The Muslim Brotherhood’s Fatal Mistake

The Miscalculation That Tore the Group in Two

A torn poster of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is pictured as riot police clear the area of his supporters at Rabaa Adawiya square, where the protesters had been camping, in Cairo, August 14, 2013. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

On August 14, 2013, in what came to be known as the Rabaa massacre, Egyptian security forces stormed Muslim Brotherhood-led sit-ins at public squares in Cairo and Giza, killing hundreds of people protesting the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s leader and Egypt’s first elected president. The death toll, which Human Rights Watch later placed at over 800 civilians, shocked the international community, but the bloodshed didn’t surprise the Brotherhood. 

Indeed, from the moment of Morsi’s July 3 overthrow, the Brotherhood’s leaders understood that they were in a kill-or-be-killed struggle with the new military-backed government. Only five days after the coup, security forces opened fire at a rally for Morsi supporters, killing at least 51 and injuring hundreds more. But the Brotherhood’s leaders believed that their notoriously hierarchical organization, whose motto includes the phrase “death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations,” possessed the manpower

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