Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street's anarchist roots

Occupy Wall Street's anarchist roots

November 30, 2011

David Graeber

New York, NY - Almost every time I'm interviewed by a mainstream journalist about Occupy Wall Street I get some variation of the same lecture:

"How are you going to get anywhere if you refuse to create a leadership structure or make a practical list of demands? And what's with all this anarchist nonsense - the consensus, the sparkly fingers? Don't you realise all this radical language is going to alienate people? You're never going to be able to reach regular, mainstream Americans with this sort of thing!"

If one were compiling a scrapbook of worst advice ever given, this sort of thing might well merit an honourable place. After all, since the financial crash of 2007, there have been dozens of attempts to kick-off a national movement against the depredations of the United States' financial elites taking the approach such journalists recommended. All failed.

It was only on August 2, when a small group of anarchists and other anti-authoritarians showed up at a meeting called by one such group and effectively wooed everyone away from the planned march and rally to create a genuine democratic assembly, on basically anarchist principles, that the stage was set for a movement that Americans from Portland to Tuscaloosa were willing to embrace.

I should be clear here what I mean by "anarchist principles". The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society - that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence.

History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.


Traditional Marxism, of course, aspired to the same ultimate goal but there was a key difference. Most Marxists insisted that it was necessary first to seize state power, and all the mechanisms of bureaucratic violence that come with it, and use them to transform society - to the point where, they argued such mechanisms would, ultimately, become redundant and fade away.

Even back in the 19th century, anarchists argued that this was a pipe dream. One cannot, they argued, create peace by training for war, equality by creating top-down chains of command, or, for that matter, human happiness by becoming grim joyless revolutionaries who sacrifice all personal self-realisation or self-fulfillment to the cause.

It's not just that the ends do not justify the means (though they don't), you will never achieve the ends at all unless the means are themselves a model for the world you wish to create. Hence the famous anarchist call to begin "building the new society in the shell of the old" with egalitarian experiments ranging from free schools to radical labour unions to rural communes.

Anarchism was also a revolutionary ideology, and its emphasis on individual conscience and individual initiative meant that during the first heyday of revolutionary anarchism between roughly 1875 and 1914, many took the fight directly to heads of state and capitalists, with bombings and assassinations. Hence the popular image of the anarchist bomb-thrower.

It's worthy of note that anarchists were perhaps the first political movement to realise that terrorism, even if not directed at innocents, doesn't work. For nearly a century now, in fact, anarchism has been one of the very few political philosophies whose exponents never blow anyone up (indeed, the 20th-century political leader who drew most from the anarchist tradition was Mohandas K Gandhi.)

Yet for the period of roughly 1914 to 1989, a period during which the world was continually either fighting or preparing for world wars, anarchism went into something of an eclipse for precisely that reason: To seem "realistic", in such violent times, a political movement had to be capable of organising armies, navies and ballistic missile systems, and that was one thing at which Marxists could often excel. But everyone recognised that anarchists - rather to their credit - would never be able to pull it off. It was only after 1989, when the age of great war mobilisations seemed to have ended, that a global revolutionary movement based on anarchist principles - the global justice movement - promptly reappeared.

How, then, did OWS embody anarchist principles? It might be helpful to go over this point by point:

1) The refusal to recognise the legitimacy of existing political institutions.

One reason for the much-discussed refusal to issue demands is because issuing demands means recognising the legitimacy - or at least, the power - of those of whom the demands are made. Anarchists often note that this is the difference between protest and direct action: Protest, however militant, is an appeal to the authorities to behave differently; direct action, whether it's a matter of a community building a well or making salt in defiance of the law (Gandhi's example again), trying to shut down a meeting or occupy a factory, is a matter of acting as if the existing structure of power does not even exist. Direct action is, ultimately, the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.

2) The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order.

The second principle, obviously, follows from the first. From the very beginning, when we first started holding planning meetings in Tompkins Square Park in New York, organisers knowingly ignored local ordinances that insisted that any gathering of more than 12 people in a public park is illegal without police permission - simply on the grounds that such laws should not exist.

On the same grounds, of course, we chose to occupy a park, inspired by examples from the Middle East and southern Europe, on the grounds that, as the public, we should not need permission to occupy public space. This might have been a very minor form of civil disobedience but it was crucial that we began with a commitment to answer only to a moral order, not a legal one.

3) The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but instead to create a form of consensus-based direct democracy.

From the very beginning, too, organisers made the audacious decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus. The first decision ensured that there would be no formal leadership structure that could be co-opted or coerced; the second, that no majority could bend a minority to its will, but that all crucial decisions had to be made by general consent.

American anarchists have long considered consensus process (a tradition that has emerged from a confluence of feminism, anarchism and spiritual traditions like the Quakers) crucial for the reason that it is the only form of decision-making that could operate without coercive enforcement - since if a majority does not have the means to compel a minority to obey its dictates, all decisions will, of necessity, have to be made by general consent.

4) The embrace of prefigurative politics.

As a result, Zuccotti Park, and all subsequent encampments, became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society - not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centres and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organisation - a genuine attempt to create the institutions of a new society in the shell of the old.

Why did it work? Why did it catch on? One reason is, clearly, because most Americans are far more willing to embrace radical ideas than anyone in the established media is willing to admit. The basic message - that the American political order is absolutely and irredeemably corrupt, that both parties have been bought and sold by the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population, and that if we are to live in any sort of genuinely democratic society, we're going to have to start from scratch - clearly struck a profound chord in the American psyche.

Perhaps this is not surprising: We are facing conditions that rival those of the 1930s, the main difference being that the media seems stubbornly willing to acknowledge it. It raises intriguing questions about the role of the media itself in American society. Radical critics usually assume the "corporate media", as they call it, mainly exists to convince the public that existing institutions are healthy, legitimate and just.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that they do not really see this is possible; rather, their role is simply to convince members of an increasingly angry public that no one else has come to the same conclusions they have. The result is an ideology that no one really believes, but most people at least suspect that everybody else does.

Nowhere is this disjunction between what ordinary Americans really think, and what the media and political establishment tells them they think, more clear than when we talk about democracy.


According to the official version, of course, "democracy" is a system created by the Founding Fathers, based on checks and balances between president, congress and judiciary. In fact, nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution does it say anything about the US being a "democracy". The authors of those documents, almost to a man, defined "democracy" as a matter of collective self-governance by popular assemblies, and as such they were dead-set against it.

Democracy meant the madness of crowds: bloody, tumultuous and untenable. "There was never a democracy that didn't commit suicide," wrote Adams; Hamilton justified the system of checks and balances by insisting that it was necessary to create a permanent body of the "rich and well-born" to check the "imprudence" of democracy, or even that limited form that would be allowed in the lower house of representatives.

The result was a republic - modelled not on Athens, but on Rome. It only came to be redefined as a "democracy" in the early 19th century because ordinary Americans had very different views, and persistently tended to vote - those who were allowed to vote - for candidates who called themselves "democrats". But what did - and what do - ordinary Americans mean by the word?
Did they really just mean a system where they get to weigh in on which politicians will run the government?

It seems implausible. After all, most Americans loathe politicians, and tend to be skeptical about the very idea of government. If they universally hold out "democracy" as their political ideal, it can only be because they still see it, however vaguely, as self-governance - as what the Founding Fathers tended to denounce as either "democracy" or, as they sometimes also put it, "anarchy".

