Monday, 4 June 2012

Tahrir Nights- Egypt's threatened revolution

Protesters waved flags, beat drums and called for greater change late into the night.

Protesters have spent another night in Cairo’s Tahrir square in noisy protest at an Egyptian court ruling which sentenced former President Hosni Mubarak and his interior minister to life imprisonment but acquitted six former police chiefs of involvement in the deaths of hundreds of protesters last year.

I travelled the square last night speaking to protesters and asking them what they thought of the decisions. More than one thought that Mubarak should have been put to death. But few blamed the judge. They said that he did the best he could in the situation with a legal code produced by the old regime. Even those who wanted Mubarak to be killed ‘in their hearts’ said they wanted another trial first.

A few tents had been set up in Tahrir square amid a bustling protest centre.

All of this anger comes at a crucial moment for Egypt, which is between the first and second rounds of its first presidential election since Mubarak left. However the two candidates in the run-off vote are also causing consternation. As one young female protester told me, “I don’t support the Musilm Brotherhood, but I’d rather vote for them than for Shafiq who is just part of the old regime.”

Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister and a former general, is one of the two candidates. He says that he wouldn’t reinstate the old regime and that to vote for his opponent, Musilm Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi, would drag Eqypt ‘back to the dark ages’.

Mr Mursi himself toured the protest camp after the verdict. Many see the court’s decision as proof that the military regime of Mubarak is still in control and Mursi called for the ‘revolution to continue’ until that situation ended. He also said that if elected he would try to get Mubarak tried again and executed. 

The opposition are worried that underneath the court's decision and the presidential election there has been no real change. 

Another protester described the renewed protests both in the capital and around Egypt like a train. "We must stop the train being smashed or derailed at this tense moment," he said. "But equally we have to stay here and not let it run out of steam. We have to remain here until the revolution has won.”

‘Until the revolution has succeeded.’ I heard this phrase many times from demonstrators. But what does that mean now? There is no third candidate left, one who represents the wishes of reformers without the conservatism of the Muslim Brotherhood. They don’t like the court’s decision. They don’t like the perceived control of the military regime. They don’t like the elections. They seemed to be protesting for a reorganisation. Another go at a new Egypt. Underneath it all seems to be a deep seated worry that this train, not just the protests, but Egypt as a whole, might be on the wrong track altogether.

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