Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Excited revolutionaries to return to Tahrir with 'Day of Dignity' Friday

Political groups and parties call for a demonstration on Friday to demand immediate transfer to civil rule, a year on from the 28 January, 2011 police attacks on anti-Mubarak protesters.

Egyptians march during a demonstration toward Tahrir Square marking the first anniversary of the popular uprising that unseated President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. (Photo: AP)
Following the success of the January 25 anniversary mass protests on Wednesday, almost 60 political groups and parties have announced their participation in Friday, 27 January protest called Friday of Dignity or Second Friday of Rage. The main demands, the groups say, are the end to the military rule and the immediate handover of power to a civilian government.

Political groups calling for the protests include the April 6 Movement, Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Wa’i (“Awareness”) Party, the Popular Movement for the Independence of Al-Azhar, the Justice and Freedom youth movement, the Free Front for Peaceful Change, the Participation Movement and the Maspero Protesters Movement, among others.

April 6 Youth Movement and National Front for Justice and Democracy have also stated that they will stay after the Friday’s demonstrations and stage an open-ended sit-in in Tahrir Square.

Following Wednesday’s festivities, which saw hundreds of thousands in the streets, tens of people decided to remain on Tahrir until the expected demonstrations at the weekend. Groups from the Muslim Brotherhood, who initially said they would leave the square at 4pm, also stayed overnight.

“We are staying here to take care of our stage in preparation for Friday,” a member of Muslim Brotherhood told an Ahram Online correspondent in the early hours of Thursday morning. The Islamist group led the festivities on the square yesterday, despite publically distancing itself from anti-SCAF sit-ins in July, November and December.

A smaller sit-in was also formed on Wednesday night in front of Maspero, the state-owned television and radio headquarters. Protesters marched to the television building in the afternoon calling for the purification of state media, which they believe, has been spreading lies since the revolution began.

This Friday will mark the anniversary of the Friday of Rage: one of the most significant dates of the ongoing revolution. 28 January, 2011 was the first instance that the Egyptian military attacked protesters resulting in 20 deaths. The police, who traditionally dealt with demonstrations, had vacated the streets and many prisons were left open. In the ensuing security vacuum the former president Hosni Mubarak ordered the military to take control.

Source : Ahram Online
Ekram Ibrahim , Thursday 26 Jan 2012

Mubarak sons, EFG CEOs face new trial for stock market corruption

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak will stand trial with co-CEOS of EFG-Hermes and five others on charges of profiteering, says state TV.

The sons of Egypt's deposed president and the two chief executives of investment bank EFG-Hermes are to stand trial alongside five others for corrupt stock exchange dealings, state television said on Wednesday.

Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, already standing trial for graft with their father, are being charged with EFG-Hermes joint chiefs, Hassan Heikal and Yasser El-Mallawany.

Five other business figures were also referred to Cairo's criminal court on the same charges of illicit profiteering related to the sale of El-Watany Bank of Egypt (AWB).

According to state news agency MENA, the following five will stand trial with the Mubaraks and the two EFG-Hermes representatives:

  • Amr El-Kady, EFG-Hermes ex-CEO
  • Ayman Fathy Soliman
  • Ahmed Fathy Soliman
  • Ahmed Naeim Badr
  • Hussein El-Sherbini

A spokesman for Egypt's prosecutor-general told MENA that the accused face charges of accumulating LE2.51 billion in illicit profits by violating capital market laws and taking control of a majority stake in AWB through investment and private equity funds that they controlled.

Judge Adel El-Saeed said the accusations include a claim that the accused made use of private equity funds based in Cyprus and the British Channel Islands to trade on AWB shares and realise large profits.

He claimed that the accused had deliberately hid their identities and other essential information, damaging the principles of equal opportunity and transparency of information.

El-Saeed said the accused may have managed to take control of a 80 per cent stake in the bank, giving them control over its management.

In 2006, they hired two investment firms with with they had affiliations to value and sell AWB at a significantly higher price.

In 2007, the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) -- one of the Middle East's major banks -- acquired AWB and started re-branding and restructuring the bank.

On Wednesday, EFG-Hermes issued a statement detailing the extent of the former president’s family holdings in the company. It said Gamal Mubarak held only 18 per cent of EFG-Hermes’s Private Equity, which he acquired in 1997.

The statement effectively denied all charges against its executives, adding that "neither EFG-Hermes nor any of the investment funds it manages in Egypt or abroad have directly or indirectly received any special privileges or consideration from the Government of Egypt."

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak will hear the verdict for their first graft trial on Saturday 2 June.

