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PORTSIDE  January 2012, Week 4

PORTSIDE January 2012, Week 4

Subject:

Egypt's Anti-SCAF Protests Eclipse Tahrir Square Anniversary Festivities

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Date:

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 23:02:09 -0500

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Egypt's Anti-SCAF Protests Eclipse Tahrir Square
Anniversary Festivities

By Bel Trew Ahram Online 
January 25, 2012

    After hundreds of thousands converge on
    flashpoint square, some revolutionary groups
    hunker down for open-ended sit-in against
    military rule

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/32814.aspx

[ Video:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentMulti/32815/Multimedia.aspx ]

As the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution
draws to a close, hundreds of thousands of protesters
remain in Tahrir Square, which, many claim, saw a
bigger turnout today than on 11 February of last year -
the day that longstanding president Hosni Mubarak
stepped down.

Reports suggest that from the marches alone, 300,000
people entered Tahrir, coming from Mostafa Mahmoud
Mosque and from Cairo's Ramses, Ghamra, Shubra and Giza
districts.

The Egyptian security forces were noticeably absent.
Despite promises that they would participate in Tahrir,
the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)
appeared to have cancelled their proposed celebrations.
The black-clad Central Security Forces, who battled
protesters in clashes in November and December, also
vacated the streets, allowing people to demonstrate
unhindered.

However, later in the afternoon, Prime Minister Kamal
El-Ganzouri made a speech thanking and commemorating
those killed and injured in the revolution. He also
thanked Egypt's newly-elected parliament, the police
and the SCAF.

Morale in the square was high. "For those who think the
revolution is over, have a look at the streets right
now," said Ahmed, 27, a student, who took part in the
Mostafa Mahmoud march.

"It's very beautiful. Today shows how many people still
think there's much left to be done," asserted Nasser,
42, a driver who was one of the thousands who had to
pause on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge because Tahrir was too
full.While people waited on the bridge, protesters
recited prayers for the revolution's fallen.

The Maspero Youth Coalition donated a large wooden
obelisk inscribed with the names of slain protesters,
which was carried along the march from Shubra. A two-
metre long effigy of SCAF chief Hussein Tantawi,
meanwhile, was transported during the Mostafa Mahmoud
protest.

Although the day remained peaceful, there were
nevertheless tensions between those demanding the
immediate end of military rule and those who came to
the square solely for the anniversary festivities.

Friends and relatives of protesters killed during last
year's January 25 Revolution were reportedly angered by
the Muslim Brotherhood, which staged a marriage on its
podium in front of Omar Makram Mosque, located adjacent
to Tahrir Square, saying that today was not a day to
celebrate.

"In the marches, we're the believers of the revolution,
not the celebrators," said Karim, 32, who works in
marketing and made the distinction between the marches
and particular groups in the square who see the
revolution as having ended. "But I'm optimistic - today
has shown that, although there's still the ruling
military council and the parliament, there continues to
be street action and individuals protesting for our
rights."

Although the resounding chant was "Down, down with the
military regime," today's events were unique, with
Egyptians' motivations for visiting the flashpoint
square varying widely.

"We're here to celebrate the fall of the regime and the
passing of the year," said Naglaa, 35, who wore the
niqab, or full Islamic face veil. "We're going to wait
until June and trust the SCAF to hand over power; we
have no doubts they will do this. The demands of the
revolution are being met: for example, we just had our
first free and open parliamentary elections."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which said it would vacate the
square at 4pm, was still very much in evidence five
hours later. The Islamist group had publically
distanced itself from anti-SCAF sit-ins in November and
December, but were out in full force: their podium
continued to lead the festivities, playing patriotic
songs.

"The Muslim Brotherhood was pressured by the
authorities not to participate in November and
December," said Ali, 47, an Imam at a Cairo mosque and
member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party,
(FJP), which swept recent parliamentary polling. "But
now the FJP is here to put pressure on the SCAF to
accelerate the transition of power and to speed up
Mubarak's trial."

Many demonstrators wore masks bearing the likenesses of
slain activists such as Khaled Said, Mina Daniel,
Sheikh Emad Effat and Ahmed Harrara. Others wore "V for
Vendetta" masks, in reference to the revolutionary
graphic novel and to protest assertions by the Muslim
Brotherhood that those who wore them were anarchists.

As the afternoon wore on, one group of marchers set out
for Maspero, the Cairo district that is home to Egypt's
State Television building and which last October was
the scene of a bloody crackdown by the military on a
Coptic-led protest march.

As of 9.30pm, around 500 protesters remained at
Maspero, with some calling for a sit-in on Twitter.
"Maspero is important for several reasons," said Nazly,
28, standing outside the media building. "One is that
it is a propaganda machine against the revolution and
against revolutionaries. It is involved in spreading
state lies."

Some protesters are expected to stay overnight."We need
to stand by - not only tonight, but for the coming two
nights, until revolutionary demands are met," asserted
Gamila Ismail, an independent parliamentary candidate
who joined the Mostafa Mahmoud march, retracing the
route she took one year ago.

The April 6 youth movement and the National Front for
Justice and Democracy, for their part, have both
announced plans to stage an open-ended sit-in in Tahrir
Square. As of press time, however, other revolutionary
movements and parties that participated in Wednesday's
demonstrations had yet to declare whether or not they
would participate.

"I'm not sure, as we head towards Friday, how peaceful
it will remain," Ismail said. "We took the same route
today, but this year we're different - we're more
confident and we expect more. Today was very
successful."

___________________________________________

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