Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

An uneventful day

The fifth anniversary of 25 January Revolution passed quietly, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

It is no coincidence that 25 January, the day the uprising that dislodged Hosni Mubarak began, is also National Police Day. Police abuses had reached an apogee under Mubarak’s long-time interior minister, Habib Al-Adli, and one reason people took to the streets in such numbers was to protest against the torture, abuse, corruption and oppression that had come to characterise Mubarak’s years in power.

Five years after Mubarak was forced from office the state expressed its appreciation for the January Revolution. In a televised speech marking the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said it was a time when “many young people sacrificed themselves” to renew noble values that had been lost for years. He added that though the revolution took “some wrong turns, as various groups attempted to impose their own agendas on it,” the “30 June Revolution came to correct the path”, allowing the people to “regain their destiny and freedom”.

The Muslim Brotherhood was clearly being referenced as one – if not the groups that attempted to hijack the revolution. Designated a terrorist organisation by the cabinet in December 2013, its leaders are now either behind bars, in hiding, or abroad. But then many of the political activists who spearheaded the 25 January Revolution are also in jail and the voice of the revolutionary opposition is barely audible, even on social media.

 

TIGHT SECURITY GRIP: Despite the absence of protesters, police and soldiers were deployed in large numbers to secure the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Revolution and the National Police Day. Interior Ministry departments across the country were on high alert weeks ahead of the occasion. Holiday leave for officers was cancelled and security measures were stepped up around vital facilities.

Plain clothed officers and counter-terrorism specialists, backed up by mobile patrol units, were deployed on the streets. Masked policemen were stationed in Cairo’s main squares, including Tahrir, the epicentre of the 18-day anti-Mubarak uprising, to prevent any possible protests. Access roads to Tahrir were manned by anti-riot vehicles and tanks. The only group that did appear comprised tens of pro-regime supporters who entered the square waving Egyptian flags and distributed sweets and roses to security forces.

Ahead of the anniversary the Ministry of Interior staged a crackdown, arresting activists in a wave of raids on apartments in Downtown Cairo. According to official statements, the raids were intended to “prevent criminal behaviour”. Activists’ hangouts, including cafés, cultural centres and a publishing house near Tahrir Square, had been raided or shut down by the police weeks before.

On 14 January, Taher Mokhtar, head of the Freedoms Committee at the Doctors’ Syndicate, NGO worker Ahmed Hassan and student Hossam Hammad were arrested from their house in Falaki Street, Downtown Cairo. They were referred to the Abdeen prosecution on Friday and accused of “possessing leaflets calling for the fall of the regime”. The Doctors’ Syndicate says banners and documents found in Mokhtar’s possession and confiscated as evidence relate to his job as “head of the freedoms file, which requires him to follow up on the medical status of prisoners in detention”.

Calling for the release of Mokhtar, the Al-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence described him as “a doctor who never denied treatment to anyone who needed medical care”.

Mohamed Nabil, Sherif Ali, Ayman Osama, Mahmoud Hisham and Sherif Al-Roubi, all members of the 6 April Movement, were also detained.  They have been charged with belonging to a banned organisation and calling for demonstrations.

In 6 October city a limited protest by Muslim Brotherhood supporters was quickly dispersed with tear gas, while in Beni Sweif police shot dead a man after he attacked a security checkpoint. Security personnel in 6 October city also killed two “terrorists” in an exchange of fire. The suspects, officials say, were among the perpetrators of the recent Haram Street terrorist attack which left seven policemen and three civilians dead.

On Sunday police killed an alleged militant in a raid-cum-shootout at his home in Kerdasa. The Interior Ministry says it found bombs in the Kerdasa house similar to those used in the Haram attack.

On the same day Mohamed Essam, administrator of the Revolutionary Socialists Facebook page, was detained on charges of instigating violence. The page had called for protests on 25 January. Essam’s detention was extended on Monday for 15 days pending investigation by prosecutors.