Abul-Fotouh to launch campaign against ex-regime figures

The moderate Islamist presidential contender announces Wednesday new Egypt-wide campaign to raise awareness about Mubarak-era figures in a bid to purge country of remnants of the former regime.

Former presidential hopeful Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh has launched an awareness campaign to help purge the country of former Mubarak regime members on Wednesday.

"We don’t want the feelings of enthusiasm and energy that we had while we were working on our presidential campaign to subside," Abul-Fotouh said in his Wednesday statement, "That is why we have to begin working on our national project and to parallel that with an awareness drive in all governorates against the remnants of the old regime and all its symbols."

Abul-Fotouh has yet to outline the details of the project but stated that it will cover all of Egypt’s governorates and will cooperate with other political forces.

Moderate Islamist Abul-Fotouh dropped out of the presidential race when he came in fourth place during the first round of the presidential elections on 23-24 May.

On Sunday, Abul-Fotouh said that official results of last week's first-round presidential vote should be postponed until Egypt's Constitutional Court issues a final decision on a Disenfranchisement Law barring members of the former regime from assuming public office. This would directly affect presidential runoff candidate Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minster.

His demand was made after the initial results indicated he had finished fourth in the race. Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC), however, officially announced the results the next day.

The second round of the race will take place on 16-17 June, where Mubarak era minister Shafiq will compete with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.

Source : Ahram Online

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The long road to Egypt's presidential palace

The last time Egyptians went to the polls in September 2005 to vote for a president in "multi-candidate elections," the now-defunct National Democratic Party secured 87 per cent of the vote (6.3 million votes) for then-president Hosni Mubarak. In retaliation for daring to run against the country's long-time ruler, the former regime punished liberal lawyer Ayman Nour, who had garnered 7 per cent (540,000 votes) of total ballots cast, with three years in prison on questionable fraud charges.

By most accounts, 30-40 million (60–75 per cent of eligible voters) are expected to head to the polls on Wednesday out of a total of 53 million eligible voters, for an election that will prove that last year's January 25 Revolution that ousted Mubarak has changed Egypt's political landscape and psyche forever.

Despite the fact that the revolution has not fundamentally altered Egypt's pre-February 2011 social and economic system – beyond sending Mubarak and a handful of his closest associates to trial – millions of ordinary people, who lived as silent spectators to Egypt's political life for generations, have finally entered onto the stage of history and will no longer allow others to determine their destiny.

In a recent two-part interview with flagship state daily Al-Ahram, veteran journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal underscored this historic awakening by the Egyptian public.

"Despite all the hard times [over the past year], those who had long been repressed have exploded. This was inevitable. The debate over the country's future has begun,” Heikal said.

Indeed, although Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has more or less set the tempo of democratic transition over the last 15 months, the formerly repressed masses have put their signature on the events that have taken place during the post-revolution transitional period – which is about to come to an end.

In March of last year, 20 million people (40 per cent of eligible voters) took to the polls for a historic referendum on amending Mubarak’s 1971 constitution. They overwhelmingly endorsed the SCAF's proposals – backed by the Islamists and opposed by liberal forces – that presidential and parliamentary elections should precede the arduous task of drafting a more long-term constitution, and that Egypt's freely-elected parliament should set the terms for drafting a new national charter.

Soon afterward, in the spring of 2011, mass protests forced the SCAF to arrest Mubarak and his two sons and charge them with corruption and killing protesters. In November, the generals – facing mass protests against military rule – bowed to the popular will and promised to hand over power to an elected president by 30 June of this year.

Then, between late November and mid-January, more than 30 million Egyptians (60 per cent of eligible voters) participated in the country’s first free parliamentary elections in decades, which handed Egypt's Islamist forces – repressed for decades under the former regime – a solid majority in the People’s Assembly.

This time the people have many choices

In the past two months, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) – appointed by the SCAF to oversee presidential elections – settled on 13 out of 23 hopefuls to compete in this week's poll.

Although the range of candidates was to be more diverse than anything seen under Mubarak, SPEC’s 10 April decision to disqualify Muslim Brotherhood second-in-command Khairat El-Shater and Salafist preacher Hazem Abu-Ismail from the race –while allowing Mubarak-era PM Ahmed Shafiq to run despite the passage of a law that bans former Mubarak officials from holding public office – caused considerable dismay among a sizeable segment of the public.

The elimination of Abu-Ismail, whose popularity and pro-Sharia message had generated considerable excitement among Islamists and made his candidacy seem all but unstoppable, threatened at one point to derail the entire electoral process as bloody confrontations between his supporters and the army near the defence ministry in Abbasiya left at least 11 dead and hundreds injured – and hundreds more arrested – in early May.

