Political infighting mires 3rd anniversary of October 9 Maspiro clashes
Egyptian Christians clash with soldiers and riot police during a protest against an attack on a church in southern Egypt - REUTERS

CAIRO: On the third anniversary of the October 9 Maspiro clashes, different groups and organizations have butted heads on how to best commemorate the event.

The Maspiro Youth Union and Martyrs Families Union have both accused each other of using the incident to promote their own political agendas and disregard for victims’ families.

The Maspiro Youth Union announced on its Facebook page it will organize a protest with roses and candles on Thursday in Shubra at 5 p.m., and that the event will be strictly apolitical.

“It’s a reminder for Egyptians, to tell them the reason why those martyrs died, as we will be demanding a reinvestigation to reveal those really responsible for the massacre,” union member Bishoy Tenry told The Cairo Post Tuesday.

The Union of Martyrs’ Families also announced on its Facebook page Monday it will conduct a different event Friday at the Archangel Michael Church in 6 October City at 8 a.m. and a final memorial ceremony at 2 p.m.

“We all know that we can’t ban people from entering the church, however, it’s not a secret that there are some undesirable persons from the Maspiro Youth Union who will not be welcomed,” the union said in its announcement. The group went on to call the Maspiro Youth Union “blood traders,” for what it said were its attempts to benefit politically from holding a separate memorial.

The October 9 Maspiro clashes occurred in 2011 in Cairo when a large number of Copts began a demonstration in solidarity with Aswan residents against the governor there allowing the demolition of a church. Often called the “Maspiro Massacre,” video footage emerged from the event showing a security vehicle indiscriminately rolling over a crowd, and between 24 and 27 civilians were reportedly killed in the clashes.

The case took on sectarian dimensions, as many in the crowd were Coptic Christians. Security forces at the time accused demonstrators of becoming violent, necessitating a heavy-handed response using tear gas and live ammunition, but victims’ families insist it was security forces whose actions should be condemned.

Then-Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ordered the organization of a fact-finding committee soon after the clashes.  A month later, in November 2011, the committee announced that an unnamed “third party” was responsible for starting the violence and turning security forces against protesters. No further government follow-up has taken place since, and many view the government conclusion a cop-out to avoid the prosecution of security officers.

Some families to mourn privately

Surrounded by the heated political climate of the clashes and their memorials, some families have opted to stay out of the political fray entirely, and simply remember the lives lost.

The Mena Danial Movement, named after a victim killed in the clashes, originally announced it would conduct a protest in front of the Press Syndicate Thursday. However, Danial’s sister Mary wrote on her Facebook account Wednesday that the protest was canceled in favor of a small and private commemoration for her brother free of any party or movement involvement.

Despite the disagreements between the movements and parties, they all agreed on one thing: that the government must reinvestigate the case.

The Dostour Party said in a statement released Wednesday that the third anniversary of the October 9 Maspiro clashes “remind us that none of those responsible for the incident have so far been punished, and the families were not honored in a proper way.”

The Bread and Freedom Party released a similar statement Thursday, saying, “We didn’t forget the crime.”

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