By Nourhan El-Dakroury
The International Development Center (IDC) released a report on 24 June outlining statistics of protests in the year since President Mohamed Morsi took office.
One of the most common means of protest cited by the report was the barricading of buildings to prevent officials from entering their offices. According to the report, there were 324 cases of closure of institutions and authorities, including several police stations, in addition to 67 cases where officials were detained in their offices, and 28 cases of motorcade procession interruptions.
This form of protest was put in the spotlight this month at the Zamalek headquarters of the Ministry of Culture, where artists and intellectuals have held a sit-in since 5 June preventing Minister Alaa Abdel Aziz from entering his office. Security forces have so far remained relatively neutral to the protest, only interfering when Abdel Aziz’s supporters attempted to attack protesters at the ministry on 11 June.
Another such incident occurred after Morsi appointed 17 new governors on 17 June, which sparked huge controversy in the affected governorates. In Daqahleya, protestors surrounded the governorate building, barring the new governor, Sobhy Atteya, from entering by barricading the main gate. Muslim Brotherhood members eventually helped him enter through a side door.
The IDC report blames the shift towards such practices on violence from security forces, which has driven protests away from more dangerous street marches toward the generally less troubled sit-ins. One of the most significant street clashes of Morsi’s tenure occurred in November 2012, when protesters marched to Mohamed Mahmoud Street downtown in remembrance of the 90 people who died in clashes there exactly one year before. There, events echoed the previous year’s conflict when clashes erupted between protesters and security forces, resulting in the injury of around 600 people. Amidst the violence, none of the security officials or officers involved were held accountable or investigated.
Morsi promised upon taking office to undertake major reforms in the security apparatus during his first 100 days. Amnesty International released a report on 24 January revealing that at least 12 had died during protest violence in his tenure up to that point, stating: “security forces used tear gas, water cannons, shotguns, rubber bullets and live ammunition against protesters, in many cases when they were posing no threat to them.”
On 11 March, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) released a report stating its view that the current repression and absence of security are aimed mainly at serving the interests of those in power. The report added that security forces had been using violence against protesters and failed to protect media institutions in an effort to oppress and exclude the opposition.