As clashes between security forces and demonstrators at Cairo’s Tahrir Square that have left at least 10 dead and hundreds injured entered a fourth day, the country’s military rulers face a new round of scrutiny and criticism both from within and without. After this weekend’s clashes, which produced shocking photographs and videos of demonstrators being beaten by security forces, even the Muslim Brotherhood — usually a cautious ally of the military government with, as the most popular political organization, a stake in peaceful elections — had strong words about the government’s inability to contain violence.
Now, questions are being raised outside Egypt, too. Both the U.S. and the United Nations weighed in on the clashes in statements. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released as statement yesterday expressing “concern,” urging protesters to remain peaceful and accountability for government violence:
I am deeply concerned about the continuing reports of violence in Egypt. I urge Egyptian security forces to respect and protect the universal rights of all Egyptians, including the rights to peaceful free expression and assembly. We call upon the Egyptian authorities to hold accountable those, including security forces, who violate these standards. Those who are protesting should do so peacefully and refrain from acts of violence.
Also on Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement of “alarm” at the “excessive use of force” deployed by the authorities:
The Secretary-General is highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protesters and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest.
The Secretary-General underlines the importance of an atmosphere of calm to support Egypt”s electoral process as part of its transition to democracy and the early establishment of civilian rule.
Over the weekend, the government denied that security forces were using violence, even as a first-hand report from the New York Times spoke of people both with and without uniforms chucking pieces of concrete down on protesters outside the Interior Ministry. Now, an officer from Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces says the protests are a “systematic” attempt to, as the BBC put it, “sabotage the country’s security and provoke the army.”