But as the dust settled in Abbasiya, and as public opinion largely agreed to live with the SPEC-set rules of the game, opinion polls – though not necessarily a reliable indicator of public opinion – revealed that Egyptians were homing in on five leading contenders.

Two former members of the Mubarak regime, former foreign minister Amr Moussa and Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, head into Wednesday’s vote with good chances of clinching a spot in the runoffs, slated for 16 and 17 June.

Meanwhile, two candidates who played an important role in the January 25 Revolution and who had already made names for themselves as opponents of Mubarak – Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi and former Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh – continued to show that they, too, stood a decent chance of reaching the runoff vote in June.

Finally, though he jumped into the race at the eleventh hour, Brotherhood candidate and head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed Mursi has made his way up slowly but surely into the top five, capitalising on the Brotherhood's unparalleled capacity for public mobilisation.

"All that is solid melts into air"

Judging by two opinion polls published two weeks ago by Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm and the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, the stage seemed set for Moussa to become Egypt's next president after he garnered 40 per cent of the vote. At the same time, Abul-Fotouh seemed the only candidate poised to give Moussa a run for his money and the millions of Egyptian pounds spent by the latter on campaigning.

During the same period, sample voters consistently kept Sabbahi and Shafiq under 8 per cent according to most opinion polls, showing little or no enthusiasm for the Brotherhood Mursi.

However, in a sudden change in public mood following a 10 May televised debate between Moussa and Abul-Fotouh (perceived as lacklustre by many viewers), support for Sabbahi surpassed the 10 per cent mark for the first time. Mursi's and Shafiq’s numbers, meanwhile, skyrocketed, pushing both closer to the top two spots.

In another development reflecting the constant state of flux in voters’ moods, the three candidates who sat at the bottom for weeks (Mursi, Shafiq and Sabbahi) shocked campaigners for the two that had been on top for months (Moussa and Abul-Fotouh) after the announcement of preliminary results for Egypt's May 11-17 expatriate vote.

While Moussa and Abul-Fotouh still came in first and second among Egyptian expats in several countries, Sabbahi and Shafiq fared surprisingly well among Egyptians abroad. Mursi, meanwhile, reportedly swept countries with large Egyptian expat communities, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Writing recently in independent daily Al-Shorouk, veteran liberal journalist Salama Ahmed Salama likened voters' perpetually shifting opinions to "sand dunes constantly shifting in the desert.”

Voter confusion could result from the difficulties newly-politicised, first-time voters typically encounter in making up their minds. However, it might also reflect the state of political stalemate witnessed by Egypt in recent months.

On the one hand, the forces of the former regime, reinvigorated by the SCAF’s success in combating the revolutionaries over the past year, have been fighting hard to preserve the fundamental basics of the Mubarak set-up. They have done this by granting a degree of reform while subjecting revolutionaries to never-ending smear campaigns. They have yet, however, to fully achieve their goals.

On the other hand, the forces that participated in last year's revolution have maintained considerable support among wide segments of workers and the poor, but have failed so far to coalesce around a specific political programme for change which could overcome the civil vs. religious divide between Islamists and non-Islamists. They have also failed to reach a consensus over a single pro-revolution presidential candidate.

Heikal alluded to this political impasse in his interview with Al-Ahram.

"The jumbled situation [of the revolution] happened because the revolutionary youth believe that they can lead the revolution, yet they're still not qualified to lead," he said. Meanwhile, "The SCAF wants to limit the revolution’s scope to merely ending Mubarak’s scheme to groom his son for the presidency," Heikal added.

This deadlock could be a reason for the inability of the bloc of candidates who participated in the revolution (Abul-Fotouh, Sabbahi and Mursi), or the competing bloc of former Mubarak men (Moussa and Shafiq), to capture a decisive electoral lead.

Given the state of limbo that Egypt’s revolution finds itself mired in only four days before Wednesday's vote, it comes as little surprise that a whopping 37 per cent of those asked told pollsters that they had yet to decide on a particular candidate.

The ever changing fortunes of the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood seemed politically unstoppable after it won a comfortable majority in Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls last winter. But a three-month power struggle between the Brotherhood on the one hand and liberal groups and the SCAF on the other has left the group relatively weakened.

The Brotherhood invited additional condemnation from several quarters – including some of its own members – when it nominated leading group member Khairat El-Shater as presidential candidate in March, breaking a year-old promise not to contest the presidency. El-Shater was later replaced for legal reasons by current Brotherhood candidate Mursi.

For months now, a formidable anti-Brotherhood campaign has been waged by certain public and private media outlets by liberals and pro-SCAF figures who have attempted to slander the group by accusing it of monopolising all branches of government and scheming to dominate the constitution-drafting process.

The ferocity of the attacks on the Brotherhood appears to have paid dividends.

For one, the anti-Brotherhood campaign has likely led a considerable number of the group's sympathisers – who had voted for it in parliamentary elections – to decide against voting for the group's candidate in this week's presidential poll.

The Brotherhood’s troubles have also boosted the fortunes of underdog Shafiq, who has jumped on the Islamophobic bandwagon by making Mubarak-esque threats to crush the Islamists – and revolutionaries – if he is elected, in hopes of scoring points with Coptic and liberal voters.

What's more, attacks on the Brotherhood have unintentionally raised the fortunes of two leftist candidates who are proponents of a civil state – Sabbahi and labour lawyer Khaled Ali – in the eyes of some voters who oppose the notion of an Islamist state, but who also fear the return of Mubarak-era autocracy under Shafiq or Moussa.

To add insult to injury, the decision by the powerful Salafist Nour Party – Egypt’s second largest party and one-time ally of the Brotherhood in parliament – to throw its support behind Abul-Fotouh all but spelled the end of Mursi's presidential prospects.

A rising anti-Islamist sentiment seemed to be confirmed by a recent Gallup poll, which showed a sharp rise in the number of Egyptians who had voted for Islamists in parliamentary elections but who now express dismay with their performance in the People's Assembly and, as a result, are less likely to vote for them in the presidential elections.

"The Brotherhood is definitely in a difficult position now because of the Islamist-led parliament's failure to deal with the economy; allegations of vote-buying; and its manoeuvring to monopolise power," Mohamed Kadry Said, head of security studies at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told Ahram Online.

Yet, despite poll results to the contrary, the recent last-minute success of the Brotherhood to mobilise hundreds of thousands of supporters in an impressive show of force for their candidate points to the fact that the 80-year-old Brotherhood will remain a powerful player in Egypt’s political future – especially given the absence of any viable leftist or liberal alternative.

From drawing tens of thousands of followers to packed campaign rallies, to forming the world's longest human chain, the Brotherhood has sent a powerful message to opponents that it remains a force to be reckoned with.

In fact, in the aftermath of the months-long power struggle with the SCAF, the Brotherhood and its candidate have sharpened their anti-SCAF rhetoric, recycling revolutionaries' calls for "the revolution to continue until justice for the martyrs is realised and social equality ensured," thus bolstering its anti-establishment credentials among Egypt’s poor.

"One cannot ignore…that the Brotherhood's massive organisational machinery – which pervades all اhamlets, villages, and governorates – has catapulted the group's candidate towards the top of the list," Salama wrote in Al-Shorouk.

Egypt's political future post-SCAF?

Many of those who supported the revolution from the outset doubted all along that the ruling military council would actually hand over power to a civilian administration, as the council had promised the day after Mubarak's ouster and again following November's bloody street battles between protesters and military personnel.

In fact, a small group of activists have called – so far unsuccessfully – for a boycott of Wednesday’s presidential poll, arguing that the ruling generals are simply "putting on a show" aimed at buying time or "deceiving" the public, and that they actually have no intention of returning to their barracks anytime soon.

However, many Egyptians from across the political spectrum have maintained the belief since February of last year that the generals understand perfectly well that the people’s desire for democratic transformation – embodied by a willingness to make great sacrifices over the course of their 15-month struggle – could not be derailed by gimmicks or Mubarak-style repression.

In fact, Said told Ahram Online that the SCAF, contrary to widely circulated rumours, had not necessarily thrown its weight behind any particular candidate, since it wants to see free and fair elections and a stable political situation. The generals, he added, remain confident that they can deal in their own way with anyone elected president by the people.

Over the past year, the SCAF has proven its ability to act in a conciliatory manner and make concessions to opposition forces in order to avert major crises, said Said. "The holding of elections in and of itself was a major concession by SCAF to the people," he noted.

Nonetheless, the complete transfer of power to a civilian administration – with an elected president following an elected parliament – will by no means guarantee the absence of the SCAF's intervention in politics, if and when the generals believe that their vested interests are threatened.

But for the time being, the SCAF – on some level – has had no choice but to bow to the popular will, which demands free and transparent elections.

There are no guarantees that an elected president (no matter who wins) or parliament (now led by the Brotherhood) will provide easy answers to the country’s economic crisis, or invent quick ways to satisfy a population thirsty not only for voting rights but for a semblance of social and economic equality.

