Al Jazeera: Egypt’s sexual assault epidemic

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Women at Egypt’s protests often must fight more than the political cause that brought them into the streets.

 It is the night of July 3, and on the streets of downtown Cairo thousands are celebrating the ousting of Egypt’s deposed president, Mohamed Morsi. But below ground, in the police booth of Tahrir Square’s metro station, Joanna Joseph is attempting to comfort a young girl.

She had been surrounded by dozens of men in the square, stripped and sexually assaulted. And now, on the request of her family, a medic is trying to conduct a virginity test on the floor of the police booth.

“I was shouting at the doctor not to touch the girl. The girl couldn’t even cope with hearing the crowds,” says Joseph, who is a volunteer with the Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign (OpAntiSh), a grassroots organisation set up in November 2012, which sends teams of volunteers to protests to intervene in mob assaults. “The policeman said he had received four or five girls in this state every day,” she adds.

Since the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, then the Egyptian president, attacks like these have become an epidemic in Tahrir Square, the site of many of the protests. And in the week surrounding the ousting of Morsi, 150 such cases were reported. Many others, of course, go unreported. The level of violence involved is often extreme – in January, two teenage girls were raped with knives.

Thirty-year-old musician Yasmine el-Baramawy, who was attacked in Tahrir Square last November, describes the pattern: Men surround the woman, rip off her clothes and then perform manual rape, while an outer circle fends off anyone who might try to help her with sticks, blades and belts.

“They were taking photos of me and laughing,” Baramawy says. “They pinned me naked to the hood of a car and drove me around.”

Vocalising sexual harassment in Egypt

Deep roots

The speed, efficiency and ferocity of the attacks imply that they are orchestrated, and many believe they are used by political factions as a tool to deter women from protesting while simultaneously discrediting demonstrators. But the fact that the assaults occurred under Mubarak, the military, Morsi and the current interim president, Adly Mansour, suggest the problem may have far deeper roots.

And while the attacks are most prevalent and brutal in Tahrir, they also occur outside of a political context: In May, rights groups reported similar assaults at a pop concert in the coastal city of Ain Sokhna.

“The problem of sexual harassment and assault has been evident for a very long time,” says Amal Elmohandes, the director of the Women Human Rights Defenders programme. “They took place as far back as 2006 during Eid celebrations, at the metro stations or near the cinemas.”

In fact, a study by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women released in April reported that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, while 96.5 percent have been subject to harassment in the form of touching.

But activists say the number of sexual assaults has increased post-revolution as there has been a surge in the number of women present in public spaces. Furthermore, Elmohandes says, “as society is more brutalised, people are increasingly expressing themselves through violent actions”.

‘Blaming the victim’

Increased opportunity and a traumatised population, however, does not fully explain the extent of the problem in Egypt. And the language used to describe the assaults reveals just how deeply embedded the problem is.

The word “taharush”, which means “harassment”, was only adopted in the context of sexual assault in the last decade. “Instead, people used to say ‘flirtation’ [‘mo’aksa’] – they sugar-coated the problem,” explains Mariam Kirollos, a women’s rights activist and volunteer with OpAntiSh.

The use of the term “flirtation” rather than harassment implies a consensual act, and contributes to an already entrenched culture of “blaming the victim”, as women are perceived to be somehow complicit.

Consequently, answering back is widely considered inappropriate in Egypt – and can, in some instances, provoke a violent reaction. When, in 2012, 16-year-old Eman Mostafa spat at the man who groped her breasts, her attacker shot her dead.

The roots of the problem, women’s rights activists say, are in the home. And with domestic violence and marital rape not considered crimes under Egyptian law, it is hard to change attitudes on the street.

Women’s rights groups had worked on legislation to criminalise domestic abuse, but this was shelved when Mubarak’s parliament was dissolved post-revolution. Since then there have been two further attempts. El-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, an Egyptian NGO that offers legal and psychological support to victims of assault, drafted a law addressing domestic violence, marital rape and sexual violence against women. But the effort was abandoned when the parliament was again dissolved by the then-ruling military council last year.

Similar umbrella legislation put forward by the state-run National Council for Women this year was also put on hold when the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, was dismantled after Morsi was ousted. “Egypt is never stable enough for us to introduce these draft laws,” explains Farah Shash, a psychologist and researcher at El-Nadeem Centre.

