim Brotherhood members have been imprisoned and are awaiting trial. Although authorities are determined to stifle the protests, Brotherhood supporters are still taking to streets. The Anti-Coup Alliance, which is composed of several different political groups opposed to the military rule of Egypt, had called for protests to begin at various points in Cairo with the intent of converging on the Tahrir Square celebrations late in the afternoon.
According to one protestor, “there [was] a great deal of determination among the marchers to reach [Tahrir Square], despite the fear of violence. They [thought] they had as much right to be in the square as the pro-military groups”.
Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi instead described the celebrations as an opportunity for Egyptians to “stand together [and] be optimistic about the future” because it is a critical time for the nation.