Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Egyptians Mark Anniversary of Uprising Against Mubarak With Demonstrations Against Current Military Regime

Egyptians threw off one totalitarian regime, and found that the military installed itself as the new power brokers. That's the basic change in the year that passed since protesters took to the streets demanding that Hosni Mubarak step down and cede power to the people.
The crowd in the square on Wednesday morning was overwhelmingly male, with very few women in sight.

Youth groups and other activists — including many of the leaders of the original uprising — were determined to make the day a huge demonstration calling for an immediate end to military rule, urging Egyptians to gather at mosques, churches and other strategic locations around the city for marches to the square that would arrive by midafternoon.

The plan resembled the convergence of marches that set off the Tahrir Square protests last January, but this time each was named for a “martyr” killed over the last year by the security forces of the military-led government trying to suppress challenges to its power. More than 80 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since October.

The military rulers have endorsed the calls for an anniversary celebration and have made the day a national holiday. Some activists accuse them of trying to co-opt the occasion.

There was no visible presence of soldiers or the police. But most Egyptians seemed to expect that Brotherhood members, known for their discipline and organization, would keep the peace.

After a year of protests and crackdowns, many note a pattern: the conflicts with security forces never begin on the days when crowds fill the streets but only days later when the authorities move in to clear out the stragglers.

One year after the tumultuous events that marked a watershed in the so-called Arab Spring, Egypt is still under martial law, with the ruling military council acting as the highest authority.

Mr. Mubarak’s ouster came on Feb. 11, after an 18-day-old revolt led largely by young people prevailed over an authoritarian crackdown. On that day, shouts of “God is great” erupted from Tahrir Square at twilight as Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced that Mr. Mubarak had passed all authority to a council of military leaders.

On the eve of Wednesday’s celebrations, the army officer acting as Egypt’s de facto head of state said Tuesday that the military government would limit its use of extrajudicial arrests and detentions to cases of what he called “thuggery.”

The officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, made the pledge to curb use of Egypt’s so-called “emergency law” in an apparent effort to mollify those who are discontent with the heavy-handed police tactics of the military-led government.

Considering that thuggery is very broadly defined and the military hasn't ceded power, abuse of their power is widespread and causing significant problems and upheaval at a time when Egyptians' energies should be focused on building a new political system and expanding economic opportunities.

Even among the political parties that are trying to build consensus, there's little hope for expanding and protecting basic human rights and civil rights, including free speech. In one instance, a pro-Israel Egyptian blogger, Maikel Nabil, was finally released from security custody after 10 months of incarceration after calling out the Egyptian military for its ongoing actions (the charges were “insulting the military” and “spreading false information.”, and sentenced to 3 years in prison).

Meanwhile, Israel is strengthening its fencing and security presence along the border with Sinai because of a breakdown in security in Egypt. That includes repeated bombing of a pipeline between Egypt and Israel and a terrorist attack near Eilat.

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