Egyptian Revolution Back to Square One

There is a renewed sense of unity and purpose in Egypt. People have returned to Tahrir Square and are determined to save the revolution.

Blood of the Martyrs

On Friday, June 24, families of the 25 January martyrs began gathering in front of Maspero, the Egyptian state TV building. They carried signs depicting their loved ones and declared an open sit-in until justice was served. Former Minister of Interior Habib el Adly and six other

security officers involved in the targeted killing of protesters, were called to stand trial on Sunday, June 26. However, this was postponed for a third time. The families had reached a breaking point. They flooded the streets around the New Cairo Criminal Court and found Adly's armored car, which they began pummeling with stones. At this point, the police rushed to the scene and began to beat back protesters with batons and the crowd dispersed.

By Tuesday, June 28, news of the families' plight had spread and anger had deepened. A group from Maspero marched over to the Baloon Theatre for a memorial service held for the families of the martyrs. The police were ready for them and clashes ensued. One policeman brutally assaulted a protester using an electric baton, but a bystander was watching and video was posted online. Within hours, there were hundreds of protesters surrounding the theater. By midnight, there were 2,000 to 4,000 people. Throughout the night and the following day, clashes erupted as the Ministry of the Interior and police began shooting at protesters. According to the Ministry of Health, which is conservative in its estimates, 1,114 people were injured on the 28th and 29th.

On Thursday, June 30, a criminal court in Alexandria postponed the Khaled Said trial. According to Ahram Online, supporters of Said protested outside the courthouse, but were barred from entry. Army tanks then surrounded the protesters. This only added fuel to the fire.

In their report, “Egypt Rises: killings, detentions and torture in the 25 January Revolution,” Amnesty International estimates 846 protesters dead and 6,000 wounded in the 18-day uprising. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has said publically on many occasions that it will pay families of the martyrs for their loss and bring about justice. However, no compensation has been given and trials continue to be postponed, which leads many to believe these are empty promises.

By Friday, July 1, the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, April 6 Youth Movement, and various other groups had organized a solidarity demonstration in Tahrir Square named, “Friday of Retribution and Loyalty to the Martyrs.”

Solidarity in the Streets

For months, a seemingly disparate revolutionary movement had fallen into sectarian camps. The Constitution First camp argued that the military would impede any attempt at open and fair elections. The Elections First camp wanted stability and investment. Then, the memory of the martyrs reminded everyone of the common goal: revolution.

The Revolutionary Youth Coalition called for a protest and open sit-in starting July 8, which they termed “Revolution First.” The April 6 Youth Movement put out a call and a Facebook page was launched for the Second Anger Revolution. The Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions also endorsed the action. Throughout the week, group after group began joining preparation demos in the square. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) even declared its support, but said it would only join the protests and not the ongoing sit-in.

The demands varied, but everyone agreed on justice for the martyrs, an end to military trials of civilians, a purging of the ministries and the SCAF to end corruption, as well as the establishment of a minimum and maximum wage.

On the morning of Friday, July 8, tens of thousands went to the square. By the afternoon, there were hundreds of thousands. According to a tweet from blogger Mosa'ab Elshamy, people were chanting, “MOI are thugs,” and “We won't be ruled by the army!” In Alexandria, there were hundreds of thousands where MagButter tweeted that people were chanting, “We are all Khaled Said.” In Suez, a smaller port town, there were thousands. Freelance journalist Mona Eltahawy estimated that over two million came out in total for “Persistence Friday.”

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The sun began to set on Tahrir, but tens of thousands remained for an open sit-in. Citizen journalist Gigi Ibrahim tweeted, “Tahrir feels just like the 18 days and I love it!” Hundreds of tents and canopies draped the square. Ramy Essam, the singer of the revolution, led the crowd in song. Hossam Arabawy tweeted, “Downtown Cairo, not just Tahrir, is a liberated area … It is beautiful!”

Waleed Rashed, spokesman for the April 6 Youth Movement tweeted, “We should have never left the square.”

Making Demands

On Saturday evening, the weathered Prime Minister Essam Sharaf held a press conference to address the sit-in. He promised compensation and justice for the martyrs and said he would dismiss all security officers involved in the killing of protesters during the 18 days. He also called for an independent committee to achieve social justice in all ministries. However, there was no mention of when trials would happen or who would head the committees.

In Tahrir Square, thousands watched the speech on state TV, but were unimpressed. Gigi Ibrahim tweeted, “The chant now in Tahrir is leave leave Essam Sharaf!” There were also chants condemning the military and Tantawi, the head of the SCAF. Blogger Nora Shalaby tweeted that the numbers were increasing and that people chanted, “We won't leave. SCAF, you leave!” Throughout the night, people continued in the square.

The next day, Ahram Online reported on two new sets of demands. The Revolution Youth Coalition, The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Democratic Workers Party, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the Free Egyptians, the No to Military Trials Campaign, Mosharka (participation), Bedaya (A beginning), the Karama Party and Hamdeen Sabahy for President campaigners all came out behind the following demands:

  1. The public trial of all officers involved in the killing of the martyrs of the Egyptian Revolution.
  2. A quick and public trial of the Mubarak family and the symbols of corruption of the former regime.
  3. Annulment of all rulings by military courts against civilians, referring them to civil courts and a complete end to military trials of civilians.
  4. Revoking the anti-strikes and anti-demonstrations law.
  5. Limiting the authority of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and increasing the authority of the government in applying its policies, including its right to reshuffle ministers and governors.
  6. Repeal of the new state budget and the drawing up of a new budget favoring the poor following a public debate.

All parties called for a million-person march on Tuesday, July 12, and reiterated that they would not leave the square until their demands were met.

The National Council and the Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions made these demands:

  1. End the military trial of civilians and refer all those tried by military tribunals to civil courts.
  2. Revoke the anti-strike law, the new party law and the new parliamentary law as counter to the revolution's demands.
  3. Dedicate special courts to the trial of those responsible for the killing of the martyrs of the revolution, and for cases of economic and political corruption and for the trial of the Mubarak family and its regime.
  4. Give martyrs' families and the injured their full rights.
  5. Recover all the nation's stolen money inside and outside the country.
  6. Appoint a civil minister of interior.
  7. Restructure the Ministry of Interior, fire and try police officers involved in torture and establish full judicial supervision over the ministry.
  8. Dismantle Egypt's General Workers Union for being a tool of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
  9. Set a new state budget that includes a LE1200 minimum wage, a maximum wage that does not exceed 15 times the minimum wage and links wages with prices.
  10. Cleanse the Council of Ministers and all state institutions, including its media and banks, of corrupt former regime figures.
  11. Ban former NDP members from running for election for two consecutive parliamentary rounds.

During the 18-day uprising, people learned how to set up an encampment. Now, they're prepared for a long-term occupation. In addition to sewing canvas for tents and canopies, they have siphoned off electricity from the city grid, rigged generators, plugged in fans and air conditioners and built a makeshift satellite to broadcast live from the square.

As of Monday, July 11, there were still tens of thousands in Tahrir Square and thousands in solidarity sit-ins in Alexandria and Suez. It seems that people will stay until the demands are met.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, Egyptian state TV attempted to convince the population to stay away from Tahrir Square. News anchors reported that there were criminal elements and that it was unsafe. Rumors began circulating throughout Cairo. Farah Saafan, video journalist at The Daily News Egypt, reported that some people even claimed Tahrir was on fire. It is unclear what effect these rumors will have, but there is popular resentment of state TV.

The SCAF held a press conference in the afternoon. They stated that they would only maintain authority until an elected civilian government came into power this fall. Also, they said that military trials had not been used on protesters, but only on thugs. Numerous human rights groups have found this not to be the case.

Every time SCAF, the prime minister or any government official makes a statement it tends to backfire. More people come out into the streets.