Sunday, 29 May 2011

100,000 return to Tahrir Square

How excited was I and yet at the same time, really worried for the people of Egypt when they took to the streets earlier this year in their many tens of thousands, nope got that wrong, millions to demand the end of the dictatorship of former president Hosni Mubarak.

It was January 27, when demonstrators confronted Mubarak’s thugs in a pitched battle that left them in control of Tahrir Square, and fair to say winning the admiration of millions of us around the world, but let us not forget that 840 people were killed during the 17 days of mass struggle in or around the Square that brought down Mubarak and his tyrannous regime, well not exactly when you consider that the army now run the show.

On Friday just gone hundreds of thousands of Egyptians returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo and in cities throughout the country, demanding an end to military rule and the trial and punishment of officials of the dictatorship of the former president. The demanding of the end of military rule is a far cry from when the people were chanting ‘the army and the people are one’ back in January.

Protest groups, mainly comprised of young people, labelled Friday’s protests the “second day of rage,” the first having taken place on that January 27.  

Many demonstrators voiced calls for a “second revolution,” expressing widespread sentiment that the revolution that brought down Mubarak has not resulted in any fundamental improvement in the conditions of life for the masses of working people, small farmers and agricultural labourers.  

Tahrir Square was decorated and decked out with the photographs of many of the 840 people killed during the 17 days of mass struggle that brought down Mubarak, as well as placards demanding punishment of those responsible for the killings, and for the corruption and mismanagement of the 30-year Mubarak regime. I understand that there were banners declaring, “The Egyptian revolution is not over” and demanding “now, not later,” a new constitution and the formation of a civilian presidential council to oversee elections, replacing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military body that has ruled the country since Mubarak’s resignation on February 11.

Other banners interestingly called for democratic reforms like a free and uncensored press, the ditching and changing of crooked and corrupt officials, including governors and university heads, and an end to trials of civilians before military tribunals. Economic demands were also raised, including a minimum wage and higher living standards for workers.

According to reports in the Egyptian media by late afternoon, the crowd in Tahrir Square was well over 100,000, assembled around at least four separate stages where speakers addressed the audience on an assortment of political themes but manly demanding democracy.

Tens of thousands also marched in Egypt’s second largest city, the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, in Suez, Port Said and Ismailia, the main cities along the Suez Canal, and in many other towns and cities, including Fayoum, Mansoura in the Nile delta, and Luxor and Aswan in the south. The demonstrations were regarded with hostility by the military council, composed entirely of long-time Mubarak yes-men.    

Meanwhile, the military regime detained four activists for putting up posters calling for the Friday demonstration; they were arrested by military police, but later released.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s top prosecutor announced that Mubarak would be put on trial for conspiring to kill protesters during the movement against his dictatorship, a charge that could carry the death penalty. He is also to face charges of corruption in relation to his seaside mansion in Sharm el Sheik, and for helping steal $714 million in public funds in a deal to sell natural gas to Israel.

On Wednesday, the regime announce that it will permanently open its border crossing with the Gaza Strip on the weekend, ending the highly unpopular Egyptian collaboration with the Israeli blockade of Gaza, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

At the Friday protest, demonstrators told the press that the charges against Mubarak were only brought to forestall further protests, and they expressed disbelief that the ousted dictator, now 82, would ever be put on trial.

Other measures taken by the military in recent weeks include: firing 10 provincial governors appointed by Mubarak; placing Mubarak and his two sons under arrest; disbanding his ruling National Democratic Party; filing corruption charges against former prime minister Ahmed Nazif and other top officials; and removing Mubarak’s name from hundreds of public buildings and institutions.

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