Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Scene on Tahrir Square, November 20: riot police and prostrate forms of protesters. (Photo: Anjali Kamat @anjucomet)
On Friday November 18, a few people decided to stage a sit-in in Tahrir Square. Most of them had been injured in the revolution early this year, and still hadn’t received compensation or justice. There were fewer than 200 there.
The following morning, there was a clampdown by police who used excessive force on the protestors. People got injured. As people heard about it, more of them came to the square to take part.
As the numbers increased, so did the clashes. The violence has continued since then. Twenty-two people have been killed and over 1,000 injured. Some of my friends have been arrested.
Doctors on Tahrir Square say live ammunition has been used. I myself have seen a video which shows an officer shooting straight at a demonstrator, and a colleague saying, “Well done, you got him in the eye.” Another video shows the bodies of people killed on the square being piled up next to garbage.
This is brutal, brutal violence against unarmed protestors. It feels very much like it did in January, and the resilience and courage of the demonstrators is amazing too, just as it was back then.
The people on the square are once again mostly young, the same crowd as in January. It’s mainly police taking part in the violence, but soldiers are involved too.
I was on Tahrir Square a few hours ago delivering medical supplies and some food and drink, because people have been there a long time and it’s very cold. It looked so similar to how it did in January. The street leading to the interior ministry is a battleground, just as it was back then. There are so many casualties. Tear gas is in constant use, so strong that you can even smell it in the metro and people are coughing in Tahrir Station.
The media are playing the same kind of role as they did in the January revolution. Everyone wants to know who the people in the square are, but the media are coming out with the same old lies about Islamists and portraying this as a conspiracy to undermine the army. One TV anchor even said that the people of Egypt should join together and help the military clear the square.
But this protest has nothing to do with political forces or powers, it is simply about young Egyptian men and women trying to secure their rights and continue the revolution.
The political parties haven’t come out in support - the April 6 Movement is the only group backing the protestors. The Muslim Brotherhood said it was willing to help the military clear Tahrir Square.
These clashes were very unexpected. We’re supposed to be having elections next week [from November 28], but we don’t know what’s going to happen. Nor do we know what the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces wants to happen. Thus far it has just called on people to go home and delivered speeches, but doing nothing useful to calm the situation down, condemn the violence, or contain the unrest.
If things continues this way for the rest of this week, then when Friday comes, the numbers may swell even further, and an even harsher crackdown will ensue. I think the authorities will allow the situation to drag on –maybe that’s what they want.
It’s a very grave situation, and we don’t know what’s coming next.
Ahmed Awadalla is an Egyptian activist and blogger who posts at www.rwac-egypt.blogspot.com.
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