Jan 25 anniversary demos: All roads lead to Tahrir

Salma Shukrallah, Tuesday 24 Jan 2012

Activists map out locations from which they plan to march to Cairo's Tahrir Square Wednesday on 1st anniversary of uprising that toppled Mubarak

Jan 25 map
Map including different meeting points for 25 January demonstrations.

Activists have established multiple starting points from which scheduled marches will set out to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the occasion of the first anniversary of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution on Wednesday. The day is expected to witness dozens of separate demonstrations, in which participants plan to hold up pictures of slain activists, Egyptian flags and lists of outstanding revolutionary demands.

A map provided by the 55 revolutionary movements involved in the planned demonstrations shows at least 12 meeting points in the capital alone. Several marches are expected to converge at different points before continuing on to central Cairo’s flashpoint square.

According to the map, demonstrators will gather at 1:30pm at the Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in the Mohandeseen district and the Estekama Mosque in Giza Square. At 2:00pm, demonstrators are expected to gather at Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square, the Ghamra metro station, Shubra Square and Sayida Zeinab Square.

Earlier gatherings have also been planned for 11am in the Khatem Al-Morsaleen Mosque in Omraniya; the Talebiya metro station in Feisal; the Salam Mosque in the Haram district; and the Al-Monieb metro station. All four demonstrations will then merge with the Giza demonstration before moving on to Tahrir Square.

Other demonstrations are expected to materialise in Al-Basha Square in Manial and Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque in Old Cairo at 11am; another is expected to begin at Al-Fath Mosque in Maadi at 10:00am, which will merge with the Sayida Zeinab demonstration at 2:00pm. All marches are eventually expected to merge at Al-Galaa Bridge at 4pm, where they will observe several minutes of silence to commemorate those killed in the revolution before continuing on to Tahrir Square.

A number of Egyptian doctors, meanwhile, are planning to march from the medical faculty at Ain Shams University at 10am. The march will coincide with the forty-day anniversary (arbaeen) of the death of medical student Alaa Abd El-Hady, who was killed in December in Tahrir Square during clashes between protesters and security forces.

Medical students from Cairo University will set out from Kasr Al-Ainy medical hospital at 11:00am, from which they will go directly to Tahrir Square. Students from Zamalek’s Fine Arts Faculty, meanwhile, will begin their march at 10:00am. A Tahrir-bound demonstration is also planned from Azhar Mosque following dawn prayers.

The April 6 youth movement has also announced several starting points outside the capital. In Alexandria, a demonstration is planned following mid-day prayers in front of the Sharq Al-Madina Mosque and the Two Saints Church in Sidi Bishr. Other governorates in which demonstrations are planned include Beni Soueif, Port Said, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Minya, Damietta, Mahala, Mansoura and Suez.

While all movements involved are calling for the same meeting points, some complain that the demonstrations’ exact objectives remain unclear. Since most revolutionary movements will be protesting military rule, major political groups – such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Nour Party – will confine themselves to Tahrir Square.

Activist Ahmed Bahgat of the Lotus Revolution youth movement, one of the 55 groups calling for demonstrations on Wednesday, says the problem with tomorrow’s planned event is the lack of clear demands. Bahgat believes that, while last year’s January 25 uprising featured clear demands for Mubarak’s ouster, this year’s protests will highlight a multiplicity of grievances.

“If we all unite again under slogans to ‘topple the regime,’ people won’t respond because they don’t see that the old regime remains intact,” said Bahgat. “The new parliament has also contributed to the idea that the regime has changed. Even though everyone wants an end to military rule, there’s no consensus as to what the immediate solution should be.”

As the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nour Party have chosen to adhere to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)’s proposed timeline for the handover of power and distance themselves from the anti-SCAF movement, many activists are demanding an immediate transfer of executive authority.

Several initiatives have been tabled to this end, but no agreement has yet been reached among revolutionary groups. Some activists are calling for an immediate handover of power to parliament, while others demand the formation of a “national salvation” government. Still others have called for earlier-than-scheduled presidential elections.

Despite these diverse initiatives, others assert that the aim of Wednesday’s demonstrations is clear. Ahmed Maher, founding member of the April 6 youth movement, says that, although some will be celebrating, many others will be calling for the continuation of the revolution.

Maher believes there is agreement on the need for a civilian chief executive. According to Maher, the elected parliament should choose whether the military should hand over authority to an interim president or a transitional government. “Celebrations will end Wednesday evening, but the protest will continue and will turn into a sit-in to demand the handover of power,” he said.

Two major sit-ins have already been staged in past months to demand the transfer of power to a civilian body. The first was held in the last three weeks of July; another was held in November. Both sit-ins where triggered by violent clashes between protesters and security forces. Activists charge that the SCAF is mishandling the transitional period, protecting the interests of the former regime, and using oppressive, Mubarak-era policing methods.  

Unlike the earlier sit-ins that erupted spontaneously following clashes, Wednesday’s demonstrations have been extensively planned. Activists have been manufacturing masks bearing the faces of slain protesters to wear during the event; screened video footage of recent military abuses; created maps for the scheduled demonstrations; and flooded social media venues with calls for a “second revolution.”

The military, meanwhile, has sent out messages warning of a plot to promote chaos on the occasion of the revolution’s first anniversary, urging the public to vacate Tahrir Square by the end of the day. The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, has called on Egyptians to show patience and exercise restraint until a new president can be freely elected in June.

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