On Friday, 25 February, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had assembled on Tahrir Square in Cairo to voice the demands of the uprising for political and economic reforms. They had followed a call by the “Coordinating Council of the Insurrection of January 25th.” The demonstrators demanded that the resignation of the government of Ahmad Shafiq that had been installed by the dictator Husni Mubarak and had been kept on by the ruling military council. They called for the immediate release of the political prisoners and for those responsible for the violence against the demonstrators to be put on trial. The opposition wanted to reclaim Tahrir Square, which had been cleared by the army two weeks ago, as the focus of continuing protest.
In the evening, the army blocked the streets leading to the Square and called on the demonstrators to follow the curfew and to leave the Square. The protestors showed their determination to stay on the square and stressed the peaceful character of the movement. This time, their call “People and army hand in hand” hardly impressed the soldiers and military police. They charged with riffle butts and electric cattle prods and chased the demonstrators within a radius of one or two kilometres around Tahrir Square. Several people were insured. At least two leaders of the Coordinating Council were arrested by the army. Members of the hated State Security participated in the operation and seized several activists. Dissolving the State Security forces has been one of the demands of the popular uprising.
Most of the protestors had not expected a violent attack by the army and remained passive. Political activists expressed their shock and horror about the attack, which has shattered any illusions about the intentions of the military regime. The journalist Noara Nagem commented in an interview with Al-Jazeera that Mubarak has moved to Sharm el-Sheikh, but he is still in charge.
On the next day (Saturday, 26 February), the army distanced itself from the events of the previous evening and talked about “misunderstandings”, but the people in Cairo noticed that in several places the tanks of the army were gone and had been replaced by commandoes of the Central Security, which are an elite force of the regime and responsible for the death of hundreds of demonstrators.
Meanwhile, activists of the movement are converging on the Square again after the Movement “April 6th” called for a new mobilisation.
The army attack and the fact that the old henchmen of the regime still represent the state apparatus clearly shows that Egypt is only at the beginning of a long way to get rid of the Mubarak regime and to build a democratic government of the people.
In Tunisia as well the counter-movement has begun to eliminate the achievements of the popular uprising and to reinstall the old regime. And the west is supporting the new faces that keep its old regime alive.
The uprising of 25 January and the exit of Mubarak were only a prelude and should not be confused with a victory of the popular masses over the dictatorship. Oppression and exploitation are interlinked and coordinated on an international scale; hence we must build solidarity on an international level.
Vienna, 26 February 2011