Egypt: Fresh protests to 'save the revolution'

July 10, 2011
Protest in Cairo, July 8.

Protests at Cairo's Tahrir Square and other cities across Egypt on July 8 drew hundreds of thousands back to the streets to "save the revolution".

The protests are part of the ongoing struggle to press for democracy in the aftermath of the popular uprising that overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak in February.

The protests, labelled “Friday of Justice for Revolution Martyrs” by the Facebook group We are all Khaled Said, has also been dubbed “Persistence Friday” in the media.

Rally demands included the "arrest of all involved in shooting protesters and a clean-up of the ministry of [the] interior". Others included demandsfor freedom of expression, raising the minimum wage and an end to military trials of civilians.

Other youth and democratic organisations endorsed the call, including the April 6 Youth Movement and Egypt's Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which invited Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to join the protest.

ABC reporter Anne Barker, in Cairo, told radio program AM on July 9: “The mood in today's Tahrir Square is a stark contrast to the jubilation last February ...

“Now, in the biggest protests since then, tens of thousands of Egyptians have poured back into Cairo to voice their frustration and anger at the pace of reform.

“'We haven't felt any change,' says one banner. 'We removed Mubarak and got an army field marshal instead.'

“Much of the anger is directed at the interim military council that has taken power until elections can be held.

“Protesters, like Yasser Saleh, say too many of those now at the top are still associates of the Mubarak regime and lack a commitment to reform.

'"We are protesting today because we have not yet reaped the benefits of the revolution.'"

The major protests came after weeks of angry demonstrations in Cairo, Suez and elsewhere in Egypt over what Al Jazeera correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin described as "frustration Egyptians have toward the process of justice that is unfolding".

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands of protesters clashed with police on the night of June 28 after a sit-in outside the State TV building that a lasted for five days.

Al Jazeera said the protest included many family members of those killed during the mass protests that brought down Mubarak. They were denied access to an official memorial in the suburb of Agouza, sparking the confrontations.

More than 1000 were injured in the protest, medical officials said.

About 5000 protesters returned to Tahrir Square on July 1 after Friday prayers to condemn the police crackdown, reported online Egyptian news source Bikya Masr. Several hundred protesters camped overnight.

In an interview with Bikya Masr, one protester said: “We will stay here to show that we will get what is deserved of our revolution to happen quickly."

The port city of Suez, one of the epicentres of the huge anti-Mubarak protests, was also the scene of furious demonstrations after seven police officers on trial for murdering protesters during the revolution were released on bail.

A report by the English-language Daily News Egypt said family members of the victims sealed off the main Cairo-Suez roadfor several hours, prompting Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud to challenge the decision to release the officers. But the court upheld the decision on July 6, and hundreds of protesters pelted the Suez police directorate with stones.

Much of the public debate in Egypt post-Mubarak has focused on the upcoming parliamentary elections, which have been called for September, and whether a date so soon after Mubarak's ousting would allow new parties supportive of the revolution's goals enough time to organise.

Ahram Online has reported that the only forces pushing for the elections to be held first are the Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Initially, the July 8 protests were called as part of a campaign to delay the elections to allow a new constitution to be written enshrining democratic rights fought for in the struggle against Mubarak.

However, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution issued a public statement on July 4 declaring that the issue of reforming the security apparatus should take precedence over the "the constitution first and elections first debate".

Under pressure, the interim Egyptian government has declared that it will uphold the September election date, which was approved by a referendum in March.

However, it has dropped plans for a US$3 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund. Government advisors told the AFP the decision was partly in response to "the pressure of public opinion".

Protesters on July 8 were joined by striking workers from a variety of sectors. An explosion of union organisation has occurred in the six months since Mubarak's overthrow.

University professors have gone on strike and announced they would join the protests to demand democratic reforms on campuses, including the replacement of university deans and presidents appointed by Mubarak, Ahram Online said.

Alexandria's civil servants working in local councils also announced they would take part in the July 8 protests, stating: “The revolution did not reach the local councils yet and the councils are still occupied by corruption."

Workers at Suez shipyards have been on strike for more than three weeks, demanding a pay rise and the right to collective bargaining.

They said they would consider taking action to shut down sections of the Suez Canal if their demands were not met.

Despite slow progress by the government and police repression just as intense as the Mubarak regime used, the spirit of the revolution remains alive and well in Egypt.

Barker reported: “The protesters say unless there's real reform, and soon, Egypt could be in for a second revolution.”


Sit-ins continue in Tahrir and Alexandria... revolution is definitely still in the air!

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