As it stands, under Egyptian law sexual harassment is not criminialised, and rape by objects or hands is only classified as assault.

Shash says young boys are rarely reprimanded by their parents for harassing girls in public, and that it is not uncommon to see children speaking inappropriately to women as they mirror the adult behaviour around them. “Often, families will just laugh,” she says.

The issue is not addressed in schools either, where the curriculum reinforces traditional gender roles. “You’ll see textbook examples of girls helping their mother in the kitchen, while the boys are with their fathers at work. It sets this idea in kids’ minds that women are meant to be at home [and] men on the streets,” Shash says.

Talk to Al Jazeera – Ragia Omran : Abused in Egypt

These attitudes contribute to a sense that men have power over women, who in turn become commodities, activists say. “Women are dehumanised, their bodies can be tampered with,” explains Elmohandes.

A culture of impunity

There is also a culture of impunity at the state level, with assailants rarely facing any consequences for their actions.Baramawy filed a joint complaint with six other women about their sexual assaults in Tahrir before the Qasr el-Nil prosecution in March. Prosecutors were reportedly cooperative but they had no evidence: they kept asking women to identify their attackers, an impossible request with such large mobs.

And, according to Heba Morayef, the Egypt director of Human Rights Watch, the security forces compound the problem. “Both the police and the military have been involved in sexual violence against women. They get away with it, so there has been no accountability,” she says, noting that the military conducted forced virginity tests on female demonstrators in March 2011. Elmohandes says it has become socially unacceptable for a woman to even enter a police station because of the fear of being sexually harassed.

Successive governments have failed to prioritise fighting sexual violence against women. “The problem is always postponed until the political situation ‘settles down’,” notes Morayef.

In February, on the one occasion that sexual assault was addressed by the human rights committee of the Shura Council, members of the council blamed women for the attacks in Tahrir, suggesting that they should not attend protests. One committee member from a Salafist party, Adel Afifi, even declared: “The woman has 100 percent responsibility.”

For the sake of women and the sake of this country, this violence cannot continue.– Enjy Ghozlan, Anti-Sexual Harrassment Campaign spokesperson

Activists are pushing for streetlights to be placed in locations like Tahrir and are requesting that dedicated security forces units be set up to tackle the problem. But these are just partial steps. “This is not something that can be addressed from a piecemeal approach. It has to be a comprehensive strategy on behalf of the government,” Morayef says.

In the meantime, volunteers in grassroots campaigns are left to plug the gaps. The male and female volunteers at OpAntiSh not only attempt to rescue women from sexual assaults, they also run hotlines and document cases. Societal awareness campaign Harassmap tracks sexual harassment across Egypt using an online interactive map. Meanwhile, Kirollos says, a coalition of rights groups are working on drawing up key articles focusing on the protection of women for the country’s new constitution.

Although Tahrir has become a no-go area for some women, and protesters now cordon off those who do attend into gender-segregated pens, many survivors are joining movements to combat the violence. But they fear that without effective state institutions as Egypt again finds itself in political limbo, the issue will continue to be ignored – with devastating consequences for the country’s women.

“It is becoming more violent and increasing in number,” says OpAntiSh spokesperson Enjy Ghozlan. “For the sake of women and the sake of this country, this violence cannot continue.”

BBC: US and EU visit Egypt in deepening political crisis

Dotun Adebayo talks to freelance journalist Bel Trew about foreign diplomatic efforts to broker a deal between Egypt’s interim government and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Foreign Policy: Egypt’s Islamists Turn Violent

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The Muslim Brotherhood says that its protests are purely peaceful — but evidence is mounting of torture and weaponry at its Cairo sit-ins.

CAIRO — Ahmed Sabet, 22, has been hospitalized for over a week.

“They stamped on his face,” said his cousin, Aly al-Masry, 20, who told Sabet’s story from his bedside as he drifted in and out of consciousness. “He has three stab wounds, a bullet hole through his leg and stick marks all over his body. There are bruises where he was dragged along the asphalt.”

On the night of July 26, during clashes with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy, Sabet, who is part of the April 6 Youth Movement that opposes the former leader, told Foreign Policy he was a victim of an armed assault by an Islamist mob. He says was dragged by pro-Morsy protesters to a nearby mosque, where a dozen other individuals were being held. There, he says, they tortured him for 14 hours.

