Egypt’s new president vows unity, but powers are limited

Awaiting election results and power deals, people gathered this weekend in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in a mixed spirit of anticipation, celebration, concern, and revolutionary preparations

CNN, June 25th, 2012

Euphoric jubilation spilled into a second day Monday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where revelers celebrated the election of Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

But with the hopes of the Egyptian revolution resting on President-Elect Mohamed Morsi’s shoulders, the former Muslim Brotherhood member faces an array of challenges both at home and abroad.

For the moment, the presidency is largely a figurehead position as Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) maintains widespread control over the country – just as it has since Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule succumbed to a popular revolt last year.

Clashes erupt at mass rally in Cairo

Thousands protest against recent killing of demonstrators and demand that Egypt’s military leaders step down.
 Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reports on the latest clashes outside the Egyptian defense Ministry–May 4, 2012
 

Egyptian armed forces and protesters have clashed in Cairo, with troops using water cannon and rocks to disperse demonstrators trying to reach the defence ministry.

Hundreds of troops guarding the ministry surged forward on Friday when protesters began cutting through barbed wire used to seal off the ministry building in the capital’s central Abbasiya neighbourhood.”We understand that just a few minutes ago, the protesters tried to remove the barrier with barbed wire between themselves and the defence ministry,” Al Jazeera’s Steve Chao reported from Cairo.

“Security forces responded with water canons. Protesters responded with rocks.”

He said the military forces were describing their actions as “self-defence”.

The protests come amid heightened tension after 11 people were killed in clashes that broke out on Wednesday when unidentified assailants fired at protesters staging a sit-in outside the ministry of defence in Cairo.

Protesters have plastered Cairo’s Tahrir Square with banners reading, “Down with military rule”. Continue reading

Egypt: The Friday of Reaction and Bigotry

[A strong advocate of secular revolution posted this report of the 7/30/11 rally at Tahrir Square in Cairo, on http://www.3arabawy.org.  Given the history of what came to replace the Shah of Iran, these are timely insights for the worldwide revolutionary movement to discuss and debate. — Frontlines ed.]

July 30th, 2011

What was originally announced as a “Friday of Unity” was anything but that. You can call it, the Friday of Disunity, The Friday of Bigotry and Reaction, the Friday of Religious Fanaticism.

For weeks, the Islamist forces, without exception, have been denouncing the Tahrir sit-in, spreading all sorts of cheap, filthy, sensationalist lies against the largely secular protesters, amid agitation by SCAF also, that already incited Abbassiya residents against marchers on 23 July.

The Islamist forces, whose leaders, also without any exceptions, are in one way or another allied to the SCAF awaiting their shares of the booties in the coming parliamentary elections and constitutional reform, decided to escalate their moves against the Tahrir revolutionaries by announcing roughly two weeks ago they were calling for mass protests in the square, to “assert Egypt’s Islamic identity, denounce supra-constitutional principles, and to demand the application of Islamic sharia.” Such announcement was coupled with an agitation campaign that spoke of “purging Tahrir from the secularists.”

There was tension in the square over the past few days. We didn’t know what to expect on Friday. Some were expecting an “Islamist invasion” of the square, medieval style, with swords and sticks. Others thought it was going to be a peaceful day.

Some, like me, expected troubles, but we were hoping to at least try to polarize the Islamist protesters around different demands that their leaders had put forward. I suggested that Islamists would be welcomed at the gates, while distributing leaflets on the military tribunals, detainees, torture, retribution for the martyrs’ families, and social demands. There were calls by some to try to block the Islamists from entering. This was totally impossible even if you thought it was politically correct. It would have been a massacre.

As the countdown to Friday started, shuttle talks were taking place between protest leaders, representatives from leftist, liberal and secular groups with officials from the Islamist groups including the Gamaa Islamiya, Salafi Nour Party and last but not least, the Muslim Brotherhood. An agreement was announced yesterday whereby the Islamists vowed not to include the application of sharia on the list of their demands and not to attack or provoke any secular protesters. In exchange, the leftist and liberal groups agreed not to engage in the “Elections First” or “Constitution First” debate and promised not to chant against SCAF (liberals in general are not those who meant by the agreement, it was largely the leftists, since the liberals are cowing down everyday to SCAF). A statement was issued, with a list of demands agreed by all parties.

What happened since the night of Thursday was a complete disgrace. The Islamists have broken the agreement. They started showing up on Thursday evening setting up their stages, only to be followed later by sound systems blasting anti-secular, anti-leftist propaganda, calls for the application of sharia and pro-SCAF chants.

To be fair, some young Muslim Brotherhood organizers tried to intervene and control the situation, but they failed. The ones who mainly broke the agreement were the Salafis. Over hours and hours, till Friday 7pm, Tens of thousands of Islamists were chanting for Sharia, the Quran as a constitution, intimidated secular activists and non-veiled women. Continue reading