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Egypt's Islamists Turn Violent After Morsy's Fall

 

CAIRO -- Rallies in support of Mohamed Morsy during the day on Thursday were smaller than they had been previously, perhaps because supporters of the deposed president stayed away out of fear of violence. But while the numbers may have been down, reports of violence throughout the city suggested that this crisis is far from over.

Bullet holes were visible at sites across the pro-Morsy sit-in outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque -- the product of violence at the protest site late last night. There is also anecdotal evidence that some of the former president's Islamist supporters have grown increasingly radicalized by the military takeover: One protester directed a message to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, saying that he had created "a new Taliban" and a "new al Qaeda" in Egypt.

The violence was even worse at Cairo University, the site of another pro-Morsy rally, and outside of the capital. Sixteen people were killed and at least 200 were injured in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsy protesters at the Cairo University rally yesterday, causing the military to move in today to separate the groups. A video allegedly filmed today showed clashes between pro-Morsy protesters and Egyptian security forces on the bridge leading up to the university.

Outside of Cairo, four people -- three Morsy supporters and one police officer -- were killed in the city of Minya, another four were killed in Alexandria, and six Islamists were killed in the western city of Marsa Matrouh.

Evidence also emerged suggesting that ultra-hardline Islamist groups were turning away from politics -- and toward violence. A video allegedly filmed in northern Sinai, a traditional flashpoint for jihadist violence, showed an Islamist crowd declaring the formation of a "war council" following the coup, and chanting "no peace after today."

The outpouring of anger came simultaneously with a widespread crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian military. The movement's supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, was arrested; security officials said that up to 300 arrest warrants were issued for leading members of the group; and the government-owned printing press refused to print the newspaper belonging to the Brotherhood's political party. In an interview with the New York Times, opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei justified such steps as "precautionary measures to avoid violence." 

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Mapping Sexual Assaults in Egypt

The chaotic showdown between the Egyptian military and now-former President Mohamed Morsy has overshadowed another troubling development in the country: the nationwide protests that began on June 30 brought a new round of sexual assaults and mob attacks, with Human Rights Watch reporting on Wednesday that "mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square" over the last four days (journalists and foreigners have also been victims of the violence).

Since Egypt's first wave of game-changing protests in 2011, several online tools have sprouted up to help document these kinds of cases and reduce their frequency. HRW, for instance, cites Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH), which confirmed 46 attacks in Cairo's Tahrir Square on June 30, 17 on July 1, and 23 on July 2. The Twitter accounts @OpAntiSH and @TahrirBodyguard are organizing volunteers to protect women and intervene in instances of assault (according to HRW, OpAntiSH intervened in 31 such cases over the past week). The massive number of people in Tahrir Square in recent days prompted @TahrirBodyguard to tweet, "Women of Tahrir, plz do not trust anyone without our full uniform -yellow helmet &neon yellow vest- and is in a group of at least 8 or more."

Several activist groups are working with OpAntiSH, including the HarassMap project, which started in 2010 to document sexual harassment across Egypt by allowing women to report incidents online or by SMS -- and also by dispatching group members to monitor developments on the ground. Click the image below to see the map the group has been building (note: not all reports of harassment are verified).

During Egypt's 2011 protests, HarassMap received fewer reports of mob assaults. "They occurred, but not as often or as extreme," HarassMap co-founder Rebecca Chiao told FP. "There are more reports now. Partly I think this has to do with our own improved operations. Partly I think that the mob assaults are happening more often." She said the group has received reports that paid "thugs" are perpetrating attacks, though it's unclear who's funding them, and that political actors have not "made a serious effort" to prevent these incidents or punish the assailants.

Since HarassMap first launched, Chiao has noted a shift in Egyptians' attitudes. "People are speaking out more -- sending more reports, being more open about discussing the issue and volunteering more," she explained. "This is important since breaking the silence is the first step to stopping the problem."

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images