Long night at the Tahrir
In the night of 28-29th of June, the Tahrir Square and the city center witnessed renewal of street fights between the Egyptian activists and the returning hated troops of the Central Security.
Confrontations began as a group of relatives of the martyrs of the uprising had been attacked by civilian-dressed persons and prevented from attending a commemoration for the martyrs. During the ceremony, it had been demanded that those responsible for the murder of more than 800 demonstrators answer to the account.
The relatives of the martyrs, and hundreds of activists moved towards the Ministry of Interior. After intense dispute in front of the ministry, the demonstrators decided to retreat to the Tahrir Square. The demonstration was attacked by thousands policemen of the “Central Security”. Policemen and thugs tried to liquidate the ceremony by force. “It rained tear gas bombs”, a participant described the scene at Tahrir.
Overnight, the numbers of demonstrators increased to thousands as the news of the return of the Central Security circulated. The confrontations continued the whole night until the Ministry of Interior issued its command to retreat to the police. According to reports by the Egyptian Ministry of Health, there are over one thousand injured, most of them due to suffocation or poisoning due to exposure to tear gas. 49 activists were arrested and sentenced to 15 day investigative detention.
An additional motive for the immediate mobilization was the Ministry of Interior’s alarming communiqué at the beginning of the protest, which described the protestors as thugs and attributed a false image to the events reminding of the Mubarak era rhetoric.
Egyptian human rights groups condemned the excessive use of violence by the police. The Egyptian journalist Noura Nagm described police methods as sheer revenge. “They want to avenge for their humiliation in January”. Other observers connect these and the thugs’ assault with the previously announced verdict to abolish the local committees. There, the old regime’s party still dominates.
Ever since the first communiqué, the reaction of the ruling Military Council has resembled that of Mubarak’s regime: twisting the facts, conspiracy theories, belittling the death toll, and untrue allegations. Only after eight hours was the regime forced to pull back the police. The announcement by the regime of an “investigation committee” does not represent anything new, especially when even those known to be responsible for the murders of January are still not behind the bars.
In any case, the events drew the attention to the victims’ families and the way the state organs treated the relatives of the murdered. Also, attention was given to those disabled due to injuries which had not been taken care of. Under this pressure, the Military Council pointed to the prospect of establishing a special fund which should care for the disable and the victims’ families.
The Military Council, a new edition of the old regime
So far, the Military Council has not taken any confidence-inspiring measure. Rather, it has made use of the differences within the movement to restore the old regime. It responds to the pressure of the masses, however revoking any concession as soon as the situation calms down. Also the first popular foreign policy measures (such as suspending the gas export, easing the Gaza blockade, improving the relations with Iran and Sudan) were successively withdrawn. Also as for the issue of wage increases, aside from raise in wages of the army and police employees, little has been done.
On the other hand, the enactment of repressive laws by decree (political parties act, “anti-thugs’ law”, and prohibition of strikes), points again to the regime’s authoritarian liberal-economic character. Officers who had joined the masses during the people’s uprising in January and February, were sentenced to long term imprisonments.
While the Muslim Brotherhood and some liberal groups distanced themselves from the events and waited for the results of the announced official investigations, many grassroot groups of the Egyptian democratic movement called for a renewal of persistent demonstrations at Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, the square has been occupied again. In the absence of the police, the demonstrators regulate the traffic on the square. A traffic blockage would have been a good excuse for the regime to influence the public opinion in favour of evacuating the demonstraters.
A spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood blamed the activists and accused the demonstrators of provoking the “agitators of the old regime” and being lured to degrade “the relationship between the people and the security forces”. The Muslim brotherhood related presidency candidate described the demonstrations as meaningless waste of time.
As if from nowhere, several “youth initiatives” popped out, who distanced themselves from the action and demanded the dissolution of the demonstration. The demonstrators of Tahrir Square have been designated as “thugs” by the state, and by a part of the opposition powers as well.
Today, in view of the demonstration at Tahrir Square, debates showed the same points of views on the sense of mobilizations and protests. Since its violent evacuation on April 8th and the referendum on the constitutional change, the Egyptian opposition has been split into two camps. On the one hand, the Muslim Brotherhood and a part of the liberal powers favour the de-escalation with the Military Council, awaiting the announced September elections, when a new civilian government is to see the light.
On the other hand, the political forces of the uprising demand visible reforms, such as punishment of those responsible for the repression, to combat corruption, release of the political prisoners, compensation to the victims, as well as far-reaching economic reforms. In addition to that, there is the blockade of Gaza and the natural gas agreement with Israel, which had been signed by the corrupt Mubarak group.
While the first group would like to postpone all the themes to a date after the elections, the second wants to grant legitimacy to the revolution and protect it against a counter-movement by the regime. It demands a constituent assembly and a new constitution.
This debate is similar to that of the mobilization of May 27th. Then, a large demonstration took place at Tahrir Square, which called for the implemention of the people’s demands. The demonstration took place in spite of the explicit call by the Muslim Brotherhood to refrain from participating. This event well reflected the specific size of each side.
Spontaneous breakout of the “planned” uprising
The planned mobilization of July 8th, which had been originally called for by those political forces (powers) who had been at Tahrir Square on January the 25th, was overtaken by the events.
At the moment, the Tahrir Square is occupied by determined groups who confront a re-equipped vengeful security police. Behind this police stands a military council, which intends to retain the old as far as possible: a state apparatus, which would hijack the people’s uprising. The military council also attempts to reproduce itself without change. In addition, some parts of the opposition consider the aim of the uprising as achieved with the departure of Mubarak. They would maintain the old regime, if they had a chance to become part of it. Many domestic and foreign observers have predicted that the popular uprising will break out again. Yet, as the current events show this might happen earlier than one imagines.