Egypt: Crackdown Draws Western Criticism

Photo: Amru Salahuddien/Xinhua

A boy holds the Egyptian flag at a pro-Mursi sit-in in the Raba’a Al-Adaweya square.

Egypt’s violent crackdown on supporters of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi has triggered condemnations from Western powers and Muslim nations who backed the ousted leader.

The Egyptian government’s deadly decision to evict mostly Islamist activists from two Cairo protest camps prompted unusually strong criticism from its main military ally, the United States.

Just two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the military backed interim government for trying to restore democracy to Egypt..after it toppled elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

On Wednesday, Kerry took a sharply different tone. “The United States strongly condemns today’s violence and bloodshed across Egypt,” he said. “It’s a serious blow to reconciliation and the Egyptian people’s hopes for a transition towards democracy and inclusion.”

Kerry reiterated U.S. calls for the government and its opponents to seek a political solution to Egypt’s unrest.

Manal Omar, of Washington’s U.S. Institute of Peace, discussed the U.S. role in the crisis with Egyptian civil society groups in Egypt earlier this month.

She said their main request was for the U.S. government to encourage dialogue between the Arab state’s opposing factions, rather than take sides.

“There were several people who asked that I deliver that message coming back to Washington and saying, whatever happens, the U.S. should be promoting principles, they should be promoting non-violence, they shouldn’t get involved in terms of who does what and how it looks like, but really stay true to the principles that the U.S. wants to see,” Manal Omar said.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Ban regrets that Egyptian authorities chose to use force against the demonstrations.

“The secretary-general also believes firmly that violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges Egypt faces,” said UN spokesman Eduardo Del Buey.

Cairo got an almost identical message from EU spokesman Peter Stano in Brussels. “Let me reiterate that the EU’s position that the violence does not lead to any solutions and that is why we are urging strongly all parties to exercise maximum restraint,” he stated.

In Muslim nations that supported Egypt’s ousted Islamist president, there was anger at the use of force by the Egyptian military leaders who overthrew him.

Islamists in the Turkish capital, Ankara, chanted for Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to “get out.”

Turkish President Abdullah Gul accused the Egyptian government of staging an armed assault on civilians and called that “unacceptable.” Morsi supporters Iran and Qatar made similar accusations.

Egyptian authorities said some protesters were armed and fired at security forces.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates refrained from criticizing the crackdown.

Both nations oppose Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement and backed the government that replaced him with billions of dollars in aid.