"Friday of Final Warning": What do the midday events tell

Salma Shukrallah , Friday 15 Jul 2011

Protesters continue to press for their demands in Tahrir Square: justice for the martyrs of the revolution remains on top

Protests in Alexandria
Egyptians chant slogans against the government and military rulers after Friday prayers in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, 230 km north of Cairo. (Photo Reuters)

Thousands woke up in their tents to another Friday of demonstrations. Thousands more arrived at the square to join what is expected to be another mass rally upholding the revolution’s demands.

The numbers were not as many as the Friday before. However, talking to demonstrators, expectations are that the numbers will be increasing in the evening when the heat lifts. Thousands were hiding from the sun under the huge white tent covering the square’s central traffic island while others braved the sun to chant slogans at one of the stages set up all around, some carrying umbrellas.

In addition to the two main stages that have there for the duration of the sit-in thus far, two more were set up, one belonging to the Wafd Party, the other to the Nasserist. The number of parties joining the Tahrir rallies rose more than ever this Friday. Representatives could be seen wearing T-shirts and caps with the names and logos of their parties on them and handing out flyers.

Disputes continued at the square’s main entrances where some demonstrators wanted to prevent beggars and street vendors from entering while others opted for letting them in. Tensions between sentries and members of the public refusing to be searched for arms were also continuous.

The chants dominating the square demanded retribution for the martyrs and were directed against Egypt’s current interim rulers including Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Slogans also demanded the trial of Mubarak and corrupt symbols of the former regime.

Ismail El-Khouly, a demonstrator in his late twenties, explained that he joins every Friday and sometimes comes by after work during the week. “If not for the sit-in nothing would have happened. Million Man Marches have been taking place regularly for the past five months and despite that the government was not responding. Steps were not taken until demonstrators decided to stage a sit-in”. El-Khouly believes the cabinet reshuffle and recent changes made within the Ministry of Interior demonstrate the effectiveness of the sit-in – pressure is the only way demands will be met.

“I came here today because I want retribution for the martyrs and their parents and the trial of Hosni Mubarak,” he added. “I am also here to exert pressure on the SCAF to allow the prime minister to work towards the revolution’s demands or replace him with other government officials who will”.

Despite the attempt to stop them, street vendors were going around selling the Egyptian flag and offering to paint its colours on the faces and arms of passers-by. Others sold popcorn, soft drinks and sandwiches. Some were not in as festive a mood, however: the parents of many of those who were killed during Egypt’s revolt. They have been part of the by now one weeklong sit-in and refuse to budge until justice is done.

Loza Attallah Mahfouz, the mother of the martyr Mina Nabil Hilal, says she has been in the square since last Friday. Mahfouz looked extremely exhausted from the heat; her husband, looking equally worn out, was lying asleep next to her. A small fan aired the tent before electricity was cut off, as it usually is in the square at this time of the day. Mahfouz had a poster with her son’s picture printed on it – a young man in his early twenties. She explained that her son Mina was 22 years old and was shot on 28 January on Kasr El-Nil Bridge. “Mina and my two other sons were fired at. The two others were injured and he died,” Mahfouz said. “The government gives me a pension as compensation but I want retribution – I want to see those who killed him tried.”

Pictures of the martyrs still hang all over the square, together with banners listing demands, which vary somewhat except for retribution for the martyrs and the trial of Mubarak and his cronies. Other widely circulating demands include a minimum wage and purging state institutions.        


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