EGYPT

Egyptian protesters worried the revolution is slipping through their fingers

 Cairo’s Tahrir Square filled up with protesters again on Friday, in a scene reminiscent of the mass protests that prompted the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. The participants in the most massive sit-in since the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution nearly five months ago claimed they felt the revolution’s goals were being abandoned. ... 

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Cairo’s Tahrir Square filled up with protesters again on Friday, in a scene reminiscent of the mass protests that prompted the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. The participants in the most massive sit-in since the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution nearly five months ago claimed they felt the revolution’s goals were being abandoned.

 

The sit-in, now into its third day, grew out from Friday’s protest, during which tens of thousands of people gathered in Tahrir Square in an attempt to salvage what they see as the revolution’s ideals. The protesters have decried the slow pace of democratic transition since the revolution. They are mainly concerned by the judicial system’s foot-dragging in bringing former regime leaders to trial, as well as the still endemic social injustice. Some protesters have denounced the attempt of political parties to appropriate the revolutionary process. 

 

Workers heading toward Tahrir Square. Photo published on Twitter.

 

After three decades under Mubarak’s reign, Egyptians are now debating the nature of their country’s transition to democracy. Secular activists have very different vision from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most established political opposition body.

 

While secular activists and part of the country’s civil society would like Egypt to adopt a new constitution before holding legislative elections, the Muslim Brotherhood is pushing for the opposite scenario.

 

Analysts say that holding elections too soon could thwart new parties’ chances against the Islamic party, which relies on its established support network throughout the country.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood at first refused to take part in Friday’s protests, since it was in part aimed at putting pressure on the ruling military council to postpone the legislative elections, scheduled for September. But when the organizers decided to drop this banner, the Brotherhood agreed to participate.

“The revolution allowed political parties to gain legitimacy. Now, they’re exploiting it to serve their own interests”

 

Hosam Abou No’man lives in Cairo. He’s not affiliated with any political party.

 

"Even though I’m not affiliated with any political party, I went to Tahrir Square today [Friday]. I’m part of the silent majority, those who were on the frontline during the revolution and who are now relegated to the background. We’re very disappointed at the turn the revolutionary process is taking. The revolution’s priorities were to establish democracy, bring the old regime’s representatives and collaborators to justice, and bring about social justice.

 

None of that has happened. The only ones who’ve benefited from the revolution are political parties. They’ve exploited the revolution that gave them so much, notably legitimacy. Some parties were living in the shadows; others existed in name only. The revolution gave them a legal existence. And now, they’re hijacking the goals of the revolution to serve their own interests.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood at first refused to take part in the protest before changing their mind. That was an electoral strategy. They hemmed and hawed until the last minute, but finally joined the movement because they were afraid of being left out of such a large protest – it included nearly one million people. The Muslim Brotherhood, like other parties, are sensitive to their portrayal in the media.

 

Protests at Tahrir Square on July 8. Photo published on Twitter.

 

Political parties are already fighting over the timetable for the coming elections. [Ed. Note: The electoral calendar, which calls for elections in September, is in the centre of a political debate: new political parties would like to postpone it in order to have more time to gain supporters as they challenge more established parties like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Wafd party.] Victims’ families are waiting for justice to be served and the most impoverished just want to have enough to eat. These poor people, who led the revolution, deserve to be paid a reasonable wage and lead dignified lives.”

  

Protests at Tahrir Square on July 7. Video published onYfrog.

 

“The Muslim Brotherhood already enjoyed widespread popularity before the revolution”

 

Islam Al-Bachlawi is an engineer who supports the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

"At first, the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t want to participate in the protest because we didn’t agree with its name. The organisers wanted to call Friday’s protest “A Constitution First!” For us, this wasn’t acceptable because the people voted on March 19 and more than 70 percent of them approved the constitutional referendum.[Those who voted “yes” sought a partial reform of the constitution, while the “no” vote wanted a complete overhaul of the constitution before holding legislative elections.] Why go back on the people’s verdict? We were not about to sanction an attempted coup on the people’s sovereignty.

 

After talking to organisers, they agreed to opt for another name: “Revolution First!” That’s the slogan we gathered under to call for speeding up trials against members of the old regime and cleaning up the country’s ministries, in particular the Interior Ministry, which is still home to some from the old regime ­-- men who participated in the repression. We don’t have any particular demands, nor does our political party have a slogan. I’m here [participating in the protest] as an Egyptian citizen, and my hopes are the same as those of all the protestors, whether they’re part of the Muslim Brotherhood or not.

It’s true that the revolution benefited political parties, who were granted institutional legitimacy after decades of bans and persecution, just like it benefits all individuals, without exception. Arbitrary arrests by the police, for example, are on the decline.

The Muslim Brotherhood already enjoyed widespread popularity before the revolution. It was the leader of the opposition. Those who decry our participation in Friday’s protest are only trying to create divisions within the Egyptian population.

We don’t plan on straying from the goals of the revolution. Giving the Egyptian people their dignity and strength back – that’s the priority. After that, once we’ve reached institutional stability, we’ll be able to focus on other priorities: security, poverty, the economy, social justice, etc.”

 

Protests at Tahrir Square on July 8. Photo published onTwitter.

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Mahamadou Sawaneh