By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt–For a third consecutive day, Egyptian soldiers armed with batons and guns have clashed with hundreds of protesters armed with stones, overshadowing the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Ten months after Mubarak’s regime was toppled, the aftermath is still causing violence and civilian deaths.
The violence began on Friday 16 December 2011 when one of several hundred peaceful protesters staging a sit-in outside the parliament building was reportedly beaten and detained by troops. According to Egypt’s health ministry, ten individuals have lost their lives in the continuous fighting while some 432 others were injured.
Demonstrations and protests began in Egypt earlier this February. A second round of voting served as the trigger for the latest occurrences of violence in Egypt. Many of Egypt’s ruling generals appear assured and confident that Islamist parties who swept recent elections will stay out of the fight while other pro-democracy protesters become increasingly isolated.
Al-Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, whom is reporting from Cairo, shared these sentiments about the scene at Tahrir Square.
“What the military have essentially done is created a concrete barrier to block the entrance into that street to stop the protesters coming from Tahrir Square and continuing with their sit in. The protesters, of course, are not happy with the situation. They’re telling us they have a right to peacefully demonstrate in front of a government building. The skirmishes are taking place across that concrete wall between the military and the protesters.”
Security forces donning riot gear have been filmed in the past few days beating protesters with long sticks after they had fallen to the ground. On Saturday 17 November 2011, soldiers cleared the area around Tahrir Square as thick black smoke filled the skies following the eruption of a fire near Egypt’s upper house of parliament. Military police reportedly openly beat female protesters in the street, slapped elders in their faces, and pulled the shirt off of at least one veiled woman as she was wrestled down to the pavement. The AP news agency stated that witnesses confirmed that soldiers beat and gave electric shocks to men and women dragged into to detention. Many of these individuals were taken to nearby parliament buildings.
Several members of an advisory board resigned over concerns about how the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has dealt with the protests and the unrest. The board is made up of more than 30 political personalities, intellectuals, and businessmen. It was formed with the intention to be a consultative body that meets with the council regularly to discuss the development of the country.
The Institute of Egypt, which housed national archives dating back over 200 years, was set on fire on Friday 16 November 2011. The building has suffered catastrophic damage and a majority of the paper archives have been destroyed.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN general-secretary, released a statement on Monday 19 December 2011 condemning the actions of Egypt’s security forces.
“We are highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protesters and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest.”
Kamal el-Ganzouri, Egypt’s prime minister, addressed the violence at a news conference 17 November 2011. He branded the protesters as “counter-revolutionaries” and claimed that the attack was an attack on the country’s revolution.
“This is not a revolution, but a counter-revolution. Those who are in Tahrir Square are not the youth of the revolution.”
On Sunday 18 December 2011, political figures in Egypt announced that they are working on a truce between the protesters and security forces to end the bloodshed. Armr Hamzawy and Mustafa Al-Naggar, both potential members of parliament, are among those involved in the discussions surrounding the deal. Hamzawy has called the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to stop their violence and for an immediate investigation to point out the perpetrators. He also has called on all the elected members of parliament and prominent Egyptian figures for a national initiative towards peaceful protests.
Moatez Abdel Fatah, a political analyst and former military advisory council member, announced that on Monday 19 December 2011 he would be at Omar Makram Mosque to meet with youth in the square in an attempt to calm things down. He stated that a truce would certainly not mean that the protesters should give up any of their rights, but simply need to take a timeout to plan their next substantive move.
After Mubarak’s ouster, the army generals who replaced him have angered many Egyptians by seeming reluctant to give up their new power. For the sake of the civilians who came together and voiced their displeasures loud enough to inspire change, one can hope that the generals will not allow the violence against protesters to continue.
Toqa Nosseir, a 19 year-old student, expressed these words to a correspondent working for The Guardian about the military attacks on women during the protests.
“Do they think this is manly? Where is the dignity? No one can approve or accept what is happening here. The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on to the power. I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.”
For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera – UN Condemns Egypt’s Military Violence – 19 December 2011
Ahram – Hundreds March to Cabinet Headquarters to Stop Clashes Between Military And Protesters – 18 December 2011
BBC – Egypt Violence: Third Day of Deadly Clashes in Cairo – 18 December 2011
CNN – Outrage Over Woman’s Beating Fuels New Egypt Protests – 18 December 2011
The Guardian –Egypt Clashes Continue Into Third Day as Army Cracks Down – 18 December 2011
Reuters – U.N.’s Ban Condemns Excessive Force in Cairo Clashes – 18 December 2011
NYT – Leaders Denies Use of Violence as Cairo Crackdown Persists – 17 December 2011