“Security forces, in cooperation with the army, have put together a comprehensive plan to secure government installations and squares across the country on Saturday,” Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said during a meeting on Sunday with his assistants and other senior ministry officials to review security arrangements for the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
It is no coincidence that the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution falls on National Police Day. The date was chosen for demonstrations three years ago to protest against the police brutality which had long been a trademark of the Mubarak regime. During the 18 days of protests that began on 25 January 2011 and which led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak as president at least 840 protesters were killed by the police forces. Yet not a single policemen, points out Amnesty International, has been convicted for the slaughter.
“The ministry is considering changing National Police Day from 25 January to 30 June,” Ibrahim said last week during a phone interview with Al-Mehwar TV channel. He used the interview to urge Egyptians to converge on town and city squares on Saturday to confront “the chaos planned by the Muslim Brotherhood” in Tahrir.
“I reiterate my call to the Egyptian people: you have to take to the streets on Saturday to celebrate the revolution’s anniversary because we’ve discovered Muslim Brotherhood plots that seek to spread chaos on the day, aided and abetted by some sports groups and by anti-military and anti-Brotherhood political forces,” Ibrahim told viewers.
Ibrahim was appointed minister of interior by Mohamed Morsi on 6 January last year. At the time he was described as a Brotherhood sympathiser. He was initially promoted by Morsi from security director of Assiut to head of the Prisons’ Authority. A few months later he became interior minister.
“The Muslim Brotherhood and other forces,” declared Ibrahim, “plan to infiltrate Tahrir Square and mobilise 15,000 young people to spread chaos and ignite a counter-revolution to 30 June. This is their plot which we’ve detected some time ago. We will confront with all our strength.” He added that the security services detected every scheme emanating from “the terrorist organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“The Interior Ministry has monitored calls by the Muslim Brotherhood and other youth movements to protest on 25 January and vows to secure all demonstrations of which the authorities have been notified and agreed on in accordance with the new protest law.”
Ibrahim who six months ago said “police will not confront protesters during demonstrations planned by opposition groups on 30 June” is now determined to confront them with force. He promised more patrols on main roads, ring roads and inter-governorate highways, including increased special operation patrols, central security forces and mobile units. Police in prisons, police stations and other sensitive facilities will be fully armed in anticipation of violent outbreaks.
“All leave for police officers, security personnel and recruits has been cancelled,” a security official told Al-Ahram Weekly. “The decision was taken after schemes by the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood to use the commemoration of the January Revolution to commit acts of violence were uncovered. They are trying to exploit the ceremony to drive a wedge between revolutionary and political forces and the police and the army.”
Up to 260,000 policemen will be deployed across Egypt during the weekend commemoration of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and for a time forced the police from Egypt’s streets.
But many security experts worry the Interior Ministry is becoming overstretched. Within a month the security apparatus has had to secure New Year’s Eve and Orthodox Christmas celebrations, safeguard a two-day national referendum and must now prepare for the celebrations of the third anniversary of the revolution.
Political forces from across the spectrum are expected to turn out on Saturday. Each will be pushing a different agenda.
The Egyptian Patriotic Movement Party, headed by former presidential candidate and Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik, has urged members to mark the anniversary by gathering in Tahrir Square and before the presidential palace. “We all believe the 25 January is a historic date in recent Egyptian history. Let us embrace the revolutionary youth of 25 January, let us celebrate with them because they are the ones who sparked the flame of the 30 June Revolution. Let us celebrate the 25 January Revolution that was completed by the 30 June Revolution,” said a statement issued by the party on Monday.
“We will participate in the celebrations as the revolution was ignited by all political forces,” said Hossam Al-Kholi, assistant secretary of the Wafd Party. He went on to warn, however, of the possibility of clashes as supporters of divergent agendas crossed paths.
Ahmed Fawzi, secretary-general of the Egyptian Democratic Party, has announced that party members will not be taking part in any commemorative events because “participation will bring problems and any mobilisation indirectly increase the rivalry between the sons of the nation.”
The 6 April Movement, the revolutionary youth group at the forefront of the 2011 and 2013 revolutions that toppled Hosni Mubarak and Morsi, is planning a strong street presence on Saturday. The youth group, whose co-founders Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel were recently sentenced to three years in prison under the controversial new protest law, is unlikely to be in celebratory mood. Members of the group believe the 25 January Revolution is being buried by a resurgent authoritarianism determined to turn the clocks back.
“When activists like Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Doma and Mohamed Adel are detained for voicing opposition it means demonstrations will no longer be tolerated unless, of course, they are in favour of the current regime,” activist Asmaa Mahfouz told the Weekly.
The 6 April Movement issued a statement this week urging revolutionary groups to present a united front. The statement, posted on the group’s Facebook page on Sunday, urged all political forces to acknowledge their mistakes and return to the spirit of 25 January and Tahrir Square.
“We made a mistake when we were dragged into polarising battles that started with dividing the community into revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries, the religious and non-religious, the patriotic and non-patriotic…”
Alongside the statement photos were posted to remind Egyptians of the crimes perpetrated by the military against peaceful protesters.
“The demands of 30 June have been circumvented by the military and reduced to the elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood and handing over the country’s leadership to General Al-Sisi,” claimed Amr Ali, general coordinator of 6 April Movement.
The National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy, an umbrella grouping of Brotherhood supporters, have called for a week of rallies, starting tomorrow, to mark the third anniversary of the January Revolution.
“It will be another long revolutionary wave that will deprive the murderers of comfort,” the alliance said in a statement issued on Monday.