28 Jun 2011

Tahrir : Revolution Revisited?

It had been brewing since Friday afternoon when some martyrs' families started an open sit-in at Maspero, Egyptian Radio and TV building. By "martyrs" I mean those killed during Jan25 revolution. The families want killers of their loved ones punished. Until today those killers are out there: snipers, police officers, thugs. They are all out there: free, living, breathing, enjoying life.

I went to Maspero on Friday night. There was a small crowd. 

Trial postponed.. again!

Things got bad on Sunday at the trial of former Minister of Interior Habib el Adly and 6 of the main heads of security departments in his former ministry. The trial of Adly and friends for shooting protesters during Jan25 revolution was postponed for the THIRD consecutive time. Adly is already serving a sentence of 12 years for money laundering but this case is different. This case is what matters the most to Egyptians. He and his fellow Interior Ministry ex-figures are accused of orchestrating with police officers and policemen the repression of protesters during the revolution. Adly is accused by the General Prosecurtor of having intentionally planned the repression and having cut all communications in order to do it silently.

I was told by activists and reporters that the atmosphere was very tense.
Families of the martyrs wanted to attend the trial. They negotiated with the police that they could just send in a delegation to represent them. But the answer was: No. So when the session lasted about 3 minutes during which the court just said that the trial was postponed - again - , the families got even angrier. It has been 5 months now.

The families ended up throwing stones and marble blocks at the cars transporting el Adly and the other 6 accused, as they were driven away. Chants called for the execution of Adly. Things got pretty tense. People were so angry. Police had to take a few steps back while the army stepped in.

The reason given by the court for the postponement of the trial is a second case demanding the replacement of the judge and his team assigned to the Adly case, due to the alleged ties of the judge to the now-dissolved State Security apparatus. Actually this same judge had refused to take the Mubarak trial.

So basically the Head of the former regime, depooosed president Hosni Mubarak, is sitting in a hospital in Sharm el Sheikh while rumours about his illness are never confirmed. Many think "the man is pretending to be ill just to escape trial". His former Interior Minister is not being tried for killing protesters either. 

Tuesday clashes

The families who gathered at Maspero since Friday were told about an event honouring martyrs' families at Balloon Theatre on Tuesday. So they marched there only to be told they were not welcome. They got angry. They were carrying photos of their loved ones, killed in the protests.  I am told that a group of pro-Mubarak guys suddenly attacked the families who, I am told, tried to jump the fence into the theatre. And it got ugly. Clashes reportedly erupted between the two sides. Police showed up and at least one person was badly beaten by an electricity baton.  The video of the beating was posted by Gigi Ibrahim (@GSquare86 on Twitter). It reminded people of pre-Mubarak police practices.

It was after the video that a group of the families and their supporters marched  around the Ministry of Interior, then headed to Tahrir Square. News travelled fast and soon they were joined by many supporters and activists.

We were at a Cairo Tweet Up, a gathering of tweeps in Cairo. We ended up heading to Tahrir Square. By the time I got there it was midnight. There were about 2000 people as far as I could see and count. There were gas canisters being thrown every few minutes in different directions at the square from the surrounding streets blocked by the police. I could see just ordinary young men. Very few women were around. Some said to me : "Our martyrs sacrificed for us, we won't let them down".

Down with Military Rule

"The People Want to Topple the Mushir" (Field Marshal - Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces)" is the chant that I heard the most. But there were other chants against the military rule in the country: "Down with the Military Rule", and against the interior ministry: "Interior Ministry still the Same, It is just a Play".

I am a journalist 

I went up close to one of the confrontation points between police and protesters near al Qasr al Aini, one of the entrances to the square. Protesters were throwing stones at the police cars. Someone gave me a stone. I said: "I am a journalist". He said : "Become an activist, try it, throw one at the "pigs" (this is what they are referred to among activists), it is a very liberating experience".  I looked at the distance and I imagined how it would be done, and I realised I would probably hit a protester unless I go really close to the police, face to face! Anyway I am an international journalist. I handed the stone to a protester. As I stood there watching, someone very close to me threw a molotov at the police. I asked if anyone knew who he was. Nobody could answer. Gas was thrown again. I ran away to another street.

I struggled to breathe.. I could see one man running with a gas canister in his hand which he picked off the ground to throw it away from the protesters, may be back at the police. But I was on the ground by then. I could not open my eyes, I was coughing and my ears / nose / throat were burning like hell.

