Mass demonstrations mark second anniversary of uprising, dozens killed
Jan. 28 — Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian youth and workers took to the streets on Jan. 25 to commemorate the second anniversary of the uprisings that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
On Jan. 26, after a court verdict in Port Said that sentenced 21 residents to death, a rebellion erupted. Police opened fire on the crowds, killing at least 30 people that day and injuring many others. The court case involved the infamous Port Said massacre of Feb. 1, 2012, where clashes between soccer fans at a game ended with the deaths of more than 70 people.
Progressive and revolutionary forces inside this North African state say that the aims of the mass movement have been betrayed by the current Freedom and Justice Party government of President Mohamed Morsi.
While the leadership of the massive rebellion is unclear, millions of people have shown their anger against the current regime. Their disappointment stems from the Morsi government’s failure to counter the horrible poverty that continues to grip the lives of tens of millions of the poorest Egyptians. In addition, the Morsi government has failed to break with the U.S. and maintained all its treaties with the state of Israel.
Morsi responded to the rebellions by declaring a state of emergency in the Canal governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. He granted the armed forces the authority to “safeguard state institutions against saboteurs and restore security.” (Ahram Online, Jan. 28)
The state of emergency was approved by the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Shura Council in an attempt to provide legal legitimacy to the actions of the president. Sobhi Saleh, of the FJP and deputy chairman of the council’s legislative affairs committee, said the new security declarations amended Decree 107 of 2012.
Egyptian progressives see the armed forces as the main instrument of state power that continues the Mubarak era, and this decree strengthens the army’s repressive role. Forces throughout the country that oppose FJP rule have condemned the state of emergency declaration.
In his address on the evening of Jan. 27, Morsi labeled the upsurge of mass demonstrations around the country a “counterrevolution.” Morsi nevertheless called for dialogue with opposition parties and coalitions. Many in the opposition have already refused to join the talks, demanding Morsi’s resignation and the repeal of the new constitution that the FJP regime pushed into place with a hurried referendum in December.
Khaled Dawoud, a spokesperson for the umbrella opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, stressed, “If the president really wanted to protect lives, he would have directed his government to take security measures in Port Said prior to the announcement of the verdict.”
Nasserite presidential contender during the first round of the 2012 elections, Hamdeen Sabbahi, said that while his Egyptian Popular Current party “supports constructive national dialogue, it rejects being part of a dialogue as long as the regime continues its crimes against protesters and carries out unsuccessful policies.” The party demanded that Morsi adopt political measures rather than security measures to deal with the current unrest in the country.
Another left organization, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, also rejected the talks and suggested that urgent trials be held for those who had killed the protesters, including first and foremost the interior minister.
Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, co-founder of the liberal Constitution Party, said on his Twitter feed, “Any dialogue is a waste of time if the president doesn’t take responsibility for the bloody events and doesn’t vow to form a national salvation government and a balanced committee to amend the constitution.”
The liberal Conference Party, headed by former Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, who also ran for president last year, said that it would consider the offer by Morsi for discussions on the crisis. ElBaradei and Mousa are opposition figures whose history makes them acceptable to Washington.
Other parties either were seriously considering joining the talks Morsi offered or supported the FJP government. These include the Strong Egypt Party, led by former Muslim Brotherhood member and 2012 presidential nominee Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, and the Islamist Party, whose leading figure is Mohamed Osman.
The Salafist Nour Party, which is aligned with the FJP, said that the imposition of the state of emergency was necessary. This group was joined by Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and its political wing, the Building and Development Party, which welcomed the president’s call for dialogue with the opposition.
Demonstrations demand real changes
The demonstrations that began Jan. 25 and extended over the next five days have posed the strongest challenge to Morsi’s FJP government. Protesters seized Tahrir Square in Cairo. Other actions were held throughout the capital and its suburbs.
Other demonstration took place in Alexandria, Suez, the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt. The state’s forces have killed more than 56 people in the current rebellions. A few police have also been killed.
People set fire to government buildings and the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and of the FJP. Clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of the government.
In Alexandria on Jan. 28, thousands of people blocked the roads and railways in protest against the state of emergency and the failure of the government to address the people’s demands. The initial slogans of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution — “Freedom, bread and social justice” — rang out loudly throughout the country.
The sound of an explosion was heard in the Alexandria train station during the blockade, prompting many to flee the area. Demonstrators chanted, “Down, down with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide! Down, down with Morsi! Leave, we are poor people!”
One protester, Ramy Mahmoud, told Ahram Online, “We decided to cut off the trains because people are going through their lives as if nothing happened, and maybe if we stop them, they will feel our pain.”
All quotes uncredited in the article are from Ahram Online, Jan.28.