Many are calling it the unfinished revolution. They would not be entirely wrong. In any case, the defiant spirit of Tahrir, now legendary throughout the world, has returned. This Sunday, tens of thousands of supporters returned to the birthplace of the revolution, Tahrir Square to demand that the transitional Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) immediately hand over power to a civilian government to oversee legislative and presidential elections.
Pro-Democracy protesters accused the military council of being nothing more than the extension of the Mubarak regime as legislation was put forward to exempt the army from any accountability or oversight by the country's courts and government. Nine days from a pivotal election in Egypt's history, Egyptians feared the high-jacking of the 25 January Revolution and turned out in the thousands to the revolution's heart to make their voices heard.
It is essentially an accumulated burst of anger. The proposed constitutional package was the final straw in a series of questionable practices. Since Mubarak's downfall, SCAF has been perceived by Egyptians as doing all in its power to maintain its privileges from the previous regime. It has done so by targeting, threatening and even detaining key members of civil society (popular bloggers and political figures for example).
It has done so furthermore by pulling strings amongst political parties behind the scenes to abort any major shift in the country's power landscape. Egypt's military leadership wants to retain substantial control over coming civilian governments. Essentially telling Egypt: "revolution, fine; but on our terms."
As pro-democracy activists regained control over Tahrir Square, establishing similar organisational patterns to those of the revolution (tents, makeshift hospitals and checkpoints etc), riot police and army personnel stepped in to forcefully remove protesters away from the square and its surroundings. Security forces fired tear gas and opened fire on protesters causing over 20 deaths and over 1000 injured. News continued to flood in from Cairo and I, like so many throughout the world, was glued to my television and Twitter. The footage, with images and videos of the police beating defenseless citizens, echoed the painful images from January's uprising. The situation obviously escalated into all out street battles which lasted well into Monday morning.
The essential question now is: Will this intense flare up postpone or endanger coming elections? Certainly. In the current climate it is very difficult to see how Egypt can return to politics as usual.
One could obviously speak volumes about the complexities of the situation on the ground and how things might play out in the coming days and weeks yet simple conclusions already emerge from the chaotic scenes in Cairo.
The first of these is that despite SCAF's proximity to Mubarak in his last weeks in power, they took away very little lessons as to how one deals with situations like these. Violence only breeds more resentment, breaks the barrier of fear and rallies more people to the cause.
The second conclusion is that the inspirational message sent by Tahrir's protesters to the world was their unwillingness to compromise with their freedoms. Rightly so! They sacrificed a great deal to achieve their revolution and should not wait for anyone or anything to see it through. To the military junta unwilling to relinquish power they say: "your time has passed, our time is now, we have nothing to lose."
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