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Egyptians protest military gov’t, demand changes

Published Jul 18, 2011 9:44 PM

Tens of thousands of protesters were in the streets across Egypt July 8 showing their revolution is continuing. Demonstrators packed city centers, demanding faster reforms and voicing frustration at what they see as foot dragging by military rulers and government officials.

Anger has been building up among ordinary Egyptians and activists against the ruling military council over what they see as delays in the prosecution of President Hosni Mubarak and former officials charged with corruption and killing demonstrators during the uprising that toppled him.

Most political groups and parties backed calls for the protest called “The Revolution First.”

“The demands of the revolution have not changed since day one,” declared the 25th January Revolution Youth Coalition in an online statement calling on Egyptians to join the July 8 demonstration. “It was not just about toppling the old regime but about building a state where people can have freedom, dignity, rule of law and social justice.”(The Guardian, July 7)

Demands for change have been increasing ever since the early spring uprising that toppled Mubarak. The army council that took control has used repressive tactics to prevent the Egyptian masses from raising legitimate demands. The council outlawed strikes, for example.

Although Washington gave lip service to supporting the revolution, it depends on its significant influence within the Egyptian military leadership — through military aid and training — to slow down the process of change in Egyptian society.

On June 1, after it faced public criticism for torturing demonstrators and admitting that it forced some female detainees to undergo “virginity tests,” the military pressed the Egyptian news media to censor harsh criticism of it and protect the military’s image.

After an Egyptian pipeline supplying natural gas to Israel was blown up, the line was repaired, but on June 2, gas was not flowing and foreign shareholders of the company were threatening legal action against Egypt.

On June 29, a night of fighting between demonstrators and security forces made it clear that there were differences between those who want faster change and those who want to keep the status quo of the Mubarak era.

‘We won’t leave the square!’

On July 5, an Egyptian criminal court acquitted three former government ministers of corruption, while convicting a fourth in absentia. These verdicts aggravated public anger over the pace of efforts to hold former officials accountable for killing almost 1,000 people during and after the country’s 18-day revolution last January-February.

On July 10, following the massive July 8 protests, demonstrators blocked access to the Egyptian capital’s largest government building and threatened to expand sit-ins to other sites unless authorities speed up reform efforts. These reforms include probing abuses that occurred during the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

In addition, demonstrators blocked access to the government administration building in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 18-day uprising. They halted traffic and threatened to broaden the sit-ins to include the nearby Interior Ministry and state TV building if their demands were not met.

In the city of Suez, east of the Egyptian capital, protesters have blocked the coastal road linking the Suez Canal city to the Red Sea ports of Safagah and Hurghada. The protests disrupt maritime trade by trapping hundreds of cars and trucks.

Beside justice for the martyrs of the uprising, protesters are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Mansour al-Issawi, who is in charge of the hated police force, and of the country’s top prosecutor. They also want the government to stop trying civilians in military courts and to release and retry civilians previously convicted by military tribunals.

On July 10, protesters called for massive nationwide demonstrations on July 12 to press their demands. “We will not leave the square until all our demands are met,” said Essam el-Shareef, one of the protest leaders. (AP, July 10)