Tahrir protest seeks to complete Egypt revolution

Tahrir protest seeks to complete Egypt revolution

CAIRO - In Cairo’s Tahrir square, protesters talk defiantly of finishing the job they started when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was toppled. A sign declaring “Mubarak — leave” sums up how little they feel has changed since February.

By (Reuters)

Published: Tue 22 Nov 2011, 10:22 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:43 AM

Now they say it is time to complete the revolution.

Streets around the square which hosted Egypt’s historic uprising are spattered with the blood of protesters now demanding an end to the army rule that replaced Mubarak.

Generals once feted as the heroes of the uprising for easing Mubarak from power have been reviled in the last few days as an extension of his rule in all but name.

“It’s the same violence, the same oppression,” said Sameh Mohammad, a 35-year old lawyer holding aloft a sign reading: “Unfortunately, the regime has not fallen”.

The sentiment was reflected elsewhere. One banner depicted Mubarak alongside Field Marshal Mohammad Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council.

Protesters hanged an effigy of Tantawi, an act of defiance that evoked a similar incident during the original 18-day uprising when a Mubarak dummy was strung from a lamppost.

“The real revolution begins from today,” said Taymour Abu Ezz, 58.

In the last few days, frustration with the military council has turned into outright anger fuelled partly by footage of the security forces’ violent crackdown on the protesters.

Some demonstrators said they had come to Tahrir Square after seeing a clip posted on YouTube that appeared to show a member of the security forces dragging a corpse onto a rubbish pile.

The death toll from four days of violence in Cairo and elsewhere now stands at 36.

The turnout in Tahrir has so far been smaller than during the huge rallies that toppled Mubarak. But the protesters’ defiance and numbers have only grown with the casualty toll.

It is not clear how much support they have beyond the square. Many of Egypt’s 80 million people yearn for stability to give the economy a chance to recover from a year of turmoil.

Regardless, the protest is the most significant since Mubarak was overthrown and has raised doubts about whether elections planned to start on Nov. 28 will go ahead.

The parties which hope to win seats in parliament appeared largely absent from the square on Tuesday. Their message after meeting the generals was that elections must go ahead on time.

In Tahrir, protesters said groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, once respected for its opposition to Mubarak’s rule, had now become allies of the military council, more interested in power than seeing through the revolution.

“Their eyes are only on the elections. They only want political gains,” said one protester, his view backed by a half a dozen others during an argument with a Brotherhood supporter.

Prayers for the dead

With the election only days away, no protesters carried signs of party affiliation. There was little sign of the festive atmosphere that at times marked the anti-Mubarak revolt.

At violent moments, some sobbed, others vomited from the effects of tear gas wafting over the square from nearby streets where police fought hardcore protesters trying to reach the Interior Ministry — a hated symbol of Mubarak’s rule.

Hundreds of activists held prayers for the dead and the corpse of one victim was carried through the square.

A Copt led Christians in prayer and a Muslim recited from the Koran. It was a scene of sectarian harmony that has largely been absent since the anti-Mubarak uprising. “Oh people, join with us. Raise your voice against tyranny,” chanted the crowd.

The Interior Ministry says police had only been trying to clear the way for traffic when the violence erupted on Saturday. It also says it is committed to allowing peaceful protests - mirroring the official position of the military council.

But the protesters have no more faith in the generals.

In Tahrir, they tried to reestablish the kind of control they held at the height of the uprising in January and February. They set up at least one checkpoint where volunteers searched people coming into the square.

Others worked to ensure supplies reached makeshift clinics, where medics treated the wounded. Volunteers on motorbikes brought in youths knocked unconscious by the tear gas.

“The number of cases of suffocation are uncountable,” said Mamdouh el-Sherbeeny, a doctor helping out at a clinic set up in a mosque on the edge of the square.

Volunteers shuttled from one field hospital to another, listing the casualties and detailing their injuries.

“This is one way we can help ensure we don’t lose track of the human toll of all of this. It is easy to forget sometimes this is a human life, a member of a family,” said one volunteer who identified himself only as Ashraf.

“What does Tahrir Square mean? It means the revolutionary fights on the frontlines, working as a paramedic and a fire fighter,” said Ahmed Abou Hussein, another activist.

“It means no one goes hungry because the person next to you won’t let you stay hungry.”

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