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Dead end? A constantly recurring conversation with no conclusion in sight

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Optimist: Morsi is bad. The Muslim Brotherhood is bad. They are corrupt, ineffective, fascist, dishonest, and power hungry.

Pessimist: Agreed.

Optimist: They must go.

Pessimist: Yes. How?

Optimist: The same way Mubarak was ousted. Nationwide protests.

Pessimist: The police won’t let it happen

Optimist: Mubarak had the police, military and all the state’s resources.

Pessimist: Morsi has the police, military, all the state’s resources and a large contingent of supporters who would genuinely fight for him. Nationwide protests could very well become civil war.

Optimist: Civil war it is, then. It’s them or us.

Pessimist: Stupid. Civil wars don’t end in two weeks. The country would plunge into chaos for years or even decades, many would die, more would suffer.

Optimist: We protest and hope the military intervenes. They would end the Islamists in minutes.

Pessimist: The same military that shot at us in Tahrir, ran us over with tanks in Maspero and stripped women naked by the cabinet building? The military who’s leadership got us into this mess in the first place?

Optimist: Yes, that one. Right now our problem is the Brotherhood. We take any allies we can get.

Pessimist: Why revolt if you’re going to turn back and ally with those you revolted against?

Optimist: This idealism is what got us to this point in the first place. Lemon squeezing and all.

Pessimist: Let’s assume for a second we can forgive the military, why would they even help us? The Brotherhood gave them everything they wanted in the constitution. They have unlimited power, maintain their economic empire alongside their state within a state. What do they have to gain from stepping in; bearing in mind the last time they were in power it was a terrible experience for them. The knight in fatigues is not coming.

Optimist: Fine then. No military. We just protest and hope it leads to him stepping down.

Pessimist: He. Has. A. Cult. Behind. Him.

Optimist: We need to try.

Pessimist: Let’s assume we protest and he leaves, which isn’t going to happen. Then what? No president will ever remain in power. You elect say Sabahy after him and the Islamist will oust him via protesting in three months.

Optimist: What about democracy.

*laughs* Come again?

Optimist: Democracy. We beat them in elections.

Pessimist: Which ones? Presidential? I don’t know about you but three more months, let alone years, of Morsi is unbearable. We need something faster before he pisses away the rest of the foreign reserves and starves the half of the population that isn’t already starving.

Optimist: Parliament.

Pessimist: How do you propose we do that?

Optimist: Well first things first, NSF needs to reverse the boycott.

Pessimist: There is no guarantee these elections will be fair with their prosecutor general overseeing it and their government running it.

Optimist: We need to try.

Pessimist: Participating gives them legitimacy.

Optimist: Participating proves violations.

Pessimist: The opposition have no chance in hell of winning. They have the state, its media, more in financial resources than all opposition parties combined, and of course religion. How do you fight that? Then there’s the fact that the opposition is barely united.

Optimist: NSF needs to enforce stricter adherence to party line.

Pessimist: Their “unity” is one of the things crippling them actually. How are neoliberals and far leftists supposed to come up with a joint economic plan?

Optimist: If they don’t unite they can’t win.

Pessimist: Secularism is not a political platform.

Optimist: It is when against Islamists. If they don’t run together then they should at least coordinate.

Pessimist: Then what?

Optimist: Impeach him. Parliament can do that.

Pessimist: You need two-thirds. Quit dreaming.

Optimist: Well if they get a majority they can form government.

Pessimist: Not going to happen. Even if it did, the opposition would be sharing power with Morsi, associated with him whether they like it or not. Morsi would blame Prime Minister Sabahy/ElBaradei/Moussa for everything.

Optimist: Opposition would control things like the economy, stop the downwards spiral if nothing else.

Pessimist: Why are you assuming elections are happening soon?

Optimist: How can they not. We’re missing a lower house of parliament. The Brotherhood can’t wait to hold them; they’re not waiting for the Supreme Administrative Court and passed new election laws.

