Jun 022012
Tahrir Square fills with protesters on 2 June over Hosni Mubarak's sentence

Tahrir Square fills with protesters on 2 June over Hosni Mubarak's sentence. Photo: Getty Images

An incredible development as an Egyptian court sentenced Hosni Mubarak to life in prison – the first time this has happened to a standing dictator in the Middle East. However, others were not convicted of charges relating to the Arab Spring and the initial euphoria turned into anger. By nightfall, Tahrir Square was again filled with protesters.

Aljazeera has a good account of the current situation – and it remains to be seen if the promise of the revolution is fulfilled over the coming days:

Thousands of people descended on Tahrir Square to protest on Saturday night, a spontaneous outpouring of anger after a Cairo court sentenced former president Hosni Mubarak to life in prison but acquitted a number of other former regime officials.

The verdict was initially met with euphoria: Egyptians celebrated upon hearing that Mubarak was convicted of complicity in the murder of more than 800 protesters during the Egyptian revolution in January of 2011. It was the first time an Arab head of state had been convicted, and a major accomplishment for the revolution which toppled Mubarak nearly 18 months ago.

But the joy was short-lived. Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were acquitted of corruption charges, and several senior security officials were found not guilty of murder. Some had wanted Mubarak to face the death penalty; others appreciated the verdict, but expected it would be overturned on appeal.

So they flocked to Tahrir Square, the heart of last year’s revolution, to voice their frustration, not just with the verdict but with Egypt’s post-revolution military leadership.

“It’s garbage,” Najdi Mohamed el-Din said of the verdict. “And it has made us realize something. The revolution of January 2011? We need to do it again, and we need to do it until everyone who was with Mubarak is gone.”

More than 5,000 people had gathered in Tahrir before midnight, and some planned to spend the night. The atmosphere felt almost nostalgic, as if protesters were reliving their roles from last year’s revolution. Many vowed not to leave the square until their demands were met.


Nov 212011

The situation looks particularly grim after deadly clashes in Tahrir Square left 11 dead and many injured this weekend. As one protester put it: “We need a constitution.” Instead, they are getting the brutal hand of the army which appears determined to isolate itself from any democratic solution that may be implemented – in other words, there will be no real democracy.

But there are issues that run far deeper than simply the army’s plans for itself; the real challenge may lie in the complex relationship between the army, the Muslim Brotherhood, and liberals who may be willing to compromise on army proposals over fear of the Brotherhood winning a majority in the elections. From the NY Times:

The Muslim Brotherhood, which helped lead the Islamist rally, issued a statement declaring the ruling military council responsible for allowing excessive violence against unarmed protesters, and it called for prosecution “of all those who commanded this attack.”

But it also issued a pointed challenge to “politicians and intellectuals,” presumably referring to Egyptian liberals. Many have urged the adoption of some sort of ground rules protecting Western-style civil liberties before a potential Islamist majority of the Parliament might dominate the constitutional convention. The military acted on those suggestions to present the liberals with a kind of devil’s bargain: a declaration that would have protected individual and minority rights, but also granted the military permanent political powers and immunity from scrutiny as the guardian of “constitutional legitimacy.”

“Will you respect the will of the people or will you turn against it?” the brotherhood statement read, in a direct challenge to the liberals. “Your credibility is now on the line, and we hope that you will not turn against it.”

There may be no party allegiances when running through Tahrir Square with the military shooting at you, but some may fear that will change when it comes to the ballot box. This may be a turning point if the liberal Nobel-prize winner and presidential contender Mohamed ElBaradei is accurate:

It would have been more honorable for the cabinet to say the state has failed and to leave for others to manage the country,” he said, arguing that neither the military-led cabinet nor the generals themselves were qualified. “This is not a crisis,” he said. “The country is falling apart.”

Once again, good video of a grim weekend from Aljazeera:

Oct 122011

Finance Minister Hazem el-Beblawi

And I’m humming a song by the English rock band, The Who. Egypt is in turmoil with protests by Coptic Christians over the burning of a church. Running street battles with the military have resulted in 26 deaths and over 500 wounded, and now the resignation of Hazem el-Beblawi, the liberal Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. The current government is losing credibility and the interim Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, also offered to resign (Al Jazeera television carried a rumor that the entire government had stepped down (later denied by the Ruling Council).

You know which song I mean. . .

Tuesday night, new evidence confirmed accounts of Egyptian soldiers using live ammunition and crushing protesters in armored vehicles (autopsies reveal 10 of the 26 died from vehicle impact). There’s widespread anger over the military’s handling of the demonstration with Egypt’s largest independent newspaper, Al Masry al-Youm, publishing a front page editorial condemnation:

The state lost its prestige, the regime is about to fall apart, and Sharaf’s government doesn’t have any credit anymore; the only thing they have left is the dignity of resignation . . . In transitional periods, good intentions, gullible smiles and seeking the consent of the presidential military council are not enough.

I want to scream, “No, no!

This is not what Tahrir Square came to symbolize for people around the world back in January – the military stalls on democratic reforms, blames external conspiracies, kills protesters to maintain “social order”, and pits Egyptian against Egyptian in the streets. People fought and died for something more than this.

Yes, the lyrics of  “Won’t be Fooled Again”:

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

There is a lot of video out there, but this one seems to capture the events of the past few days: