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Reigniting the Egyptian Revolution…إعادة إشعال الثورة المصرية

For nearly fifty-four hours, Tahrir Square and its surrounding alleys have born witness to sustained clashes between central security forces and protestors (most of which of have been centered around Mohammed Mahmoud Street.) At the time at this posting, an estimated thirty-five people have perished and hundreds more have sustained injuries of varying degrees. In addition to the usual rocks and a new type of tear gas, central security forces have fired buckshot, rubber bullets, and live ammunition in an effort to disperse the protestors. Undeterred these protestors are gathering in increasing larger numbers to demand the dissolution of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its replacement with a civilian council. SCAF in turn has announced the passaged of a legislation banning former NDP members while insisting the first round of parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled in a week’s time on November 28.

To understand the profound frustration of those gathered in Tahrir Square, it is necessary to review the failures of SCAF and political organizations from all sides of the political spectrum (be they leftist, liberal, or Islamist) to ensure the realization of the promised democratic transition – especially the increased political polarization between the Islamists and the liberal and leftist groups. As each considered that SCAF to be the lesser of two evils, the generals were allowed to manipulate transition process. Keep Reading

It’s all fun and games until someone storms the Israeli embassy…كل أمتاع ولعبات حتى يقتحم أحد السفارة الإسرائيلية

After taking a break for fasting, celebration, and ‘charging up their faith’, the liberal and leftist groups resumed their obsession with contentious politics (sit-ins, demonstrations, protests, etc.) Despite the failure of a month-long sit-in of July to achieve anything more than the annoyance of the shopkeepers in the downtown area, the liberal left organized yet another demonstration yesterday under the banner of “Correcting the Path” Friday during which they presented the same list of demands:

1. The cessation of sentencing civilians in military trials.
2. The resignation of Prime Minister Sharaf and his cabinet
3. The imposition of minimum and maximum wages in the public sector
4. The cessation of diplomatic relations with Israel.
5. The amendment of the electoral law favoring الفلول the fulul (remnants of the National Democratic Party).

As in July, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Salifists, and other members of Islamist political movements declined to participate in this protest. Instead, the liberal and leftist groups were joined in their endeavors by the Zamalek and Ahly Ultras (think European soccer hulligans) fresh off of violent clashes with the Central Security Forces a few days prior.

Chanting سلمية، سلمية salimiyya, salimiyya (peaceful, peaceful), tens of thousands of people marched from throughout Cairo to Tahrir Square. Once there, banners were hung while a smaller march departed to the Interior Ministry. When I arrived around 4:00, the square was filled with various groups of people discussing politics and chanting for the resignation of Field Marshall Tantawy, while others (myself included) gathered along the fence line to take in the spectacle. By 6:00pm, those in the square had began to disperse satisfied with reminding SCAF that the liberal and left had not dissolved into nothingness over the course of Ramadan.

A couple of thousand individuals, however, were not done and began to march the four miles to the Israeli embassy. Keep Reading

Prime Minister Essam El-Sharif’s Statement: July 11, 2011 بيان رئيس الوزراء عصام الشرف ١١ يوليو ٢٠١١

Tonight after meeting with the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces, Prime Minister Essam El-Sharif gave his second statement in three days. More concessions have been awarded to the protestors. The emotive concessions for the deceased revolutionaries’ families have been carried over from the speech on Saturday July 9, 2011. Despite the fact this second speech actually contains potential for political reform, the wording is still very vague. Which cabinet posts will be reshuffled? Who will assume the new posts? Civilians or generals? Will the Interior Minister remain in power?

Moreover, after watching the speech (arabic) a couple of times, I’m struck by the rigid posture and monotone voice of the Prime Minister. He lacks both emotion and energy. In fact he seems resigned to a fate determined by events outside of his control and purview. He is not ruling but responding and thus his legitimacy is in danger. While twitter fails to present an accurate pulse of Egyptian society (as most Egyptian twitter users are young and liberal – i.e. the vanguard of the revolution), it appears that these concessions have failed to mollify the protestors. The large protests are still on for tomorrow and another collection of bands is slated to play in Tahrir Square (the Egyptian Woodstock) tomorrow evening. Dare I say that this echoes back to the events of January and February where repeated vague statements on the behalf of Mubarak and Omar Suleiman failed to mollify those gathered in Tahrir? Or am I blinded by my emotions?

Anyways, translation of the speech is below (and I’m off to bed):

In the Name of God the Merciful and the Compassionate

Brothers and Sisters. The Masses of the great Egyptian people.

I think you all agree with me that we are passing through a historical moment. This moment requires more communication and the commitment of all of us to continued interaction with the demands of the masses in order to both achieve the goals of the revolution and to preserve its gains. And from this point of departure, I present the following decisions:
1. To reshuffle the cabinet (ministries) within the week in order to achieve the goals of the revolution and reflect the true desire of the people.
2. To appoint governors who agree with the aspirations of the people before the end of the next month.
3. To entrust the Interior Minister to hasten in announcing appointments in the Interior Ministry that guarantee the exclusion of those police officers involved with crimes against the revolutionaries. This action must be completed before July 15, 2011. Also I entrust the Interior Minister to quickly return security and discipline to the Egyptian street. Here, I urge you all to remember our full support and confidence in all the honest leadership and officers of the police force.
4. To implore the High Council of Distinguished Judges to publicly try all the symbols of the previous regime and the murders of the revolutionaries. These trials must meet the ambitions of the people and comfort the martyrs’ families. Also I implore the people to allow the judges to practice their work in the natural manner that allows justice to run its course
5. To reform the press and media bodies and institutions as soon as possible.
6. To appoint myself the head of the president of the board for the January 25 Revolution victims and their families’ welfare fund and to hasten to meet their needs.
7. To demand from the great Egyptian people that they work with us for the sake achieving all of this and that they grant the new government a full opportunity to work for the sake of Egypt’s future and the realization of the revolutions goals. With God’s permission the near future will witness a group of decisions that will meet the revolution’s goals and all else the people demand – in accordance with what good God has for this country and the sacrifices of our righteous martyrs.

May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you all.