Pessimist: The Supreme Constitutional Court will reject them, because they were intentionally poorly drafted. They want to hold off elections without it looking like they’re the ones postponing.

Optimist: Why?

Pessimist: They’re not going to replicate their previous numbers. They have a clear majority in the Shura Council and pass whatever the hell they want, why risk it?

Optimist: They’d want to form their own government.

Pessimist: Qandil does whatever they want with the added perk of them being able to blame him for everything.

Optimist: So you’re saying neither politics nor protesting will work.

Pessimist: Yes.

Optimist: So they win then?

Pessimist: No.

Optimist: What’s the solution?

Pessimist: I don’t know. But there has to be one, no?


Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

April 20, 2013 at 2:24 am

Moussa, Sabahy and ElBaradei walk into a bar

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Parliamentary elections analysis part 2

Originally published in the Daily News Egypt on 29 December 2012

The National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition formed to combat President Mohamed Morsy’s constitutional decree and the referendum on the constitution, was not able to meet its goal. The charter passed with a 64 per cent majority of the 32 per cent who bothered to vote.

The 36 per cent that voted “No,” however, must not be underestimated. This is an achievement for a country that usually says “Yes” to anything put forward by the powers in place. Additionally, the secular opposition is finally united. If it stays this way, the coalition could achieve a parliamentary majority.

That is a big “if,” since the alliance is quite loose and has been marred with controversy from day one. Many younger members of the revolutionary parties and groups inside the NSF are unhappy with the inclusion of former regime loyalists.

One of the NSF’s three main leaders is Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s foreign minister for ten years and Arab League Secretary General for ten more under the former president’s approval.

Moussa, a former presidential candidate, has a support base beyond feloul. In the eyes of other NSF leaders he represents segments of Egyptian society that must not be alienated, namely those who did not necessarily support the old regime but oppose the Islamists and those who were previously politically apathetic.

Still, the youth of the liberal and leftist parties making up the NSF might insist on cutting loose Moussa and others they deem feloul. The NSF announced it would contest parliamentary elections on one unified list, but the youth might refuse to do so.

The leaders of the NSF have only two choices: convince their youth cadres that secular unity in the face of rising Islamism is a must if the revolution is to succeed and that Moussa is “not so bad” (the man is hardly Shafiq), or capitulate and “purify” the NSF before contesting the elections. Whatever the coalition leaders decide to do, they need to decide fast; delaying this issue could lead to disorganisation that could cost them the election.

Another threat to the opposition unity is the deep ideological differences between the groups making up the coalition. “Oh, factional in-fighting? What else is new on the left?” a wise man once asked.

The ideologies inside the coalition range from classic liberals who fully believe in the free market, to Nasserists and socialists that are anti-capitalism, and everything in between. Economic policy is not the only dividing factor as well; some parties in the NSF could be identified as secular social conservatives, although these are in the minority.

Front leaders Moussa, a liberal, Hamdeen Sabahy, a left-wing Nasserist and Mohamed ElBaradei, a social democrat, have created a united agenda since the NSF’s conception. If this oneness carries on then ideological differences could put aside, at least until the elections are over.

The single most divisive issue, however, will be seat allocations. If the NSF plan to run on one list then parties inside inside the Front cannot contest seats against each other. There must be collaboration and coordination between parties to place the different party candidates in the appropriate areas.

The older parties such as Wafd could carry a strong voice on this issue, demanding more seats due to seniority and electoral success. Parties that contested last year’s parliamentary poll such as the Free Egyptians Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party may also demand an allocation of at least the amount of seats they won last time.

But this system will not work for newer parties like ElBaradei’s Dostour and Sabahy’s Popular Current (itself a coalition of parties) since they have no previous record of electoral success. It would be unwise to grant these parties a small allocation, however, as they are seen as some of the largest and most effective parties.

If, and only if, the NSF manages to get past these three issues, they will have a decent shot at winning a majority of the parliamentary seats. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists combined were only able to mobilise 20 per cent of eligible voters in the referendum, and while NSF only got 12, this leaves 68 per cent of voters that remain to be allotted to either side.

