Thursday, June 30, 2011

Violence in Tahrir Square in late June

Photo Credits, Al Masry Al Youm Newspaper, English Edition, June 29, 2011

Dear readers

I have been very busy with work. I just finished teaching an accelerated class on leadership. However, I got some worrisome emails from the office of the Vice President for Planning at AUC yesterday.

Dear AUC Community,

Please note that because of recent security environment changes in Down Town, all bus pick-ups will start from Al Zahraa bus station instead of Mohamed Mahmoud stop.

Thank you.

Well, that was a bit worrisome, but I just went about my routine. Then yesterday, I got an even scarier message.

Due to the continuing violence on the streets surrounding the Tahrir Campus (including Falaki Building); students, faculty and staff are not to come to the Tahrir Campus until further advised.

We are monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis and will update the AUC community as new information becomes available.

Thank you.

At this point, I decided that it might be advisable to get my head out of my guzitza and to actually read the newspaper.

Al Masry Al Youm reports that protesters threw rocks and molotov cocktails, and that the CSF fired multiple rounds of tear gas. The causes of the clash were unclear.

From speaking to colleagues and staff at the university yesterday, people told me that the clashes began because some families had raised money for the martyrs of the revolution. When the families went to collect the money, other families showed up, and also demanded money. By the way, the money was not being given out by the government. The money had been raised by well-meaning citizens. So, the legitimate families were standing in line, waiting to collect their money, and other families, who were allegedly not legitimate, started a fight. There was some sense that the "other families" were thugs.

Okay, back to the news reports.

Fifteen people were arrested as the relatives protested at the Balloon Theater in the Agouza district, after which the group decided to march on the Interior Ministry, close to Tahrir Square, where a further 20 were arrested.

Again, based on conversations, there was a sense that the group were actually thugs. People who I spoke to said that of 50 people treated for wounds, only one was a civilian. The others were all police.

According to Abdel Rahman Hussein, writing in Al Masry, (June 29, 2011)

As these later arrests were made, protesters clashed with security forces, and the confrontation spread to Qasr al-Aini Street, a main Cairo thoroughfare, and Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which borders the American University in Cairo’s downtown campus.

At least 25 civilians have been injured in the clashes so far.

Some protesters said they feared this was a continuation of the fallen regime's tactics. "It's the same thing happening again, nothing has changed," said Mohamed Abdel Raouf, a protester. Central Security Forces used tear gas extensively, as well as beatings and water cannons, during the early days of the 25 January revolution.

At least 44 people have been arrested in conjunction with the violence. Dalia Othman writes, that the cases have been referred to the military prosecutor. By the end of the day, writes Heba Hasham on the 29th, at least 655 people had been treated for injuries.

The impact on the economy has been negative. According to the AP wire

The Egyptian stock exchange's benchmark index has tumbled over two percent amid fresh clashes between security forces and protesters in central Cairo.

The benchmark EGX30 index closed at 5,283 points, shedding 2.03 percent from its previous day's settlement, as overnight fighting between security forces and hundreds of protesters in the capital's iconic Tahrir Square stretched into Wednesday.

The protesters were demanding the acceleration of the prosecution of police officers accused of brutality in during the uprising in five months earlier that ended with former President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

The violence underscored the continued tension in the country as it struggles to rebuild its economy and push forward on democratic reforms.

As usual in Cairo, it is very difficult to figure out what is going on. As of this morning, reports are that 1036 persons have been injured.  My colleague in the law department tells me that the Egyptian people are becoming very disenchanted with the military. They are wondering if it is not time to have a revolution against the military.

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