Deadly Clashes in Egypt Leave 17 Dead Amid Continued Government Crackdown

The early days of 2014 saw increased violence across Egypt, with yesterday bringing some of the largest and deadliest protests in over two months. With the government intensifying its repressive crackdown (to the point where even puppets have to argue their innocence) and Muslim Brotherhood supporters growing increasingly aggressive, the situation peaked Friday when at least 17 Egyptian civilians were killed and scores more were injured across the country.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets across Egypt on Friday ahead of next week's constitutional referendum. In the capital, roughly 300 pro-Brotherhood demonstrators blocked off a street near the High Administrative Court, and were subsequently fired at with teargas by police forces. More protestors set fire to one of the buildings of Cairo's Al-Azhar University, and still more demonstrators reportedly attacked an armoured police vehicle with Molotov cocktails, setting it ablaze.

Seventeen protestors were reportedly killed across Egypt, and roughly 122 demonstrators have been arrested. According to the Egyptian health ministry, another 52 people were injured in the clashes, many of them sustaining wounds from birdshot in Alexandria.

Pro-Brotherhood demonstrations have recently increased in size — in spite of the country's new anti-protest laws and its recent decision to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation — in preparation for the January 14 and 15 referendum on a new constitution, a touchstone moment for the interim government's transition plan. According to the timeline, interim President Adli Mansour's administration is hoping to see parliamentary elections within the next couple of months, with presidential elections following immediately after.

The second session of ousted President Mohammed Morsi's trial also begins next week, further incentivising his supporters to take to the streets. But Brotherhood supporters are facing an increasingly intense crackdown: after being designated a terrorist group, the government also seized its assets and those of hundreds of other non-governmental organisations suspected of being linked to the Brotherhood. Only last Sunday, Al-Jazeera's makeshift offices were raided and four of its journalists were arrested on suspicion of meeting with Muslim Brotherhood members.

According to the interior ministry, anyone who takes part in pro-Brotherhood protests will face five years in prison — protest leaders, many of whom are students, could face the death penalty.