'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Egypt Erupts (Part 13) 

UPDATE 1: The Arabist has another account of the attack. Interestingly, the person who provided it also says that a sit-in at the Israeli embassy was attacked brutally. David Dietz has also provided a description of the attack that confirms that it appears to have been prompted by the participation of Egyptian military officers in the protest:

The desperation turned to delight when 15 army officers joined one of the many stages set up around the square to protest against their own organization.

A few hours later delight turned to sheer panic. Not long after the 15 rogue army officers took the podium, the military moved in to arrest the defectors.

Worried for their safety the crowd sprang to action. Linked arm-to-arm the protesters formed a human wall to defend their compatriots. Human might however was no match for the guns and tasers of the army.

Shortly after nightfall the military encircled Tahrir Square systematically dispersing the crowd. According to several protesters who acted more like bodyguards, they where able to save six of the soldiers. The others were not as lucky. They were captured and taken away, their fate unknown.

His account is worth reading in its entirely for the graphic presentation of the violence of the assault.

INITIAL POST: Egyptian troops attack hundreds of protesters in Tahrir Square:

The military appears to have responded to a large protest where people criticized military control of the country:

Demonstrators burned cars and barricaded themselves with barbed wire inside a central Cairo square demanding the resignation of the military's head after troops violently dispersed an overnight protest killing one and injuring 71.

Hundreds of soldiers beat protesters with clubs and fired into the air in the pre-dawn raid on Cairo's central Tahrir Square in a sign of the rising tensions between Egypt's ruling military and protesters.

Armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons, the protesters vowed not to leave until the defense minister, the titular head of state, has resigned.

The soldiers swept into the square around 3 a.m. and waded into a tent camp in the center where protesters had formed a human cordon to protect several army officers who had joined their demonstration in defiance of their superiors.

An article just posted by the Guardian provides a provocative first person account:

Tamer el-Said, an Egyptian film-maker who was in the square, described what happened.

There was a huge demonstration that started at about 11 o'clock [on Friday]. There were some military officers who joined it who were dissatisfied with what the supreme military council was doing. There were between 15 and 20 of them. Obviously it was really dangerous for them so the other protesters decided that they would protect them from being arrested by the military police.

At about 11 o'clock last night the security forces, who had surrounded the square, tried to enter it to try and catch these soldiers but the protesters would not allow them to come in. There were army and police and special forces. At 3 o'clock they attacked the square. They were firing bullets in the air: at first rubber bullets and then live rounds. They pushed all the demonstrators out of the square. Then they started to chase the protesters into the surrounding streets and the downtown area using tear gas and bullets. I have a friend who was there who said there was continuous shooting.

The huge turnout in the square has followed growing fears in some sections of Egyptian society that the army has hijacked the revolution.

According to eyewitnesses, the raid was led by a mixture of army, police and internal security forces in 20-30 military trucks. They said the firing continued in the square until about 5.30am.

A splinter group of protesters broke away and marched to the Israeli embassy, demanding the closure of the embassy in support of the Palestinians:

Feeling against Zionism appear to be getting more and more intense, as one of the presidential candidates, El Baradei, expressed the intention to explore ways of militarily supporting the people of Gaza earlier in the week. According to As'ad Abukhalil:

The lousy military council is digging its own grave. It is in a terrible bind: they can only control the people by resorting to Mubarak's style repression, but they know they cant: they minute they emulate Mubarak rule, they will go down. Tantawi is already a chant in Tahrir square. The worst for Arab regimes, and Israel, is yet to come. Keep watching.

The US, Saudi and Israeli response will, of course, be escalation. Personally, I believe that we are entering a very dangerous period. The US and the Saudis now appear willing to export the violence and suppression on display in Libya and Bahrain to Egypt, with the military council as its instrument. Of course, suppression, on the Bahrain model, is the preferred option, but, if necessary, the transformation of Egypt into a failed state, with perpetual violence and unrest, if not civil war, as in Libya, is acceptable. They will rely upon their historic method of manipulating sectarian conflict, as they have done in Lebanon and Iraq, and, now, Bahrain. The ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Bahrain has already begun. The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia rightly perceive the revolutionary movement throughout North Africa and the Middle East as a mortal peril to their continued hegemony.

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