Daily Archives: August 14, 2013

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi are detained by security forces at the Rabaa al-Adawiyya protest camp. Getty

Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday launched a much-anticipated operation to clear supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from two protest camps in the capital, leaving scores dead and prompting protests around the country from Mr Morsi’s Islamist sympathizers, who clashed with police and attacked churches in southern Egypt.

Polarisation between opponents and supporters of the president increased dramatically in the wake of the popularly-backed coup that removed Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, from office on July 3. He has languished in detention since, prompting his supporters to accuse the security forces of undermining democracy. Opponents of the former president accuse him of trying to impose an Islamist vision on Egypt and say the military coup was needed to ‘save’ the country. International efforts to mediate between Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and the interim government, backed by the powerful defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah Sisi, failed as neither side showed willingness to compromise.

As the Islamist protest camps became increasingly disruptive in the traffic-choked capital and leaks of an imminent operation to clear them grew, the protesters vowed they would remain until Mr Morsi was restored to power, with some claiming they would rather die as martyrs than give up their protest. Warnings by activists, rights groups and some politicians that their forcible removal could ignite a cycle of violence were ignored and the Arab world’s most populous nation is once again riven by unrest.

Here is our pick of background reads on the latest episode in Egypt’s turbulent transition. 

Gideon Rachman

Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo (Getty)

The bloodshed on the streets of Egypt is a disaster for the country. It also creates a desperate dilemma for the West.

Nobody yet knows how many people have been killed. But the random nature of some of the victims – a British television cameraman, a 17-year-old-girl – suggests that the death toll will be very high. Beyond the immediate tragedy, the killings in Cairo end the prospect of any reconciliation between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. They also end any hopes for a democratic Egypt, at least in the immediate future. That vision – which seemed almost irresistible after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 – is now over. 

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Internet billionaires are putting their money into futuristic, even outlandish, ventures that could herald the new era of scientific innovation or just be exercises in hubris.
♦ German politicians may be saying that they have no intention of joining a coalition now, but all the party “colour combinations” will become viable once the election comes round, says the FT’s Quentin Peel.
♦ For those who have never been inside a gulag, New Republic takes a tour of a Russian penal colony through photographs to give an idea of what sort of conditions prisoners like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the members of the punk bank Pussy Riots face.
♦ New calculations that show that jumping into a black hole would cause one to be flash-fried by a firewall of energy – rather than smote to particles smaller than dust – have ignited a tense debate among the world’s physicists.
♦ The New York Times profiles documentary film maker Laura Poitras, looking at her investigations into growing surveillance in the United States and how her involvement with releasing information from Edward Snowden changed her life.