A number of Muslim Brotherhood youth have joined the ongoing sit-in at Tahrir Square in Cairo that aims to put an end to military rule, though the official position of the Islamic group is that it is not participating in the demonstrations.
The Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), announced their refusal to take part in the demonstrations, which have seen bloody confrontations, while condemning the brutality of security forces in their attempts to disperse the crowds.
Several thousand protesters have needed medical attention across the nation, injured by rubber bullets or the devastating effects of powerful tear gas. Some lost their sight, completely or partially, after being hit by shotgun pellets. According to Health Ministry figures, over 30 have been killed in Cairo alone. The Muslim Brotherhood’s stance amid the clashes has been deemed disgraceful by zealous revolutionaries.
In Tahrir Square and other hot spots in several governorates, demonstrators chanted slogans against the Brotherhood and what was branded as their “betrayal” of the January 25 Revolution — the same accusation the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been facing.
FJP leading figure Mohamed El-Beltagi was even ejected from Tahrir Square when he went to express support for the protesters. He was accused of trying to promote himself and his party ahead of parliamentary elections by pretending to be backing Tahrir dissidents.
The Brotherhood youth, on the other hand, have a different status among protesters as many of them went to the forefront of clashes on their own accord, alongside other Egyptian youth. Many more have been working as volunteer doctors and paramedics in field hospitals in Tahrir Square and surrounding streets.
Like other demonstrators from disparate political currents, the Brotherhood youth refuse to identify themselves as members of the powerful Islamist group. “We are here as Egyptian doctors to help the injured and the wounded; we are not representing any group or political force,” reply some of the long-bearded young men when asked if they are members of the Brotherhood or the FJP.
Doctor Amr Zakaria in the Tahrir Square’s main field hospital told Ahram Online: “There are many of them, they don’t want to say they belong to the Brotherhood, but we know they do and they are doing a great job.” Their allegiance to the Brotherhood, nevertheless, becomes obvious when other demonstrators criticise the group for not endorsing the sit-in.
“We are here among you, what else can we do?” a host of Brotherhood youth said to some people chanting against the group in Tahrir yesterday, and in return the latter replied they deeply respect the youth of the group for their role, but not its leaders who have “abandoned the revolutionaries”.
The rift between the revolutionaries and the Brotherhood's leaders became clear once again after Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi addressed the nation in a controversial speech Tuesday evening. Most of the protesters were infuriated upon hearing Tantawi’s words, likening his speech to those toppled president Hosni Mubarak gave during the January uprising. However, the Brotherhood youth thought otherwise and called on protesters to leave.
“At the forefront of Mohamed Mahmoud Street," where the most vicious clashes took place over the past few days, "there is intensive tear gas and shotgun fire,” activist Ali El-Tayeb — @alyeltelees on Twitter — said on a micro-blogging site shortly after Tantawi’s controversial speech.
“This is not the problem, what’s more important is that the Muslim Brotherhood [members] are walking in the middle of the turmoil saying ‘What [else] do you want, the [military] council has already approved your demands’.”
Meanwhile, Brotherhood leading figure and FJP legal consultant Ahmed Abou Baraka said Tantawi’s speech shows that SCAF has responded to the demonstrators’ demands. He hit back at the Brotherhood’s critics, saying some protesters do not want the situation to be contained.
In contrast, many among the public in Tahrir believe the Brotherhood and the FJP is only focused on sweeping the parliamentary elections, until now due 28 November, and that they are keen not create hostility with SCAF in order to preserve their interests.
The recent bloody confrontations started Saturday when the police sought to forcibly disperse a peaceful sit-in at Tahrir by small group of people protesting continued military rule and demanding the implementation of longstanding revolutionary demands.