Sometime during Egyptian security forces’ all-out assault against a sprawling Cairo sit-in that was protesting the military’s removal of President Mohamed Morsi, a photographer with AFP/Getty named Mohammed Abdel Moneim stumbled onto a remarkable scene. Amid the violence, the ripped tents and toppled home-made barricades, a veiled woman, one of the protesters, appeared to be challenging a massive bulldozer head-on.
The bulldozer, identified by Getty caption information as belonging to the military but may more likely be associated with state security services, appears to have been tearing through the protest camp’s home-made – and ultimately futile – system of barricades when the woman in the photos chased it down, waving sticks in the air in an apparent attempt to get security forces’ attention.
Moneim’s next photo may show why she was so desperate to stop the bulldozer. It shows the massive vehicle looming over a young man, who is lying wounded and bleeding on the ground, its path now blocked by the veiled woman:
Moneim’s photo captures her gesturing to a nearby member of security forces in what appears to be either outrage or a plea for mercy. It’s not clear whether the woman knew this man or merely saw him on the ground and wanted to help; it’s also possible that he was wounded sometime after the first photo was taken and was not her impetus for placing herself in the bulldozer’s path. However she got there, in the moment of Moneim’s photo she appears at once helpless and defiant, like so many of the protesters forced out of their pro-Morsi demonstration outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City district.
The Washington Post’s Abigail Hauslohner, who is in Cairo, reports on the unexpected and violent moment that the bulldozer arrived:
“It was a surprise. We were ready since midnight. But after dawn prayer, people started relaxing. Then they started shooting from the side streets so they could infiltrate,” [20 year-old student and protester Islam Fahti] said. He said police made announcements through loudspeakers telling the protesters to leave and go home.
“They didn’t give us an opportunity to go home,” Fahti said. “Then a bulldozer came and took away the blockade.”