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Outpouring of Rage and Grief Follows Egypt's Bloody Crackdown on Revolution Anniversary

Socialist and poet Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was one of several demonstrators reportedly killed by police over the weekend

The funeral of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, an activist at the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), in Alexandria, Egypt on January 25, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

The funeral of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, an activist at the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), in Alexandria, Egypt on January 25, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of people on Sunday attended the funeral of 32-year-old socialist and poet Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, who was among at least 23 people killed and 97 wounded over the weekend at rallies and vigils across Egypt to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

Many of the killings were directly attributed by eye-witnesses to the country's feared police and security forces, who have orchestrated a coordinated crackdown on political dissent which has escalated since former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to the presidency through a military coup engineered in July 2013.

Chants of "Down with the military and the regime" and "Interior Ministry are thugs" rang through the funeral procession in Alexandria for al-Sabbagh—who leaves behind a five-year old child.

According to the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, of which al-Sabbagh was a member, she was shot at close range by police while attending a peaceful march on Saturday in Cairo to place flowers at Tahrir Square in commemoration of people killed during and following the revolution.

Witness and freelance photographer Osama Hamamm reported on Facebook that the protesters had been chanting the revolutionary slogan "Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice" when police attacked them.

"Suddenly the security forces fired several tear gas grenades and we were all amazed," wrote Hamamm. "I did not run. I found Shaimaa El-Sabagh walking besides me along with couple of protesters that did not run away. Suddenly we found birdshots being shot... When the birdshots stopped, I stopped and looked behind and I found Shaimaa El-Sabagh falling down."

The immediate aftermath of her shooting was captured in videos and photographs (warning: images may be disturbing), which have since gone viral.

Sondos Reda Abu Bakr, a 17-year-old student, was also reportedly killed over this weekend while attending a march organized by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party.

Independent Egyptian publication Mada Masr reports that the Ministry of Interior has sought to distance itself from the casualties. "In line with the narrative of the last two years, state media and government institutions were quick to point fingers at the Muslim Brotherhood for disturbing the peace and tainting the January 25 anniversary," the publication states.

Under al-Sisi's rule, state forces have carried out widespread killings, including indiscriminate fire on rallies and demonstrations. Thousands of people, from journalists to pro-democracy protesters to suspected supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been subjected to mass arrests, jailings, and unfair trials, including in military tribunals.

Shortly after rising to power, al-Sisi's government imposed a law criminalizing protests and expanding police powers to crackdown on public gatherings. At least 62 people were killed during last year's commemoration of the January 25th revolution.

Despite these human rights abuses, the U.S. government remains a key backer of the Egyptian government, with the Obama administration recently signing legislation that allows the U.S. to waive human rights concerns in the provision of $1.5 billion in annual aid, most of it military.

"Four years after Egypt’s revolution, police are still killing protesters on a regular basis," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement released Monday. "While President [al-Sisi] was at Davos burnishing his international image, his security forces were routinely using violence against Egyptians participating in peaceful demonstrations."

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