Death in Cairo
by Yusuf Sayman
On July 5, I was standing outside the Republican Guard building in Cairo where many Egyptians believed their recently ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, was being held. Military troops in fatigues guarded the entrance, blocked off from the street by a barbed wire fence. On the other side of the road, thousands of Morsi’s supporters were massed.
Two days earlier, when Morsi was still technically Egypt’s president, I had photographed an earlier protest at this very spot. But it had been a vastly different scene—with anti-Morsi demonstrators calling for Morsi’s ouster just hours before Egypt’s army chief went on television and announced that he’d removed Morsi from office. There were no armed personnel carriers at the entrance, no barbed wire. Just a couple of soldiers standing around chatting. When an officer stepped forward to urge the crowd not to get too close to the gate, they cheered.
But now, the crowd was hostile—and growing. Morsi’s supporters chanted angrily against the army as men at the front of the protest tried to keep enraged colleagues from crossing the road, fearing it might provoke a violent response. As two colleagues and I approached the barbed wire, the soldiers warned us to leave. One officer then made an announcement: “Do not cross the street, or force will be used.”
Soon after, a lone protester pushed through the chaos and began to cross. His name was Mohamed Sobhi, an engineer born in 1977, wearing a long beard, sunglasses, a grey t-shirt and khaki pants. In his hand, he held a poster of Morsi. It was obvious that he planned to hang it on the wire. He came close, but then, just after 3pm, I heard a lone gun shot. Sobhi dropped to the floor, felled by a bullet to the head, and the first demonstrator to be killed by the army in Egypt’s ongoing crisis lay bleeding in the street.
These photos show that moment.
A terrible—but important—moment captured by photographer Yusuf Sayman in Egypt during the recent protests. Warning: this is very graphic.