Middle East

Nov 23, 2011

Chaos and violence in Egypt: protesters and military clash

Crikey media wrap: Promises that the military junta would bring forward national elections was not enough to calm the 100,000 protesters in Tahrir Square and across Egypt.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Promises that Egypt's military junta would bring forward national elections was not enough to calm the 100,000 protesters in Tahrir Square and across the county. An estimated 30 people have died in the last five days of protests against the military leadership. Heavy police use of rubber bullets, stun guns and tear gas on protesters have marked the latest protests, mainly occurring in Tahrir Square and in the streets leading to the Interior Ministry. The military junta Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has ruled Egypt since former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted from government earlier this year. The interim prime minister Essam Sharaf has resigned. The head of SCAF, Field Marshal Muhammed Hussein Tantawi announced in a televised address overnight that democratic elections would begin on November 28, with a new president to be elected by July 2012 (meaning elected representatives would still report to the military until next July). Originally the junta said the transfer of power to a new president would not happen until late 2012 or early 2013. The decision for a faster transfer to civilian rule came about SCAF met with Islamic groups including Muslim Brotherhood (The New York Times says that most other political parties boycotted the discussions). "We ask for fair elections. We are doing our job in a very special era," said Tantawi. “We do not care who runs for elections and who is elected president and yet we are accused of being biased." But the speech did not go down well in the protester-packed Tahrir Square, reports Al Jazeera :
"As Tantawi finished his speech, a crowd reaching as many as 100,000 in Cairo's central Tahrir Square signalled their disapproval by chanting 'Irhal!' or 'Leave!'. Reminiscent of the popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak's rule in February, the crowds in Tahrir Square shouted "the people want the fall of the field marshal," instead of "The people want the fall of the regime".
So what is it that protesters want? Protester Amor Eletrebi -- who paints an evocative picture of being amongst the tear gas -- writes in Al Jazeera:
"The crowds are swinging between either demanding the junta setting April 2012 as a date for handing over power to an elected president, or demanding the junta step down immediately in favour of a transitional council -- similar to the Tunisian model. Either way, the crowds are stubborn, well-experienced revolutionaries who accept no compromise and have no more tolerance for the junta's speeches and games. Even the promised parliamentary elections to be held by the end of this month, has become a big zero at the back of our heads. We've learned a hard lesson: no act of revolution can exist under military rule, and therefore no further moves should be taken with the military still in power."
And so the violent protests continue, write David D Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell in the New York Times:
"Intense skirmishes continued on the main avenue leading to the Interior Ministry. Though the security forces could have reached the square from other streets and the protesters could have attacked the Interior Ministry from other directions as well, each side continued to hammer the other -- protesters with rocks, the security forces with tear gas that wafted back through the square -- along the same charred and pockmarked block. Many of the protesters wore green face masks, of the type used by medics, to try to filter tear gas fired by security forces in the ebb and flow of the fighting along streets littered with debris. Both sides sought to reinforce makeshift barricades."
These screen shots from Tahrir Square show the masses of people.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

3 thoughts on “Chaos and violence in Egypt: protesters and military clash

  1. Suzanne Blake

    Its good to see democracy trends in action. People are sick of the Extreme Left (Communism / Socialism) and Extreme Right (Dictorship) and want action. Congratulations

  2. Chris Tallis

    You’re sick SB.
    This is not good to see at all. This is a travesty, perhaps some good might come of it.

  3. Suzanne Blake

    @ Chris Tallis

    Thats what I was saying. Its good to see the people demanding change.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details