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August 13, 2013

In Blog

Egyptian liberals call for crackdown against pro-Morsi sit-ins

By and Sharaf Al-Hourani, Published: August 12

CAIRO — As pressure mounts on Egypt’s military-backed interim government to forcibly disperse supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from their massive sit-ins, some of the loudest, most passionate voices calling for security forces to clear the encampments come from liberals here.Liberal commentators, activists and politicians — on state-controlled media and across a spectrum of independent channels — say it is long past time to evict the tens of thousands of Morsi supporters and Muslim Brotherhood backers from their sit-ins around Cairo University and the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.


Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said they would not end their Cairo sit-ins despite the threat of police action.

Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said they would not end their Cairo sit-ins despite the threat of police action.

“They need to put a siege upon them, and cut off their supplies of water, of cement, because they are building walls. There are weapons and criminals in there, as well as good people, but they should deal with these criminals now,” Bassel Adel said in an interview. Adel is a former member of parliament and a leader of the Constitution Party, a liberal group founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who is serving as interim vice president for foreign affairs.The Egyptian liberals making these calls are aware that a crackdown by the military or police on a committed, cohesive, religiously inspired group could lead to bloodshed. The protesters have fortified their positions with sandbags and brick walls, and their encampments are filled with women and children. They vow not to disperse until Morsi — who has been detained without charges in an undisclosed location — is returned to office.

Authorities warned the media Sunday that they would soon cordon off the encampments. Rumors swept through the sit-ins that security forces would arrive with the dawn Monday. But authorities have apparently postponed any action.

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told the BBC on Monday that the government has spent three weeks trying to reach an agreement with the protesters but that a court order to oust them is also being sought. “This is a parallel-track process, and ultimately it has to be resolved very soon, either by dialogue or the rule of law,” he said.

“There are conflicting positions inside the government, and even inside the security forces, about the best course of action,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

“These sit-ins are massive, and even if the government decides to go in, with brute force, without respect for human rights, they would face a lot of casualties — on both sides,” Ennarah said.

Yet if some liberal voices, such as ElBaradei, advocate for more dialogue and a go-slow approach against the sit-ins, they are being drowned out by calls for law and order made by other liberals and leftists — many of the same people who decried the heavy-
handedness of Morsi and his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

“This is a violent and armed sit-in, and it is the right of every government to disperse it by law, and the people are saying that if the government does not disperse, we will do it ourselves,” said Karima el-Hifnawy, a leader of the Egyptian Socialist Party.

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