"Any new president [who seeks reform for the benefit of the people] will inherit a bureaucracy in the state machinery that remains untouched by the revolution," Heikal told Al-Ahram, highlighting some of the nightmare scenarios with which Egypt's new commander-in-chief could be forced to contend.

Few can envision how elected officials might face off against the masses of angry workers, poverty-stricken peasants or marginalised slum dwellers who voted them into office in the event that the latter's expectations are dashed.

"There will be a 100-day honeymoon between voters and the new president, like those seen in older democracies. But at the end of this period, if the president has not acted in a transparent manner and set clear timetables for improving people’s lives, many could return to Tahrir Square to voice their dissatisfaction,” Said added, referring to Cairo's iconic protest venue.

At the end of the day, only one thing is for sure: Egyptians will make history on Wednesday and Thursday, as they first began doing on 25 January of last year.

Source : Ahram English

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Abouel Fotouh and ShafiQ exchanges the accusations

Today Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh and Ahmed Shafiq The Presidential candidates on has exchanged accusations of attacking followers and tearing down campaign banners.

Abouel Fotouh’s campaign announced in a statement that Shafiq’s campaign rented  thugs from the dissolved National Democratic Party who beat the campaign members in Daqahlya on 13th of the current month while they were peacefully protesting Shafiq’s visit, and have been threatened to be assassinated if they did not stop their campaign.

It added that the next day, some some of those thugs attacked Abouel Fotouh’s followers while they were meeting in a shop owned by a fellow supporter. The thugs destroyed the shop and threatened them all to be killed if they left their homes.

They added also that those thugs has surrounded the police station to stop them of  reporting the accident, that made them went back to their homes.

Mohamed Qutry, one of Shafiq’s campaign coordinators, denied all that claims in statements to the state-owned daily Al-Ahram.

he also accused Abouel Fotouh’s followers of tearing down the banners of Shafiq’s campaign.
“The Brotherhood is trying to destroy the elections, but God will not allow them to do so,” Qutary declared.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

nothing else to say just a7a

Poster for Mohamed Mohsen, another victim of t...
Poster for Mohamed Mohsen, another victim of the SCAF, artwork by Carlos Latuff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It's so easy to read what I will write now but believe me It's so hard to live it in real, no one can imagine that the SCAF will reach this level of violence and will be aggressive as much It was this day, I can't deny that they were so smart, I can't deny that they are the most professional in playing the dirty games.

everyone who knows how the SCAF is dealing with the protests and the demonstrations he would expect it, It was so clear that they are trying to increase the distance between the revolution and the Egyptian people.

over a week the dirty media was doing a great job to describe the people who are protesting beside and note what I said " beside the ministry of defense, even with 700 M away, but the headlines everyday were like " Abo Ismael sons still protesting in front of the ministry of defense - a bloody night between Abo Ismael sons and Abbaseya's people " for 7 days more than 75% of the Egyptian media were publishing the same headlines trying to describe the protesters as a fan of someone.

I am not one of Abo Ismael sons even I am not a son of any presidential candidates, because I don't believe that It will be fair elections, anyway after a bloody night " Sunday " clashing with the thugs in Abbaseya in front of El Demerdash hospital, I began to feel that SCAF is preparing to end the protests in Abbaseya I expected the violence but I didn't expect this crime.

the clashes began so fast no one knew how It happened and who began but what I saw is the tear gas bombs covering Abbaseya sky with the Gas then the Military police forces moving to Abbaseya destroying everything in their way the field hospital and the doctors and beating the wounded.

arresting and going more and more to El Noor Mosque, they entered the Mosque with their shoes arresting the men and the women inside, you know!! It was like a movie, you run from the Mosque going to the streets to find the thugs waiting with their knifes to kill you, I think that there's no need to tell more It's so clear in the videos.

I just have some questions and I need answers,

until now we the ministry of interior didn't arrest the thugs whom were using the knifes and the guns and a lot of photographer took clear photos for them

is there any " soldier " in the Egyptian army able to leave his beard growing? , I am asking this questions regarding to Tantawi's visit to his wounded soldiers in the Military hospital

there's a lot a lot a lot of questions have no answers " I doubt " we all know the answers but the most of us trying to avoid saying It, every time any clashes happens they are able just to blame the protesters, but the other side " BIG NO " .. I think It's the time for saying A7A

High voter turnout among Egyptian expats in Saudi Arabia

Egyptian expats in Saudi Arabia have flooded the the embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah, and informal statistics show that 30,000 Egyptians have cast their ballots on Friday and Saturday so far.

MENA reported that nearly 250,000 Egyptians who live in Saudi Arabia had registered in the embassy in order to vote, making it the largest Egyptian community to do so.

Egyptian expatriates began voting Friday in the first presidential elections since Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February last year. Expatriate voting runs until May 17, with the run-off scheduled for 3 June.

The number of registered expat voters is a small proportion of the estimated 8 million Egyptians abroad. Egypt's election commission says some 500,000 are registered to vote in 166 countries. Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Egyptian expat voters. At home, 53 million Egyptians are eligible to vote.

Following the first day of voting where Egyptian queued in front of the Egyptian embassies especially in the Gulf region, Egypt's foreign minister issued a decision on Saturday to extend expatriate voting hours to be 12 hours.

The Foreign Ministry also has called on expatriates to send ballots by mail to their embassies and consulates to avoid congestion.

MENA quoted the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Amr Roshdy calling on expatriates to take advantage of "the possibility of voting by mail, especially as the voting period still extends until Thursday 17 May, so as to avoid standing in long queues in front of the Egyptian missions."

Roshdy said that the ministry has sent staff, equipment and computers to Egyptian embassies and consulates due to the high density of voters, especially in the Gulf region.

Not all embassies witnessed a high turnout. MENA quoted the Egyptian ambassador to Washington as saying that voter turnout on the first day of the elections was low in the US.

Source : Al Masry Al Youm

Friday, May 4, 2012

The peaceful protest before a bloody confrontation

Despite stern warnings from military on Thursday, Egyptian activists marched on on Friday to defence ministry to peacefully protest last week deaths and demand immediate transition to civilian rule before the day turned bloody

Thousands of protesters set out for Egypt's Ministry of Defence on Friday to demand that the country's military rulers abdicate power in favour of a civilian authority.
Marchers set out from the Fetah Mosque in Cairo's Ramses district following Friday noon prayers, which ended with worshippers chanting, "Down, down with the military regime."
Several political groups organised the march to the ministry, located in the capital's Abbasiya district, where activists – from both Salafist and revolutionary groups – have been staging a sit-in protest since last Saturday. Groups that took part in organising Friday's march included the April 6 Youth Movement; the Revolution Youth Coalition; the National Front for Justice and Democracy; and the Youth for Justice and Freedom.
The march was endorsed by several other revolutionary and leftist groups, including the Popular Committees to Defend the Revolution; the Egyptian Current Party; the Second Egyptian Revolution Movement; the Popular Socialist Alliance; and the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces.
Most of those who participated in the march, however, appeared to do so on an individual basis rather than as part of a particular party or movement.
Along with the immediate handover of power to a civilian authority, marchers' demands included the amendment of Article 28 of the constitutional declaration (issued by the ruling military council in the wake of last year's revolution and approved via popular referendum) and the resignation of the heads of the military-appointed Supreme Presidential Elections Commission.
Members of the "Ultras" football groups were also out in large numbers, loudly singing popular revolutionary songs to energise protesters.
"Where are the Baltagiya [thugs]?" marchers chanted. "The Revolutionaries are here!"
Despite the jubilant tone, there were palpable feelings of anger and sorrow over the recent death of at least 11 protesters, most at the hands of unidentified assailants. An Ain Shams University medical student carried a placard bearing the images of two fellow students – Alaa Abdel Hadi and Abul-Hassan Ibrahim – both killed in the violence on Tuesday.
While the health ministry puts the death toll at 11, Mohamed Kamel Maamoun, 20, who has volunteered at a makeshift field hospital since Saturday, said that by Tuesday evening at least 21 people had been killed. Injuries, meanwhile, were in the hundreds, he said.
Maamoun went on to voice frustration with the residents of Abbasiya. ""They don't understand anything," he complained.  "They see the protesters as thugs and troublemakers."
Local residents, meanwhile, peered down at the march from their balconies.
"Come down, come down, before Egypt falls with us and with you," protesters shouted up to them.
Mervat Moussa, 30, who led parts of the march, stressed that she does not belong to any particular political orientation. "Most of those you see here are not serving any personal interests," she said, going on point out those that she felt were "self-interested" political actors groups.
She went on to cite recent examples of what she deemed "failures" by Egypt's ruling military council, which she described as an "enemy" of the Egyptian people.
"I'll join any protest, whether it's with supporters of [disqualified Salafist presidential candidate] Hazem Abu-Ismail or otherwise," Moussa said. "I'll stand with anyone whose blood has been shed due to the military's failure to protect protesters."
Protester Mohamed Sadek, 50, said he had been moved to join Friday's march by the thought of "the parents of these young students and martyrs killed in the violence, who must feel that their children's blood was shed for nothing."
On Thursday, the ruling military council issued a statement warning protesters against staging protests at or near the defence ministry. Marcher Omneya Ahmed, 30, however, believes the stern warning ended up working in favour of the march, in which hundreds of thousands appeared to take part.
"We're not going to the ministry to attack it," she said. "The people are going there to take a stand, not wage war."
As marchers approached the ministry building, they began chanting again and again: "This time it's for real."
Clashes were reported soon after the first wave of marchers arrived to the area in the mid-afternoon, while eyewitnesses at the scene reported hearing gunshots with increasing frequency.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

El Baradei and Abbaseya Clashes

Muhammed El Baradei

Mohamed ElBaradei described the comments of the military council about the clashes near to the Defense Ministry as a “tragedy.”
some of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces members arranged a press meeting at noon on Thursday to comment on the clashes between anti-military demonstrators and unidentified thugs that placed about seven victims and a lot of wounded on Wednesday.
On Twitter, ElBaradei opened fire on "the comments of Major General Hassan al-Roweiny, member of the military council, in which he said that he asked the demonestrators to return to their homes until the real perpetrators of the attack are known, adding that the demonstrators refused to be protected from the unknown attackers."
The previous head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who pulled out of the presidential race in January, said the military council and the government are either unable of providing security or they accomplices.
ElBaradei also criticized Parliament, as the sole elected authority, and its behavior toward the lives lost.
“The success of the revolution is inescapable and the ousted regime will go away,” he finished.

scene of Abbaseya clashes

meanwhile at Abbaseya The scene turned out to be familiar: streets filled with rubble and smashed glass; torn down sign posts leading to barricades of scrap metal manned by weary volunteers; tired doctors outside a makeshift field hospital; tents filled with young men and women socializing, resting, planning or doing daily activities.
This is a sit-in that has just seen an atrocity.
Over the past year, street combats have erupted on a near-monthly basis between anti-government demonstrators and various combinations of military, security forces and so-called “honorable citizens,” known to others as thugs. The latest round, near the Defense Ministry in Abbasseya, placed at least 11 people dead and scores injured.
It is always unknown how these clashes start out and how they increase. When they do, they dramatically change the composition of the protest and the motivations behind it. But the latest round of violence, in Abbasseya, suggests that some protesters might be moving into a newly confrontational - and armed - form of resistance and self-defense, to the consternation of many activists.
The sit-in began on Friday, after supporters of disqualified presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail moved their protest from in front of the Presidential Elections Commission to the Defense Ministry near Abbasseya. After some initial confrontations with plain-clothed individuals on Saturday, other political groups joined the sit-in, in front of Ain Shams University, which is adjacent to the ministry, to protest the military council’s rule and what they see as irregularities in the presidential elections process.
“The sit-in is no longer about Abu Ismail, it is against what will be fraudulent elections in the presence of corrupt judges on the elections commission and Article 28 of the Constitutional Declaration [which disallows appeals against the commission’s decisions],” said Abu Ismail supporter Tareq Hefny, who has been present since the sit-in in front of the elections commission.
Groups like the April 6 Youth Movement and Youth for Justice and Freedom, as well as non-affiliated individuals, joined the sit-in.
“I came to protest the SCAF's decision that the constitution be written while they are in power,” said Mohamed Gad, a 22 year-old member of the Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh presidential campaign. As Gad pointed out, the majority of the sit-in does not comprise of Salafis or just Abu Ismail supporters.
After the clashes that began early Wednesday morning and continued until noon, many at the Abbasseya sit-in were left pondering the bloody turn of events, and what it means for them. They were especially upset with the complete absence of security to stop the violence until Wednesday at noon, after many had already been killed.
“I started coming two days ago, to increase pressure on the rule of the military council, but stayed when people began to get attacked. This morning thugs came into our camps and literally slaughtered some of those in the sit-in when they left,” said Rehab Ali, a 17-year-old high school student.
Ali comes to the sit-in behind her parent’s back, but as a strong supporter of the April 6 Youth Movement, it is important for her to be at sit-ins, whatever the cause, when people’s lives are threatened. “If people like me don’t go to the front lines, the thugs will advance and have their way with any revolutionary,” she said.
Early Wednesday morning, the protesters were attacked by armed assailants, beginning with tear gas and rock throwing, and escalating to birdshot fire and live ammunition, according to eyewitnesses. The fighting spilled onto the streets of the neighborhood’s residential areas as protesters and their attackers exchanged blows using a variety of weapons.
Eyewitnesses say that during an ebb in the violence, protesters who left the sit-in to go to work or grab breakfast were attacked, and some were killed on the way to the metro station. Presidential candidate and legal activist Khaled Ali said on Wednesday that in total 20 bodies were identified from both ends of the barricade.
