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Sunday, 19 January 2020

Live updates: Egypt's political forces take to Tahrir for 'Self-Determination Friday'

As Egypt's Islamist, liberal and leftist forces gather in Tahrir Square to demonstrate against former regime remnants and continued military rule, Ahram Online brings you a blow-by-blow account of Friday's million-man protest

Ahram Online, Friday 20 Apr 2012
Tahrir Square (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Views: 6615
Views: 6615

This is Ahram Online clocking out. Look for our evening wrap-up story later tonight.

19:00 Thousands of demonstrators remain in the square. Members of the Ultras football supporters can be seen chanting in unison.

As night sets in, protestors set off fireworks in Tahrir Square, marking the end of Friday's rally.

18:42 According to protesters, a march including roughly one thousand demonstrators – led by the April 6 Youth Movement – moves from Tahrir to Maspero.

18:30 Following mass Maghreb (sunset) prayers in Tahrir Square, the number of protesters decreases noticeably. Buses transporting Muslim Brotherhood members begin to depart.

Some protesters call for staging an open-ended sit-in the square, despite the lack of official endorsement of such a move by any major political parties or movements.

18:15 For a wrap-up of this morning's and afternoon's developments, check out: Tahrir sees large turnout for Self-Determination Friday protest

18:00 As Friday demos climax in Cairo's Tahrir Square, smaller protests break out - featuring similar demands - in Egypt's Sohag, Ismailiya governorates.

16:50 Liberal MP Amr Hamzawy takes to the "Mostameroon" stage and speaks out against calls for the postponement of Egypt's forthcoming presidential elections. He also states that the country's constitution should not be cooked up by certain political forces.

Hamzawy then stresses that Egyptians should not vote for any regime remnants or those who use the square at times and abandon it at other times.

The liberal MP also calls for the Brotherhood to pull out its candidate from the presidential race. Ahram Online's reporter on the ground tells us that protesters reacted with anger after hearing these words, outraged that he could stand in the middle of Islamists and spout out such 'rubbish'.

16:35 An Egyptian hiphop band plays revolutionary songs on the stage belonging to the "Mostameroon" movement as the Salafists' nearby stage loudly plays Quranic verses.

16:30 Protesters in Tahrir Square set fire to a large Israeli flag.


16:25 Liberal MP Amr Hamzawy has just entered Tahrir Square with supporters and party members of the Egypt Freedom Party, which he founded following the January 25 Revolution. The march set off from the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis.

16:15 Egyptian military and police personnel step up security at the state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU)’s headquarters in Cairo’s Maspero district due to large demonstrations held outside the building.

Holding banners and chanting, demonstrators affiliated with various Islamist movements stage protests outside the building against perceived liberal bias in Egyptian state and private media.

The demonstration takes place only a few kilometres away from Tahrir Square, where thousands of activists are taking part in a protest dubbed "Self-Determination Friday," in which hundreds of thousands of Islamist, liberal and leftist demonstrators have gathered to voice opposition to "remnants" of the former regime and ongoing military rule.

16:00 Before entering Tahrir Square, April 6 Youth Movement activists observe a moment of silence on Cairo's Qasr Al-Nil Bridge to commemorate protesters who recently lost their lives in the same place. They then perform Asr (midday) prayers after repeating their revolutionary oath, which states: "I swear to save the revolution no matter what, ensure that it maintains its peaceful character, and work to restore Egypt's pride and dignity."

The march arriving from the Nour Mosque in Abbassiya has also arrived in the square.  Marchers, who included Abu-Ismail supporters and members of the April 6 Youth Movement along with activists from several other political groups, numbered in the thousands.

15:45 Protesters marching from the Egyptian canal city of Suez since Wednesday are expected to arrive in Tahrir imminently, say demonstrators currently arrayed in the flashpoint square. According to activists, the marchers from Suez are currently about 40-50 kilometeres away.

15:30 Writer and feminist activist Nawal El-Saadawy leads protest march to Tahrir from downtown Cairo's nearby Talaat Harb Square. "Civil state, civil state," participants chant.

15:20 Egyptian singer/activist Ramy Essam sings ode to Ahly Ultras "martyrs" on the "Mostameroon" movement's Tahrir Square stage. Protesters assembled nearby sing Ultras anthems in unison.