If nothing else, this would help explain the enthusiasm with which they have embraced a movement based on directly democratic principles, despite the uniformly contemptuous dismissal of the United States' media and political class.

In fact, this is not the first time a movement based on fundamentally anarchist principles - direct action, direct democracy, a rejection of existing political institutions and attempt to create alternative ones - has cropped up in the US. The civil rights movement (at least its more radical branches), the anti-nuclear movement, and the global justice movement all took similar directions.

Never, however, has one grown so startlingly quickly. But in part, this is because this time around, the organisers went straight for the central contradiction. They directly challenged the pretenses of the ruling elite that they are presiding over a democracy.

When it comes to their most basic political sensibilities, most Americans are deeply conflicted. Most combine a deep reverence for individual freedom with a near-worshipful identification with institutions like the army and police. Most combine an enthusiasm for markets with a hatred of capitalists. Most are simultaneously profoundly egalitarian, and deeply racist.

Few are actual anarchists; few even know what "anarchism" means; it's not clear how many, if they did learn, would ultimately wish to discard the state and capitalism entirely. Anarchism is much more than simply grassroots democracy: It ultimately aims to eliminate all social relations, from wage labour to patriarchy, that can only be maintained by the systematic threat of force.

But one thing overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel is that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, that radical change of some kind is long since overdue.

They're right. It's hard to imagine a political system so systematically corrupt - one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician.

The outrage is appropriate. The problem is that up until September 17, the only side of the spectrum willing to propose radical solutions of any sort was the Right.

As the history of the past movements all make clear, nothing terrifies those running the US more than the danger of democracy breaking out. The immediate response to even a modest spark of democratically organised civil disobedience is a panicked combination of concessions and brutality. How else can one explain the recent national mobilisation of thousands of riot cops, the beatings, chemical attacks, and mass arrests, of citizens engaged in precisely the kind of democratic assemblies the Bill of Rights was designed to protect, and whose only crime - if any - was the violation of local camping regulations?

Our media pundits might insist that if average Americans ever realised the anarchist role in Occupy Wall Street, they would turn away in shock and horror; but our rulers seem, rather, to labour under a lingering fear that if any significant number of Americans do find out what anarchism really is, they might well decide that rulers of any sort are unnecessary.

Suez port workers uncover 21-ton US tear gas order for interior ministry

Ahram Online
Suez port employees reveal 21-ton US tear gas order for interior ministry

November 29, 2011

Port workers in Suez refuse to receive initial seven ton shipment as the interior ministry looks to restock after firing tear gas at protesters in Egypt for six days last week

A group of customs employees at the Suez seaport have revealed that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior is in the process of receiving 21 tons of tear gas from the US.

The claim was supported by Medhat Eissa, an activist in the coastal city of Suez, who provided documents he says he obtained from a group of employees at the Suez Canal customs. The employees have been subjected to questioning for their refusal to allow an initial seven ton shipment of the US-made tear gas canisters enter the port.

A group of employees at the Adabiya Seaport in Suez have confirmed, with the documents to prove it, that a three-stage shipment of in total 21 tons of tear gas canisters is on course for the port from the American port of Wilmington.

Employees say the container ship Danica, carrying seven tons of tear-gas canisters made by the American company Combined Systems, has already arrived at the port, with two similar shipments from the same company expected to arrive within the week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Vote For The Revolution - Street Art - إنتخبوا الثورة

"Vote For The Revolution!" - "Down with the Field Marshall!"

Spray-painted by revolutionary youth artists on wall outside the Council of Ministers.

On the same wall outside the Council of Ministers, at the #OccupyCabinet encampment.

"One solution.

50% Quota for Workers & Farmers in Parliament

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Eye on elections: Does the workers and farmers quota help workers and farmers?

Sun, 27/11/2011

Jano Charbel

In 1964, during the height of “Arab Socialist” President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s popularity, a new constitution was drafted that included a 50 percent quota for “workers and farmers” serving in the parliament. Forty-seven years and three rounds of constitutional amendments later, the quota remains in place as Egypt prepares for the first open parliamentary elections in recent history.

Nasser said that the law was intended to empower the working class in a country where 70 percent of the population was made up of workers and farmers. However, the definition of a “worker” or “farmer” under this law is a point of contention, and many advocates of the working class have doubts that this quota makes a difference in the communities it is meant to empower.

“The authorities should have canceled the 50 percent workers' and farmers' quota rather than women's quota,” says Walaa Ezzat, a farmer candidate from the Tagammu Party in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, referring to a short-lived quota intended to boost the number of female members of parliament. "Reserving 50 percent of seats for workers and farmers only serves to protect the interests of those who are backed by the ruling forces."

Shahinda Miqlad, a left-wing activist focusing on farmers’ rights, expresses similar skepticism about the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections. “Large landowners running as farmer representatives will sweep these elections because they have resources and campaign money to do so successfully," she says.

According to Miqlad, landless peasants have nominated themselves for the current elections, as they have done for decades, but have little to no chance of winning. "These elections will not bring into power those workers, farmers and youth activists who took part in the revolution."

Kamal Abbas, a labor activist and the director of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Rights, agrees. “This constitutional article doesn't guarantee the actual representation of workers and farmers. In this parliament, as in all previous ones, the authorities and ruling forces will fill these seats with their own representatives. “


The law defines a worker simply as someone who is a dues-paying member of a labor union and receives his or her income solely from “manual or intellectual labor.” Determining who falls into this category has become another battleground for the control of organized labor in Egypt.

Before the 25 January revolution, the only entity authorized to grant the classification of worker candidate was the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). But in October, interim Manpower and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hassan al-Borai authorized the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), which was officially established on 30 January, to grant its dues-paying members the worker classification.

Mohamed Zakariya, the president of the Independent Teachers Syndicate in Port Said, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he received the classification of worker candidate from the EFITU, not the ETUF.

"I expect more genuine workers' representation in this future parliament," says Zakariya, a first-time candidate who supports the quota system. "I expect that worker representatives will fight for labor rights in parliament, along with activists in the field of independent trade unionism."

However, Zakariya acknowledges that dozens of independent trade unionists have been prevented from running as worker candidates in the upcoming elections.

The classification problems are caused by Trade Union Law 35/1976, which is in the process of being redrafted. The law only recognizes the authority of the ETUF, and accordingly, it is the only entity authorized to grant the worker classification to parliamentary candidates. Because no new trade union law has yet been issued, Law 35 remains in effect, despite the decree issued by Borai allowing the EFITU to also grant this classification to applicable candidates.

Dozens of independent unionists from Giza and the Nile Delta governorates of Daqahlia, Monufiya and Qalyubiya have not been recognized by the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections (SJCE) as worker candidates on the basis that they received this classification from the EFITU, not the ETUF. A number of these independent unionists have filed urgent appeals before the administrative courts. However, verdicts due to be issued have been repeatedly postponed.

"The failure of the SJCE to recognize our candidacies is a blatant electoral violation," says Fatma Ramadan, an independent unionist and employee at the Manpower Department in Giza. Ramadan adds that in light of the decree issued by Borai, "This refusal represents an unwarranted act of intervention by the election authorities.”

“Withholding recognition also represents an act of vote-rigging because it keeps independent unionists from being able to run in the elections and gives the state-controlled ETUF a monopoly on the issuing of the worker classifications," she adds.