As I recovered I found my fellow Al Jazeera colleague with his crew. I had worked the morning shift so it was up to someone else to cover any night events.  I came to Tahrir on my own, not with Al Jazeera.


I recognised a few activists around. I asked if there were any "thugs". I was told that there were none. I wondered who threw the molotov at the police. Someone said to me: it must be an infiltrator to make us look like violent protesters.

Back and forth protesters kept running away from the gas, then back towards the police. At one point I saw the central security forces, uniformed, standing on the square next to their car, very close to protesters.  

I saw scores of protesters lying on the floor, choking. Others seemed unconscious. But nobody was afraid. They were determined not to leave the square. It was the 28 June, exactly 5 months after the 28 January, the Friday of Wrath in the revolution.

Upcoming 8 July 

I am not surprised to see this happening. Civilians are being tried in military trials for all types of charges and accusations while ex regime officials are being tried in civilian trials, and the one trial that matters the most, is being postponed, while the deposed strongman of the regime is in Sharm el Sheikh. 

It had been brewing.

As I decided to leave the square at 1.30am when my camera and phone batteries died, I heard people chanting : "At the Square until Change Happens" (Bil Tahrir Hatta el Taghyir). I thought of 8 July which is the next planned million-march Tahrir rally.. A rally against the president of Egypt = the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) = the army. I saw army soldiers a few blocks away from the square. They were not concerned about what was happening. They were the "nice" fellows, with smiles. It reminded me of the army standing by when protesters were being massacred by thugs and police during the revolution.

So will the people of Egypt join July 8 anti-army march? We'll have to see. Many Egyptians seem to be in denial about the regime not having gone with Mubarak  and prefer to stick to the only secure (almost sacred) thing in their political life right now: the army.


Read other posts in my Egyptian diary 


fattysaid said...

"I am not surprised to see this happening. Civilians are being tried in military trials for all types of charges and accusations while ex regime officials are being tried in civilian trials, and the one trial that matters the most, is being postponed, while the deposed strongman of the regime is in Sharm el Sheikh." - THIS, THIS, THIS!! If there's anything that's going to get people down on July 8th then it's definitely for this reason, great post!

Mohamed Shams said...


Please examine the difference between the 2 videos. 2 vantage points of the incident at the theater, one longer than the other.. It shows how the short version tells a very different story.. Listen to the audio.




Phil Brennan said...

I am not surprised this is happening. I did say when Mubarak stepped down that the SCAF would do a counter-revolution, but no one listened...

مهندس مصري بيحب مصر said...

الحمد لله إنك بخير
يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر
الشعب يريد إسقاط المشير
ثورة ثورة حتى النصر
يا شهيد فين ما تروح دمك والله ما بيروح

الثورة بدأت تنتشر تاني و فيه مظاهرات و غعتصامات النهاردة في كل عواصم محافظات الوجه البحري تقريباً

ثورة حتى إسقاط النظام
فالشعب يريد إسقاط النظام

Rawi Rabbat said...

From what I can see from your story is that some people, who you claim to be families of the martyrs, and in reality some of them could be, but some of them look like thugs, and act like ones. They threw hundreds of rocks at tens of police cars regardless of the reason why the trial was postponed. They broke into the Balloon theater, as if it is their right to do so, and regardless of the reason or consequences of their actions, which led to the robbing of Balloon theater contents. Acting like thugs means the police should deal with them as such! What are we expecting of the police when they see such people, looking like this and acting like that? Later rumors spread that the police is attacking the families of the martyrs so the real youth of the revolution now step in very angry. The later ones who would had probably never acted the same way like others did in front of the court or the Balloon Theater, gather activists on twitter and facebook. Thousands of people reach Tahrir now thinking they are fighting the good fight for the families of the martyrs whereas they might be fighting for thugs or at least people who acted as such and deserve to be dealt with as such. On the other hand, police think it is actually fighting the good fight against thugs so they do it without any problem and do it violently. Can we blame them? What would you have done if you were a police officer and a Molotov bomb being thrown at you? I am a 25 Jan man, I was one of the very few thousands on that day in Tahrir, with revolution with all my heart, but here I am starting to feel that the revolution youth are using their power to gather people and maybe, maybe, maybe, being tricked or misled by some thugs or ex Mubarak men...I hope I am wrong…but if you think I am, I need an explanation of the Molotov bombs being thrown in Tahrir last night against the police, the breaking into the Balloon theater and the robbing of its contents, and the rock throwing like crazy at Police cars from people the least we can say about that they look like thugs…

Rawi Rabbat said...

