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Egypt News July 15, 2011…أخبار مصر ١٥ يوليو ٢٠١١

There was a low turnout in Tahrir Square today. I estimate a couple of thousand – 7,000 at most. Although it was very hot and humid today, the low turnout cannot attributed entirely to the weather. More than 200,000 people gathered a week ago in similar circumstances and although the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have denounced these protests, they alone did not account for 193,000 people last week. Although many are optimistic that more will protestors will arrive after the sun sets this evening, this is a bad sign for those waging the sit-in as it appears they are losing the popular momentum necessary to pressure the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to commit to further reform.
1. On the topic of reform, it appears that the reform the protests’ have achieved is more symbolic that substantive. The ministerial reshuffle does not appear to include the Minister of the Interior. Moreover, it looks like the police reform is a sham. The lack of transparency surround this process means information must be taken with a handful of salt. However, it appears that the primary criteria was not crimes committed but age (as officers were given early retirement options).
2. The heat seems to be hurting the supports of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as well. Today, the counter protest organized in order to demonstrate popular support for SCAF drew less than one hundred people.
3. April 6th Movement has released a statement of six demands whose accomplishment must be achieved before the sit-ins throughout Egypt are ended. There is no way they get their first demand: the formation of a revolutionary government without the interference of SCAF.
4. Thugs attack protests in Port Said and police attack protestors in Suez. The Third Army has been deployed to Suez to protect the Suez Canal.
5. In apolitical news, a Guardian piece on the struggle to historically document the revolution is a good read. To be honest, though, I might be biased as I volunteer for Tahrir Documents.

All Roads Lead to Tahrir Square…تسير كل الشوارع الى ميدان تحرير

If viewed from above Tahrir Square resembles a giant wagon wheel. At its central axis lies a large white tent surrounded by dozens of signs and banners broadcasting the demands of the protestors who have filled the traffic circle to capacity. At 10:30am this morning, many of the roads stemming out from the traffic circle were filled with people as far as the eye could see. By the time the noon prayer finished around 12:30, the flow of protestors resembled that of the Nile River: a slow, inevitable seemingly endless movement of people downstream to Tahrir Square.

Tahrir Square at 4:00pm on July 8, 2011

Getting into the square is no simple task. During the January 25 Revolution, the Interior Ministry ordered state security officers to dawn civilian clothing and attempt to violently disrupt the protestors. This past Sunday, someone set fire to a couple of the tents in a weak attempt to disrupt the sit-in. As such to ensure the safety of all those in the square, popular committees from by the April 6th Movement and other youth coalitions are set up a series of checkpoints at every possible entrance to the square including the metro stops. There men are separated from women for a series of pat-downs and all bags are searched – to the degree that I had to take my sunglasses out of their fabric case and turn the case inside out.

Inside the square, the sense of purpose is everywhere. While the protestors are frustrated and angry, their feelings are directed towards the regime – with one noted exception: the Muslim Brotherhood. For various reasons, Muslim Brotherhood jumped on the protest bandwagon yesterday afternoon at the last possible moment. Moreover they have refused to take part in the sit-in and instead plan to leave at 6:00pm. As a result many view them as a parasite taking advantage of the protests to disseminate their leaflets. Furthermore, when their members attempted to start a chant proclaiming that “the people and the army are one hand”, the rest of the protestors doused them with water.

Al-Jazeera has estimated that more than two million people have entered the square. While this is represent an continuation of the station’s addiction to numerical exaggeration – I would place the number in the upper hundreds of thousands – there is not doubt that this is easily the biggest demonstration since the fall of Mubarak. The heat, however, is playing a significant, detrimental role. There is limited shade in the square and thus as the afternoon rolled on those gathered in the square (including myself) began to trickle out of the square seeking refuge from the sun’s rays in the surrounding alleyways.

I will close with translations of a sampling of the protests’ chants and signs.

Chants
1. One hand!
(إيد وحده)
2. Long live the crescent and cross!
(يحيي الهلال والصليب)
3. The people want the purification of the country!
(الشعب يريد تطهير البلاد)
4. Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptians!
(مسلم مسيحي كلنا مصريين)
5. The people want the trials of the blood-spillers!*
(الشعب يريد محاكمة السفاح)
6. The legitimacy is in Tahrir!
(الشريعة في تحرير)
7. We don’t want you (the Field Marshall), Leave! Scram!
(مش عايزينك ارحل غور)
8. Hey Husani Mubarak your trash*, the blood of martyrs is not cheap
(حسني مبارك يا حسيس دم الشهداء مش رخيص)

*Both these words are strong insults not usually heard on the Egyptian street.

Signs
1. The blood of the martyrs is calling, I want my rights and the rights of my country (دم الشهداء ينادي عاوز حقي وحق بلادي)
2. No to the religious scholars (لا للعملاء)
3. Down with American and Israel (سقوط أمريكا واسرائيل)
4. Vengeance for the killers of martyrs. (قصاص من قتلة الشهداء)
5. The people want the purification of the media (الشعب يريد تطهير الإعلام)
6. The people want unity in the square (الشعب يريد وحده في الميدان)

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