The turmoil in Egypt has shown no sign of ending since Morsy’s ouster more than a month ago. And there are ominous signs that the violence is poised to worsen: The Egyptian government ordered the police last week to take “all the necessary measures” to disperse the two major pro-Morsy sit-ins that have been going on for more than a month, raising fears that the security services could once again open fire on Islamist demonstrators, as they have done previously. Meanwhile, President Adly Mansour delivered a speech on Aug. 7 declaring that the period of negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood “ended today,” and other officials have denounced the Islamist protesters as “terrorists” contending the sit-ins are armed encampments that represent a danger to national security.

There is now mounting evidence that some Brotherhood loyalists within the pro-Morsy sit-ins  — which up until now had remained largely peaceful — are indeed armed, and have committed what some human rights groups describe as torture against their political opponents. In interviews, multiple Egyptians who clashed with or observed the pro-Morsy sit-ins describe being beaten and fired on by Morsy supporters.

Amnesty International released a report on Aug. 2 in which anti-Morsy protesters recount being “captured, beaten, subjected to electric shocks or stabbed” at the Islamists’ two encampments in the Cairo districts of Nasr City and Giza. Ten citizens have reportedly filed torture complaints at local police stations, Amnesty reported. And the violence has even claimed lives: “[W]e were told by the morgue five bodies bearing the marks of torture were found near both camps,” says Mohamed Lofty, an Amnesty researcher.

The body of 32-year-old tuk-tuk driver Amr, whose family requested that his full name not be published, was one of those found bearing signs of torture near a pro-Morsy sit-in. Amr’s corpse was dumped naked and mutilated by a metro station near the Giza encampment on July 20.

“I didn’t know my own brother from the body in the morgue. You could see the burn marks,” said his sister Samah, 35. “He was beaten by sticks everywhere from his head to his feet, and they electrocuted his face and his chest.”

Amr was on his way to the neighborhood near the encampment when he went missing on July 17.Days later, the police tracked Amr’s phone to a man based in the Giza camp, who said he had found the phone in the sit-in and claimed Amr had been accused of spying and stealing by the protesters. Samah believes Amr was tortured to death inside the sit-in.

Lofty explained that individuals like Amr are picked up by the self-appointed sit-in security guards if they are considered to be thieves, spies, or pro-military infiltrators. “People take justice into their hands, they think they are entitled to apply punishments, investigate and use cruelty,” he said. “They apply their own law in the camps.”

Authorities are still investigating the murder.

In addition to the torture allegations, human rights groups also say there is evidence that some Morsy supporters have brought guns to the protests — echoing claims by government officials, including Prime Minister Hezam al-Beblawi, that the protesters are armed and have “broken all the limits of peacefulness.” These reports don’t bode well for likely upcoming efforts to break up the sit-ins: If protesters are armed, Egypt’s poorly trained police force may not be able to shut down the encampments without considerable use of force and possibly further bloodshed.

“We can say with confidence that there are weapons in the Giza sit-in … it is not very well concealed,” says Karim Ennarah, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. He pointed to a pro-Morsy rally in the nearby neighborhood of Bain el-Sarayat on July 2, when pro-Morsy protesters, marching back to the sit-in, opened fire on local residents as clashes erupted.

There is video evidence of how armed Islamists have used violence against their opponents. Ali Bazeed, 27, who works in a photocopying business overlooking the scene of the Bain el-Sarayat fighting, showed Foreign Policy the shop’s CCTV footage from the night of the clashes. In the video, bearded men and youth trash the premises. One man carries a rifle, while others brandish a pistol and a sword. Bazeed claims to know one of the men wielding a knife in the footage: “He’s from here and lives in the sit-in.”

Later in the video, dozens of men from the same group brutally beat a young man caught up in the clashes.

The next day, July 3, which saw the military move in to depose Morsy, brought further evidence that the Giza sit-in was armed. Mohamed, a 22-year-old local journalist and human rights worker, reported seeing handmade shotguns, made by citizens in underground workshops, at the site. “They were lying on the floor in the corner of a tent.”

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a 31-year-old renowned activist and blogger opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood who lives in the area, also recounts being shot at with live ammunition from the direction of the sit-in on July 23.

“We clearly saw a couple of guys with machine guns who were shooting constantly in the air in an Islamist march towards the Giza sit-in a few weeks ago,” Abdel-Fattah says. He describes unidentified shooters from within the area of the encampment “taking pot shots” at anyone believed to be a “thug or a threat” during these fights. Abdel-Fattah himself took one bystander who had been shot through the shoulder, with the bullet entering his chest, to the hospital, but the man later died from his wound.