The Qalyubiya Administrative Court issued a verdict on 16 November allowing worker candidates to receive the classification from their independent unions, not only the ETUF. However, in other governorates, such as Giza, where Ramadan is running, the matter has not been resolved, and candidates have been asked to resubmit their papers for consideration.

This is only a start to fixing problems with the quota system. In previous parliaments all a candidate needed to run as a worker or farmer was connections to the ruling party or the leadership of the ETUF.

“The quota is meant to protect the interests of the most thoroughly exploited and underprivileged sectors of society," says Zakariya. “We should work on guaranteeing that this classification is granted only to genuine unionists, workers and farmers — not retired officers, corporate managers and businessmen,” she adds.


The discussion surrounding farmer candidates is similar, but the category is more easily exploited. According to the Parliamentary Elections Law, anyone whose source of income comes from farming, resides in the countryside and owns no more than 10 feddans of land can run as a farmer. Local agricultural cooperatives, under the administration of the Agriculture Ministry, are the only entities authorized to grant candidates the classification.

But like the businesspeople who have run as workers, “the majority of people who have been classified as farmer candidates are exploiting this classification for their own ends,” says Ezzat. “Most of the so-called farmers who served as MPs in previous parliaments were in fact retired officers, businessmen, large landowners and even feudalists.”

"It is difficult to forecast the results of this election, and how representative the new parliament’s farmer MPs will be. However, one may easily predict that those candidates who have money will be the most likely to end up with seats," she says.

Mosaad Lotfy, a farmer MP from Mansoura who served several terms in parliament, could not be reached for comment. Lotfy was a member of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). He is running again as a farmer.

The coming parliament “will be very much like those that preceded it, with no real farmers' representation,” says Miqlad, the farmers’ rights activist. “It has not, and it will not, represent the will of those millions who toil on the land to scrape together a meager living."

The farmers' and workers' quota is a “Nasser-era article that is perceived as outdated,” according to Abbas. He claims that authors of the new constitution may eliminate it, particularly if the future parliament is dominated by liberal, free-market politicians and parties.

Farmers' and workers’ advocates, however, hope that this will not be the case. "I disagree with those who want to revoke the quota for workers and farmers,” says Miqlad. “We should coordinate our efforts to guarantee the genuine representation of farmers and workers in parliament, not their exclusion from these legislative bodies."

Tahrir Square protesters learn from 'mistakes'

The National
Letter from Cairo: Tahrir Square protesters learn from 'mistakes'

November 28, 2011

Youssef Hamza

The protests that overshadowed yesterday’s election reveal a new breed of demonstrator who is less willing to be led by the loudest voices.

There are no podiums or stage microphones in Cairo's Tahrir Square this time around. There are no chants of "peaceful, peaceful" either and the atmosphere is both uncompromising and gritty.

In many ways, Egypt's second wave of protests is distinctly different from the one that swept the country for 18 days and led to the departure of Hosni Mubarak in February.

The protesters say they have learnt from the mistakes they made during the January-February uprising - no podiums, so no one gets a chance to "hijack the revolution", no microphones, so no one presumes to tell the square what to do and no chants of "peaceful, peaceful" because the police and their army backers are not likely to heed calls for calm or accept offers of olive branches.

The new-look Tahrir has thousands of protesters who fought police and soldiers with zeal and commitment for five days last week, using firebombs and slings.

At least 41 protesters were killed in demonstrations last week in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez and more than 2,000 others wounded.

Tahrir is more leaderless now than it was back in January and February, with a free-for-all atmosphere, though activists hope they would eventually produce a leader to unify their ranks.

The situation in today's square has overshadowed the once eagerly awaited parliamentary elections scheduled to start today, deepened the country's economic and security woes and threatens to divide the nation further.

The current protests began just over a week before the elections, the first since Mr Mubarak's departure, and aim to force the generals who took over to immediately step down. In their place, the protesters want a civilian presidential council and a "national salvation" government that would jointly run the country until a president is elected.

The protest leaders insist that they, not the military, select the country's interim leaders. They are conducting an informal election among the tens of thousands in Tahrir and elsewhere in the country to pick a leader for the proposed council and his deputies. Mohamed ElBaradei, the nation's top pro-reform leader, is the most likely winner of the informal election.

How the square plans to formally install him in power is not clear, but the selection process is clearly an attempt not to repeat what the protesters say was the biggest mistake of the January-February uprising - handing the reins of power to the military because they did not have a leader of their own.

The square's protesters have rejected the appointment by the military of a Mubarak-era prime minister to head an interim government. Kamal El Ganzouri, 78, served under Mr Mubarak between 1996 and 1999. The US-educated technocrat has not been tainted by the corruption allegations that touched most Mubarak regime stalwarts, but his choice amounted to a slap in the face of protesters already seething over the military's perceived reluctance to dismantle the ousted leader's 29-year legacy.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organised political group, has boycotted the protests in Cairo and a string of major cities across the nation. Its decision has revived suspicions that the group was secretly coordinating policy with the military, something that the generals have repeatedly denied. The Brotherhood maintains the protests pose a threat to national unity, but its boycott has been widely linked to the elections.

The group, empowered by Mr Mubarak's departure after nearly six decades as an illegal organisation, is expected to dominate the elections along with its Islamist allies. The group, say the activists, does not want to be engaged in any action that could threaten its best shot at translating its popular appeal to formal political muscle.

The military has offered to immediately return to the barracks if Egyptians vote in favour of it surrendering power in a nationwide referendum. The military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi made the offer in a televised address last week but he did not say when such a vote would be held.

It is not clear at all if Field Marshall Tantawi's offer was serious or whether he was bluffing or was throwing the gauntlet to the protesters in Tahrir demanding that he and his fellow generals step down.

But the military, the nation's most powerful institution, is not likely to risk an embarrassing defeat and will most likely strike a deal with political groups that could be persuaded to deliver enough votes to defeat those in favour of its immediate return to the barracks.

The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies will be the obvious choice of allies for the generals. Such a deal could move the Brotherhood and other Islamists closer to their dream of an Islamic Egypt under their tutelage. The Brotherhood and their Salafi allies have shown remarkable campaign skills in a referendum held in March on constitutional amendments proposed by the military. Taking advantage of the piety of most of Egypt's Muslims, they portrayed a "yes" vote as one cast for Islam and a "no" vote to be for the "immoral" liberals and the minority Christians.

It worked.

The amendments were adopted by a vast majority, and there is no reason to believe it would not happen again if a second referendum is held on whether the military should immediately go. Significantly, the military has in recent days cited the endorsement of the amendments in the March vote as proof of the legitimacy of its rule to counter Tahrir's calls for it to surrender.

Much has been said by analysts, activists and columnists about the military and the Brotherhood having a meeting of minds that pits them against the liberal youth groups behind Mubarak's departure and the continuing wave of protests. The military has repeatedly denied the two were in cohorts, but that did not silence those who say they have forged a secret alliance similar to that between the army officers who toppled the monarchy in a 1952 coup and the Brotherhood then. Like it was then, many believe today's suspected Brotherhood-military alliance is built entirely on common short-term interests, but not ideology.

Others believe the two sides came together because the military on coming to power in February could not find anyone with genuine popular base to speak to except the Brotherhood.

