Home | Global News | On Tahrir Uprising Anniversary Protests Across Egypt, Troops Deployed, 9 Dead

On Tahrir Uprising Anniversary Protests Across Egypt, Troops Deployed, 9 Dead

By Countercurrents.org

26 January, 2013
Countercurrents.org

The second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising saw thousands of Muslim Brotherhood opponents massed on January 25, 2013 in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the centre of the uprising against Mubarak – to rekindle the demands of a revolution they say was stolen by the Muslim Brotherhood. Protests across the country saw violent street battles, torching of Muslim Brotherhood offices, storming of government offices, deployment of troops and armored personnel carriers . The protest marches that began on the early hours of the day continued into night. There were nine deaths including deaths of eight protesters, who were shot.

An Al Ahram online report [1] said:

Government offices were stormed and violent street clashes erupted in several governorates around Egypt, with events continuing into the night.

As night fell on a day of demonstrations and marches, violence was reported in four governorates – Tanta, Minya, Suez and Mahalla; clashes have also been reported in Damanhour and Alexandria during the January 25, 2013 afternoon.

In Cairo, violence that had flared up the day before the anniversary continued around protest flashpoints near Tahrir Square throughout the day.

According to live footage by private satellite channel ONTV, the governorate headquarters in Suez was set on fire. There were violent clashes between protesters and police forces around the perimeter of the building.

In Minya, violent clashes with rocks and Molotov cocktails erupted between Muslim Brotherhood members and protesters in front of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters. Police fired teargas to disperse the crowds.

In Tanta, eight protesters and two policemen were injured during violent clashes around the vicinity of the city’s security directorate, reported Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website.

In Mahalla, clashes were also seen, with protesters setting the governor’s office on fire by throwing Molotov cocktails at the building.

In the evening, the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, the Freedom and Justice Party headquarters was raided by unknown assailants.

Clashes erupted in front of the governorate headquarters in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria earlier on January 25, 2013 afternoon.

Hundreds of demonstrators who identified themselves as members of the ‘Black Bloc’ – a new anti-Brotherhood protest group – formed lines as they approached the government building and were met with teargas by the security forces. Several protesters of the Black Bloc also stormed an Alexandrian court building during the violence.

A Reuters report [2] said:

Egypt’s armed forces deployed troops in the city of Suez early on January 26, 2013 after nine people were shot dead during nationwide protests against president Mursi, underlining the country’s deep divisions.

Eight of the dead, including a policeman, were shot dead in Suez, and another was shot and killed in the city of Ismailia, medics said.

Another 456 people were injured across Egypt, officials said, in unrest on Friday fuelled by anger at Mursi and his Islamist allies over what the protesters see as their betrayal of the revolution.

The troops were deployed in Suez after the head of the state security police in the city asked for reinforcements. The army distributed pamphlets to residents assuring them the deployment was temporary and meant to secure the city.

Friday’s anniversary laid bare the divide between the Islamists and their secular rivals.

In Suez, the military deployed armoured vehicles to guard state buildings as symbols of government were targeted across the country.

Street battles erupted in cities including Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Port Said. Arsonists attacked at least two state-owned buildings. An office used by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party was also torched.

“Our revolution is continuing. We reject the domination of any party over this state. We say no to the Brotherhood state,” Hamdeen Sabahy, a popular leftist leader, told Reuters.

The Brotherhood decided against mobilizing for the anniversary, wary of the scope for more conflict after December’s violence, stoked by Mursi’s decision to fast-track an Islamist-tinged constitution rejected by his opponents.

There were conflicting accounts of the lethal shooting in Suez. Some witnesses said security forces had opened fire in response to gunfire from masked men.

Before dawn in Cairo, police battled protesters who threw petrol bombs and firecrackers as they approached a wall blocking access to government buildings near Tahrir Square.
Clouds of teargas filled the air. At one point, riot police used one of the incendiaries thrown at them to set ablaze at least two tents erected by youths.

Police fired teargas to disperse a few dozen protesters trying to remove barbed-wire barriers protecting the presidential palace. A few masked men got as far as the gates before they were beaten back.

