With the fear gone and no consensus rule, Cairo has become protest city

CAIRO − The groups behind the revolution in Egypt reached an agreement Monday night in negotiations with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces: The demonstration in Tahrir Square calling for the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq is to take place Friday and not yesterday, as planned.

Instead of the planned demonstration, a rally was to be held yesterday in front of the Libyan Embassy in Cairo in support of the uprising in Libya.

But making do with a laconic recitation of events misses the many details that make up the picture of Cairo in revolution.

As of yesterday morning, a heated discussion was taking place on Facebook over the postponement of yesterday’s demonstration.

So many groups started the revolution ‏(or have risen in its wake‏), that no consensus leadership has emerged. And so while it is acceptable to initiate a protest, it is far more problematic to cancel one. Friday has become a regular day for protests until all the demands of the demonstrators are met and protests in front of the Libyan Embassy have also become routine over the past week.

On Sunday, 300 people gathered there. A tank appeared some 60 to 90 minutes after the protest started, and a soldier told protesters they were disturbing the peace.

The protesters responded that they may be disturbing the peace, but people are being murdered in Libya, and did not stop.

A few days before, a protest was held at the adjacent embassies of Algeria and Bahrain. A few police dared show their faces.

(Since the failed attempt to repress protesters by force, the police have all but gone underground. In some places, military police are still directing traffic.‏)

A policeman tried to give the demonstrators a lesson on manners.

“It’s not nice that you call on [Algerian President] Abdelaziz Bouteflika to disappear.’ Isn’t it enough just to say ‘go’?”

The groups behind the revolution have a list of demands they bring up in every possible way: demonstrations, Facebook postings, placards, meetings. Among them: The release of people detained during the uprising and of political prisoners, the abolishing of emergency laws in effect for the past 30 years and the dismantling of the intelligence force of the Interior Ministry and the resignation of the government of Shafiq, who is a close friend of ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

The army and the government are gradually acceding. On Monday, for example, it was reported that the attorney general has asked the Foreign Ministry to request that a number of foreign countries freeze Mubarak’s assets. On Saturday, the army announced the release of 55 protesters and promised more would be released soon.

Shafiq is attempting to appease the demonstrators by offering to appoint popular individuals and those who were prominent during the revolution. But these people have so far turned down the offers, saying the street does not believe in the Shafiq-appointed cabinet.

On Monday afternoon, the shouts of protesters drowned out car horns on Kasr El-Eini Street. This time, some technicians were protesting near the cabinet building during the cabinet meeting, demanding work suited to their skills.

Just the day before they had been to see the minister of higher education, but the next day they realized he had been fired. Now, their representatives would be meeting with the new minister, they said.

What about the old minister” I asked one protester. He responded with a pantomime of the proverbial three wise monkeys: “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”

“Did you demonstrate before January 25?” referring to the day the protests started, I asked the mime. “Maybe a little. But we were afraid. Now there is no fear,” he answered.

One can feel how the fear has disappeared from the streets, the shops, the coffee houses, the taxis, the newspaper stands and the television programs.

The army has announced a number of times that strikes harm the national economy and has asked people to stop them. But every day there are reports of new strikes or workplace protests.

The army has made threats, but it seems they do not dare use force. That is an important message to pessimists, who say the army conducted a putsch and the revolution is over.

The process has not ended. The public, which ousted Mubarak, has proven it will not give in. For example, workers from seven power plants are protesting, but they have staged a sit-down strike so as not to stop essential work.

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