Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013

Ahram Weekly

Chaos rules

Anger spilled into violence on the second anniversary of the revolution, Reem Leila reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Clashes between protesters and police on 25 and 26 January left 46 dead, including a six-month-old baby in Suez, and hundreds injured. In the same period two years ago seven protesters were killed.
The changing dynamic of protest is exemplified by the media frenzy surrounding the emergence of the Black Bloc and Public Army, groups that openly advocate violence in the face of repeated failures to secure any revolutionary goals.
Both groups argue that the Muslim Brotherhood will only accede to opposition demands if they are accompanied by violent public protest. They are also demanding re-trails for all those acquitted of killing protesters.
The violence appeared in danger of spiralling out of control, with reports of clashes across Egypt. In the capital the Metro was blocked on Friday, and movement across the city has been hampered by the repeated closure of the 6 October bridge by demonstrators.
Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, Beheira and Alexandria witnessed some of the worst clashes, with government buildings and offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) targeted. In Ismailia, the FJP’s offices in Talatini Street came under attack as well as the nearby Real Estate Tax office. The latter appears to have been robbed before being torched.
In Suez protesters stormed the main police station and released prisoners. The station was then ransacked and burned. The fire station in Suez was also attacked as flames raged elsewhere in the city, including the headquarters of the Suez Security Directorate.
As civil disobedience turned violent words of reassurance from the regime had little effect. The situation, says Mustafa Al-Sayed, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, is dangerously fraught.
“The history of previous revolutions reveals that peaceful means are the only way to accomplish revolutionary goals. These new violent groups must be totally rejected. Violence will lead to nothing but counter violence. It is better for revolutionaries to resort to peaceful methods in expressing their demands.”
Al-Sayed refuses to term members of the two new groups revolutionaries. “They are a bunch of desperate youths taking advantage of the unstable political atmosphere,” he says.
Al-Sayed advocates peaceful civil disobedience as the most effective way of pressing revolutionary demands.  “The Muslim Brotherhood, indeed the Islamists in general,” he points out, “lack political experience. They have been in jail for years. They are incapable of handling real problems.”
Journalist Mustafa Bakri blames President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for the escalating violence. They are, he says, replicating the tactics used by the Mubarak regime.  
“Egyptians can sense that Morsi is serving the Muslim Brotherhood rather than all Egyptians,” argues Bakri. “Many state institutions are under attack, and trials of journalists and TV anchors charged with insulting the president signal a new crackdown on free speech. These repressive tactics, including the intimidation of journalists, are a carbon copy of the Mubarak-era policies.”
Bakri believes the only way out of the dilemma is to return to square one, when consensus prevailed over the goals of revolution. “If this does not happen we can expect yet more violence and chaos,” he says.
Bakri condemns both Morsi’s speech to the nation and statements issued by the National Defence Council (NDC). “Morsi threatened the country with more oppression while the NDC has called for national dialogue without any guarantees. People do not want to socialise, they want solutions.”
Bakri dismisses Islamist threats to use counter-violence. “They have already discovered they are incapable of doing anything. If they dare to think of using their militias they will be faced by the whole nation. A few thousand will not be able to face 90 million people.”
Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies analyst Emad Gad sees some light at the end of the tunnel, though it will need Morsi to meet the four conditions set by the National Salvation Front — comprehensive and true national dialogue, formation of a national salvation government, amending the constitution and annulling the new election laws — for clashes to end.
There have to be guarantees that the national dialogue is serious, says Gad, and they should include “dismissing the current government, including Prime Minister Hisham Kandil.” Failure to act now, he adds, “threatens Egypt with a downward spiral of violence”. 

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