If NSF can convince only over half of them (39 per cent) while retaining the 12 per cent it received during the referendum, it will have a parliamentary majority. The Islamists may be divided, but if no one gets a majority they will surely form a coalition government. The two-thirds required to amend the constitution is most probably out of reach for the NSF this time around, but a parliamentary majority? Doable.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

January 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

Posted in Analysis, Egypt, Politics

The lion, the sheikhs and the Brotherhood

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Parliamentary elections analysis part 1

Originally published in the Daily News Egypt on 28 December 2012

While the Shura Council is currently entrusted with full legislative powers, the transitional articles in the new constitution state that parliamentary elections for the lower house, renamed the House of Representatives, are to take place within 60 days of the constitution’s adoption. That house will then take over legislation from the Shura Council.

With the elections looming, the electoral alliances of old surely will not stand. Some parties will form new ones, ever redrawing the political map. Others will find themselves strong enough to go it alone.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), contested the elections as leaders of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt that they largely dominated.

With the exception of the alliance coordinator Wahid Abdel Meguid, an independent, and a handful of candidates from Hamdeen Sabahy’s Nasserist Dignity Party and Ayman Nour’s liberal Ghad Al-Thawra Party as well as Abdel Moniem El-Sawy’s Civilisation Party, FJP members dominated the alliance’s lists.

FJP and Brotherhood officials had originally said they would contest up to 35 per cent of seats but ended up running for over 80 per cent. The Brotherhood might opt to run alone this time around, and party Vice Chairman Essam El-Erian already said they plan to contest all seats.

The Brotherhood already has the presidency through Mohamed Morsy and has been able to push through the constitution, which specifies that the majority party in the House of Representatives forms the government.

They will both feel empowered enough to contest all seats alone as well as a sense of urgency in contesting the elections these time around, the last thing they need is Morsy sharing power with a prime minister from the opposition. Securing the Cabinet is the last piece in the puzzle after which they will be in control of all state institutions.

However, the Brotherhood could not have passed their constitution without the help of fellow Islamists. On one side there are the salafis, who until recently were led by the salafi calling’s political wing, the Al-Nour Party.

Salafi youth feel betrayed after being mobilised by their Sheikhs to do the Brotherhood’s bidding. Although criticised by liberals and secular opposition groups for not being democratic enough, salafis view the constitution as lacking in Shari’a. This, combined with the now popular saying “the Brotherhood will fight to the last salafi” is causing a split between leaders and the cadres on the ground. It is already manifesting in the recent schism in the Al-Nour Party.

Enter Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. The rebel sheikh is idolised by salafi youth, especially the revolutionaries amongst them. Charismatic, fierce and ultraconservative, Abu Ismail is the Muslim Brotherhood’s worst nightmare. They cannot call him an infidel or an enemy of religion. In fact, the roles are reversed here with the disqualified presidential candidate able to confidently call out the Brotherhood on what he and many salafis view as shameful pragmatism and compromise, sacrificing Islam for power.

Hazem’s stature is growing, and come election time the entire salafi bloc will have to firmly unite behind him or risk utter failure. Parties such as the Authenticity Party, the Jama’a Islamiya’s Building and Development Party and the Salafi Front’s People’s Party will have to follow Abu Ismail. If the Al-Nour Party knows what is good for it, it will also follow suit, for the sheikhs are done and all must now bow to the “Lion of Islam.”

On the left of the Brotherhood, again instrumental to the passing of the constitution, is the Al-Wasat Party. Originally a group of former Brotherhood members who felt a more moderate, perhaps just a tad secular, to politics was needed, the breakaways were fiercely persecuted by the Brotherhood.

Yet come constitution drafting time, the party’s three main men were on the Constituent Assembly, fighting fiercely in favour of it and perhaps were the last glimmer of hope in making the process look somewhat legitimate. The party’s rising star Mohamed Mahsoub was even appointed in the cabinet post of minister of legal and parliamentary affairs.