“I talked to people in the camp who admit that they have weapons, but their version is that they are constantly attacked by thugs supported by the police,” Abdel-Fattah says. However, he says, those with weapons are in the minority. “We’re dealing with a few highly armed individuals — this is not the whole sit-in.”

Meanwhile, reports of attacks on Egyptian journalists at Morsy rallies continue to rise. The Brotherhood has feuded with local media since the military takeover — and most Egyptian news outlets are staunchly critical of the protests, sometimes to a fault. In reaction, demonstrators appear to be taking matters into their own hands.

Cameraman Shehab Eldin Abdel Razeq, 23, who works for ONTV, a television channel widely perceived to be anti-Morsy, was one of the victims of the protesters’ anger. He sustained head injuries after he was beaten with sticks in the Nasr City sit-in on the day of Morsy’s ouster. “They took me to a tent where there were five other people, bound and in a mess,” he said. “I had to pretend that I worked for an American network.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and the “Anti-Coup Coalition,” which has organized the nationwide demonstrations calling for Morsy’s reinstatement, have repeatedly denounced the allegations of violence as a campaign by the authorities to rally public support for a crackdown. And inside the sit-ins themselves, Morsy backers vehemently deny that they are armed.

“We want to talk to the Egyptian media, they’re the ones who turned their backs on us, check my tent, we have nothing like weapons,” says Radwan Ragheb, 32, an electrician living at the Giza sit-in.

Top Brotherhood officials, meanwhile, argue that the charges of violence are fabricated by the media and security apparatus ahead of an impending police crackdown.

“The main purpose is to put the protests in the context of terrorism, so that they have to be dissolved as a threat to national security,” says Amr Darrag, a former minister of international cooperation under Morsy and leading Brotherhood figure.

In response to Amnesty’s report, those organizing the sit-ins invited the international rights group on a tour of the encampments. Lofty, the Amnesty researcher, interviewed the Nasr City sit-in’s security team, which is charged with instigating much of the violence. They admitted to conducting “interrogations” of “thugs” underneath the sit-in’s main stage, but denied the presence of torture cells.

Despite its recent report, Amnesty has also slammed the government’s calls to clear the sit-in as a “recipe for further bloodshed” given the security forces’ routine use of excessive and unwarranted lethal force. Rights groups say the actions of a few individuals do not give the army carte blanche for a violent dispersal of mainly peaceful protests.

However, with new reports that attempts at reconciliation between the interim government and the Brotherhood have been officially declared a failure, the clock is now ticking for the encampments. The Egyptian security forces are likely to use testimonies of violence and torture as a reason that the sit-ins must be cleared. And with the Muslim Brotherhood showing no signs of giving in, it’s becoming increasingly hard to see how Egypt avoids another round of bloodshed.

 

The Times: Our protest will last until death, vow supporters of ousted leader in Egypt

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A bitterly divided Egypt was bracing for further bloodshed last night after supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, pledged to give up their lives rather than disband the protest camp in Cairo where dozens were shot dead in clashes with security forces at the weekend.

Egypt’s Interior Minister vowed to clear the month-long sit-in outside a mosque by members of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, warning them to “come to their senses” and go home.

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The Sunday Times: When the army snapped

The Sunday TimesAfter a month’s peaceful protest by Morsi supporters, Egypt’s military finally lost patience, and at least 65 lost their lives

IT was in the early hours of yesterday morning that the first victims, blood streaming from their faces and bodies, began to be carried into the makeshift hospital near the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque in the eastern outskirts of Cairo.

For weeks Egypt’s military rulers had tolerated a sit-in by supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the elected president whom they ousted on July 3.

Now, as demonstrators from his Muslim Brotherhood party began to move out into surrounding roads, blocking traffic and pitching their tents, the army’s patience began to run out — with deadly consequences. “At about 2am the injured started coming in,” said Yehia Mekkeyah, 36, who lectures in renal science at Egypt’s Ain Shams University, but was helping out at the hospital.

“First they were suffering from suffocation due to tear gas and birdshot pellets but the live ammunition started around 4am…”

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Our protest will last until death, vow supporters of ousted leader in Egypt

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A bitterly divided Egypt was bracing for further bloodshed last night after supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, pledged to give up their lives rather than disband the protest camp in Cairo where dozens were shot dead in clashes with security forces at the weekend.

