Some 50 political movements, groups and parties in Egypt last Friday launched a week of mass protests and marches to commemorate, not celebrate, the anniversary of the January 25 uprising.
Thousands marched to Tahrir Square on Friday dubbed the ‘Martyr’s Dream’, demanding justice for the hundreds killed during the popular revolt that ousted the regime last January.
‘We want to continue our revolution – the martyrs haven’t been avenged yet. The trials of the heads of the former regime are theatrical and the military trials of civilians continue,’ said protester Suzanne Abdel Razeq.
Several marches poured into the Cairo square from Dawaran Shubra, Maadi, Giza Square and Mohandiseen.
Hundreds marched from Giza Square heading towards Tahrir, chanting for the martyrs: ‘Either we get their rights, or achieve their dream.’
They sang the national anthem and chanted ‘Freedom, Freedom,’ right before reaching the Square.
The marches were organised by a number of movements and coalitions including the Coptic Maspero Youth Coalition, the Free Front for Peaceful Change, the Youth for Freedom and Justice Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists.
The protesters were divided between calling on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to hand over power to the newly elected Parliament Speaker on January 25, or open the candidacy process for presidential elections on that day, which means that the president will be elected within 60 days, and postpone the Shoura Council elections slated for January 29.
Several protesters joined the small protest from Shubra, saying they felt that SCAF failed the revolution.
Abdel-Rahman Ahmed, a high school student, joined the protest on his way home from Friday prayers.
He said: ‘I don’t want the blood of the martyrs to go in vain. We want the country to be free from oppression and for justice to prevail.’
Rasha Helmy said she felt she was fooled by the SCAF, who continue to rule the country.
‘The oppression has increased after SCAF was handed power and the martyrs have increased,’ she said.
Sayed Yehia, a member of the Free Front of Peaceful Change, said that the Front demands the immediate transfer of power to the speaker of parliament, which could be the Freedom and Justice Party’s Secretary General Saad El-Katatni.
He said: ‘The People’s Assembly was elected by the people, so even if we have reservations about El-Katatni we will be fighting against a civilian like us, not the military.’
According to this proposed scenario, El-Katatni will head the transitional period for 60 days until a new president is elected.
However, spokesman of the Coptic Maspero Youth Coalition, Nader Shoukry, said they do not want a leader from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm to head the country during the transitional period.
Shoukry insisted: ‘We want the presidential elections process to start on January 25.’
Sayed Taleb, the father of 21-year-old martyr Helmy, said during the march from Giza that his sole demand was the execution of those responsible for killing the martyrs, including ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his aides.
Taleb said: ‘We don’t want compensation, we don’t want to be honoured; we want retribution.’
Salwa, 53, said that she participated in the march on Friday as a rehearsal for mass protests on January 25.
She added: ‘We won’t leave our youth alone in these protests.’
A screening of a documentary showing SCAF’s violations by the 3askar Kazeboon (Military Liars) campaign took place on Friday evening. Groups including the Iskenderella band gave live performances.
The protesters agreed to return to Tahrir Square on January 25 and hold an open sit-in until their demands are met.
SCAF has been under fire for committing several violations against protesters since it took power on February 11th 2011. The military’s crackdown on protests has left around 100 dead since February 11th.
In a meeting at El Sawy Culture Wheel last Wednesday evening, the groups announced the details of the ‘Week of Anger and Mourning’ starting with Friday’s ‘The Friday of the Dream of the Martyr,’ and Monday’s march marking the inauguration of the first session of the newly-elected People’s Assembly.
‘We are not going down (to Tahrir Square) to celebrate, but only to continue our unfinished revolution,’ a statement signed by the groups said.
One of their main demands was for the ruling military council to hand over power to a civilian authority.
The SCAF had announced the week before, a series of celebrations to mark the anniversary of the popular revolt that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.
Thirteen performers will participate, including a folk band that will tour Al-Arish, Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh, El-Nouba and Suez.
‘We won’t celebrate when the blood of the martyrs was wasted without proper retribution.
‘14,000 prisoners are in military jails; the symbols of the old regime still rule Egypt.
‘Emergency law is still in place; social justice that has not been accomplished,’ the statement said.
‘We won’t celebrate because they (the military council) are liars,’ it added.
Three marches planned on Monday were dubbed ‘Retribution’, ‘Social Justice’ (planned by the Union of Independent Workers) and ‘No to Military Trials’ set off from Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, Qasr Al-Aini, and the High Court of Justice.
They finally met at the parliament building.
Besides condemning the complete absence of justice for the martyrs, they objected to the systematic media distortion of the image of the revolutionaries, the yet un-purged judiciary, and the numerous arbitrary arrests of protesters on vague charges of conspiracy and incitement of violence.
The statement issued last Wednesday said: ‘A police force that has recovered its violence and insolence in a systematic way has returned to the scene.
‘It is all run by a tyrannical military ruler that is working hard to extinguish the revolution, filter out its sons, and dissipate its objectives, and turn it . . . into an occasion to celebrate . . . without meting out any consideration or appreciation to the brave people of this country who sacrificed thousands of martyrs and injured in order to achieve a few goals that can be summarised in one slogan: “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice”.’
l A group of temporary Al-Azhar teachers last Thursday cut the Salah Salem highway in Cairo and besieged Al-Azhar headquarters demanding to be appointed permanently.
The protesters also demanded bonuses and other incentives.
There are about 70,000 teachers appointed temporarily in Al-Azhar.
They are demanding permanent contracts akin to teachers in the Ministry of Education.
The week before, hundreds of Al-Azhar teachers protested at Al-Azhar’s headquarters.
A group of the teachers met with Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb who promised to resolve their problems.
Another group threatened to cut the nearby Salah Salem highway on Thursdays if their demands are not met.