15:15 A march of Islamic preachers coming from Al-Azhar University has just entered Tahrir Square. The Imams are chanting against Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who surprised many in a rare visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday for the inauguration of the Imam Ghazali chair of Islamic studies under the auspices of the Jordanian Al-Bayt Foundation.

Another march made up of members of the April 6 Youth Movement, coming from the district of Sayeda Zeinab, has also just entered the square.

14:50 An Islamist march coming from the Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed Mosque in the Cairo district of Imbaba is now heading to the state TV building (Maspero).

14:45   The march that set off earlier from the Istiqamma Mosque in Giza – spearheaded by the April 6 youth Movement – was joined by another coming from Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque. The two marches joined in Dokki Street before entering Tahrir Square via Qasr Al-Nil Bridge.

Istiqamma Mosque march, which included Revolutionary Socialist members and April 6 members, had earlier joined ranks with student protesters marching from Cairo University. Among those participating in the march were leftist presidential candidate and labour lawyer Khaled Ali and labour activist Kamal Khalil.


14:30 As Friday's rally reaches its peak, hundreds of thousands of protesters fill Cairo's Tahrir Square and adjacent streets. Several protest marches are underway from different starting points throughout the capital en route to the flashpoint square.

The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, continues to maintain a formidable presence. Egyptian cleric Safwat Hegazi takes to the Brotherhood's Tahrir Square stage, leading chants against Egypt's ruling military council: "Down, down with military rule!" the assembled crowds shout in unison. "In the square, we all came together."

Moments earlier, activist Ahmed Harara –who became a revolutionary icon after losing both eyes in clashes with security forces – arrives in the square wearing a t-shirt reading, "The People's demands must be answered." Crowds welcome him with more chants against military rule: "Down with the SCAF!" and "Revolution until victory!"

At one point, a female activist addresses the crowd from a podium: "Liberals like us should leave the square and reach out to the people."

14:18 Tens of thousands of protesters have joined Self-Determination Friday in Egypt's second city, Alexandria. Protesters have congregated in front of the Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in the downtown area.

Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, the 6 April Youth Movement, Revolutionary Socialists and the Kefaya movement are participating in the rally.

14:00 A wedding ceremony is conducted on the Muslim Brotherhood's podium in Tahrir Square. The young couple ties the knot amid protesters' cheers and zagharit (Arabic ululations).

13:50 Thousands of marchers set out from the Nour Mosque in Cairo's Abbasiya district towards Tahrir Square. Abu-Ismail supporters and members of the April 6 Youth Movement, along with activists from several other political groups, take part in the march.

Participants chant slogans against Egypt's ruling military council and Article 28 of last year's constitutional declaration.

13:35 Here's a recap of Friday's Tahrir sermon given by Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen, imam of the Omar Makram Mosque located adjacent to Cairo's Tahrir Square, in which he listed the demands of today's protest during his Friday sermon.

Called the "preacher of the revolution", Shaheen listed four basic demands, the first of which was the elimination of Article 28 of last year's constitutional declaration, which, he said, "contradicts established legal and judicial principles" and makes decisions issued by the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission impervious to appeal.  

Other demands cited by Shaheen were that no constitution be drafted under the authority of Egypt's ruling military council; that Egypt's next constitution be representative of all segments of Egyptian society; and that upcoming presidential elections take place on their assigned date – 23, 24 May – to allow the ruling military council to hand over executive power by 1 July.

Shaheen also stated that Egypt was an "Islamic country" and that Islamic Law should form the basis of legislation, stressing, however, that all Egyptians should live together as equal partners.

13:30 The 6 April Youth Movement have just begun a march from the Istiqamma Mosque in Giza and are heading to Tahrir Square. Among those participating in the march is labour activist Kamal Khalil, head of the Democratic Workers Party. A student march from Cairo University is expected to join them shortly.

 The protesters held posters saying, "Egypt needs a president, not Satan," and "Down, down with military rule."

13:16 Supporters of Abu-Ismail are chanting "Egypt will be an Islamic state, despite what the Zionists want."

13:00 The square heats up following prayers, as chants against the military junta ring: "Don't be afraid and say it, the SCAF must leave" and "Tantawi tell [Sami] Anan, the revolution is still in the square." Protesters also recall Egypt's ousted leader: "Mubarak is still ruling; Down with Mubarak." 

Our reporter on the ground tell us that Islamic slogans are competing with revolutionary ones, as supporters the Hazem Abu-Ismail stage and other segments of Tahrir's Islamist contingent call for an Islamic revolution.