The generals, who have been passionately arguing the legitimacy of their rule, have also resorted to divide-and-rule tactics to counter the growing appeal of the Tahrir crowds. On Friday, a rival though much smaller crowd gathered in a square not far from the defence ministry to voice support for the military.

The state television's coverage of the protests has been clearly pro-military, with hosts hauling one guest after another to the studios to speak of the disastrous effect on the economy of the protests and the inexperience and naivety of the Tahrir protesters.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photos: Cairo protests, November 23 - 26

Protest at Tahrir Square, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and Parliament [Photos from November 23 - 26]





Volunteers, field hospitals tend to Tahrir wounded

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Omar Makram field hospital tends to Tahrir wounded

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

Jano Charbel

The field hospitals, clinics and makeshift pharmacies that began to reappear downtown following Saturday’s violent police crackdown on protester encampments are once again mushrooming in and around Tahrir Square.

The demand for easily accessible medical services grew with the confrontations between protesters and riot police on Tahrir's side streets. Reports of the number of fatalities and injuries have varied, with the Health Ministry saying more than 31 have been killed nationwide.

Hundreds of physicians, nurses, medical students, and interns have volunteered to tend to the injured and, reminiscent of the uprising early this year, are staffing at least seven field hospitals and clinics in the area.

"Sunday was by far the bloodiest day,” said Dr. Ahmed Samy, a recent medical school graduate. “We tend to those injuries and conditions which do not require surgery-room operations."

The young physician added, "serious injuries, such as gunshot wounds and embedded (lead) bullets are rushed off in ambulances to hospitals and operating rooms."

Samy is stationed at the Omar Makram Mosque's field hospital, outside of which dozens of orange ambulances deployed by the Ministry of Health are stationed. At times, injured protesters are brought to the field hospital nearly every minute. The volunteers tend to limping, bleeding, bruised, panting and unconscious activists.

"The most common injuries we receive are fainting due to tear gas inhalation, bruises, broken bones, fractures, and cuts from the rocks and bottles being thrown back and forth," he said.

The field hospital has also treated injuries from rubber shotgun pellets, and some burns caused by tear gas canisters and Molotov cocktails. Samy says one man was also rushed to Qasr al-Aini hospital after sustaining a spinal injury when he was trampled.

Omar Makram and other makeshift treatment areas are roped off to keep throngs of protesters from encroaching on them. Activists also link arms, forming human chains to clear the roads for ambulances and the motorcycles used to ferry the wounded through the congested square.

On Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where most of the fighting has occurred, activists are on standby with spray bottles and squeeze tubes of chemical solutions (such as Maalox or other antacids) to douse protesters who have been hit with tear gas. They spray and squirt these solutions onto the faces of tearful protesters to counter the burning sensation. Others carry vinegar or soda, which allegedly have a soothing effect.

"We are all volunteers here. There is no professional association, political party or group which is organizing this effort,” said Qassem Ismail, a medical student at Qasr al-Aini University who is also working at the Omar Makram field hospital.

“All our medicines, equipment, ointments, and bandages have been donated to us by sympathizers and activists," he said. “We have a significant stock of these medicines, and we usually don't run out of these supplies because we tell the donors exactly what we need."

Located just one block away is the Qasr al-Dobara Church field hospital.

"I'm not a doctor or nurse, I'm here just to make sure that security forces or thugs do not attack this field hospital,” said Tareq Aziz as he stood guard outside the church. “On Sunday, Central Security Forces and military police destroyed the field hospital in the middle of Tahrir Square, they burnt down the hospital tent and medical supplies."

Military junta & protesters dig in for long standoff

New York Times
Egypt Military and Protesters Dig In for a Long Standoff

November 24, 2011

David Kirkpatrick

Egypt's interim military rulers and the masses of protesters demanding their exit dug in Thursday for a prolonged standoff as the generals vowed to forge ahead with parliamentary elections despite a week of violence that is certain to tarnish the vote.

State news organizations reported that at least one political party — the Social Democrats, perhaps the best established of the liberal parties founded in the burst of hope after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak nine months ago — would boycott the elections as a sham intended to prop up military rule.

By day’s end on Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood also appeared to distance itself from the military council. The powerful Islamist group stands to gain the most from early elections and for the moment had stepped to the sidelines of the protests.

As clashes with the security police stopped for the first time this week, the crowd in Tahrir Square grew larger on Thursday than the day before, reaching tens of thousands. A broad spectrum of civilian leaders — excluding the Brotherhood — joined calls for a “million man march” on Friday.

The generals were unmoved. “Egypt is not Tahrir Square,” Maj. Gen. Mukhtar el-Mallah, a member of the military council, declared early Thursday at a news conference. The generals claimed an open-ended mandate to hold power long after Monday’s parliamentary vote. “We will not relinquish power because of a slogan-chanting crowd.

The declaration, after six days of violent confrontation in the capital and around the country, shifted the political struggle to a new and murkier phase.

Fulfilling a promise made in negotiations with political parties earlier in the week, the military pulled back the security forces who had battled protesters and constructed a concrete wall bisecting the street where most of the clashes had taken place.

The generals, meanwhile, issued an unusual apology for the deaths of at least 38 people during the week of unrest and the injuries of more than 2,000. But even as they hailed the dead as “martyrs,” the generals also appeared to justify killing them as criminals who had attacked the Interior Ministry. And they denied — despite the statements of many witnesses, doctors and even the health ministry — that security forces had fired live ammunition or birdshot in their clashes with protesters, further inflaming anger.

“The police are very committed to self-control, but I can’t give orders to anyone not to defend themselves,” General Mallah said.

Then, late in the day, the generals announced over the state news media that they would name a 77-year-old former Mubarak lieutenant, Kamel el-Ganzoury, as their new prime minister, though many Egyptians mocked him as “a dinosaur.”

The appointment of Mr. Ganzoury follows the resignation this week of the previous prime minister, in capitulation to street protesters’ demands. The last prime minister was a functionary serving the military council, and the demonstrators, as well as most civilian parties, are now calling for the council to hand over real authority to a successor.

But the council made clear in its news conference on Thursday that it was not ready to surrender any power, and the choice of Mr. Ganzoury appeared to show the generals’ preference for a prime minister who would serve in a subordinate role, as Mr. Ganzoury did under Mr. Mubarak. Several others also reportedly turned the post down.

The selection of Mr. Ganzoury may also have provoked the Muslim Brotherhood, the one major political force that had agreed to a deal with the military council for it to retain full power until early elections. As prime minister in the late 1990s, Mr. Ganzoury presided over the incarceration or torture of scores of Islamists who now lead the movement.

In a statement released shortly after Mr. Ganzoury’s name was floated, the Brotherhood’s new Freedom and Justice Party pointedly declared that the next prime minister “must enjoy general national consensus and popular acceptance and have to stand at one distance from all political forces.” The group said that its leaders had not met with the council on Thursday, meaning they had not been consulted.

The Brotherhood had already issued a statement appearing to back away from its previous embrace of an agreement with the military council for it to hold power until after an accelerated constitutional ratification and presidential vote by the end of June.

A Brotherhood spokesman had previously said it would not join the street protests demanding the immediate transfer of power because it had agreed with the council on a timetable that all should accept.

But the group was pilloried for appearing to trade its support to the council in exchange for holding elections on a favorable timetable, and it faced internal divisions on the issue as well.

The group responded Thursday in an extraordinarily defensive statement that it had declined to join the protests only because it feared its presence could provoke more violence, not because of a political calculus.

