Down with Mubarak, Long Live Mubarakism?
|Thursday, September 29,2011 19:55|
|By TY MCCORMICK|
CAIRO – "Yasqot, yasqot hokem el a'skar!" shout protesters marching down Talat Harb Street in central Cairo. "Down, down with military rule." It is a stifling September evening and the demonstrators, most in their early 20s, look tired. Their ranks are thinned and their voices strained; it has been a long, hot, and disappointing summer for Egypt's activist community. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military junta in power since President Hosni Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11, has struggled to meet the demands of Egypt's emboldened populace and has reverted, instead, to the familiar tactics of repression.
"I never thought that seven months after Mubarak's [departure], I'd be chasing after my friends in prisons, military detention facilities, and, in some cases, military trials," said Noor Ayman Nour, a political activist and the son of presidential candidate Ayman Nour. "I've been attending demonstrations since I was 14 years old, and the most violence I have endured and witnessed has been since Mubarak stepped down."
Speaking out against the military, which came to power in a 1952 coup that unseated Egypt's last monarch, has long been a dangerous game. But many activists say it has gotten riskier since the 18-day uprising that unseated Mubarak and left the SCAF at the helm. "I understand that there is a risk," said Ahmed A., a protester who asked that his full name not be used. "Many people have been arrested, but I cannot let [Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi and the Army kill the revolution."
Tantawi, who is chairman of the SCAF and Egypt's de facto ruler, was Mubarak's longtime defense minister. As head of the SCAF, he has dissolved the parliament, overseen a nationwide referendum that amended Egypt's 40-year-old constitution, and acquiesced, if somewhat begrudgingly, to trying Mubarak and some of his top officials. The field marshal's rule is absolute, however, and few mechanisms exist for holding him accountable. In such an environment, Tantawi has found it expedient to crush protests and stifle dissent, giving rise to fears that he and other members of the SCAF may not return willingly to the barracks.
The SCAF's insistence that harsh tactics are necessary to "ensure life goes back to normal," as Tantawi's colleague, Maj. Gen. Adel Emarah, put it in April, has left many activists as angry as they are unconvinced. As Nour explains, "Because they say they protected the revolution, [the SCAF] claims that everything they do is legitimate." This includes silencing critics and continuing to beat and detain activists. "For me, the revolution began after Mubarak left. The first 18 days were the uprising; now is the revolution."
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