In Tahrir Square to complete the ‘Arab spring’
by André Azzam
Demonstrations are held in many cities and universities. Tensions are rising with the Muslim Brotherhoods, which sought to hijack the event. Young people demand justice for those killed and their families, power transferred to a secular government, and a return of the armed forces to their only task, which is the defence of the national borders. Intellectuals and diplomats call for a new Egypt.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Various thousands of people remained in Tahrir Square today, following yesterday’s bid demonstration. The big rally that marked a year since the revolution that brought down Mubarak showed that the revolution was not over yet. The Muslim Brotherhood wanted to celebrate but young people want justice for the martyrs and their families. Egypt must be saved from fundamentalism and the military’s hold on power. Here is day’s events described by Egyptian expert André Azzam.
With the huge demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in other towns, like Alexandria and Suez, in the Delta and Upper Egypt, to mark the first anniversary of the Revolution of 25 January 2011, the revolutionary people of Egypt are one of the three main centres of power in the country. The other two are the armed forces and parliament.
Observers have been surprised by the huge number of demonstrators who converged on Tahrir Square from all over Cairo. Marching towards the square, they came in droves, from the Journalists Trade Union and the Superior Court of Justice, from working class neighbourhoods like Sayyida Zaynab and Shubra and the campuses of Cairo and Ayn Shams universities, from Heliopolis, Zamalek, Giza and Old Cairo. They also came on buses from the Delta and Alexandria, and the towns along the Suez Canal and in Upper Egypt . . . .
The bridges across the Nile, especially the Qasr al-Nil bridge that leads to Tahrir Square, were overflowing with hundreds of thousands of people making their way to the now iconic epicentre of the revolution, Tahrir Square. According to the experts, the crowd was much larger than one year ago.
Although crowds were in the square only a few days earlier, on the 25th, they reached a size never seen before. Eight platforms were set up around the square: one for Al Azhar, one for the Wafd liberal party, one for the New Islamists, one for the Nasserists, one for 6th of April Movement, one for the Liberals and one for the Muslim Brotherhood, which had set itself up many days before in order to get the best location (in the middle) and occupy the largest portion. In the end, young people were able to force to move to the side.
The Muslim Brotherhood harangued demonstrators, loudly asserting that the revolution had achieved its main goal, namely the election of a free Parliament, and that all the needs would be met by the majority Freedom and Justice Party, which the Brotherhood had set up.
They were also playing national song and hymns to celebrate in a joyful manner the first anniversary of the revolution, whereas the other groups refused to go along with any joyful celebration.
Late in the afternoon, the speakers at the Muslim Brotherhood’s stand and platform were overwhelmed by the general trend and were forced to join the other movements to demand that the Revolution continue.
All the movements, except for the Muslim Brotherhood for half of the day, were united in advancing three main claims:
1) justice for the numerous martyrs and victims shot and hit in the past year,
2) the immediate transfer of the state power to civilians, and consequently
3) the withdrawal of the Armed Forces to their barracks so that they can perform their main task, namely protect the national territory.
Throughout the day, until late into the night, the atmosphere was free of problems or confrontations. An amazingly high level of consensus prevailed as police and soldiers were nowhere to be seen.
In the roundabout in the middle of the square, young people put early in the day a huge lotus-like column that symbolises a candle with the names of the martyrs and victims engraved on it. Later in the afternoon, a procession coming from Shubra brought a huge obelisk with the names of the victims and martyrs.
All social groups came together in the square in friendship, backing the main claims of the Revolution, and looking forward to a better future. Women from affluent backgrounds gave flowers and chocolates to young activists as a token of encouragement. The mothers of Khaled Said and Mina Daniel (who was killed last October during the Maspero incident) were present as were relatives of many other victims to show their support for young people.
Everybody agrees that the Revolution has not yet achieved all its expected goals, that it has to go on to be completed. They also agree that the trials of Mubarak and his followers are a travesty of justice. They want real justice not only for the crimes committed during the Revolution but also for 30 years of bad government of the country.
Since the Omar Makram Mosque in the square could not cope with the large influx of people, in a sign of goodwill and harmony between Muslims and Christians, the Evangelical church located in a street behind the square was opened as usual to help Muslims perform their ablutions before the afternoon and sunset prayers.
In the square itself, people talked about parliament, happy to see that its first order of business is justice for the victims of the Revolution. They also discussed the creation of various parliamentary committees and commissions, which was postponed, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to impose their lists of members to the new bodies. The appointment of two women, one Christian and one Muslim, to the committee that would study compensation for victims, was much talked about. Everybody criticised the Islamists for starting out by discriminating against women and minority Copts.
The 6th of April movement decided that it would remain in the square until its demands were met. The Muslim Brotherhood said that they would remain until Saturday to ensure security. Eventually, crowds thinned out by the late night.
For some of the observers present in Tahrir square, people like al Ghad (Tomorrow) Party founder Ayman Noor, Mohammad al Khodairy from the Muslim Brothers, Abd al Rahman Fares, member of the executive office of Revolution Youth Federation, Mohammad al Baradei, Nobel Prize holder and former general secretary of the International Organisation of Atomic Energy, writer Alaa al Asswany and some jurists, the Revolution is not done yet. It has to continue in order to create a new Egypt with a new soul, a country that is free of the old regime.
All of them agree that the youth-driven Revolution has become one of the three pillars of power in Egypt, and that the other two, the Armed Forces and parliament, must take it into account.