Except for a minor number of clashes in Giza and Cairo, protests commemorating the second anniversary of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahdaa Square dispersals witnessed low turnout and some random arrests.
Online anti-government activism, however, took the biggest share in the day’s events.
In Cairo and Giza, protesters roamed the Talbiya and Matariya working class neighbourhoods, only to be met by heavily-armed riot police. In the smaller streets of Matariya, demonstrators gathered after the Friday prayers, but were dispersed by large amounts of tear gas fired by the Central Security Forces stationed at Matariya Square. The Talbiya neighbourhood in Giza witnessed some resistance by protesters, who used fireworks against the forces, but were also dispersed into smaller streets. Five were arrested in the area.
In other areas, protesters avoided main squares and high roads to limit confrontation with the riot police. In Alexandria, protests were organised, calling for retribution and fair trials.
In Gharbeya and Suez, similar protests were dispersed and some participants were arrested. Other protests took place in Kerdasa, Nasr City, Sharqeya, Ismailia, and Minya. The protests were a response to the pro-Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance’s calls to protest on the second anniversary of the dispersal.
While the Ministry of Interior said that protests only took place in Giza and Cairo, the Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), asserted that protests took place all over the country. Both the Brotherhood and the FJP have been dissolved by court order.
On 14 August 2013, Egyptian security forces forcefully dispersed pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square, leaving hundreds dead. The Egyptian government argued that those involved in the sit-ins were armed and incited violence and hatred, adding that opponents to the sit-in were being killed by protesters.
In its report on the sit-ins dispersal, Human Rights Watch said that the dispersal “probably” amounted to crimes against humanity, based on a one-year investigation. The human rights watchdog said they could confirm the deaths of 817 protesters in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in. They added that a total of 1,150 died in the two months following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, but added that there is evidence suggesting that in Rabaa Al-Adaweya alone, over 1,000 were killed.
Online, however, the Muslim Brotherhood, the FJP, and all affiliated groups, were active and participated in propagating the anniversary.
A part of the anti-government online rallying was establishing popular hashtags on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook.
One of them, entitled #rememberRABAA, was set to allow users to mention their memories about the dispersals and the violence that followed. The hashtag, which remained popular on Twitter for more than three days, criticised the regime, and was used by anti-government activists to “describe the atrocities of the dispersal”.
Mohamed Galal, a leading figure in the anti-government ultraconservative Salafi Front, posted the hashtag to document his posts during the day of the dispersal. “Everyone has a story about Rabaa. Rabaa is too big to be described to people. The heroic incidents cannot be counted,” he said.
However, the hashtag was also one of the main pillars used in the Rabaa Story campaign which was inaugurated days before the anniversary.
The Canada-based campaign group claimed that its members are “survivors and eyewitnesses” of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya dispersal, and wishes to document the incident and create awareness. It also aims to “mobilise the international community to take legal and political action against those in charge of Rabaa massacre”.
They added: “We document, communicate and commemorate everything about the massacre…Our PR team is responsible for reaching out to influential figures and organisations to support our cause.”
“In order to bring justice we need to present the officials in charge of the Rabaa [Al-Adaweya] massacre to a just trial. To do so, we need to push governments that believe in human rights to call for global actions,” their Facebook page said, which has attracted 23,000 users.
In London and Istanbul, anti-government activists organised silent protests and awareness campaigns to commemorate the dispersal.
In Egypt, local human rights organisations and activists still warned of the rise in violence and lack of transparency in investigating state-sponsored violence.
One day before the anniversary, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said that approximately 1,000 individuals were killed in the dispersals, which is considered “a massacre that is the worse in the history of Egypt since its independence”.
Even if authorities were keen to establish a fact-finding committee, “its reports and recommendations were disappointing,” the group said. “Two years after the crisis, killing and usage of violence became a method of dealing with protests.”
It also criticised official reports by state-sponsored fact-finding committees who described the police’s performance as “enough to limit casualties”, citing safe passages for peaceful protesters.
The report published by EIPR reasserted the recommendations published after the deadly dispersals, which are an independent investigation of all violent events since the outbreak of the 25 January Revolution, and establishing committees of legal and rights activists and security experts to “suggest technical changes in methods of the police”.
It also recommended amending the police law, and ministerial decrees responsible for arming the police.
“Finally, the EIPR asserts that the absence of the truth for the last two years since the dispersal is as chaotic as the killing of 1,000 protesters. The continuation of these security practices poses the threat of similar incidents occurring,” the group added.