Bloody hell at Tahrir Square in Cairo + other news

Bloody hell broke out at Tahrir Square this weekend.

There have been so many deaths and injuries — including a shocking number of protesters injured by rubber bullets in eyes, many of whom have reportedly lost their eyes as a result — that the figures are unreliable, and the tallies by various volunteers and news organizations keep mounting. One observer Tweeted that the soldiers/police were blinded themselves by the fast quantities of strong tear gas that was shot around, and as a result they fired wildly [hitting so many protesters exactly in the eyes???]. A group of three Egyptian men — one photojournalist [Ahmed Fatah, in the middle/background], + 2 well-known activists [Malek Mostafa and on the left, Ahmad Hararah] — with almost identical injuries are shown in this photo here.

At a certain point, the Muslim Brotherhood turned out. Then left. A few politicians showed up, then left.

A new terminology had to be learned: who are the ULTRAs? [It seems they are the almost-mythical “football fans” who have been on both sides of this revolution, but who now appear to be against the present military rule and therefore now on the side of the Tahrir activists…]

The situation is still evolving, three days later.

UPDATE: Al-Jazeera Arabic reported Monday night that the entire Egyptian Cabinet tendered its resignation — but the Supreme Military Council has not yet accepted the resignation.

Mark Lynch [@Abuaardvark] wrote today on FP that “Genuinely shocking brutality by Egyptian security forces has left at least 22 dead and many hundreds wounded. The chaos, still ongoing a week before the scheduled beginning of Parliamentary elections [n.b.- the first round is still scheduled to begin on 28 November, but Presidential elections have not yet been fixed], has thrown Egypt’s already extremely shaky political transition into doubt … [And] it shows with painful clarity the costs of the incompetence of Egypt’s military leadership and the urgency of a rapid transition to civilian rule. The violence began at a moment when there were rare reasons for guarded optimism. On Friday, Islamist forces including the Muslim Brotherhood had organized a massive, well-disciplined demonstration against the document on constitutional principles released in the late days of the Parliamentary election campaign and seemed designed to maintain the military’s hold on effective state power long into the future. The Islamists and a range of other political forces had focused their protest on clear, political demands to speed the transition to civilian rule. All three elements which have generally pushed the SCAF [n.b. – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] to make necessary political concessions seemed to have fallen into place: masses in the streets, an elite political consensus, and American pressure. But then things went wrong astonishingly quickly. The Islamists and most other participants in the demonstration left Tahrir at the end of the rally. A few hundred people, mostly (it seems) families of the martyrs of the January 25 revolution and veterans of past Tahrir occupations, decided to launch a new sit-in. This does not seem to have been coordinated with the political strategy of the day’s demonstration. The move risked going down the same path as the July 8 demonstration, an originally successful rally which squandered its gains with a wildly unpopular occupation of Tahrir. But then Egyptian security forces, acting on authority which remains murky, moved in with extreme force to drive out the small group attempting to occupy Tahrir. Their over the top violence, including massive tear gas and highly abusive police behavior, seems to have then attracted the attention of the core of Egyptian activists who came running to join the fight. Instead of rapidly clearing the square, the security forces found themselves locked in an epic running battle with thousands of protestors. The momentum shifted repeatedly, with protestors holding the square and then being driven out and then returning. The security forces used massive amounts of tear gas, brute force, and weapons. That battle rages on”. This commentary or analysis can be read in full here.

Amnesty International is due to release a report — still under embargo for another six or seven hours — entitled “Broken Promises: Egypt’s Military Rulers Erode Human Rights“, which, according to the website of Amnesty USA here, is being “Released ahead of the start of elections on 28 November … [and which] analyses how official rhetoric has obscured the increasing suppression of people who dare to defy, question or criticize Egypt’s military rulers”.

Meanwhile, the statement on the Amnesty USA website says about the hell of the past few days: “Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) must urgently bring an end to the excessive use of force that has led to numerous deaths and injuries amid protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square since Saturday, Amnesty International said today. Some two dozen people have reportedly been killed in violent clashes that erupted in Cairo and Alexandria since Saturday. Hundreds have also been injured in the clashes as security forces appeared to fire buckshot and rubber bullets into crowds … Protesters gathered in Tahrir Square over the weekend after riot police used force to disperse a sit-in organized by a group of people injured in the January uprising. The protesters had camped in the square last week to call for the SCAF to hand over power to civilian rule and to provide them with adequate reparations for their injuries. In their attempt to regain control of Tahrir Square and surrounding streets, security forces beat protesters with sticks and used tear gas recklessly to disperse the crowds. Some protesters retaliated by hurling stones and, in some instances, Molotov cocktails. Some 120 people were arrested and referred to the public prosecution for investigation. Bodies in the Cairo morgue reportedly showed head and chest wounds from live ammunition, including shotgun wounds. The public prosecution has ordered a forensic examination of the bodies”.

The Amnesty USA website reports that Philip Luther, Acting Middle East and North Africa Director of Amnesty International, said “the violence yet again calls into question the orders given to security forces … We hold the SCAF responsible for the lives and the safety of demonstrators and voters in next week’s elections”.

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