مباشر : ميدان التحرير وحقيقة ما يجرى من احداث :-
قام عددا من البلطجية بسرقة يافتات كانت بحوزة اسر الشهداء المعتصمين فى ماسبيرو واخذوها وتوجهوا بها الى مقر وزارة الداخلية كى يظن من يراهم انهم من اسر الشهداء وهذا غير صحيح .. وكان بانتظار هؤلاء بعض آخر مجهز بزجاجات ملوتوف سريع الاشتعال وقاموا بالاشتباك مع قوات الامن امام مسرح البالون وكذل...ك اثارة البلبلة ورمى الملوتوف على مقر وزارة الداخلية . ومن ثم انتشر الخبر فسارع بعض من مساعدى البلطجية الذين كانوا مستعدين لهذا اليوم جيدا من اثارة الفتنة فى ميدان التحرير واحدثوا خسائر أمنية مما دفع الامن الى القاء قنابل مسيلة للدموع . وجموع الثوار تعلن برائتها هم واسر الشهداء من الاحداث الجارية حاليا وان ما يحدث ماهو الا مخطط اشرنا اليه من بلطجية تابعين لرجال الحزب البائد وكانت ساعة الصفر هى حل المجالس المحلية ونهيب بكل من يقراء تلك السطور ان ينشرها كى يعلم الجميع الحقيقة وراء ما يحدث وان نقف امام محاولات الاعلام المصرى الذى يقوم حاليا باستكمال المخطط لتشوية الثورة والثوار .. انشر الخبر كما هو لكل من تعرفه ومن لا تعرفه فى الجروبات والصفحات . وليستعد ابناء مصر لموجهة من التشوية الاليكترونى للثورة فلا تدخلوا فى اى حوار من شانه اثارة الفتنة وليحذر الجميع فقد بدء مخطط الثورة المضادة فور اعلان المحكمة حل المجالس المحلية .. تحيا مصر ..

tcherkass said...

This is basically in reply to Rawi who doesn't seem to have read or heard what actually happened at the Balloon Theatre last night.It seems that some of the Martyr's families were contacted by people claiming to be police/army who were wanting to bestow honour on the martyrs;These were believed because how else would they have the tel numbers,names etc(we're talking 40% illiteracy&at least 70%computer illiteracy)not understanding that these people who contacted them clearly worked for either MOI in some post or the army in order to have access to all this info which (maybe you can just google haven't tried)so they were believed(now no one is sure if there was or wasn't supposed to be such an event) & these martyr's families went to the balloon theatre in good faith; once there they were cornered by some thugs who are working for their own self interest trying to get the revolution to abort as they are associated with the ex regime&espeially as the gov dissolved local councils all over Egypt yesterday due to corruption; so these ex regimists are really scared for themselves,add to that, that the Adly trial was once more delayed & Mubarak hasn't even been questioned,that they are to be tried in civil court for crimes against all Egyptians & so should be tried in Military Court, while Egyptian youth are being tried in Military Court simply for protesting the corruption. Some of the martyrs families are also fed up of the cat & mouse game where the civil courts keep putting things off & these Mubarak?Adly thugs clearly don't want these kinds of just demands right now & so decided to take matters into their own hands, not unknown to the army & MOI, but inspite of their knowing they provided the opportunity for this to escalate into full fledged violence as the army seems to be avoiding a fair trial for these criminals. Meanwhile those of the martyrs families who had been in balloon theatre who had been attacked by those thugs there, began heading to the MOI in Lazoghly to demand justice again which is exactly what the thugs wanted in the first place hoping to create chaos, bring the police in (don;t you wonder how the Amn Markazi was there so fast as their barraks are quite far?who told them to come down at night to the MOI&Tahrir??)to force violence between these 2 factions & in that way bring in the army which would start a civil war if their plans went accordingly,knowing that when the police began attacking the protesters the 25Jan activists would come down to protest this treatment.The only thing that stopped total chaos was that the army didn't step in, for 1 of 2 reasons:1-the army can't handle the corruption & devious actions of the MOI so left the people to deal with them hoping that this would force clear demands from Tahrir re Mubarak,Adly & ex regime sentences 2-That by this means they will augment their power & see what happens.The first is already starting..tents are up in Tahrir,we don't want the revolution to be a bloody one & will try to stop those who still want to fight to go back to the old ways, we don't want that for our children or anyone else's. We want Freedom,Dignity &the right to self rule & we hope that the Army, like all Egyptians want a better future for their children & our Army.