Egypt’s Interior Minister vowed to clear the month-long sit-in outside a mosque by members of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, warning them to “come to their senses” and go home. But Brotherhood leaders said that the thousands of demonstrators, including women and children, were ready to die before giving up their calls for Mr Morsi’s reinstatement.

Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said Mr Morsi’s supporters had grown more determined after the deaths of at least 72 demonstrators in clashes in the early hours of Saturday. “There are feelings of agony and anger, but also a very strong feeling of determination,” he said. “For us, if we die, we meet our creator and we did so for a just cause. Either we die or we succeed.”

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Al Jazeera: High hopes, mixed support for Egypt’s cabinet

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Cairo — It was not exactly a warm welcome: As Egypt’s new cabinet started its first day on the job, thousands of people were protesting outside, angry about a body that has already been met with criticism or tepid praise by everyone from ultraconservative salafis to liberal revolutionaries.

The new ministers are perhaps the most technocratic bunch since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak two-and-a-half years ago.

Respected economists have been installed in key positions, raising hopes that the new cabinet will move to address the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, created a new ministry of transitional justice, a small step towards probing the rampant human rights abuses which have occurred since the revolution.

What they lack, though, is universal political backing. None of the newly-appointed ministers hail from Egypt’s major Islamist movements. Deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood did not receive any portfolios, and senior members of the group have rejected any involvement. The salafi Nour party, Egypt’s second-largest bloc, also did not accept any of the positions it was offered.

Several jobs were filled by holdovers from the previous cabinet, which was widely criticised for failing to fix everything from street violence to power outages. Other ministers have ties to the Mubarak regime, most notably foreign minister Nabil Fahmy, who served as the longtime Egyptian ambassador to the United States.

So the clock is already ticking: The new cabinet takes office amid very high expectations, held together by the awkward alliance of politicians and generals who overthrew Morsi.

“This cocktail of ministers cannot work together effectively,” said Nader Bakkar, a spokesman for Nour. “I hope for them to succeed because I want Egypt to be stabilised, but from a managerial point of view I doubt they will.”

Technocrats and holdovers

Beblawi himself has been praised as a technocrat, and some of his ministers also bring lengthy professional experience to the job. The finance minister, Ahmed Galal, is a well-known economist who criticised Morsi for doing little to resolve the structural problems in Egypt’s economy. Ashraf El-Araby, the planning minister, and Hisham Zaazou, the tourism minister, have won praise from across the political spectrum.

Thousands of Morsi’s supporters staged a protest against the new cabinet this week [Reuters]

Morsi’s last minister of investment was a Brotherhood cadre with a professional background in marketing mobile phones. His replacement, Osama Saleh, is an economist who once headed Egypt’s investment authority.

Critics say the new cabinet still under-represents women, but it is undeniably more diverse than the ones that preceded it. “This is the first time we have three Copts in the cabinet in the history of Egypt,” said Mohamed Aboul Ghar, the founder of the Social Democratic Party, whose leadership have been tapped for the premiership and have been key in authoring this transitional period. “And we have [three] women in the cabinet. SCAF only had one, Mubarak only ever had two.”

Other appointments have drawn less praise, however. Electricity minister Ahmed Imam was first appointed by Morsi and will keep his job in the new cabinet, even though the country has been paralysed for months by worsening blackouts. (His solutions included urging Egyptians to turn down their air conditioners.)

More egregious, though less surprising, was the decision to keep interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim in his post. Since Ibrahim took office last year, the police have almost disappeared from the streets, leading to a sharp rise in violent crime; meanwhile, rights groups say that police torture and other abuses remain rampant.

But the police openly sided with the coup that toppled Morsi, and the new government is eager to maintain the support of the security forces. “It’s dubious and unsatisfying, but I understand the political motivations,” said Bassem Sabry, a commentator and analyst here.

So there was little criticism of Ibrahim’s reappointment from Egypt’s political factions. Bakkar refused to comment, while Aboul Ghar defended Ibrahim’s record since Morsi’s ouster. “The interior minister was very much disliked during Morsi’s rule, but he has done a good job during the last few weeks,” he said.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Ibrahim said that restoring security would be a “top priority” for the new government.