More people are heading to the protest ground after Friday prayers, as protesters begin gathering all over Cairo in anticipation of today's marches on Tahrir Square. Marches are set to kick-off from Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque, Giza Square, Cairo University and Shubra.

12:50 Following Friday prayers, demonstrators perform additional prayers for the 'martyrs' of the revolution. As prayers draw to a close, protesters chant in unison "Down, down with military rule."

12:40 Protesters in Tahrir Square perform Friday prayers, led by prominent revolutionary preacher Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen.

12:20 Preacher Mazhar Shaheen begins his Friday sermon in front of tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square. Shaheen is known as the "preacher of the revolution" because he has delivered most of the sermons during the Friday millioneya (million man) protests since the revolution began in 2011.

12:15 Zeina Agha, member of Mostameroon – one of the key political groupings behind Friday's "Self-Determination" protest – tells Ahram Online of her "high hopes" for the demonstration's success.

"We're very optimistic that today's protest will be successful," Agha said. "We're coming to the square today to show Egypt's ruling military council that we're still here; we're still in the streets; and that the revolution continues. Our grievances have yet to be addressed, so our coalition has come together today to show that we will keep fighting until our demands are met."

According to Agha, activists are also calling for the abrogation of Article 28 of the constitutional declaration (issued in March of last year and approved via popular referendum), which stipulates that any decision issued by Egypt's Supreme Presidential Elections Commission is final and cannot be appealed. Agha said that activists are also demanding justice for the more than 70 victims of February's Port Said Stadium disaster, and that Egypt's parliament be "more representative" of the Egyptian people.

"We need a fair and equal parliament and a fair and equal constituent assembly," said Agha. "We have to be able to breathe in Egypt. That's why we're here today. "

"Mostameroon," or "continuing" in Arabic, is an umbrella group bringing together various revolutionary political movements, including April 6, the Revolutionary Youth Coalition and the Kefaya protest movement.

Several public figures are expected to make appearances in the square today to address protesters, including MP Amr Hamzawy, activist and author Alaa El-Aswany, actor Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, singer Ramy Essam, MP Ziyad El-Elimy, singer Ali El-Haggar and revolutionary music band Eskenderalla.

11:40 Salafist flags – solid black or green (almost identical to that of Saudi Arabia) flags emblazoned with the Islamic creed "There is no god but God, and Mohamed is the messenger of God" –can be seen in abundance in Cairo's iconic protest grounds, along with posters of bearing the image of banned presidential hopeful Hazem Abu-Ismail, according to our reporter on the ground.

Street vendors across the square sell Abu-Ismail memorabilia, as the event looks increasingly like a exclusively Islamist/Salafist affair.

Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators have come out in force all over the country. Brotherhood members and supporters openly tell of their journeys from Tanta, Ismailiya and other cities and governorates across Egypt. 

11:30 Ahram Online's reporter at the scene reports steadily rising numbers in Cairo's Tahrir Square, already teeming with tens of thousands of demonstrators. Although most of these appear to be of Islamist leanings, revolutionary activists – including those from the April 6 and Justice and Freedom youth movements – are also in evidence.

Most demonstrators are repeating chants against felul – or "remnants" – of the former regime, including Mubarak's longtime intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who had initially planned to run for president but who was disqualified last week by Egypt's Supreme Presidential Elections Commission, and Mubarak-era civil aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq.

11:00 Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in Tahrir Square to kick off the planned "Self-Determination" Friday million-man demonstration.

Eight podiums have already been set up by a variety of political forces throughout the square, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, the April 6 Youth Movement and supporters of eliminated presidential hopeful Sheikh Hazem Abu-Ismail.

Salafist protesters are present in large numbers, according to Ahram Online's reporter in the flashpoint square, and have secured several entry points. 

Over 30 political groups and parties from Islamist, liberal and leftist forces in the country have already announced their plans to participate in the upcoming mass protests  in Tahrir Square as well across the country in what many hope could be the start of a new national consensus on the direction of Egypt post-Mubarak.

The demands of liberal and leftist powers and movements included issuing the "Disfranchisement Law" barring former regime figures from top political jobs, as well as holding former regime icons accountable, ending emergency law, cancelling Article 28 of the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration that governs the upcoming presidential elections, and forming a Constituent Assembly to write the constitution that would represent all sectors of Egyptian society.

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