On October 9, 2011 at least twenty-seven people were killed and over three hundred injured, following a largely Coptic demonstration culminating at the Egyptian Radio and TV Building at Maspero, in downtown Cairo. Clashes began at roughly 6:30pm and lasted long into the night, involving the military police, central security riot squads, demonstrators, ordinary citizens, and perhaps paid thugs.
Four main explanations have since emerged:
One Party Blaming the Other:
- Coptic demonstrators were frustrated at recent perceived slights from the military council against their community, and at least a segment of them attacked the armed forces with stones, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire. They may also have attempted to storm and occupy the Maspero building.
- The military council has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the democratic transition, and may even be undermining it seeking to stay in power. As such they attacked the peaceful demonstration and used State TV to blame and demonize the Copts, playing a sectarian card in order to unite the majority population behind them.
No Blame Offered for Premeditated Violence:
- Both military police and Coptic demonstrators were caught off guard when an unknown third party infiltrated the protest and fired on both soldiers and protestors alike. This may have been from an internal enemy, such as the remnants of the former regime or radical groups seeking to drive a wedge between the army and the people (or perhaps Christians), or external, from any number of nations wishing chaos to prevail in Egypt.
- A series of misunderstandings and mistakes complicated and aggravated an already tense situation, in which no one is guilty of premeditated aggression but in which all parties succumbed to the use of violence and demonization.
The following report will analyze video evidence to describe what took place on the night of October 9, relying on video evidence uploaded to the internet, largely on YouTube. A few limitations must be noted:
- While videos have been sorted into a general timeframe, it is not possible to establish a complete sequence of events.
- It is not possible to guarantee the integrity of these videos. Where editing or manipulation may be involved it will be noted appropriately.
- The collection of videos followed an extensive search process, but one which cannot be described as exhaustive. Important videos may have been overlooked, and accusations exist that some videos have been removed from YouTube. This is the testimony of Hānī Labīb, managing director of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation, commenting on a television program on which he was a guest. The broadcast was originally on YouTube, but is now missing.
It is also the testimony of AWR executive secretary Diana Maher Ghālī, conveying the sentiment of Vivian Majdī, fiancé of Michael Mus‘ad, who was killed in the protest. Majdī told Ghālī she is in possession of videos uploaded to YouTube which have now been removed. To note, I attended two press conferences hosted by groups critical of the military council version of events, one of which included Vivian Majdī. Their videos presented did not differ significantly from the ones to follow, nor did they speak of videos being removed. If additional videos can be obtained later an update will be provided, and if readers are in possession of additional evidence they are welcome to submit it for review.
This report will not consider the evidence of written testimony, though it acknowledges its essential value. Witnesses on either side provide partial perspective, may color their testimony, or outright fabricate accounts. A full investigation must include all such evidence, weighing carefully all perspectives. Yet this report focuses only on video, which together convey images independent of explanation.
The analysis will seek to present the reader with what is visible in the videos, avoiding speculation or implications. Additional background material will be provided as necessary. It is not imagined that any of the four scenarios listed above will be confirmed through this process, but these overarching narratives will inform what follows. Links will be provided for all videos, and the reader is invited to explore the evidence on his or her own. Videos will be titled according to their original posting, and sorted into the following categories:
- The Initial March from Shubrā
- The Beginnings of Violence
- Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) Driving along the Cornish
- Scenes of General Chaos
- Media Coverage
- Corpses Gathered in Hospitals or Elsewhere
- Compiled Footage
As noted above, the issue of chronology is important, and impacts especially categories three and four. This report, based on video evidence alone, leaves exact determination of instigation in these categories open for further research.
The Initial March from Shubrā
Video One: Philopater will Lead a March the Likes of which Egypt has Never Seen, which will Conclude Inside Maspero (Five minutes)
Fr. Philopater is a priest of the Coptic Orthodox Church, a member of the Maspero Youth Union, and one of the principle organizers of the demonstration. During this video he is speaking publically in church and inviting attendees to join the march the next day. Shubrā is a suburb of Cairo with a disproportionately high percentage of Christians. ‘Maspero’ is the name given to the Radio and Television Building in Cairo, which has for decades been under heavy security to prevent non-state entities from entering by force and broadcasting unofficial messages.