“Our decision has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by some,” the group said. “They harshly criticized and slandered the Muslim Brotherhood.”

It added, “Had we been out to secure our own interests and reap popularity on the political street, going down to Tahrir Square would have been just the way to do that. But we refrained from rash action,” calling the demonstrators “purely patriotic youths and sincere citizens.”

In the square, many argued Thursday that the military’s ability to end the violence at its discretion — a provision of its agreement with the Brotherhood — suggested that the generals might have deliberately tolerated it for days. “If they had done this the first day, there would not have been any martyrs or injuries,” said Mohamed Salem, 25, watching a crane erect the wall of cement blocks across the side street that had become the central battleground between protesters and the security police.

Although the military said that the security police were merely defending the Interior Ministry from attack, the fighting had always centered on that one block leading to the square, while other more direct routes to the ministry remained open, supporting the assertions of many protesters that the security forces were deliberately provoking the violence to destabilize the elections.

A flawed or disputed election, the argument runs, would undercut liberal hopes that the new Parliament could become an effective counterweight to the power of the ruling officers’ council during the rest of the transition.

But the protesters, emboldened by the end of the fighting, said they were as determined as ever to stay in the square until the military council and its chief, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, left power. “Oh, Field Marshal, Oh, Field Marshal, legitimacy comes from Tahrir,” they chanted.

With the flames of garbage fires lighted during the fighting the night before still smoldering in the morning, some said competition among candidates now seemed irrelevant to the more pressing struggle against the military. “Elections don’t matter for me anymore, because now there is blood,” said Samer Saad Ali, 37, an accountant who vowed to stay until Mr. Tantawi left power.

Then, at around 4:30 p.m., the same debate about the election suddenly broke out in clusters around the square. In each, a lone voice tried to convince those around him that it was time to go home, to focus on the vote, as others passed out fliers with a similar message nearby.

Though it appeared to be an organized campaign to empty the square, its true sponsor — some suggested the military council, others pointed at the Brotherhood or another conservative religious group — was not clear.

But in any case, the crowd only grew. “You can’t trust the Field Marshal with the square; how can you trust him with elections?” argued Adel Fawzy Tawfiq, 47, a butcher. Mr. Tantawi “is betting on the ‘silent majority,’ ” he added. “He never learned the lesson of Mubarak.”

Others, though, said they intended to stay to protest and turn out to vote, no matter how flawed the tally. “The Egyptian people, through their representatives, will be able to stand up to anyone,” said Reda Bassiouni, a 48-year-old lawyer As he walked the square, he held hands with his small son, whom he had brought along “to see the history,” he said.

*May el Sheik and Dina Salah Amer contributed reporting from Cairo and Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris.
*Photo courtesy of Khalil Hamra/Associated Press

Tahrir protesters killed by live ammunition

The Guardian
Tahrir Square protesters killed by live ammunition, say doctors

Thursday, November 24

Jack Shenker

Egypt's ruling generals accused by human rights group after morgue workers in Cairo contradict official claims

Egypt's ruling generals have been accused by a human rights organisation of having blood on their hands after medical workers confirmed that live ammunition had been used against anti-junta demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

According to morgue officials, at least 22 Egyptians have been killed by live bullets since street battles began on Saturday, directly contradicting government statements that security forces have never opened fire on protesters.

One hospital doctor told the Guardian he had personally seen 10 patients struck by live ammunition during the protests that have swept Egypt in the past six days, six of whom did not survive.

"Many of the fatalities were as a result of a single shot to the head," said Hesham Ashraf, of Qasr el-Aini hospital, one of central Cairo's largest medical facilities. Autopsies on 12 other bodies confirm live ammunition as the cause of death, including some cases where the bullet was clearly shot from a height, suggesting the possible involvement of army or police snipers.

This week the health minister, Amr Helmy, became the first government figure to acknowledge that deaths had been caused by live ammunition, but insisted that the security forces were not behind the shootings.

"Time and time again the military has insisted that it has not used live ammunition against protesters, as if it is somehow not responsible for the riot police operating under military command and control," said Sarah Leah Witson of Human Rights Watch, which has investigated the killings. "It is irrelevant whether the live ammunition came from the riot police or the military police. What is relevant is who gave the orders to shoot live bullets on protesters, and when they will be prosecuted for it."

One victim, a 16-year-old boy, was allegedly killed on Wednesday morning by a live bullet to the chest after leaving school to join the protests in Tahrir Square. His death came just hours after Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi – the target of those rallying for change – appeared on television to address the nation and declared: "We never killed a single Egyptian, man or woman."

The victim's family say the shooting happened on a main road leading to Tahrir that has been the site of Cairo's most intense fighting in recent days. Abdul Rahman Eman Ali, who attended school in the populous Shubra neighbourhood of northern Cairo, reportedly left with a group of friends in the late morning and travelled to Tahrir. His relatives, who spoke to the Guardian outside Zeinhum morgue, claim that as he moved into Mohamed Mahmoud street he was shot from a distance by a single bullet, which penetrated his sternum.

"His friends called his parents to say he had been shot; before that the family had no idea Abdul was even in Tahrir," said the victim's cousin Hisham Mahrous. "They drove to different hospitals to find someone to operate on him, but at every one the staff just said 'he's already dead, you have to take him to the morgue'."

The official autopsy report on the boy's death will not be available for two weeks, but medical experts say it would not be possible for a rubber-coated bullet or tear gas canister – two other types of ammunition that have caused deaths in recent days – to have had the impact on the chest reported in his case.

"It is very easy to distinguish between live rounds and rubber bullets or cartouche because the impact and penetration is very different," said Dr Ashraf. "I have myself observed a 9mm live bullet being extricated from a protester's back. This is a level of violence we have not seen before, not even during the [anti-Mubarak] uprising in January and February."

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based human rights organisation that has been investigating the use of live ammunition by security forces, some protesters have been shot dead while trying to come to the aid of others.

Its inquiries suggest that on Sunday two young men were gunned down while trying to help people who had fainted from exposure to teargas following a brief army-led assault on Tahrir. Essam El Sayed Saber, 27, was reportedly hit by a live round in the back of his head. Fellow protester Mohamed Said Iman, 25, is believed to have been hit by a live bullet to the waist.

Outside Zeinhum morgue, the main mortuary for the Egyptian capital, dozens of family members of those killed in Tahrir gathered in search of both bodies and answers. Punctuated by the sporadic arrival of ambulances and hearses, relatives stood crying and arguing with officials about gaining access to doctors, who are for the most part closed off from the public by a set of large metal doors. Empty wooden coffins lay stacked up by the entrance.

"Please tell the governments of the west to stop sending bombs, gas and bullets to our leaders, because our leaders are using them to destroy us," urged one bystander. The sporadic arrival or departure of a corpse was accompanied by screams from the crowd, and several people fainted.

There were fears that the official death toll fell well short of the actual number of fatalities as reports emerged that some doctors were coming under pressure to falsify autopsy reports and give the cause of death as something other than live ammunition.

Legal experts say that the use of live rounds could be in contravention of both Egyptian and international law. "Egypt is a member of the international covenant on civil and political rights, and article six of the covenant prohibits any arbitrary deprivation of life," said Ruth Wedgwood, an international law professor at Johns Hopkins University and a former member of the UN human rights committee.