“At one point in the early morning I saw seven people gunned down in front of me by a machine gun,” said Mohamed Samy, an activist at the sit-in.
The sit in was relatively small, with around 500 constant participants, but once the clashes started, the protesters gathered support from various corners. Even Al-Azhar scholars showed up, led by the imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, Salah Nassar, to express their condemnation of the attacks and their solidarity with the protesters.
The introduction of violence to protests can change their character, making people behave in ways they might not normally. Allegations of protesters wreaking havoc among Abbasseya residents, vandalizing private property using weapons, and torturing those they captured, have only increased the rift between the protesters and their neighbors as well as marred the image of a “peaceful protest.”
At the same time, the prevalence of weapons among the protesters took a more pronounced turn. “Masked men appeared on our side with automatic weapons and fought back the thugs who were attacking us with the same weapons,” said Ahmad Aggour, a 24-year-old activist. On the night that eye-witnesses claim they were being shot at indiscriminately within the camps, this was initially welcome news for Aggour, but not for long.
“Once they started running after the thugs in the side streets of Abbasseya, I realized it could put innocent civilians from the neighborhood at risk,” he added.
Aggour overheard some of at the sit-in say that the masked gunmen were coming to their aid. “A group of protesters in the sit-in supported having automatic weapons on their side because they feel like since the revolution there has been no security or law enforcement by the government,” said Aggour. He and many other protesters voiced their rejection of bearing arms.
Among the protesters, the kinds of weaponry used allegedly for self-defense have been upgraded from previous sit-ins. It is not uncommon to see large knives brandished when scouts at the entrances sound off a security threat. Some even had homemade birdshot guns called fard.
While many of those participating in the sit-in do not deny that protesters might have at times been guilty of these allegations, they see it as a more complex situation.
“The fard has become incredibly common in Egypt. It is difficult to blame someone for carrying it when they saw their friends killed by an AK-47 machine gun just the night before,” said Islam al-Eissawy, who witnessed much of the clashes.
Eissawy said that some protesters may have indeed engaged violently with some Abbasseya residents, but that they were mostly overzealous reactions after snipers shot into the camps, killing some protesters. “It is very difficult to control yourself after seeing a young friend's brains fall out of their head in front of you,” said Badreya Farghali, who assists at the field hospital and saw her colleague at the hospital, Abul Hassan Ibrahim, a third-year medical student at Ain Shams university, shot in the head while trying to assist the wounded.
Many known activists have objected to the perceived turn to violence among the protesters.
“This isn't the first time we've been shot at with live ammunition, using rocks and Molotov cocktails put a realistic distance between defending our existence and asking for martyrdom,” activist Alaa Abd El Fattah wrote on Twitter, trying to explain that revolutionaries were able to stand to live ammunition without taking arms and escalating to the point of reciprocal armed combat.
Abd El Fattah has been critical of some of the alleged violent practices from protesters at the sit-in, including the reports of torturing captives and calls to carry weapons.
“The weapons here are mostly what we caught other people with. Otherwise, it is very unlikely that anyone from here will ever antagonize people from Abbasseya. It would be very stupid to be violent to an entire neighborhood that is right next to us,” said Sameh Ahmed al-Masry, formerly a member of the Hazem Salah Abu Ismail campaign and currently a self-proclaimed spokesperson for the sit-in.
After Wednesday's clashes, many other activists who were against the sit-in joined in protest of the bloodshed. “Sit-ins have always been a legitimate expression of anger, especially after lives are lost,” said prominent blogger and activist Wael Khalil.
Many protesters are saying they will continue to hold their sit-in, despite statements from SCAF deputy leader Sami Anan suggesting that the military may be willing to leave power a month earlier than previously stated.
At the same time, tensions between Abbasseya residents and protesters are increasing. According to many shopkeepers and coffee shop owners who refused to be identified, people in the neighborhood are fed up with living in a state of fear that clashes could once again spill into the side streets and terrorize innocent residents. “Even if, as the protesters say, the attacks are instigated by government hired thugs,” said one coffee shop owner, “the sit-in has to end.”


Egypt News

Daily Egypt News Copyright © 2011 Designed and Managed by Web Design Egypt Company -- Powered by Blogger