Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

A street called Tantawi

Named in honour of the former field marshal, a new road sign has sparked heated debate, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Late last week, residents of Nasr City woke up to several road signs at Al-Shaheed, or Martyr Street, on which was printed “Mehwar Al-Mosheer Tantawi” (Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi), named after the former defence minister who effectively ruled Egypt for a good year and a half following last year’s revolution.
The axis road linking Nasr City to Mokattam districts with Al-Tagammu Al-Khamis area at New Cairo was first known as NA axis, before Tantawi ordered its renovation. In May, while he was still head of the then ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) he inaugurated the axis road.
The new road signs bearing Tantawi’s name were placed at Al-Shaheed Street, causing a storm of anger among activists and social media users.
Political activists who regularly criticised SCAF members, claiming they were responsible for the killing of protesters during the post-revolution events, say the signs are a betrayal of those who died. Ahmed Douma, an activist who was jailed during the anti-SCAF protests which took place in front of the Cabinet headquarters in December 2011, described the decision to name the axis road after Tantawi as “the latest proof of the impudence of our governing system”.
Liberal activist Hazem Abdel-Azim sarcastically wrote on his twitter account: “President Morsi, after renaming the highway after Tantawi and honouring him, I recommend you name Mohamed Mahmoud Street after Sami Anan [former chief of staff],” referring to the well-known street that witnessed fierce clashes in November 2011 between peaceful protesters and Central Security Forces (CSF) leaving more than 45 dead and thousands injured.
The Armed Forces issued a statement on Saturday denying changing the name of Al-Shaheed Street to Tantawi. “Tantawi’s name was given to the NA axis road that was renovated by the army last year,” army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said via his official Facebook page. Ali said the axis road was constructed by the army as a way to ease traffic jams in both Nasr City and Mokattam.
As for the reason behind naming the NA axis after Tantawi, Ali said: “The road was named after Tantawi in recognition of his distinctive history in times of war and peace as well as for his leading role in the protection of the 25 January Revolution.”
Despite the explanatory statement, the dispute did not end as activists refuse to recognise Tantawi as the protector of the revolution.
“One of the revolution’s aims was to eliminate the glorification of people: Mubarak School, the University of Mubarak, Mubarak Station... etc. However, after the revolution we are met with the Field Marshal Tantawi axis as if he was a martyr,” said activist Reham Al-Gilani on her twitter account.
Mustafa Nageh, another activist, said: “After naming a road after Tantawi as recognition, we should say sorry for the martyrs of Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the martyrs of the Cabinet, the martyrs of the Maspero massacre, and the martyrs of Port Said and also the Abbasiya martyrs.”
Two of the new signs have now been defaced.
In September, many political movements and revolutionary groups including Tahrir Youth and 6 April filed a complaint against Tantawi and Anan, accusing them of murder and attempted murder during the clashes at Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud Street and in front of the Cabinet building. In their complaints, they said that Tantawi should bear responsibility for the Rafah border attack on 5 August this year that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead and another seven injured.
Mustafa Mahmoud, 27-year-old engineer, is a Nasr City resident who rejected renaming the axis since the old one was widely known. “I noticed the new signs. I have no problem with Tantawi but I reject changing the old name which was the NA axis. We all know the road with that name,” Mahmoud told the Weekly. If they want to honour him they can name any unnamed street after his name, he said.
Mohamed Ashraf, 30, another Nasr City resident who took part in the revolution, rejects the new name. “How could they honour Tantawi for his role in the revolution whose aim was to overthrow military rule?” Ashraf asked.
Television anchor Mahmoud Saad commented on the issue during his programme on Al-Nahar channel, saying that naming streets after people should happen after their death.
“The country’s situation has begun to stabilise. Please don’t provoke the people; let everyone do his job,” Saad pleaded.
Before the army statement, the Cairo governorate and Cairo traffic department both denied naming the road axis after Tantawi. Secretary-General of the Nasr City East District Awad Shaltout told the Weekly that they know nothing about the new road signs. However, he wondered why there was an argument over the name.
“Why are they rejecting the new name? Tantawi is indeed a hero for what he did,” Shaltout said.
“He did what he could during the transitional period and we successfully crossed this era after getting a new president. The revolutionary youth should compare Egypt’s revolution to Libya and Syria’s and they will definitely realise that Tantawi protected the revolution.
“He also ordered the renovation the road and anyone knows that it became one of the best roads in Cairo. If I had the authority or power, I would name many streets after Field Marshal Tantawi.”

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