Teargas was also fired at protesters who tried to remove metal barriers outside the state television building.

Skirmishes between stone-throwing youths and the police continued in streets around the square into the day. Ambulances ferried away a steady stream of casualties.

Protesters echoed the chants of 2011’s historic 18-day uprising. “The people want to bring down the regime,” they chanted. “Leave! Leave! Leave!” chanted others as they marched towards the square.

“We are not here to celebrate but to force those in power to submit to the will of the people. Egypt now must never be like Egypt during Mubarak’s rule,” said Mohamed Fahmy, an activist.

There were similar scenes in Suez and Alexandria, where protesters and riot police clashed near local government offices. Black smoke billowed from tyres set ablaze by youths.

Protesters broke into the offices of provincial governors in Ismailia and Kafr el-Sheikh in the Nile Delta. A local government building was torched in the Nile Delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra.

With an eye on parliamentary elections likely to begin in April, the Brotherhood marked the anniversary with a charity drive across the nation.

Writing in Al-Ahram, Egypt’s flagship state-run daily, Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie said the country was in need of “practical, serious competition” to reform the corrupt state left by the Mubarak era.

Mursi’s opponents say he and his group are seeking to dominate the post-Mubarak order. They accuse him of showing some of the autocratic impulses of the deposed leader by, for example, driving through the new constitution last month.

“I am taking part in today’s marches to reject the warped constitution, the ‘Brotherhoodisation’ of the state, the attack on the rule of law, and the disregard of the president and his government for the demands for social justice,” Amr Hamzawy, a prominent liberal politician, wrote on his Twitter feed.

A BBC report [3] added:

President Mursi has appealed for calm.

Critics accuse Mursi of betraying the revolution.

In a message on Twitter, Mursi called on Egyptians “to adhere to the values of the revolution”.

In central Cairo, clashes between demonstrators and police were reported into the early hours of January 26, 2013.

Some protesters have held sit-ins in the capital, saying they will only return home when Mursi leaves office.

On January 25, 2013, tens of thousands of people turned out to voice their opposition to Mursi and his supporters in the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

The liberal opposition accuses Morsi of being autocratic and driving through a new constitution that does not protect adequately freedom of expression or religion.

The government is also being blamed for a deepening economic crisis.

One of the demonstrators at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Momen Asour, said he had come to demand an end to President Mursi’s rule. “We have not seen anything, neither freedom, nor social justice, or any solution to unemployment, or any investment,” he said. “On the contrary, the economy has collapsed.”

Another protester, Hamoud Rashid, said the protests were a “natural reaction to the country being in a worse state than it was under Mubarak”.

“They have stolen the revolution from the revolutionaries, and we are here to reclaim the revolution,” he said.

Patrick Kingsley and Abdel-Rahman Hussein reported [4] from Cairo:

By evening the interior ministry estimated that at least 55 security personnel had been hurt in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

For many on the streets of Cairo there was a painful sense of deja vu. “There’s no military dictatorship any more, but there are the beginnings of a theocratic one,” said Karim, a protester.

Hisham Abdel-Latif, another protester who took part in one of several feeder marches that snaked their way towards Tahrir from the Cairene suburbs, said Egyptians were “now ruled by a gang that is exactly the same as the Mubarak gang, except they now have beards”.

Violence broke out in the early hours of the morning, as police burned down two tents in Tahrir Square. For much of the day, police and protesters then took it in turns to lob chunks of rubble over two makeshift walls built to protect the interior ministry from attack.

One of the stone-throwers, Karim Ali, said it was revenge for the protesters killed by police since 2011. “The police are behaving the same as they did during the Mubarak years,” he said.

Many Egyptians fear Mursi has only the interests of Islamists at heart.

In particular, the opposition was incensed by the way he bypassed judicial protocols in November to push through a new constitution that the left sees as the first step towards Islamic law.

Many also blame Mursi for failing to tackle Egypt’s creaking infrastructure – over 70 Egyptians have died in train accidents since December – and its dire economic predicament. Foreign reserves have fallen drastically in recent weeks.