0:10 We love the armed forces and we love the army, since they are from us
1:15 Copts will never surrender their rights
1:30 Honor us with your presence tomorrow at Shubrā Circle at 3pm, for a march the likes of which Egypt has never seen
1:50 We will conclude our march inside Maspero
2:15 We will not be able to take our rights except with the moderate Muslims of Egypt
3:15 They say you are a minority; no, we are the majority – not as Christians, but as true Copts and moderate Muslims, against the forces of backwardness who are foreigners here in Egypt and the minority
This video provides a panoramic view of the protestors from their gathering point in Shubrā. Hundreds of people, including many women, are seen standing, milling about, simply waiting for the march to begin. No weapons are visible, though several people carry wooden crosses. To be noted, generally in demonstrations the chant leaders are chosen by the organizing party, and therefore their calls are sanctioned. While spontaneous chants often develop as well, anyone who deviates from the general sentiment of the crowd is shouted down.
0:50 Small chant of ‘Illegitimate’ begins among some protestors
1:22 Camera zooms on a group of protestors wearing white, with a slogan written in red saying ‘Prepared for Martyrdom’. The phrase used for ‘prepared’ is commonly found on hearses during funeral processions
2:00 The group in white marches off in a line, apparently signaling the start of the march
2:35 A chant begins calling for the downfall of the field marshal, military council head Gen. Tantāwī
Video Three: The Coptic March at Shubrā Circle (Thirteen minutes)
Despite the title locating this video at Shubrā, it is actually a compilation of several scenes from along the march route, including two interviews. All scenes appear to be free of weapons, with many women and children present.
1:00 Chanting against the military council, at one point calling ‘Dictator, dictator’
2:07 Scene switches, opening with Fr. Philopater, Fr. Mityās, and a monk walking together amidst the people
2:25 Scene switches again, the march is joined by two vehicles, among the chants are ‘The People Want the Fall of the Field Marshal’
3:27 Scene switches to an interview with Fr. Mityās, listing Coptic complaints and how they suffer attacks no one is brought to justice over, but that even sometimes, like with the Aswan governor, we are incited against; it makes us feel like this isn’t Egypt
6:00 Fr. Mityās describes demonstrations as an available and legitimate means of protest for all to express their opinions
6:34 Scene switches as the march continues under a bridge, much darker in this scene
7:40 Protestor speaking earlier in the day describing participants (Copts without Restrictions, Free Copts)
8:30 We are called a minority or a foreign entity, no we are the original inhabitants of the land
9:00 If we are not heard today after this march, we will have to study all possible, legitimate means to achieve our rights
9:20 Our demands: a committee to study the event of Marīnāb Church, arrest of all criminals in the proceedings, immediate rebuilding of the church, resignation of the Aswan governor (we will protest every day for this, and even sit-in, since he has transgressed our holy places and our possessions)
12:25 Scene switches to two more general scenes of protest and marching
(Note: Along the way, the protest march was attacked at an underpass by civilians throwing stones and glass. Footage is included in video thirty-seven, at minute 0:09.)
Video Four: The Reason Behind the Event of October 9 at Maspero (Two minutes)
This video features the main priests and the monk among the organizers of the march, and includes incendiary comments from the monk. His identity is unknown to AWR at this time.
0:15 Protestor chanting ‘We are the owners of this land’
0:30 What are the demands of the march? Monk answers: For the governor to give his resignation (and other demands listed above). If he doesn’t, he knows what will happen. If he doesn’t respond in 48 hours he will die a heinous death
Video Five: The Size of the March before the Clashes Clearly Showing No Weapons, as the Army had Said (Ten Minutes)
In this video the march has been underway for some time, and it is darker outside. The scene is captured by a camera filming from above on an onramp to a bridge. It appears to be right next to the Hilton Hotel leading into the Nile Cornish a few hundred meters from Maspero. If correct, this video leads directly into the clashes to be described below. Many women and children are present. Some of those clothed in white are at the front, which is very sparse at the opening.
1:38 A lone man is seen with a plank of wood using it as a walking stick
1:50 Another person seems to have a similar plank of wood, and nearby is another with a stick
2:25 Another person appears to be carrying a plank of wood, walking along the wall by himself
3:04 Another person is walking with a stick
3:50 Chant of ‘Kyrie Eleison’ (Lord have mercy) begins, an oft repeated hymn in church
4:20 Another person is visible to the left of the screen using a walking stick
4:45 Chant of ‘Raise your Head High, You’re a Copt’ begins
4:50 Two people waive objects above their heads during the chanting
5:25 A pickup truck drives down the procession with people aboard chanting the Lord’s Prayer
6:00 The procession begins to get much denser, showing the extent of the size of demonstration
6:45 The chant of ‘Illegitimate’ begins
Analysis: The march was very large, included women and children, and appeared to be peaceful at every stage along its path. Protestors were very frustrated with the current situation, and many chants were against the military council. The vast majority was certainly without weapons, though many carried crosses; though unclear it does seem that a few in the procession had planks or sticks which could be used violently.