"The use of deadly force is restricted to imminent threat. If there was an attempt to use firearms to intimidate, make a political point or discourage protesting in general, then that would certainly be pressing the boundaries of legality under international law," she explained, adding that more senior commanders could be held responsible.

"If security forces are issued loaded weapons and there was an order to fire at will at demonstrators then this would implicate state responsibility. If there was a commander who authorised the use of live ammunition with the intention of being intimidating or punitive, that implicates national responsibility, though to make a case you'd have to unravel where the orders came from and what the facts on the ground are, and that's extremely difficult."

Writer details horrific sexual assault by police

Bikya Masr
Writer Mona el-Tahawy details horrific sexual assault by Egypt police

24 November 2011

Joseph Mayton

Award-winning Egyptian columnist Mona el-Tahawy has recounted on her personal Twitter account the sexual assault at the hands of the Egyptian police after she was detained for nearly 12 hours on Thursday morning in Cairo.

The writer said she was blindfolded for at least two hours and questioned repeatedly.

She said that it was the “worst” sexual assault she had ever experienced.

“Besides beating me, the dogs of CSF subjected me to the worst sexual assault ever,” she said on Twitter.

“5 or 6 surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers,” she wrote, detailing her experience shortly after being released on Thursday early afternoon.

Tahawy was en route to a hospital, where she was going to have her arm x-rayed to determine the extent of the injuries she received.

She said that the police continued to grab and grope at her for hours during her detention.

At around 1 AM, el-Tahawy wrote on her personal Twitter account, “Pitch black, only flashing ambulance lights and air thick with gas Mohamed Mahmoud #Tahrir.”

She is one of dozens of journalists and observers who has been arrested in the past week of fighting, which has left many international rights groups concerned.

The violence, according to medical sources, has left over 90 people dead and thousands of Egyptians injured in the violence, mainly on Mohamed Mahmoud street leading to the main Tahrir Square.

The 44 year-old was born in Port Said, but has since lived in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Israel, before settling in the US in 2000.

“I can barely imagine what my family and loved ones were going through those 12 hours-I know they were worried about me to begin with. Sorry,” she added.

Egypt: Protests grow for sixth day

Los Angeles Times
Egypt protests grow for sixth day

November 23, 2011

Jeffrey Fleishman, Amro Hassan and Matt Pearce

Crowds seethe with rage over the ruling generals, despite an announcement the day before of a plan to speed up transfer of power to a democratic government. The U.N. urges an end to the crackdown.

Protests swelled in Cairo for a sixth day Wednesday as international pressure mounted on Egypt's military rulers to stop a deadly crackdown on demonstrators who have reinvigorated the defiant spirit that last winter overthrew Hosni Mubarak.

The crowds surging into Tahrir Square were a clear sign that military concessions announced Tuesday to speed up the transfer of power to democratic government did little to stem the rage against the ruling generals. Tear gas mixed with epithets as protesters and police clashed on streets littered with bullet casings, metal pipes and stones.

The unrest intensified the drama before parliamentary elections planned for Monday. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said voting would not be postponed. But the nation was layered in conflicting emotions over taking a step closer to democracy amid the bloodshed carried out by a military state criticized for spoiling a revolution that helped inspire the "Arab Spring."

The United Nations condemned the violence and called for an independent investigation into the deaths of at least 32 people and the injuring of 2,000 more since the latest clashes started in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities.

"I urge the Egyptian authorities to end the clearly excessive use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country, including the apparent improper use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition," said Navi Pillay, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights. "We are seeing another outbreak of violence by the state against its increasingly and legitimately angry citizens."

Men wearing scarves soaked in vinegar to blot tear gas and carrying rocks and Molotov cocktails surged through the streets beyond Tahrir in attempts to storm the Interior Ministry. Police held them back as clerics negotiated a truce, which quickly collapsed. Barricades rattled and security forces edged closer to the square amid the wail of ambulances and the roar of armored vehicles.

A young man carried back from the clashes on a motorcycle was declared dead in an alley next to a street fire and a pile of garbage as other protesters shouted over his body. He suffocated from tear gas, said a doctor, as wounded teenage boys headed for a makeshift hospital in a mosque.

"I love this country," said Mourad Helmy, an architect, visibly upset at the latest violence as other Egyptians in a cafe huddled around the TV trying to figure out what was happening. "If we lose Tahrir Square, then it's all over."

Days of fleeting truces and intense clashes mark the intertwined narratives of protests emanating from Tahrir: One is reminiscent of the revolution that overthrew Mubarak in February, with families roaming the square with painted faces while eating cotton candy; the other represents a front line of young men with a lot of anger, no political affiliations and warrior-like zeal aimed at reaching the Interior Ministry, the symbol of state repression.

Some of them are groups of soccer hooligans known as ultras, who appear like sudden storms from side streets and alleys. Raafat Bakaar, a civil engineer, said he and fellow demonstrators needed such protection. "The protesters tried to remain in the square but military police came and attacked us, so we can't trust them anymore," he said.

The problem with "us now is they [police] don't want us here," said Ahmed Shalpy, who had both fought on the front lines and volunteered at the field hospital set up at the Omar Makram mosque. He added: "We now are the red line. It doesn't matter how many lives we pay, but we won't leave."

But Ibrahim Kamel, who works at the Ministry of Agriculture, worried that the violence was hurting the country. Some men in the square suggested that protesters go home; that was unlikely, but the size of the crowd Wednesday night was slightly smaller than the night before.

"I don't think that protesters should confront police or get anywhere near the Interior Ministry," he said. "We all should avoid such fighting by securing the square from inside and not take our fight to anyone."

But there was no diminishment to the vitriol aimed at Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council. In a speech to the nation Tuesday, he promised to appoint a new interim Cabinet in coming days and hand power to a democratic government by July.

"Yesterday's speech was nothing," Kamel said. "It brought us back to the time when Mubarak used to address people with arrogance. Tantawi didn't mention anything about the murderers who killed protesters. There should have been a formal apology."

He added: "Changing the Cabinet will be no more than changing faces.… The army should get back to the barracks."

But deeper into the night, fires and tear gas canisters flashed in the side streets and alleys as more clerics arrived to talk peace.

*Photo courtesy of Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters

Egypt protests continue despite military concessions

BBC News
Egypt unrest: Army concessions fail to end Cairo unrest

23 November 2011

Thousands of Egyptians have continued to occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square despite an offer from the military for a speedier handover to civilian rule.

After four days of violent clashes, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said presidential elections would be held by July 2012.

But many protesters in the square said the concession was not enough and have demanded the field marshal step down.

Clashes continued between police and protesters in Cairo early on Wednesday.

Television pictures from Tahrir Square showed ambulances arriving to pick up the injured.

At least 30 people have been killed since Saturday and hundreds injured, officials say.

Police have been using tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot against protesters who have been throwing stones.

Some protesters said live bullets had been fired.

There have also been clashes in several Egyptian cities including Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and Aswan.


Egypt's ruling military council had previously said presidential elections might not happen until late 2012 or 2013.

That move, coupled with a draft constitution produced earlier in the month that would exempt the military and its budget from civilian oversight, prompted a mass demonstration in Tahrir Square on Friday.

Events turned violent when security forces attempted to remove the protesters from the square at the weekend.

Many Egyptians have become frustrated with the slow pace of political reforms since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown as president in February after a wave of mass demonstrations.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (or SCAF) then took charge and promised to implement the transition to civilian rule.