“I’m here to get rid of Mursi,” said Moustapha Magdi, an unemployed commerce graduate on a march from Giza. “First Mubarak, then Tantawi, now Mursi. We are only ruled by bastards.”

Magdi criticized Mursi’s failure to prosecute members of the military who killed Egyptians during and since the revolution.
“Where are these people? They are outside. They are not in prison. There is no justice,” he said.

Elsewhere in Cairo, protesters and supporters of the regime clashed outside a Muslim Brotherhood office. There was also violence in Port Said and outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis.

In the New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick’s Cairo datelined report headlined “Deadly Riots Erupt Across Egypt on Anniversary of Revolution” [5] said:

There were street battles around government buildings across the country, including the Interior Ministry, the presidential palace and the state television building in the capital.

Muslim Brotherhood offices were ransacked or burned in at least three cities, including Ismailia, the Suez Canal town where the group was founded 85 years ago.

In the most striking episode, masked men attacked the offices of the Brotherhood’s Web site in Cairo, upending furniture, littering the floor with broken glass and papers and smashing computers. Several witnesses said the assailants came in a large group to the third floor, carrying pellet guns and acid to burn through the padlock, and left with computer hard drives.

“They said, ‘We are here to destroy this place,’ ” said Ragab Abdel Hamid, 36, a printer who works for a liberal organization in the same building and tried to contain the attack. “It was planned.” Unknown assailants had blasted the metal doors to the same office with a fire bomb just days before, leaving flame marks, and the gates had been refortified.

The violence — from Alexandria in the north to Aswan in the south — dramatized the deepening chasm of animosity and distrust dividing the Brotherhood from its opponents. Although the Islamists of the Brotherhood have dominated elections since the ouster of Mubarak in 2011, another broad segment of the population harbors deep suspicions of the group’s conservative ideology, hierarchical structure and insular ethos.

“Egyptians will never let the Muslim Brotherhood rule — over our dead bodies,” said Heba Samir, 36, catching her breath by the Nile after fleeing tear gas outside the state television building.

Many demonstrators said they had returned to Tahrir Square on Friday because they blamed the Brotherhood for failing to fulfill the demands of 2011: “bread, freedom and social justice,” as the chants went at the time.

The Constitution that the Brotherhood pushed to a referendum last month deeply divided the country, with opponents complaining it fails to protect individual liberties. In Tahrir Square on Friday, banners demanded the fall of the “Brotherhood Constitution.”

“The Egyptian people had so many dreams and the reality on the ground is, everything is still the same,” said Mohamed Adl, 41, a teacher who carried a sign with a handwritten poem accusing the Brotherhood of making “injustice the guard of our lives.”

Protesters began dismantling concrete barriers that had been erected around the Interior Ministry building to contain earlier demonstrations. The security forces began firing tear gas to stop them, and more than two dozen people were injured in intermittent battles that lasted through the night.
By early Friday afternoon in Cairo, protesters at one corner of Tahrir Square had begun scaling the barriers to throw rocks at the security forces massed around the ministry building. And the officers, as they typically do, threw rocks back, and plumes of tear gas rose overhead past a church steeple up the street. As the volleys escalated, a few canisters landed inside a makeshift field hospital in the church, flooding the clinic with choking fumes.

Osama Amir, 22, a student leaving that fight, said he did not know how it started or why. “People have lost confidence in the central security forces, so when there is a chance to beat them up, we will beat them up,” he said.

After dark, the battles of rocks, pellet guns and gas bombs had spread. Smoke from trash fires filled Tahrir Square.

Many protesters argued that the Brotherhood had forfeited its legitimacy. “The big lie is that the Muslim Brotherhood is the majority,” said May Ramadan, 37, an employee of the American University in Cairo. “They are not, they are fascists, and they are liars.”

Another report [6] said:

Some protesters torched a police vehicle in front of Egypt’s High Court.

Protesters threw Molotov cocktails on police forces during the clashes.

In a message posted on Facebook and Twitter, Mursi said: “Egypt’s [security] apparatuses will chase the criminals and bring them to justice.” [7]

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