Middle East

The resilience of Egypt's Brotherhood

A riot police officer fires rubber bullets at members of the Muslim Brotherhood during clashes in Cairo October 6
Image caption More than 50 people died in Sunday's violence

On Sunday, dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces. The Islamist movement may have fallen from power, but its supporters are still willing to risk everything.

In the narrow streets of Kerdasa, not far the pyramids, a low drumbeat could be heard. It grew louder, and so did the chants of "Morsi, Morsi" as hundreds of schoolgirls made their way through the village.

They still chanted his name, and still carried his portrait, but Mr Morsi's supporters are now scared to show their faces. Time and time again they told us not to reveal their identities.

In Egypt today, the Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed, and Kerdasa, a stronghold for the group, is a town under suspicion. It is on the front-line in the war between the government and the Brotherhood.

In a dawn raid on 19 September armed police rolled into town, and the army used armoured personnel carriers to close roads. A helicopter flew overhead, and the authorities made their base outside the burnt-out shell of the local police station. They had come looking for the killers of local policemen, butchered in their station weeks earlier.

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Media captionThe BBC's Quentin Sommerville reports from Kerdasa in mid-September, when the security forces moved in

That attack happened as the security forces cleared Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo, killing hundreds at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

A local man said it was outsiders who were responsible.

As police retook the village, nearly 100 people were arrested.

Locals described the operation as a political witch-hunt, and many of the Brotherhood's supporters have gone into hiding.

"In some house raids, they said they had a list of names wanted for the killings at the police station," says Sami, not his real name, who lived in Kerdasa.

"This is political and not criminal."

Some of those who fled Kerdasa had their homes torched. Across Egypt, thousands have been detained.

Support runs deep

The crackdown appears to be about more than just tackling violence - it is also about eradicating dissent.

The Brotherhood are, for the moment, beaten. Their leaders are locked up as criminals, and their members are accused of being terrorists.

But for the immediate victors, the military-backed government, that is not enough. They say they have a plan for a new democratic Egypt, but make it plain that the Brotherhood will not be playing a part.

The group has suffered one of the greatest political reversals of all time.

Just over a year ago, a majority of Egyptians voted for them. But for many, the Brotherhood had failed in government.

The army dealt the final blow and followed it with a brutal crackdown that killed hundreds of Brotherhood members.

Image caption Many were arrested in the crackdown in Kerdasa

Generations have been helped by the Brotherhood's charities and schools. Support in the community runs deep, but staff at the al-Farouk hospital in Cairo's Maadi district realise it is dangerous to advertise their links with the Brotherhood.

The building is shabby, its paint peeling, but it serves the poor with 200 doctors working throughout the hospital.

"All our licences are OK. I don't think they will come to stop the service," says Dr Ahmad Morsi, vice chairman of the hospital.

"We offer the service without any consideration of political affiliations. We offer our services to all Egyptians."

But that is unlikely to protect the hospital. The government said it would seize all Brotherhood assets, even those of educational and medical affiliates.

Image caption Sunday's clashes were the worst for months

Most of those Brotherhood leaders who have not been imprisoned have fled and even outside Egypt still will not risk being identified.

One leader who has fled to London told the BBC: "It is the worst moment in Egypt's history. These massacres had no precedent in terms of scale and violence. And also the crackdown on people's freedoms is again unprecedented."

But the use of force betrays an insecurity at the heart of Egypt's new revolution. Despite extraordinary efforts to destroy the Brotherhood, its supporters are still willing to risk taking to the streets, albeit in smaller numbers and in briefer protests.

Criminalised, imprisoned and even killed, their message is still clear: the Brotherhood will not go quietly.