Egypt’s unfinished revolution

Although Mubarak was toppled in an 18-day uprising, getting rid of thirty years of corruption and oppression has proven to be a harder task. In a powerful photo essay, an Egyptian photographer explores the latest chapter in the Egyptian revolution: the November uprising.

Since the 1990’s, it was taboo to criticize or even question actions taken by Mubarak and his regime. Egyptians were often arrested for acts as innocent as making jokes about him in public or even over the phone. Central Security Forces used to quell protests, brutally arrest and torture protesters. Egyptians were afraid, unwilling to give voice to their real concerns.

The world watched as Egyptians rose up on the 25 January and toppled Mubarak's regime, setting Egypt on the slow march towards a more democratic society. In the 18 days it took for Mubarak to fall, one would often hear the protesters chanting, “People and army are one hand.” The protesters were grateful to the Supreme Council who claimed to be protecting the revolution.

Yet the situation has soured as protesters have seen their democratic hopes confronted by virginity tests for women taking part in sit-ins and military trials for civilians. Activists are regularly prosecuted for criticizing the military council, and the trial of Mubarak is continually postponed. For many Egyptians, it has become clear that the SCAF are nothing but the remnants of Mubarak’s dictatorship and that they are leading a counter revolution as well. Anger towards military rule unleashed another chapter in the Egyptian revolution this past November.

On November 18, protesters once again returned to Tahrir square fuelled by anger at military rule. Their chants directed against the Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and the whole Supreme Council, they urged a speedy handover of authority and the establishment of a civil state.

Starting on the afternoon of November 19, a battle raged on the infamous Mohamed Mahmoud Street. It became the frontline of clashes between protesters fighting to hold the Tahrir Square and central security forces who claimed they were protecting the Ministry of Interior.

The images of Jan25 were repeated, perhaps with even more violence in November. Tear gas bombs made in USA were fired intensively by central security forces towards isolated protesters who fired back with rocks by bravely running towards their tormenters.

Protesters wore  gas masks and goggles to protect themselves against the tear gas used during the clashes with riot police in Mohamed Mahmoud. Meanwhile the ruling military council denied using tear-gas canisters against protesters in Statement No. 83 issued on their official Facebook page.

Live ammunition was used to disperse protesters in Mohamed Mahmoud. Both the Ministry of Interior and Supreme Council denied giving orders to use live bullets against protesters.

Teargas knocked some protesters unconscious during the clashes. Motorcycle ambulances were used to transport injured and unconscious protesters to makeshift field hospitals.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 23 November due to a truce established by a group of Al Azhar’s Sheikhs between protesters and the security forces the security forces stopped their attack.

After the truce, protesters walked freely on Mohamed Mahmoud Street and even started to clean it. Public prosecution teams came to investigate what had occurred which led the security forces to break the truce and open fire on the protesters again.

On Thursday, 24 November, the Armed Forces closed off the streets around the Ministry of Interior with barbed wire to pave the way to building a wall separating Mohamed Mahmoud Street from Tahrir Square, in an attempt to prevent further clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Five days of bloody clashes in downtown Cairo between protesters and security forces left at least 42 demonstrators killed and at least 3,000 injured. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 60 eye injuries were reported in Qasr el-Aini Hospital.

On Friday night of 25 November, protesters launched an open ended sit-in in front of the Ministerial Cabinet Building, after Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s speech ignored their request to step down from power and appoint Kamal Ganzoury as the new Prime Minister. Symbolic coffins were lined up on Friday, December 3 along the centre of the street, each covered with an Egyptian flag and bearing the name and stencilled image of a martyr killed during the clashes with security forces.

Graffiti read, “Vote for the revolution, its symbol the gas mask.” In solidarity with martyrs and after the unwillingness of political parties to participate in the sit-in, activists reconsidered their decision and decided to boycott the Parliamentary elections that started on Sunday 28 of November.

On Friday, December 3, protesters organized Tahrir Martyrs Rally and put up graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud walls of real people who lost their eyes during November’s battle as a monument to their courage.

The graffiti reads, “Revolution is not a moment.” Egyptians realized that although they had toppled Mubarak in an 18-day uprising, getting rid of thirty years of corruption and oppression will be much harder. The revolution is just beginning and it may take years for the struggle finally to be won.

About the author

Maggie Osama is an Egyptian photographer and blogger based in Cairo. You can see more of her photography work here.