Speaking on national TV on Tuesday, SCAF leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said parliamentary elections scheduled to begin on 28 November would be held as planned.

Those polls, scheduled to take place over three months, are due to set in train the transition to democracy.

Field Marshal Tantawi said soldiers did not aspire to govern: "They are fully prepared to immediately hand over power and to return to their original duty in protecting the homeland."

He also said he had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharif's cabinet - appointed by the military.

A referendum would then approve the document before a presidential election was held. That would mean the military remaining in power until late 2012 or early 2013.

Protesters, however, had demanded the presidential vote take place after the parliamentary elections.


The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says that when the army first took over earlier in the year, they had the trust of the overwhelming majority of ordinary Egyptians - but now the protesters want them to hand over power immediately.

In some ways it is more of a revolution, as the demonstrators are ranged against the traditional opposition - notably the Muslim Brotherhood - as well as the military, our correspondent adds.

After Field Marshal Tantawi spoke, protesters in Tahrir Square chanted: "We are not leaving, he (Tantawi) leaves."

"We are not happy with this speech," a protester named Tamer Lokman told the BBC's Yolande Knell in Tahrir Square.

"It reminded us of those made by the former president, Hosni Mubarak when he didn't answer our demands," he said.

Another protester told AFP news agency: "Tantawi is Mubarak, copy pasted. He's Mubarak in a military uniform."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Egypt's Military Rulers Erode Human Rights

Egypt: Military rulers have 'crushed' hopes of 25 January protesters

November 21, 2011

Egypt's military rulers have completely failed to live up to their promises to Egyptians to improve human rights and have instead been responsible for a catalogue of abuses which in some cases exceeds the record of Hosni Mubarak, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

In Broken Promises: Egypt's Military Rulers Erode Human Rights, the organization documents a woeful performance on human rights by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) which assumed power after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The report's release follows a bloody few days in Egypt that has left many dead and hundreds injured after army and security forces violently attempted to disperse anti-SCAF protesters from Cairo’s Tahrir square.

"By using military courts to try thousands of civilians, cracking down on peaceful protest and expanding the remit of Mubarak's Emergency Law, the SCAF has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the January 25 demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Acting Director.

"Those who have challenged or criticized the military council - like demonstrators. journalists, bloggers, striking workers - have been ruthlessly suppressed, in an attempt at silencing their voices.

"The human rights balance sheet for SCAF shows that after nine months in charge of Egypt, the aims and aspirations of the January 25 revolution have been crushed. The brutal and heavy-handed response to protests in the last few days bears all the hallmarks of the Mubarak era."

Amnesty International found in its review of human rights under the SCAF that the military council had met few of the commitments it made in its many public statements and had worsened the situation in some areas.

By August, the SCAF admitted that some 12,000 civilians across the country had been tried by military courts following grossly unfair trials. At least 13 have been sentenced to death.

Charges against defendants have included “thuggery”, “breaking the curfew”, “damaging property” and “insulting the army”.

The case of prisoner of conscience Maikel Nabil Sanad, a blogger sentenced to three years in prison in April for criticizing the military and objecting to military service, has become symbolic. After going on hunger strike in August, prison authorities have denied him the medication he needs to treat a heart condition. He continues to be held in prison as his case is being reviewed by another court following an appeal in October.

In a clear attempt to suppress negative media reporting about the SCAF, scores of journalists and broadcasters have been summoned to the military prosecutor. Pressure from the military has led to a number of major current affairs shows being cancelled.

The SCAF promised in early statements to “carry out their leading role in protecting protesters regardless of their views” but security forces, including the army, have violently suppressed several protests, resulting in deaths and injuries.

Twenty-eight people are believed to have been killed on 9 October after security forces dispersed a protest by Coptic Christians. Medics told Amnesty International that casualties included bullet wounds and crushed body parts, after people were run over by speeding armoured vehicles. Instead of ordering an independent investigation, the army announced that it would carry out the investigation itself and moved quickly to suppress criticism.

Prominent blogger Alaa Abd El Fatta, who witnessed the violence and criticized the fact that the army was leading on the investigation into the crackdown, continues to be detained following his questioning by military prosecutors on 30 October, in what seems to be an attempt by the SCAF to stem criticism of their bloody handling of the Maspero protests.

Amnesty International said it had seen consistent reports that the security forces were employing armed “baltagiya” or “thugs” – to attack protesters. This was a well-known tactic employed under the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Torture in detention has continued under the SCAF and Amnesty International has interviewed detainees who said they were tortured in army custody. In September a video circulated showing army and police officers beating and giving shocks to two detainees. After apparently carrying out an investigation, the military prosecution dismissed the video as “fake”, without giving any further details.

Amnesty International said that the SCAF has used promises of investigations to deflect criticism of serious human rights violations, but has failed to deliver. No perpetrators of such abuses are known to have been brought to justice.

In a notable example, the military council announced on 28 March it would investigate the use of forced “virginity tests” by the army to intimidate 17 female protesters on 9 March, but no information about this investigation has been made public. Instead, the only woman who filed a complaint against the SCAF was said to have been subjected to harassment and intimidation.

Amnesty International also said that forced evictions of Egypt’s slum residents had been carried out by military forces after they assumed law enforcement duties in early 2011, and called for an end to the practice of forced evictions.

The organization called on the Egyptian authorities – including the SCAF – to restore confidence in public institutions by properly and transparently investigating human rights violations and lifting the Emergency Law.

When Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty met SCAF representatives in June, he had urged them to scrap the 1981 Emergency Law which unfairly restricted a number of fundamental rights.

But in September the Emergency Law was expanded to cover offences such as disturbing traffic, blocking roads, broadcasting rumours, possessing and trading in weapons, and “assault on freedom to work”. Those arrested under the emergency law are tried before special courts known as (Emergency) Supreme State Security Courts.

“The Egyptian military cannot keep using security as an excuse to keep to the same old practices that we saw under President Mubarak,” said Philip Luther.

“If there is to be an effective transition to the new Egypt that protesters have been demanding, the SCAF must release their grip on freedom of expression, association and assembly, lift the state of emergency and stop trying civilians in military courts.”

Photos: Nov. 21 protests & clashes around Tahrir Square

Youth protesters fought back riot-police forces on Mohamed Mahmoud Street for a third consecutive day on Monday.

Central Security Forces fired relentless volleys of teargas, and rubber bullets/pellets at protesters. The troops also hurled rocks and bottles at the protesters.

Protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. Youth activists also threw back teargas canisters in the direction of the police forces.

Football ultras lit their flares, petrol bombs, and shot firecrackers while fighting the riot-police on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

Older activist holds a sign mocking Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, along with his Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF.) Sign reads "SCAF - Sinking of the Tantawic"

"Down with Tantawi and his stooges! Down with military rule!"

Estimates suggest that well over 100,000 protesters converged on Tahrir by nighttime. Protesters shook the square's foundations with the chant "the people demand the removal/execution of Tantawi," along with "down with military rule" and other anti-SCAF chants.

Egypt’s Cabinet Offers to Resign as Protests Rage

New York Times
Egypt’s Cabinet Offers to Resign as Protests Rage

Nov. 21, 2011

David Kirkpatrick

CAIRO — The cabinet offered its resignation on Monday to Egypt’s transitional military rulers as security forces carried out an increasingly lethal crackdown on three days of street protests, reviving the uncertainty about Egypt’s future that marked the earliest days of the Arab Spring.

