Low turnout likely ahead of Mohamed Mahmoud clashes anniversary

Mariam Rizk , Tuesday 18 Nov 2014

Few political movements will mark the third anniversary of clashes that killed 47 people and injured 3,000 others in 2011

Mohamed Mahmoud 3rd anniversary
File photo: Mohamed Mahmoud Street political mural before it was white-washed by authorities (Photo: Ewan Camero)

The walls on Mohamed Mahmoud Street have been painted and repainted, covering the remains of graffiti that once told the stories of Egypt's 2011 popular revolt. At the end of the street, at the entrance to Tahrir Square, are stands of barbwire.

And above it all is a sense of anticipation, ahead of events on Wednesday to commemorate the third anniversary of clashes on the street, one of the most memorable and violent clashes between protesters and security forces to date.

On 19 November 2011, months after longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted and during the interim ruling period of a council of generals, the week-long clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street claimed the lives of at least 47 people and injured some 3,000 others.

The interior ministry at the time denied using live bullets. No security force personnel are on trial or serving sentences for the killings, except for a police officer convicted for attempted murder and intentionally shooting protesters in the eye. 

Meanwhile, civilians are on trial for the violent events in 2011 and clashes that took place on its first anniversary in 2012.

Three years later, there are few calls for commemoration on the iconic street.

Several secular groups said they will either march peacefully on Mohamed Mahmoud street or hold a press conference and a silent stand afterwards on the stairs of the nearby Journalists Syndicate.

On the first Mohamed Mahmoud anniversary, violence erupted between protesters and police, killing at least three.

But the political scene has vastly changed since then.

Many of revolutionary icons remain behind bars for breaching a controversial protest law that was issued last year banning all but police sanctioned demonstrations.

Protests have since become associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails and whose supporters have seen their street presence dwindle at the hands of a government crackdown.

On Tuesday, a day before the third anniversary, at least one school on Mohamed Mahmoud Street allowed students to skip the day, anticipating potential violence.

The owner of a nearby kiosk, Sameh Abbas, remembers the clashes in 2011.

"People running, clouds of thick tear gas, sounds of bullets firing and motorcycles trying to transfer the injured ... these are all scenes I wish I could forget," said Abbas.

"And that's all in vain," he said. "The revolution has failed and the old regime is back again."

Among the groups commemorating this year's event is the April 6 movement, which played a leading role in the 2011 uprising but was recently banned by authorities.

"We are trying to send a message that the demands for which the revolution started have still not been met," said Hamdy Qeshta, a leading April 6 member.

He said the movement will march on the street peacefully and will change course if entrances to Tahrir Square are blocked by security forces.

"We are aware of the current situation and the fact that other organisations have different goals," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the Constitution Party, which is commemorating the event with a press conference and a silent stand.

"After almost four years after the revolution, there is no responsibility for those who allegedly killed and injured hundreds of Egyptian youths,"

Dawoud said. "We are still suffering from impunity and a lack of information as to what exactly happened and we have not seen any serious trials."

Meanwhile, other political forces mostly refused to take part in Wednesday's commemoration, on the grounds that the Brotherhood will use the event to initiate violence.

The Tamarod campaign, which spearheaded the 30 June 2013 protests that led to Morsi's ouster and later turned into a political group, won't be taking part, either.

Tamarod spokesman Abdel-Aziz Abdullah said that Egyptians have already corrected the path of the revolution with the 30 June protests.

"Any previous protests should only remind the Egyptian people of their capabilities to reject oppression and injustice," he said.

"But now using these events to voice opposition will not gain any popular support because the current regime came with a landslide consensus," said Abdullah, speaking of the sweeping presidential victory that brought ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to power in June of this year.

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