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Violence Returns to Tahir Square as Video of Police Brutally Beating a Female Protester Emerges

Posted on the 19 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Violence returns to Tahir Square as video of police brutally beating a female protester emerges

Protests in Cairo on December 16. Photo credit: Mosa'ab Elshamy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mosaaberising/6522894535/in/photostream/

At least 14 people are dead and hundreds left wounded after a fourth day of clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces on the streets of Cairo, overshadowing the first Parliamentary elections since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, media reported on Monday.

Protesters are again filling Tahir Square, center of the uprising that overthrew Mubarak, this time to demand that the ruling military council step down and hand over power to a civilian government. Violence began on Friday, when military security forces allegedly kidnapped a member of the Ahli Football Club from a peaceful sit-in at the Cabinet Office, returning him badly beaten and burned. The heavy-handed crackdown – documented in shocking video depicting, among others, police in riot gear stomping on the exposed stomach of a woman wearing a blue bra – has been widely condemned in international circles, but the military claim the protests are part of a “conspiracy” against Egypt and claim that it has uncovered a plot to burn down Parliament.

Whom to blame? As clashes on the streets between protesters and security forces grow increasingly violent, a battle between state-run and independent media over whom to blame is heating up, The New York Times reported. State-run media is depicting the protesters as “hooligans” and claimed that forensic evidence indicating that those civilians who died were killed by gunshots at close range suggests that they had been killed by “infiltrators” among their own ranks, not security forces. State television also interviewed people, claiming to be protesters, who said they’d been paid by “liberal groups” to attack the military. But independent media reports “appeared to covering a different country,” said the paper: One newscaster shaved his mustache, a traditional symbol of masculinity, in “shame” over the soldiers’ beating of a female protester, and other reports branded the military “liars”. “What is at stake in the propaganda war is public support ahead of the looming contest between an elected Parliament and the ruling military council over who will control the transitional government and oversee the drafting of a new constitution.”

“The message is: everything you rose up against is here, is worse. Don’t put your hopes in the revolution or parliament. We are the regime and we’re back,” wrote Ahdaf Soueif, in response to the widely distributed image of the female protester being beaten, at The Guardian.

SCAF in trouble. Marc Lynch, writing for Foreign Policy from Cairo, noted on Friday that Qasr el-Aini street “looked post-apocalyptic, with rubble strewn everywhere and an incredibly tense, unpleasant vibe” and it’s only gotten worse. “The violence should puncture any illusions that the [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’] problems had evaporated with the high turnout and relatively smooth process of the Parliamentary elections now in their third week. Elections are necessary, but they are not sufficient,” he wrote. “[The violence] shows clearly that Egypt will remain unstable as long as the Egyptian military leadership fails to address core political grievances or impose any meaningful accountability for violence by its security forces.”

Blame the liberals. An editorial from Mohssen Arishie in The Egyptian Gazette on Sunday echoed the military and state-run media’s claims that the protesters are no more than “lawbreakers, looters and saboteurs”, adding that the average Egyptian condemns them and their actions. Arishie blamed “the embarrassed losers”, the “Liberals, embryonic movements like April 6 and fossilised political parties” who, facing “scandalous defeat” against the Muslim Brotherhood in the ongoing elections, “instructed their young supporters in Tahrir Square and outside the Cabinet to react violently”.

SCAF following Mubarak. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, however, warned that the SCAF is following in Mubarak’s bloody footsteps, especially in the military council’s crackdown on journalists and others attempting to document the crackdown on protesters. Security forces are reportedly assaulting journalists and destroying the cameras and equipment of independent media broadcasters, in “a semi-organized campaign targeting journalists and media practitioners, in reminiscence [sic] of the violent campaign launched by police services during the first wave of the uprising”.

Eye-patches as symbol. More than 80 people have lost eyes at the hands of Egyptian security forces since the start of the protests in January and now, the eye-patch has become a symbol of respect for and solidarity with protesters, said Julie Tomlin on The Guardian’s Shortcuts blog. With the eye-patch and the police brutality it is a reminder of comes a renewed sense of revolution: “If anything, the attacks have only strengthened the determination of the protesters, who believe elections could lend legitimacy to Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf).”

More on Egypt, protest

  • TIME’s person of the year: The Protester
  • Violence erupts in Cairo
  • Islamists set for win in Egypt’s elections

More protest »


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