— The Guardian’s Rozina Ali writes, “Egypt’s al-Jazeera trial was inspired by America’s global war on journalism.”
— Just out of the spotlight, Egyptians’ anger lives on and feet continue to hit the streets across the nation despite the largest crackdown in decades
Squares are famously potent political theatres. This year is a second showing for Ukraine’s revolution, and a third for Egypt’s. Western TV viewers have cheered them all on. We thrill to see young people hurling rocks at power. Fire, smoke, bloodstained flags, broken heads, water, gas and sinister paramilitaries are Les Misérables for slow learners. We can sit with a front seat in the auditorium of history. It beats polling booths any day.
The lesson of Egypt for Ukraine is that defiant crowds may destroy an old regime – but they seldom build a new one.
Tahrir and Maidan squares thus join Istanbul’s Taksim, Tehran’s Azadi, Beijing’s Tiananmen, Prague’s Wenceslaus, Athens’s Syntagma, London’s Trafalgar and a dozen other urban spaces the world over as icons of modern revolutionary politics. Their furniture is the barricade, their tipple the Molotov cocktail, their tonic the tear gas canister. They gather people in their thousands to sacred forums and invite the world to witness the latest trial of strength with a supposedly oppressive regime. Sometimes they even win.
"I would like to ask: does anyone know the opening times of the Kasr el-Eini crossing?" Hanan Hagag, a journalist, quipped on her Facebook page, likening the barrier to Egypt’s heavily guarded border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
The sentiment points to the turmoil still facing Egypt. Street protests that often turn violent and militant attacks have become commonplace since Mursi was removed after mass protests against his rule in Tahrir and elsewhere.
While other arteries into Tahrir are generally open to traffic, security forces do close them off from time to time using barbed wire coils, typically ahead of anticipated protests.
But because of its look of permanence, the imposing metal gate across Kasr el-Eini is especially offensive to democracy advocates in the Arab world’s largest country.
The Kasr el-Eini entrance is the nearest on Tahrir to public buildings including parliament and government offices.
“They were talking about turning Tahrir into a museum, a place of celebration,” said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the liberal Dustour Party. “Instead they are installing these ugly iron gates and trying to prevent and ban demonstrations in Tahrir Square itself.”
Ruweida Omar, a rights activist, said: “We had hope that one day the concrete barriers would be removed. The iron barricade has taken away that hope. When I saw the gate, I really thought that we were living under siege.”
Their campaign against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi helped the army topple Egypt’s first freely elected leader, but some leaders of the Tamarud movement have broken away, saying the military threatens democracy.
The split in Tamarud (Rebellion) is a sign of growing public anger against the army-backed government installed after Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed Mursi in July, following a Tamarud-organized petition and mass protests against him.
“We wanted the army to help us oust Mursi, not take over power itself,” said Mohamed Fawzi, leader of a splinter faction calling itself Tamarud 2 Get Liberated, told Reuters. “The army’s role is to protect and guard the state, not to rule.”
Sisi, who delighted many Egyptians by crushing the Brotherhood, is now expected to run for president and revive a long tradition of military men leading the biggest Arab nation.
The field marshal, widely regarded as Egypt’s most powerful man, is cast by his followers as a national savior. His image is ubiquitous, appearing on posters, t-shirts and chocolates.
But a tide of detentions and killings of protesters has prompted former Tamarud leaders to turn against the army and security forces, despite the rising risks of dissent in Egypt.
“We are seeing a return of the police state, but with new faces,” Fawzi said, in reference to security forces which were dreaded under Hosni Mubarak, but which have found their way back to power since a popular uprising toppled the autocrat in 2011.
I just love this so much. Of course they were bound to realize this. It’s really too bad it’s too late.
— Human Rights Watch’s Egypt Director Heba Morayef states on the controversial protest law and ongoing demonstration crackdowns in Egypt under the interim government. Huge and alarming.
Another showdown? They threaten protests if ultimatum is not met.
Damnit, they passed it.
We have probably been venturing into the unknown all along; any revolution is essentially an uncertain endeavor. But we try to swerve the revolutionary path towards the collective path.
Islamists suppressed their fascist slogans in the name of religious dissimulation when they participated in the collective revolt of January 25. Our collective chant, “Bread, freedom and human dignity,” prevailed.
But this collective cry has not won yet. We have not won yet. We have participated in part of the battles — sometimes with the generals on our side. Confrontation was inevitable, and so was death. But those who savor the gallows are likely to be hanged. And I refuse to risk my neck. This time, it is also personal.
The battle is complicated and frightening. Side-switching is a common phenomenon in this war, and the drums are banging with the sounds of fear and cruelty. Our voice is struggling to be heard amid the archaic speakers who have long dominated.
We might have survived, but this is not our victory.
Peter Hessler reports from Cairo on the first day of Mohamed Morsi’s chaotic trial
“Just past noon, the proceedings finally resumed, but it wasn’t long before Morsi interrupted. ‘I want a microphone!’ he shouted. ‘I want a microphone, so I can say something to you! This is not a court, with all due respect to the members, this is not a court that can try the President of the republic! To try a President, this is a military coup! I am a representative of the state!’”