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Female protesters in Egypt decry 'police' killings

January 29, 2015

Protesters at a women-only rally in Cairo have demanded an investigation into the deaths of dozens of activists, saying that they were killed by security forces. The rally was held despite Egypt's crackdown on dissent.

Frauen protestieren in Kairo
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Elfiqi

Around 100 women gathered in downtown Cairo on Thursday to protest the fatal shooting of activist and mother Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, as well as 25 other victims who were killed while attending a demonstration on Saturday in Cairo.

The victims had lost their lives after police tried to break up a rally on Saturday, the eve of the fourth anniversary since the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Saturday's protesters were on their way to place wreaths at a memorial in honor of the protesters who died during the uprising.

The activists killed over the weekend were on their way to lay wreaths at a memorial in honor of protesters who died during the unrest that toppled Mubarak.

Egpyt's government has denied claims that the police shot and killed El-Sabbagh, saying a forensic examination showed she was shot by a projectile that is "absolutely" not used by security forces. Still, the protesters gathered at the site of her death, chanting "The interior ministry are thugs!" and holding signs with the word "Murderer" written across pictures of the interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

"They want the country like under Mubarak. Rotten and silent, without any talk," said el-Sabbagh's friend Yehia el-Gaafry.

Since the army reclaimed power in 2013, overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood government that followed Mubarak, public protests have been outlawed unless specifically approved by the police. The Muslim Brotherhood has also been banned and labeled a terrorist organization, as has the secular April 6 Youth Movement that was instrumental in Egypt's 2011 revolution. Hundreds, mostly Brotherhood supporters, have been killed in clashes with security services, and hundreds more have been imprisoned or sentenced to death at military tribunals since former general Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took power.

One of the organizers of Thursday's rally said that they had called for only women to participate because they feared the protest would otherwise be infiltrated by male, plainclothed agents.

'Terrorists and traitors'

The protesters assembled at the site of el-Sabbagh's death near Cairo's Tahrir Square, where police armed with automatic guns have been positioned all week.

A number of men also gathered across the street from the protesters, making lewd gestures and shouting profanities at them, while others expressed their support for the general-turned-president el-Sissi, and chanting "Terrorists and traitors who want to destroy the country" at the gathered women.

According to Ibrahim, an investigation into el-Sabbagh's death is already underway, and the minister also promised that any police officer found responsible would be prosecuted.

The rally ended peacefully and the police did not intervene, despite not conforming to restrictive government regulations on public gatherings.

The government of el-Sisi has been increasingly criticized over its treatment of political opponents. At least 1,400 people have been killed in a government crackdown on dissent, after the army ousted Mohammed Morsi in the summer of 2013.

dj/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)