Egypt’s military had been seen as the linchpin of the political transition after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

It was the institution Egypt’s Islamists hoped would steer the country to early elections they were poised to dominate. At the same time, liberals regarded it as a hedge against Islamist power. And it was considered a partner the Obama administration hoped would secure American interests.

But the cabinet’s offer to resign, in a bow to the protesters’ demands, was the latest blow to the tenuous legitimacy of the ruling military council was slipping away, just a week before Egypt is scheduled to hold its first parliamentary elections since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster nine months ago.

Reeling from the swift collapse of the military’s authority, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist group, urged protesters to show restraint or risk delaying the elections. But other Islamists, more conservative and more moderate, joined Egypt’s secular parties in calling for a protest Tuesday — expected to be the largest yet — demanding that the military council hand power to a civilian authority.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces did not respond to the cabinet’s offer to resign, but state television reported that the council was seeking a new prime minister. The culture minister, Emad Abu Ghazi, has already resigned in protest over the demonstrators’ brutal treatment at the hands of security forces.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the United States State Department, called the violence “deplorable” and urged that elections take place on schedule.

The escalating uncertainty came after a bloody third day of battles between the protesters who have reoccupied Tahrir Square at the center of the capital and the security forces massed around the headquarters of the Interior Ministry. The Health Ministry said at least 23 people had died, and several doctors treating patients at a field clinic and nearby hospital said several had been killed by live ammunition, contrary to denials by the Interior Ministry. More than 1,500 people have been seriously injured in the clashes, the Health Ministry said.

But the crowd in Tahrir Square — the iconic heart of the Arab Spring — continued to grow to tens of thousands Monday. Alarmed at the crackdown on unarmed civilians, a broad cross section of the political elite, from liberal groups to ultraconservative Islamists, pledged for the first time to join the demonstrators in the streets on Tuesday in a so-called million man march.

After a meeting on Monday of about two dozen political groups, several delivered a collective apology to the protesters for not joining them sooner and “for not providing them with a political cover for the past 72 hours,” as the liberal political leader Amr Hamzawy put it in a message on Twitter.

But though all the political leaders called for elections to begin on schedule next week, a growing number conceded privately that the violence was likely to force their delay — potentially adding the unrest. And even as the political leaders unified around the demands, new divisions emerged among them over how the military might begin to hand over power.

The Muslim Brotherhood was the only major political party that announced it would hold back from Tuesday’s demonstrations. It said in a statement that it did not want to be involved in a protest that might delay the elections and thus the transition to democracy.

In a statement on the Web site of the group’s Freedom and Justice Party, one of its leaders, Mohamed Beltagy, told protesters that “in sprite of my complete appreciation of the reasons for their rage,” they should “not be involved in an escalation that could lead to a case of chaos and damage” or “give a chance to those who seek to justify delaying a complete transition of power to an elected civilian power with full authority (parliament, government and president) so that we can continue on the path of our glorious revolution.”

Others argued that the group did not want to jeopardize its commanding lead in outreach and organizing, and at one point Monday angry protesters chased Mr. Beltagy out of the square.

The Muslim Brotherhood “are still behaving like elections are on. They still haven’t decided to side with the people and come to Tahrir,” said Israa Abdalla, 20, a pharmacist, explaining why she believed Mr. Beltagy had been justifiably ejected. “They just want a slice of the cake.” (More centrist Islamist parties and political leaders as well as the ultraconservative Salafis all pledged to join Tuesday’s demonstrations.)

Some liberal groups, led by the former diplomat and presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, called for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to give up power immediately to a civilian “government of national rescue.” Other liberals said they sought only the replacement of the current cabinet with a new civilian team with more power to make decisions independent of the council.

Mr. Hamzawy, the founder of a new liberal party and a parliamentary candidate well positioned for a seat from an upscale district of Cairo, said in a Twitter message that he still favored holding elections before picking a new national unity government that would continue to govern under the military council but replace the current prime minister, Essam Sharaf.

“I’m still convinced that elections are the way to transfer power and I changed my position along with others to demand Sharaf’s dismissal after yesterday’s statement,” he said.

In a statement late Monday night the council called for a meeting without political leaders as well as an investigation into the violence by its interim justice minister.

In a bid to mollify the protesters without conceding any power — a favorite tactic of the council — the ruling generals also promulgated a new law that could restrict the ability of members of Mr. Mubarak’s former ruling party to run for office. Such a law could play havoc with political parties, lists and coalitions in districts around the country, but the council said nothing further about its intentions.

Gen. Said Abbas, a member of the council, visited Tahrir Square on Monday for a brief news conference, saying the council respected the protesters’ right to peaceful demonstrations. He declared that the security forces had not initiated any violence but had only defended themselves, and he insisted — despite a sweep of the square Sunday evening by hundreds of soldiers and police officers in riot gear — that the security forces had not entered the square.

Asked about the reports of protesters injured by gunfire from security forces, he said the victims were “thugs,” not peaceful demonstrators. “There is an invisible hand in the square causing a rift between the army and the people,” he said.

As clashes continued along the avenue to the interior ministry, protesters spread word that security forces appeared to be using more live ammunition in addition to the usual tear gas, rubber bullets and bird shot. At a hospital near the square, three doctors said they had seen as many as ten patients with wounds from live bullet sustained at the protests, all of whom died.

All three doctors, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said administrators had told them to deny any evidence of bullet wounds.

Some marveled that the Egyptian public had once lionized the same generals commanding thee attacks for refusing to shoot unarmed civilians during the revolts that brought down Mr. Mubarak. “Thanking the army for not shooting us is like thanking your wife for not cheating on you,” said Mohamed Hamed, a 23 year old medical student.

Others worried about who might succeed the military council and its leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, even as they chanted for his ouster.

“People don’t want military rule, and they won’t leave here until the field marshal goes too,” said Omar Tareq, 18, a university student from the province of Qalyoubeya. “But I don’t really know what happens if he does. Who will take hold of the country?”

*Liam Stack, Mayy el Sheikh and Dina Amer contributed reporting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Photos: Nov. 20 protests & clashes around Tahrir

Youth activists rain rocks upon Central Security Forces on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

Riot police relentlessly fired rubber pellets, and teargas canisters. The teargas created huge white smoke-clouds which lingered throughout Tahrir and its environs.

Hundreds of protesters and activists fainted, or fell ill, as a result of exposure to the teargas. Nearly all the teargas canisters fired at protesters were made in the USA - gifts to the Egyptian State from the 'peace-loving' Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Makeshift barricades.

Youth activists called for a truce with the riot police. However, the police - as usual - did not hold true to their word. The Central Security Forces resumed firing upon the youth. Naturally, these youths responded by fighting back so as to protect themselves and to hold their ground.

Well prepared photojournalist, Khaled el-Fiqqi, takes his photos near the billowing teargas.

Youth protester hurls a lit Molotov cocktail at the Central Security Forces.

Protesters hurl rocks from behind a burning car - used as a barricade - while a CSF soldier hurls bricks and bottles from a governmental building.

Young activist prays the evening prayer on an Egyptian flag, while his fellow activists rest upon the barricades.

Youth activists celebrated their success in driving back the riot police, military police, and reclaiming Tahrir Square - along with the streets leading to it.