On First Anniversary of Egyptian Uprising, Protesters Persist
'A reason to demonstrate, not a reason to celebrate'
Today marks the one year anniversary of the Egyptian uprising that lead to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak and a new era of both political expression and conflict. Thousands have been gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square throughout the day. While some feel that the turbulent transitions throughout the year have lead the country towards democracy, others are expressing outrage at the still lingering presence of Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's former defense minister and head of the much derided ruling military council.
"Down with military rule" and "Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt's streets" were chanted by one group of mainly youths in an area of Tahrir on Wednesday.
Sherine Tadros, reporting from Tahrir Square, said: "For a section of people demonstrating here, it's really just about military hijacking the revolution, and about Islamist parties and movements now making the gains instead of those who actually initiated the revolution."
"But others say it is a rocky transition but it is still a transition pointing out to the fact that Egypt had first free and fair elections in decades and people’s assembly which reflects will of the people."
Meanwhile, about 3,000 people, who were pardoned by the military rulers coinciding with the anniversary, have reportedly walked out of Tora prison located on the outskirts of Cairo. [...]
The military, which was handed power as the president stepped down on February 11, has planned mass celebrations with a naval parade in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, air shows in Cairo and fireworks displays around the country. [...]
Al Jazeera's Tadros said: "What we have right now is their [military] promise. And this was something reiterated by Field Marshal Tantawi on Tuesday."
"Apart from saying that the scope of emergency law would be narrowed, he also said and promised, come July when there is new president in power the military will go back to barracks.
"But the big question is what will be their legacy? What kind of role they want to carve out for themselves? What kind of backroom deal they could have made with the largest force in the parliament [Muslim Brotherhood] so is to guarantee their immunity." [...]
Protesters want Tantawi and the other ruling generals to step down immediately and to stay out of the drafting of the country's new constitution, for fear they may enshrine military powers into the charter.
Despite the recent formation of a parliament and successful elections, many are still concerned about the overarching influence and command of the remains of Mubarak's rule.
Inter Press Service reports:
"The military council has never protected the revolution, it has only protected itself," says activist Ahmed Maher, one of the architects of the uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptians hailed the army for refusing to fire on protesters during the 18-day uprising, but the military’s popularity has plummeted in recent months as public anger mounts over its increasingly repressive rule and the slow pace of change. Many charge that since removing Mubarak, the generals have taken measured steps to preserve the privileges that the military institution has enjoyed since army officers seized power in a coup nearly 60 years ago
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), comprised of Mubarak’s former top brass, came under heavy fire when it attempted to draw up a charter that would override the authority of any elected civilian parliament in drafting a new constitution. The proposal was abandoned after fierce opposition from activists and political movements, who rejected the constitutional principles that would enshrine the military’s political power and shield the army’s budget from civilian oversight.
The ruling generals have sizable economic interests at stake, including an estimated 30 percent share of Egypt’s 180 billion dollar economy and an annual 1.5 billion dollar stipend from Washington in return for maintaining peace with Israel. Senior military officers control businesses and tourist resorts, as well as factories producing everything from weapons and vehicles to clothing and bottled water.
"The military controls many economic sectors, and now it controls the government that regulates these sectors," says Ahmed Sakr Ashour, professor of management at Alexandria University. "You can see why it wouldn’t want to give that up."[...]
In September, SCAF renewed and expanded Mubarak-era emergency laws, which give police the right to arrest without cause or warrant. More than 12,000 civilians, including protesters, have been tried unfairly in military courts. Many complain of torture and abuse in military prisons, while some female detainees were subjected to humiliating "virginity tests" while in military custody.
"Egypt’s military rulers have completely failed to live up to their promises to Egyptians to improve human rights and have instead been responsible for a catalogue of abuses which in some cases exceeds the record of Hosni Mubarak," says rights watchdog Amnesty International.
Mohamed ElBaradei, former Egyptian presidential candidate and Nobel Peace laureate, and others comment on CNN:
From Democracy Now! Sharif Abdel Kouddous Reports from Cairo: