From Plaza De Mayo to Tahrir
Argentina and Egypt are far apart geographically, but their people have travelled the same long road, notes Sarah Mourad
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For two decades, mothers have been calling for justice for their martyred sons in Buenos Aires
Throughout history, revolutions that have taken place around the world have had similar causes and similar processes. They also have the same purpose -- freedom and a guarantee of security in one's life. That's why they say history repeats itself.
Argentine people gained their freedom through the movement centred on Plaza De Mayo Square against the oppressive military rule which ended in 1983, after seven years of oppression and struggles. This is much like what Egyptians did by gathering en masse in Tahrir Square on 25 January 2011. However, are the consequences similar? And does history repeat itself?
Argentina had a tough time politically and socially between 1976 and 1983. President Juan Perón died in 1974 and was succeeded by his wife Isabel Peron. Her administration was weak and led to economic collapse. This resulted in growing acts of terrorism and struggles by various parliamentary movements and she was eventually removed from office by the military coup in 1976.
The armed forces took power between 1976 and 1983. These de facto leaders termed their government programme the National Reorganisation Process.
When the military took power, this resulted in extreme oppression and people had to fight and rebel against it. And of course the military fought back, arresting, torturing, and killing tens of thousands of Argentines. Over 30,000 people alone just disappeared. Nobody knows what exactly happened to most of them until today.
In 1983 people eventually succeeded after their long fight against the military. military rulers were convicted and sent to jail. Even though in the 1990s the military rulers got amnesty and were released, about seven years ago they were put on trial again and sent back to jail.
Mothers of those who disappeared started to march ever since then, asking about their children who disappeared. They don't know whether they are alive or dead, and if dead, they want to know where they are buried. Not all military rulers who were convicted have confessed as to what they have done to those people. That is why those thousands of mothers and families continue to protest. Other mothers gave birth in captivity and their babies were taken away from them, even sold to other families. Till now, most mothers do not know where their children are.
Protests and sit-ins have been going on every Wednesday in Plaza De Mayo in Buenes Aires till this very day. They are joined by others, making Plaza De Mayo a place for all those seeking justice.
Diego Emilio Sadofschi, first secretary in the Argentine embassy in Egypt, explains "There is a huge similarity between what has been going on in Egypt since the 25 January revolution, and what was happening in Argentina during the revolution against military power, the so-called National Reorganisation Process." He added that Tahrir is very similar to Plaza de Mayo in terms of demands, reasons of protesting, and the peaceful nature of the protests.
He believes that talk about how protests and sit-ins affect the economy and the country negatively is nonsense, because after all it is a call for democracy, a peaceful call for democracy. "It's not the protests, it's how those protests are being handled that causes chaos and any kind of failure in the country."
Sadofschi says that after 1983, Argentina became free so consequently there wasn't any kind of suppression anymore. Sure, people still have demands, but the difference is now they are being heard. There have been ongoing protests every week for whatever cause. People are not silent. Yet, Argentina is one of the top 20 countries in the world with a high economic growth rate. Only because the government there understands those protests and listens to people's demands, instead of arresting, beating, or killing them to force them to quit. Even regarding mothers' issue, and how every Wednesday they sit-in the square in the thousands, blocking the roads, still the economic wheel keeps moving because nothing oppressive occurs on the part of the government. They are allowed to speak their mind, which is what revolutions are for.
The Argentinean revolution, with its causes and demands, is very similar to that of the Egyptians. The difference is that in Egypt people are still being blamed for any kind of failure, be it political, social, or economic. And still, people are not allowed to speak their mind, or protest without being oppressed by those in power -- and that's the military forces in Egypt's case. People are still being killed, arrested, and tortured, because they still have unanswered demands and unresolved issues. Supposedly, we had a revolution over a year ago, but somehow things are still the same.
That's the big difference: people in Egypt still haven't completed their revolution.