On the third anniversary of the beginning of the 2011 revolution in Egypt, thousands of people turned out in Tahrir Square, Cairo, and other locations, but marked was the sharp divide between political demonstrations permitted by the government and political demonstrations suppressed with force. Also Saturday, politically motivated attacks carried out by groups dissident to the government left four people dead. Two died in Minya. One person died in Cairo and one in Giza. Another person was injured after a bomb was thrown towards a police training academy in a Cairo suburb.
Government supporters gathered in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution that opposed and finally ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Some participants carried banners and flags or donned shirts or masks in support of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Sisi, who led the July coup that removed Mubarak and who is being urged to run for president in the promised upcoming elections in Egypt. Since Mubarak’s ousting Islamist militants in Egypt have stepped up attacks on security forces. The call for Sisi to become President has reminded some observers of the military strongmen who led Egyptian politics before the 2011 revolution. The idolization of Sisi by his supporters has demonstrated the expectations that are being placed on Sisi as the savior of Egypt and the man who will help Egypt realize its revolutionary dreams and turn Egypt from a third-world to a first-world country, dispel the Muslim Brotherhood, and hold police accountable for crimes, among other hopes of Egyptians who commented at Saturday’s turnout.
The small turnout of military supporters at Tahrir Square Saturday also was remarked on for its contrast with the massive popular support of the revolutionary movement. These pro-government demonstrators were left in peace by police, but anti-government assemblies in Cairo and other locations were broken up. The government had announced that extra security would be on hand for the day of the anniversary, and these forces used tear gas in several locations and also used birdshot and live rounds in some locations.
Arrests of anti-government protesters were made in Cairo and Alexandria. Those arrested included secular dissidents as well as Islamist Morsi-supporters. Recently, the interrim government has targetted secular intellectuals, artists, news and media professionals and activists who played a role in the 2011 uprising.
Since the interim government took office in July, 1,400 people have died as a result of political violence, according to Amnesty International Thursday. Most of those killed were supporters of Morsi.
The death toll Saturday was significantly lower than that of Friday, January 24. On Friday four bombs in Cairo killed six people and clashes between protesters and police left a dozen more dead. The most serious of the bombings took place at Cairo’s police headquarters. Four died in the blast and 76 were wounded. A group of people assembled outside the police headquartres and some shouted, “Death to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Video of the most serious bomb blast on Friday, January 24. A car bomb explodes outside a police headquarters.
The Muslim Brotherhood condemned Friday’s attacks and denied responsibility for the bombing. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based insurgency group who have claimed responsibility for several of the past months attacks in Egypt, claimed responsibility for this the Friday blast as well. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, in announcing responsibility for the bombings on jihadi websites, addressed its “dear nation,” warning Egyptians to stay away from police and security headquarters because the group tries to “avoid inflicting harm to the Muslims,” and warned that the recent attacks were only “the first drops of rain.”
Saturday was also the proposed start date for an 18-day protest called for by the Anti-alliance group. The 18 days are a reference to the 18 days of protest that preceeded Mubarak’s stepping down in 2011. The Anti-alliance is led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Saturday in Egypt marks the third anniversary of the January 25, 2011 “Day of Revolt,” when tens of thousands of protesters assembled in Cairo to publicly oppose President Hosni Mubarak’s presidency. Thousands of Egyptians assembled in numerous other cities to protest as well. On the 2012 anniversary, tens of thousands of Egyptians assembled in Tahrir Square in celebration. On the second anniversary–2013–thousands of demonstrators assembled in Tahrir square and other locations across Egypt, in large part to demonstrate against the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood. Over 250 people were injured in battles around government offices and several protesters and police died during demonstrations at Suez.
In June 2012 Egypt’s first free elections were held and the winner was Mohammad Morsi, who was sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi held the office of President until he was ousted by the military in July, after which the military has characterized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. The new government and its supporters have also claimed that Ansar al-Maqdis and the Muslim Brotherhood are the same thing. The small turnout this January 25 and the political demographic of demonstrators permitted to use Tahrir Square are emblematic of the developments that have taken place in Egypt as a result of the 2011 revolution and the coming to power and forceful ousting of President Morsi.
By Day Blakely Donaldson