Al-Masy Al-Youm newspaper reported on Sunday that police had arrested 78 Muslim Brotherhood members in Giza. Police also arrested 42 alleged Brotherhood members near Cairo’s Mostorod Bridge. Officials say they were apprehended as they “were heading by a bus to the nearby Matariya neighbourhood where they intended to protest and spread chaos”.

According to the Interior Ministry, six members of the banned Brotherhood were also arrested in the Cairo district of Ain Shams while “seeking to protest and commit acts of violence”. Another 12 were reported to have been arrested in Cairo’s south-eastern neighbourhoods of Helwan and Dar Al-Salam while attempting to “conduct marches and spread chaos”.

Security forces have been targeted by terrorists since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Two recent terrorist operations occurred last week.

Thursday’s explosion in Haram Street was one of two attacks last week. The bomb was detonated during a police raid on an apartment where militants were suspected of hiding. Sinai Province, an affiliate of IS, claimed responsibility for the bomb.

A day earlier, on Wednesday, armed assailants opened fire on police checkpoint in Al-Arish in Sinai, killing seven police officers.

 

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD CLAIMS: The Muslim Brotherhood was the only group calling for protests to mark the fifth anniversary of the January uprising. Though there was little evidence of any sizeable response to the calls, the Muslim Brotherhood claims more than 300,000 took to the streets.

Small groups of protesters did make an appearance in the Cairo districts of Matariya and Maadi, Giza’s 6 October City, Sharqiya, Alexandria’s Al-Qaed Ibrahim Square and in Kafr Al-Sheikh and Qalioubiya governorate. The demonstrators chanted against the current regime and called for Morsi to be reinstated as president. The protests were quickly dispersed by security forces using tear gas.

The Anti-Coup Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance, affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement on Tuesday saying: “Despite the unprecedented security alert brave protesters shocked the Al-Sisi brigades and militias Monday morning with mass rallies and protest activities launched in 275 locations across Egypt. This wave of protests achieved its goal even before it was launched, striking horror into the heart of the Al-Sisi regime.”

On Sunday the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying there can be no “compromise or reconciliation with the coup regime”.

“The coup regime will witness an unprecedented and unexpected revolutionary wave… which will disturb its plans,” the statement continued. “The security preparations and obvious anxiety inside the regime are clear signs of fear.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Several calls for protests were made on social media, though revolutionary movements and political groups ignored them.

Activists did, however, use social media platforms to express their frustration at the current political scene.

“Young people are clearly unhappy with what is happening in the political arena,” veteran journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal said during an interview last week on CBC satellite channel. “If justice is not seen to be achieved their despair will turn from a negative attitude into terrorism.”

Government officials had spent weeks warning the public against protesting on 25 January.

Many activists used the hashtag #I_participated_in_25_January_Revolution, and Twitter users posted accounts of why they joined the uprising five years ago.

On Sunday the 6 April youth movement issued a statement confirming its decision not to stage a demonstration but called on people to wear black in “mourning for the state the country has reached”.

Some jailed activists also had their say on the revolution’s anniversary from behind bars. Lawyer and activist Mahinour Al-Masri, currently serving a 15-month sentence, penned an open letter to commemorate the occasion. “We are still on the journey to build a humane and just society,” the 30-year-old wrote.

Al-Masri, a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Movement, adopted an optimistic tone as she outlined five lessons “for everyone”.

“There is no individual salvation,” was the first lesson. Calling for freedom “for those we know” is not enough, she wrote. “We must also demand the freedom of citizens who have been framed, or are in debt because of economic conditions.”

“If we allow the regime to separate us from the street and from our goals then they have won,” she added.

The second lesson was not to condemn all injustice, even if it falls on those who have opposing opinions “and the people who tried to obliterate us”. To condone injustice against one person is to condone injustice against all.

Al-Masri encouraged those seeking change not to be “satisfied with the honour of trying”. Instead they must organise and formulate clear objectives.

“A scared regime arrests thousands and cancels elections,” was her fourth lesson. “It shakes at the prospect of a single anniversary while committing injustices for a whole year.”

Her final lesson was that the revolution continues just “as life and dreams continue”.

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