Following the constitution’s passing, the Al-Wasat party abruptly turned on the Brotherhood, with the rumour being that they were promised the premiership after the constitution was adopted. Morsy’s speech indicated that incumbent Hesham Qandil is staying however, which meant that neither party leader Abu El-Ela Mady nor Mahsoub himself, the two most likely candidates, could assume the post. The party has denied such claims however, saying its opposition to Qandil came without search for positions.

Finding themselves out of the Brotherhood’s cloak will lead Al-Wasat to join with its natural ideological allies, the more moderate Islamist parties. El-Sawy’s Civilisation Party and the Egyptian Current Party, also composed by a group of breakaway former Muslim Brotherhood youth, are the most obvious choices and the three are likely to form a “centrist” coalition.

The crown jewel of such a coalition would be former presidential candidate Abdel Moniem Abul Fotouh’s Strong Egypt Party. Abul Fotouh has come under fire from both the Islamists and the secular opposition recently. He openly opposed the constitution, perhaps not strongly enough but did so anyway, to the chagrin of most Islamists, but also refused to join the National Salvation Front on grounds of it containing members of the former regime (read: Amr Moussa).

Perhaps most damning of all for secularists was despite his rejection of the constitution, he considered the referendum legitimate, calling for a “No” vote but refusing calls to cancel or postpone the referendum. Although popular amongst centrist and slightly Islamist-leaning revolutionary youth, Abul Fotouh finds himself alienated by those outside his base. He will either decide to run alone, or more realistically take his natural position as leader of centrist Islamism, an ideology many Egyptians would identify with.

The deep split within the Islamist ranks does not bode well for either the hard-line salafis or the more moderate Islamists. The latter were never effective electorally and the former will surely lose their dark horse status that saw them garner the second highest number of seats of 35 per cent. This will most certainly be of benefit mainly to the secular opposition.

The Muslim Brotherhood, for the most part, will emerge unscathed from this split. This does not mean they will replicate their previous victory, for there is a completely different camp in the political spectrum, and as frustrating and amateurish as they are, they are still gaining ground, and for the first time ever, albeit loosely, they are finally united.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

January 5, 2013 at 9:37 am

Posted in Analysis, Egypt, Politics

Morsy’s meeting the Supreme Council of the Judiciary: nothing has changed

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President Mohamed Morsy said he respects and appreciates the judiciary, he’s assured the judges that their independence would never be compromised. Although the president expressed such sentiment, practically speaking he has not offered the judges any concessions.

He said there would be no amendments to the constitutional decree and that protection from legal review would be for “acts of sovereignty” only.

The president’s spokesperson did not define what an “act of sovereignty” is exactly or who decides whether a decision is indeed an “act of sovereignty” or a regular administrative decision.

The president can issue a decision, call it an “act of sovereignty” and it would have to be proven otherwise first before it can even be challenged in a court.

The traditional definition of “act of sovereignty” which includes things like declaring war and changing the country’s borders have always been protected from judicial oversight in Egypt, the president did not need to issue a constitutional decree saying that unless he intends to expand what “acts of sovereignty” encompass.

He also said that reopening investigations in cases of killing protestors during the revolution mentioned in the decree would only be in cases where new evidence appears.

This affirms what many in the opposition were saying, which is that the president included things in his decree to appear as if he’s meeting revolutionary demands in order to mask a power grab. It is highly unlikely that new evidence in crimes of killing protestors during the 18-day uprising of 2011 will appear simply because between Mubarak’s police and prosecutors, all evidence has been properly disposed of.

An important thing to note, however, is there was a high turnout at the judges’ general assembly meeting on Saturday where they released a statement condemning the decree and voted for a judicial strike. This means that the judges may not approve of the outcome of the meeting between the president and their leaders and may even opt for a vote of no confidence, although that would mostly be a symbolic move.

Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood has called off tomorrow’s protest, stating their wish to avoid clashes and bloodshed. They had initially changed the venue from Abdeen to in front of Cairo University in order to stay away from Tahrir Square where the opposition intends to stage a million man protest tomorrow but the Brotherhood have now postponed their protest altogether.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

November 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Mr. Consensus and the coming deep state

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“There’s one hole in every revolution, large or small. And it’s one word long … People. No matter how big the idea they all stand under, people are small and weak and cheap and frightened. It’s people that kill every revolution.” – Spider Jerusalem

Mansour Hassan, head of the Advisory Council that the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces formed last December, has announced his intention to run in the upcoming presidential elections in May.

Hassan, 75 and sporting a severe heart condition, has declared that Sameh Seif El Yazal, a former military man and current “strategic expert,” will be his running mate. Hassan’s daughter is married to Mubarak’s Transport Minister, Mohamed Mansour, by the way.

(Edit: Seif El Yazal has since resigned from Hassan’s campaign, although that doesn’t mean he still can’t be named vice president. Or maybe someone else could be VP, a certain Crown Prince Lieutenant General Chief of Staff, perhaps?)

Within hours of his announcement, the Wafd party said it would endorse Hassan in the elections, only five hours after it had announced it would support Amr Moussa.

Rumors of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party’s impeding announcement of support for Hassan also made the rounds, but the Brotherhood and the FJP have since issued a denial.

State-owned daily Al Ahram has since published a feature on Hassan, revealing what some already knew.

Hassan was simultaneously both the Information and Culture Minister in the Sadat era, and in Sadat’s final days Hassan was also Minister of State for Presidential Affairs while keeping both the Information and Culture portfolios.

He was considered for the vice presidency but Mubarak was ultimately preferred for his military background and there was talk that Sadat had again considered him for the post to replace Mubarak right before his assassination.

Conspiracy theories aside (Mubarak/the military killed Sadat for wanting to replace an officer with a civilian, i.e. name him as successor, etc.) we know Mubarak did not like Hassan. One of the first things he did was de facto banishing him from the political scene.

Let us review here: head of SCAF’s Advisory Council, military man as vice president, trial balloons of major parties endorsing him making the rounds, state newspapers covering him favorably.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the consensus president.

Factor in military prosecution “investigating” 12 prominent activists, media personalities, lawmakers and a best-selling novelist, all considered symbols of the January 25 uprising by some; the flood of courts declaring police officers accused of shooting protestors last January innocent; and finally today’s court ruling acquitting the military doctor accused of performing virginity tests and this is what you get: a revolution drawing its final breaths.

Imagine with me, if you will, the following sequence of events. Like that scene from V for Vendetta where the detective says he can feel what’s going to happen. Imagine.

Things stay seemingly calm until the presidential elections. Seemingly being the key word here. Activists and revolutionaries slowly get arrested, put on sham trials (not necessary military ones, the civilian judicial system has shown itself capable of being equally disgusting), the revolution is demonized in the media, with the state (read: SCAF) exerting increasing control over said media, economic problems worsen.

Then it’s May. Several parties and political forces choose to back Hassan. The elections move into runoff; Hassan is one of the top two candidates; the other probably Moussa, possibly Ahmed Shafik (Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Civil Aviation Minister, Air Force Commander, “I’ve killed and been killed,” etc.)

June 2: Hosni Mubarak is found not guilty. Or receives very little time in prison. Massive protests erupt. It gets violent. SCAF says it can’t protect the runoff; more time is necessary, transfer of power to civilians needs to be postponed, six months only, we promise, the people and the army are one hand, we are no substitute for legitimacy.

And the kicker: both candidates left standing say they agree.

Not happy with that? Too unrealistic, you say? Maybe, but it’s not impossible. That alone is scary.

How about this: SCAF backs Hassan, Mr. Consensus. Wafd and other such small-time lackeys provide their blessings. He wins (see clause 28 of the presidential elections law.)

We get an Islamist parliament. Islamist weak parliament. Figurehead president, military pretty much in control of all affairs, deep state. Read up on contemporary Pakistani politics.

You don’t want that.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

March 12, 2012 at 2:24 am

Posted in Analysis, Egypt, Opinion

Are Egypt’s youth forgetting landmarks in their history?

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First published in The Caravan on Sunday October 3o, 2011

There is a famous mantra about the failure to know one’s history. “He who knows only his own generation remains always a child,” Roman scholar Cicero once said.

As Egypt rewrites its modern history in the wake of the January 25 Revolution, its successes and failures of the 20th Century become more crucial than ever.

One of Egypt’s most pivotal events in the past 40 years – and which was recently marked with much fanfare by the government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – is the October 1973 War.

The war changed the military and political balance in the Middle East, established Egypt as a diplomatic force du jour and led to a chain of events that bring us to where we are today.

But many AUCians do not know the key dates and events of the October 1973 war.

The Caravan carried out an extensive survey which among other things asked: When did the October 1973 war start? When did it end? Why was it fought and on what fronts?

In a polling of 360 students, 30 percent said they were not aware the war started on October 6 and 50 percent could not tell when it ended.

The fact that the war was fought on the Sinai and Golan fronts was unknown to 43 percent and over 17 percent could name neither the Bar Lev line nor the Camp David Accords, which were the culmination of the late President Anwar Sadat’s military and political aspirations.

A total of 33 percent were unable to correctly answer the 11 questions asked by The Caravan last week.

Sherene Seikaly, a professor who teaches modern Middle Eastern history, says these results are cause for concern.

“I think it should be worrying for the community at large,” Seikaly told The Caravan.

“I think people [should be more knowledgeable of their history] especially at a time when it is very easy to look up this kind of information, we have so much access to information, it is literally at our fingertips,” she added.

Ali El Banna, a mechanical engineering senior, said he was shocked to learn of these statistics.

“Only now do I understand the importance of the core curriculum,” El Banna told The Caravan.

When asked how to raise interest in Egyptian history on campus, El Banna said there was nothing to do but urge students to learn about their history.

“We don’t have a [student] organization on campus fully dedicated to this type of thing,” he said.

He added that their should be an Egyptian history course in the core curriculum before saying: “I didn’t know you had to take a college class to know the October 6, 1973 War started on the October 6.”

Seikaly said she had grown up discussing history at home and assumed 1973 would be something regularly discussed in most Egyptian households.

She said, however, that the results of the survey are not unheard of and that a lot of people are ignorant of national history all over the world.

“For a lot of these people [the October 1973 war is] 20 years before they were born and mediated through nationalist narratives,” said Seikaly.

Additional reporting by Adham Haddara.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

October 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Analysis, AUC, Egypt, Middle East

Egypt’s days of rage – Tahrir: protesters insistent, “SCAF must go”

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First published in The Caravan on Sunday October 23, 2011

After a nine-month hiatus, the revolution continues, with Egyptians returning to Tahrir Square in unprecedented defiance of the ruling military council.

The sickening smell of their “new and improved” tear gas filled the air as they directed their rubber bullets, buckshots and live ammunition against their own countrymen.

“That will teach you to revolt you son of a bitch!” screams an officer as he guns a man down.

I was not close enough to see what became of the man – I hope he is alive – but such was the vitriol coming from the officer I heard him all the way from my relatively secure spot. This was not a political conflict; the sheer brutality of police onslaughts led many to believe they were exacting vengeance.

Bloodstained youth hurried down Mohamed Mahmoud Street carrying their fallen comrades on their shoulders as the Health Ministry updated the death toll to 30. Lies.

But the protesters’ resolve remained unbroken, with hundreds of thousands eventually flocking into Tahrir Square and hundreds of brave revolutionary youth heading into Mohamed Mahmoud to stop the police and CSF’s advances.

And stop them they did, for four days straight.

The protesters clearly had the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in their sights; they wanted it removed from the political sphere. That was the main and very obvious sentiment expressed by the hundreds of thousands occupying Tahrir Square over the past week.