He said little about police reform, though, and it’s unclear how Egypt’s new cabinet will pursue transitional justice without a major shakeup in the security services.

Defence minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was also sworn in again, just days after 51 people were killed outside the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo. Human Rights Watch issued a report this week which accused the military of using “unnecessary force” and called for a full investigation. But senior politicians have already admitted that seems unlikely. “We probably won’t get justice,” Aboul Ghar said.

‘An internal implosion’

The Nour party temporarily suspended its involvement in negotiations after the massacre, and it has kept itself at a distance from the new cabinet. Bakkar said that Nour was offered four ministerial jobs, as well as a vice premiership, but declined all of them to avoid appearing as if it had benefitted from joining the coalition against Morsi.

Analysts said their motivations might be more pragmatic: to stay out of a cabinet that will struggle to fix Egypt’s myriad problems.

“They affect the cabinet negotiations, but they know it will face challenges that might be beyond the capabilities of anyone,” Sabry said. “And some of their salafi base is supporting Morsi. So joining might be problematic for them, and they might face an internal implosion.”

Bakkar also criticised the cabinet for drawing too heavily from liberal parties. The prime minister and his deputy are both co-founders of the Social Democratic Party, and several other portfolios went to senior members of the Constitution Party and Wafd Party.

Aboul Ghar, however, said it would be difficult to find experienced figures without some party affiliation. “Most of the good technocrats joined the new political parties after the revolution,” he said. “Those who have joined the cabinet have had their party membership suspended.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the cabinet has been criticised by groups like Ahmed Maher’s April 6 movement, which condemned the inclusion of Mubarak-era figures. “How will those ministers achieve the goals of a revolution that was against their regime?” Maher said in a statement released on Wednesday.

‘A gun to someone’s head’

Standing on the sidelines, of course, is the Muslim Brotherhood. A spokesman for the interim president, Ahmed el-Moslemany, said that the Brotherhood was offered cabinet positions but declined them.

Top Brotherhood officials have denied this, and Gehad el-Haddad, a senior adviser to the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political wing, called the cabinet illegitimate. “We don’t recognise anyone in it,” he said.

It’s like you put a gun to someone’s head and asked for reconciliation.Amr Darrag, Muslim Brotherhood official

Amr Darrag, a Brotherhood leader and Morsi’s final minister of planning, said the group would not join the government while it is being “pursued.” Morsi remains under house arrest, and senior Brotherhood leaders have been arrested or brought in for questioning.

“We need to see any signs of seriousness,” said Darrag, who was replaced by Araby, the man he replaced just two months ago. “If you want to prove to be serious, then free the president, free the captive people, issue an independent investigation of what happened in front of the Republican Guard… do something to indicate that there is a real willingness.”

With the Brotherhood waiting in the wings and threatening to escalate its protests, the transitional government had to move forward quickly with the appointments. Aboul Ghar admits this affected the selection of ministers, as “there was not enough time to fish for new people for some posts.”

The prime minister also ignored requests to shrink the size of the cabinet, which now contains 34 ministers. Nour and other parties had suggested cutting it in half, and urged Beblawi to merge ministries like electricity and petroleum into a single energy ministry. “There is a lot of overlap between some of the portfolios,” Sabry said.

Last minute decision-making also highlighted the ongoing spats within the uncomfortable coalition that toppled Morsi. The head of Cairo’s opera house, Ines Abdel Daymen, told local channel ONTV that she was on her way to be sworn in when she got the call saying she was out because of criticism from Nour.

Meanwhile the army are orchestrating events and writing the timeline: Despite promises to the contrary, Egypt’s political factions were not consulted over the writing of the constitutional declaration, which laid out a schedule for elections and defined the powers of the government during the transitional period.

With investigations under way into military involvement in last Monday’s massacre and the police back to tear-gassing protesters on Cairo’s streets, there are few guarantees transitional justice will be served and change realised. “It’s like you put a gun to someone’s head and asked for reconciliation,” Darrag said.

After two-and-a-half years and several disastrous transitional periods, much is resting on this new government. Several cabinet ministers declined interview requests, saying it was too early to comment on their work. The cabinet’s backers, for their part, have promised everything from economic growth to a more transparent and inclusive political process, setting high expectations for the next six months.

“I think the situation will be better,” said Aboul Ghar. “This cabinet will do in a very short time things that all cabinets since Mubarak’s time failed to do.”