August 1st was a sad first day of Ramadan in Egypt. The Egyptian army came in and destroyed the tents and forcibly removed those – including the families of the martyrs – who have been sitting in Tahrir Square which, quite literally, has become holy ground to many. Yet, much more is at stake than meets the eye and a few broken down tents.
Learning from what activists refer to as ‘the mistake of leaving’ the square following the ousting of Mubarak in February, those who were camped in Tahrir for the past three weeks, were committed to stay put until their basic demands were met. The two most important demands activists were literally holding their ground for the past three weeks are, bringing those responsible for killing the 850 martyrs during the revolution to trial; and the release of 12,000civilians and non-violent protesters, being held and tried in military courts, for the past 6 months (there were only half that number held under Mubarak!).
Though not all Egyptians agree with the sit in, most ALL Egyptians would agree with these demands. The major problem is that not all agree on the best way to move forward, until they are met. Signaling a large and clear indication of these differences, the night before Ramadan all of the 24 political parties officially withdrew from the sit-in and left the square, leaving behind all the independent activists, including the families of the martyrs-making them more vulnerable than ever.
These incidents further illustrate how Tahrir specifically and Egypt in general, have become an ideological battle ground of which can be summarized between those seeking to hold on to the old guard, and those seeking a new uncharted path. It is not only the counter revolutionary forces that are working over time to desperately hold on to the old ways. There are still many who support the revolution yet still for some reason believe the Egyptian army funded, armed and openly working with the US will be a force for the people’s interest, and will protect the country from descending into chaos and crime.
Growing frustration over Cairo’s traffic gridlock – a nightmare by any standards (even without protesters blocking the streets) provided the army with more general cover to the public for taking such violent actions. However, not all were fooled or appeased by the short term benefits. I actually managed to capture a video of a driver in the heart of the Tahrir traffic mess, cursing out the army for what they were doing (I need to figure out how to edit and upload it)!
This ongoing rhetoric by officials and those who believe them, has left the people sitting in and holding on fiercely to their principles and demands to do so with very little support from the majority. The people have also made it clear that in order to have any faith in the military, they must give them reason to do so – by providing transparency and accountability. The army’s repeated show of force and regular use of thugs however, sends a loud and clear message to those seeking a new Egypt that they are still very much the one’s in charge.
Drawing strength and power from these divisions within the ranks of the revolutionaries, the following morning the army came in and surrounded the square , forcibly dispersing the protesters and destroyed all the tents….and with it everything they stood for leaving the entire area looking quite literally of a war zone, along with 82 detained and at least dozens beaten and injured.
Tomorrow is Mubarak’s trial, it will be one of the most watched since Saddam’s. The hopes of it being a free and fair trial are being seriously questioned: “None of the procedure is clear, and the permits are to be available (or not) last minute.”RT:@Ssirgan. Still no matter what happens, obstacles or differences stand in our way, my hope this Ramadan is that all those with the same interests will find a way to struggle onward together, in our journey towards the noble cause of justice and tahrir.