Back to Tahrir

Anniversary of unfinished revolution

The generals’ objective was to retain their powers exercised since 1952 and they have managed the post-Mubarak period.

A year ago this day (January 25) a far flung network of Egyptian Facebook activists and bloggers launched an appeal to fellow citizens to assemble in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and take to the streets of other cities to protest against the brutality and corruption of the regime that had ruled for 30 years. The educated young activists were amazed when 50,000 people turned up in Tahrir Square alone, resisted violent attempts by the security services to disperse them, and took possession of the square. Although protesters rallied and fought elsewhere, the icon of the uprising for Egyptians and the world was Tahrir Square.

 Egypt’s ruler Khedive Ismail, builder of the Suez Canal, constructed the square in 1865 and named it Ismailiya but it was dubbed Tahrir (Liberation) Square during 1919 when Egyptians staged a revolt against the British. Further Tahrir protests against British rule took place in 1936. In 1951 a million Egyptians gathered in the square before marching on the palace of British-backed King Farouk who was ousted by army officers in 1952. In 1972 and 1977 Egyptians protested against the regime of Anwar Sadat while last January they demonstrated against President Hosni Mubarak who was overthrown on February 14 after 18-days of unrest.

 Secular revolutionaries who toppled Mubarak have called for a mass protest today against the military men who assumed his powers. They are accused of employing violence against protesters, obstructing reform and subverting the transition to the multi-party democratic system demanded by the revolutionaries.

There is no doubt that the generals have carefully managed the post-Mubarak period. Their objective was to ensure that they retain the powers exercised by the military since 1952 and to preserve their economic empire, which accounts for 30 per cent of the country’s economy.

In an interview with Deccan Herald 11 months ago, Dr Youssef Zaki, an Egyptian physician and pundit, predicted not only that the military would hold onto power but also that the Muslim Brotherhood would seek to partner the generals in ruling Egypt.
On Monday last, the post-Mubarak parliament was inaugurated and a senior member of the Brotherhood, Saad el-Katani, was chosen as its speaker.

Ahead of the session, he resigned as secretary general of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party which won 235 of the 498 elected seats and 47 per cent of popular vote in the lower house.

Radical fundamentalists
Founded in 1938, the Brotherhood has, at long last, taken power. During the last 74 years the Brotherhood has been banned but permitted to provide clinics, schools and welfare projects for the poor and to back independent assembly candidates. When Mubarak was ousted, the ban was lifted on the moderate Brotherhood and more radical fundamentalists called ‘Salafis.’ 

The Salafis’ Noor Party also triumphed in the parliamentary election, taking 121 seats (25 per cent) while a breakaway Brotherhood faction, Wasat won 10 seats. The Muslim fundamentalists together have 366 or more than 71 per cent of the seats.  While Noor backed Katani for the speakership, his party has pledged not to form a majority coalition in parliament with the Salafis.

Instead the party is likely to court Wasat, the 28 independents and the secular liberal parties. Freedom and Justice says it is committed to a ‘civil’ or secular state, multi-party democracy, and human rights. The party has promised not to impose new religious provisions in the constitution which will be written by a commission.

The military has warned, however, that if the assembly is ‘unrepresentative,’ it will choose 80 out of the 100 members of this commission. If the generals stick to this line, they could be on collision course with Freedom and Justice. It has gone along with the general’s plan to hand over to civilians once a president is elected in a poll set for June.
Before then, however, the generals could clash with the party over the powers aiwarded to the president in the constitution. The party insists that parliament rather than the president must form the government. So far, the military seeks to retain the presidential system. But, to reassure the military, the Brotherhood has reportedly agreed it will be granted immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during and after the uprising and control over its economic interests. Such a deal is certain to create a rift between the Brotherhood and the revolutionaries, who have only a handful of seats in parliament.
They insist that the generals leave power immediately and demand that those responsible for the brutal crackdown on protests should be tried and punished.

Determined to press for their demands, the revolutionaries, who feel the uprising has been hijacked by the army and the Brotherhood, are set to stage a mass demonstration in Tahrir Square today as well as rallies across the country.

The generals plan competing celebrations involving marches, aerial fly-pasts, and other festivities. The generals have also imported vast quantities of tear gas and prepared water laced with dye to fire at crowds that assemble in squares and streets to protest military rule. The use of live bullets has not been ruled out to prevent the revolutionaries from, once again, claiming and holding onto Tahrir Square.

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