The scramble for democracy: who is in Tahrir Square?


Meanwhile a Christian Egyptian friend of mine called me from Tahrir Square. He was crying, and I honestly thought that maybe he got attacked there. But he was crying in happiness. The Muslim Brotherhood people celebrating there saw his cross on his hand, and they kept on hugging him and telling him, “We will always be one. We will always be one.”

Karim Adel
24 June 2012

In the midst of all the confusion with the mass media torn between warning us off from electing a previous Mubarak ally like Shafiq, or the Muslim Brotherhood taking over and becoming a new dictatorship under Dr. Morsi… in all the contradictory din, it was truly a great thing to have a million man march and sit-in in Tahrir Square. This was in the period between the first and second phases of these elections, shortly after it was announced that Morsi and Shafiq were the neck and neck winners of the first round….

Everyone in Tahrir that day was calling for the elimination of Shafiq from the second phase of the elections, through the activation of a rule which is in the present constitution - what’s called the Political Isolation Law - which says that a person who has taken part in ruining and corrupting the political scene in Egypt is to be later banned from re entering the political arena… That law was first used by Jamal Abdel Nasser to prevent all Egyptians who took key positions in the government of his predecessor, King Farouk’s Government, from re-entering the political scene.

This demand was later ruled out of order by Egypt’s Supreme Court, the law deactivated so that Shafiq will carry on standing with no trouble at all, news that disappointed all the revolutionaries as well, of course, as the Islamists supporting Morsi.

The positive energy in Tahrir Square however boosts our hopes, even if there is no victory in sight. We didn’t have much hope when the 18 day revolution started, so who knows? But the majority there are pleased by neither candidate and many decided to boycott the elections altogether. Meanwhile, resistance must continue: creating a working and effective opposition force that will work for change in the next government and seek to enforce the revolution’s demands is still top of the agenda regardless of the results and what changes they will bring. From this perspective Hamdeen Sabahi (the first phase candidate who gathered the biggest percentage of the votes from the revolutionary youth of Egypt) is already talking over many plans and alliances between pro-revolution politicians and activists to create such a force in the form of a political party. And now that the newly elected parliament has been dissolved, having been declared illegal through another high court order on the grounds of some alleged election violations, it is hard not to agree with the many who insist that the whole set-up is still under the power of the SCAF…

There is anti-SCAF and anti-Muslim Brotherhood graffiti all over Mohammed Mahmoud Street and Tahrir Square. It bears witness to the fact that resistance is now in our blood and it will remain there. It promises that no one will get around our demands in the longer term, even if they hold the presidency…This generation is wide awake.

So if you ask me why, like many people who took part in the revolt, I’m not in Tahrir Square any more, I can only say that there is something very suspicious about the whole current impasse. The Islamists to date have done everything except act according to the values of Islam. When the military was killing us in the Mohammed Mahmoud demonstrations, they didn’t back us up: they said we were a bunch of druggies and paid thugs and foreign agents…that was once we had elected them to represent us in parliament, after they made a power-sharing deal with the SCAF. They looked to parliament as a mechanism that they could use to turn the people and the media against the revolution. Now, of course, it has become apparent to them that there might be some under-the-table moves to eliminate their presidential candidate Morsi on the part of the SCAF-controlled court system, so now they are in Tahrir Square demonstrating and urging the very same revolutionaries whom they called thugs to unite with them and put all differences (in this case betrayals) to one side….

That’s why none of us is in Tahrir Square any more… although when they stop taking to their podiums and talking about what THEY want, we will join them again as this battle clearly requires unity for now…we WILL settle these scores with them in the future, once we get past this point. But for me - I still don’t feel they deserve to form the government till they have one coherent position that the people of Egypt can rely on with respect both to the revolution and towards the SCAF.

If you ask my friend, Ahmed Refaat, then this is what he thinks:

“The revolutionary movements, and in particular the youth, were simply shoved to one side from the beginning of the revolution. They were closely scrutinized, and accused of everything under the sun – from being spies or foreign agents, to being ill-mannered, stupid louts, and having drug-induced orgies in Tahrir Square itself – this is what they have had to put up with just to get us to this point.

When you ask yourself why the SCAF and the MB have used this strategy against the leading youth cadres that everybody was so proud of in the beginning - you can only come to one conclusion: that it was to the benefit of both of them that these youth were removed from the equation, so that they could commence their own negotiations uninterrupted, given that they both have only ‘realistic dreams’ and demands; the same concept of the ‘pace’ at which change should occur; and that they both speak the same language, a language which was not that of the revolutionaries.

That’s why we are in the pickle we are in now: and that’s why this is not the revolution our friends were shot and killed for. No it is just the first chapter of what we must see as a political war between generations.”

Morsi is declared the new president of Egypt

I have been watching TV all day, punctuated by people’s phone calls from everywhere… and most of them are happy: that’s what counts. The Muslim Brothers have been scrambling to make up lost ground. And they nearly did lose it all when  they alienated the revolutionaries, and we all stopped going to Tahrir Square with them, to show them what we thought about their attempt to impose their own rules on the Egyptian constitution in the brief time they had in a parliament dominated by them.

Last week, they were literally begging us on TV and from Tahrir Square to join them to prevent Shafiq and Mubarak’s regime from winning. They said that we would all lose in that eventuality, all the while knowing full well that throughout last year it was they who had worked hand in glove with that regime trying to cheapen the reputation of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, when it suited their own purposes.

Anyway. Now I think there really is a chance to unite the Egyptian people for the first time since the revolution was paused by Mubarak stepping down. We are learning from our mistakes, and we know now that we can’t go on alone in small sects. We have to work together as one community. Just thinking this brings tears to my eyes.

There is talk that they want to put Mohamed ElBaradei in charge of the government and that they want to give everyone a chance to work with them. Great. We need to see if that promise holds for the next four years. Then, we can decide if we want Morsi to carry on, or someone else…. through elections.  Already they have announced a 100 day plan effective on the 1st of next month to solve the bread shortage; sanitation problems; and traffic chaos. They know that most of the people who voted for them are not Islamists and just didn’t want Shafiq to win. So I think they will work their asses off for the next 100 days, and we will see what they achieve and judge them accordingly.

Meanwhile a Christian Egyptian friend of mine called me from Tahrir Square. He was crying, and I honestly thought that maybe he got attacked there. But he was crying in happiness. The Muslim Brotherhood people celebrating there saw his cross on his hand, and they kept on hugging him and telling him, “We will always be one. We will always be one.” This is the first time he has ever spoken to any of them, after all the scary things he has heard about them over the years. And so all he can do is cry. 

I have a good feeling. So, like I said, I’ll keep on watching like everyone else and waiting for a mistake. But if they are making an effort to make it work, I guess we will all do our part to help. We will see. But I trust my feelings sometimes. Though I think Morsi lacks charisma as a leader when he speaks - but oh well... Four years. Let’s just use them to build now!

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