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update: 11:36, 14 August 2014 Thursday

Egyptians mark one year since Rabaa massacre

Egyptians mark one year since Rabaa massacre

Over 600 protesters were killed by the Egyptian military regime on August 14, 2013 in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda Squares after a coup against elected president Mohamed Morsi

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi staged demonstrations on Thursday morning in parts of Egypt to commemorate one year since security forces violently cleared two major pro-Morsi protest encampments in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda Squares.

The protests came in response to an earlier call by the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, Morsi's main support bloc, for an "uprising" against the military-backed government on the first anniversary of the killing of hundreds of Morsi supporters in an hours-long dispersal operation by Egyptian security forces.

In eastern Cairo's Nasr City district, close to the now-iconic Rabaa Square, protesters marched in red-stained shrouds to symbolize the killings and shouted "the people want to bring down the regime" with some carrying posters of Morsi, who is currently imprisoned pending multiple trials.

Protesters also staged demonstrations in several other cities around Egypt, demanding accountability for officials who ordered the dispersal.

The protests come as Egyptian security forces tightened up security measures around main streets and vital establishments since the early hours of Thursday in anticipation of pro-Morsi rallies.

Protesters blocked a number of roads in Cairo as well as southern Assiut. In Upper Egypt's Minya and Beni Soueif, some protesters blocked railway tracks.

Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who won Egypt's first free presidential election in 2012, was removed from office by the military last year following protests against his single year in power.

Former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, widely considered the chief orchestrator of Morsi's ouster, was elected Egypt's president in a May presidential poll.

International campaign

An international campaign will be launched by Egyptian groups opposed to the country's current regime to coincide with the first anniversary of the killing of hundreds of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

The initiative seeks to raise awareness about the incident with a view to advocating for the rights of the victims, campaign organizers said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Egyptian security forces of "systematic" killing of 1150 demonstrators last summer, including at least 817 in Rabaa alone.

The watchdog even suggested the killings "likely" amount to crimes against humanity.

The organizers said the global campaign, dubbed "The Rabaa Story," aims to advocate at the international level for the rights of those killed and injured during what they described as the "Rabaa massacre."

They added that a dedicated website in both Arabic and English will offer a chronology of events from the Egyptian January 25, 2011 revolution until the Rabaa dispersal.

"There will also be promotional ads and special pages on social-networking websites," they added.

New Channel

The campaign organizers said several TV channels, including a new one that would be launched on the anniversary day, would broadcast material related to the bloody dispersal.

Called "Egypt Now," the new channel aims to replace the Muslim Brotherhood-linked "Egypt 25" and "Ahrar 25" channels, both of which were shut down by the authorities upon Morsi's ouster on July 3 of last year.

Sources said a number of TV channels opposed to the current regime planned to make joint broadcasts on Thursday to coincide with the Rabaa anniversary.

The broadcast would include news bulletins, coverage of relevant activities and political discussions.

The April 6 youth movement, which opposes the current regime and Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, has launched a new hashtag – "Rabaa a Massacre" – on Facebook.

The movement said it launched the hashtag in solidarity with "blood, rights and freedoms."

It did not, however, say whether it planned to participate in any of the planned Rabaa-related activities on Thursday.

Along with the new hashtag, April 6 also replaced its profile photo with that of Asmaa al-Beltagi, the young daughter of a leading Muslim Brotherhood member who was killed during the sit-in dispersal.

"This [gesture by April 6] is a humane move that reflects increasing awareness of the massacre that took place that day," Sanaa Abdel-Gawad, Asmaa's mother, told Anadolu Agency.

She expressed hope that opponents of Morsi's ouster would join forces to stand up for the rights of the victims of the sit-in dispersal, including her slain daughter.

The April 6 movement first appeared in 2008 to oppose the policies of former president Hosni Mubarak.

The movement also backed last year's June 30 protests, which led to Morsi's ouster by the army three days later.

Tight security

Egyptian security forces intensified their presence in major streets in preparation for protests.

"Security forces have been put on high preparedness since early morning at many streets and around vital establishments as well as police stations and prison facilities," Hani Abdel-Latif, spokesman for the Egyptian Interior Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.

"Thus far, there have been no attacks or chaos," he added.

Short of blocking them, police and army forces reinforced deployments around Cairo's Rabaa and Nahda Square, where hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters were killed in an hours-long dispersal by security forces.

In central Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, security forces set up barricades and barbed wires around the entrances and deployed five tanks around the Egyptian Museum.

A military source said that 6,000 troops have been deployed to secure the southern entrance to the strategic Suez Canal waterway in northeast Egypt.

Security forces and army tanks have also been deployed in major streets in Suez city.