The atmosphere swung like a pendulum from ecstatic as more protesters joined in and melancholic as the body of a martyr or injured protester was brought in from Mohamed Mahmoud Street, a war zone, every few minutes.

Not an ordinary protest

One thing I felt for sure, though, this is not another ordinary protest; this is the continuation of the January 25 Revolution that seemed to have ground to a halt in previous months.

Some even considered it a failed revolution, since Mubarak stepped down on February 11 and the military took over.

Last week’s anti-SCAF demonstration started out as a customary Friday protest held almost regularly since Mubarak’s ouster, with different groups heading to the square with their own demands.

Revolutionary youth were calling for SCAF to hold presidential elections immediately after parliamentary polls and to hand over power in April 2012 as they initially promised.

Islamists were there protesting Deputy Prime Minister Aly El Salmy’s supra-constitutional principles document, specifically articles nine and ten, which gave SCAF too much power over the process of writing the constitution and even after the handover to civilian rule.

As I toured the square on Friday, I felt cynical and defeated. Between the large numbers of Islamists after secular parties decided to boycott the demonstration, and the sense futility as another protest went on unaddressed and barely acknowledged I was beginning to think this revolution was truly over.

Word went round of a sit-in, comprised mainly of martyrs families and injured victims from last January. Numbers were low and predictably the police went in to disband them late at night and early morning using tear gas, rubber bullets and buckshot.

What was not predictable, however, was the backlash that use of force generated. As the police were dragging the dead body of a man across the street for a few meters, thousands made their way to Tahrir to take part in a battle that would rage on till we went to print on Wednesday.

An old trend re-emerged, especially on Saturday, as the police made a point to shoot protesters in the eyes. One prominent blogger lost an eye; another protester lost his second eye after losing the first on January 28.

As I walked through the square on Monday, I heard that Sharaf’s cabinet resigned. The protesters were fired up by the news; it did not satisfy them, but spurred them on.

“The people demand the removal of the Field Marshal,” they chanted. “Down with military rule,” they screamed.

“We are not here to oust Essam Sharaf, everyone knows he is useless,” an old man told me.

“It’s the military council that’s calling the shots, and they must go,” he said.

Tensions begin to rise rapidly in the square. Once every half an hour or so protesters come running from Mohamed Mahmoud, sparking massive panic among the rest, thinking the police have finally broken through.

When that isn’t happening, ambulances or motorcycles drive through the square carrying the scores of injured. Once in a while a body is brought back to the square carried by blood-stained protesters.

Two of the people I’m with ventured into Mohamed Mahmoud; a man standing between them was shot directly in the chest and died immediately.

A few hours later, I reluctantly followed as they attempted to check out Mohamed Mahmoud close up, we get to AUC’s main campus when people start running and a stampede unfolded.

The gas was so bad that I couldn’t breathe – face mask and all. When we finally reached the main square again I went into a coughing fit. I sneezed black mucus. And I only got as far as AUC.

Protesters announced holding a million man march the next day under the title of “national salvation.”

A reported two million people flocked to the Square protesting SCAF’s rule and demanding a civilian government.

Things in the Square were relatively uneventful with the exception of the ongoing battle in Mohamed Mahmoud street.

State TV announced Field Marshal Tantawi was to make a speech shortly at around 3 p.m. He made it at 10 p.m.

After a long introduction about how the military only wants to hand power to a civilian government and that “unforeseen events” were always derailing that goal, Tantawi announced accepting the cabinet’s resignation and that a national salvation cabinet would be formed.

He did not apologize for the scores of dead and injured, saying SCAF would only go back to their barracks as a result of a popular referendum.

Later that night, word broke out of the police using a new, third type of tear gas, with some claiming it was nerve gas.

What was sure though was that it left dozens suffocating, spasming and unconscious.

At press time, a battle continued to rage in Tahrir after police broke a ceasefire they had agreed on earlier in the day.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

October 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Analysis, Egypt, Opinion