Live Updates: Egypt's 'Friday of One Demand' as it unfolds

Ahram Online , Friday 18 Nov 2011

A blow-by-blow account of the largest Tahrir protest since July, as Islamists dominate a rally by forces from across Egypt's political and ideological spectrum demanding a swift transfer of power

Friday of One Demand in Tahrir Square
(Photo: Mai Shaheen)

23:00 April 6 Movement (Ahmed Maher Front) decides to withdraw from Tahrir. Hundreds are still in the square. Traffic to the square is still blocked. 

20:50 Ahram Online’s man in the square has nicely wrapped up today’s events.

20:45 Hundreds of protesters are back to Tahrir afte camping in front of the Cabinet’s offices on Qasr El-Aini Street near Tahrir Square, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's government and for the swift departure of the ruling SCAF. 

20:30 In his address to the square, Hazem Salah Abou Ismail warns the SCAF against adopting the supra-constitutional principles, adding that any electoral fraud in the upcoming parliamentary poll would be met with a powerful response.

Though the Salafist presidential hopeful had announced his intention to sit-in until the so-called Selmi document was revoked, he urges his supporters to withdraw from the square and focus on the elections in their constituencies, saying that this is the harder road to take.

He vowed to return to Tahrir Square every Friday until the demands are met.

20:00 Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail arrived to Tahrir where his followers comprise the biggest group now. A number of liberal groups are making their way back to the square, marching and chanting against military rule.

19:30 Protesters have withdrawn from Suez's main Al-Arabeen Square, as traffic begins to flow normally. 

19:00 The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Movement have officially withdrawn from the square, issuing statements that they will peacefully escalate their actions if Selmi's supra-constitutional principles are not revoked and power is not handed over to a civilian government as soon as possible.

Thousands still occupy the square. 

18:57 Amid the darkened skies and dwindling numbers, Islamist slogans begin to amplify in Tahrir Square.

18:37 Egypt’s Cabinet issues a statement, announcing that discussions will continue this week on El-Selmi's supra-constitutional principles contrary to earlier media reports claiming that the discussions would be postponed until after the forthcoming parliamentary elections. 

18:22 The family, friends and supporters of detained activist Alaa Abd El-Fatah are celebrating his birthday in front of the Mogamma building in Tahrir Square. 

17:30 Al-Hayat television announces that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has decided to suspend discussions about the “Selmi Document” until after the upcoming parliamentary polls. 

17:25 Hundreds gathered today in the Suez Canal port city of Ismailia for the Friday of One Demand. The demonstrators included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the various participating Salafists groups, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Revolution Youth Coalition and other political forces.

17:00 It’s evening now in Cairo and prominent Islamic scholar Safwat Hegazy is speaking on the Nour Party’s stage. He states that Tahrir Square belongs to all the honourable revolutionaries of Egypt whether Islamists, liberals, socialists or nationalists and that all these groups should remain “one hand.”

Hegazy adds that the parliamentary elections set to kick off on 28 November will be held no matter what happens, emphasising that the people do not need the army or the police to secure the elections. Rather the people should protect the process themselves. Hegazy called on people not to vote for the remnants of the old regime – referring in part to members of the dissolved National Democratic Party, promising that if any of them manage to win seats in the forthcoming parliament, the revolutionaries will raise hell until they are expelled.

After Hegazy's speech, all of the Brotherhood’s prominent leaders as well as the leaders of different Islamist groups began withdrawing from the square followed by thousands of their supporters. Others prostrated themselves as they performed the sunset prayer. Following the prayer, the main stage played the national anthem, an indication that the protest had officially ended.

Meanwhile small marches organised by leftist and liberal activists set off around downtown, chanting against military rule.   

16:55 The Salafist Nour Party plans to leave the square at 5pm.

16:50 According to an Ahram Online correspondent in the square, the majority of political parties and movements in Tahrir plan to give the ruling military council time to announce its response and will call for a return to the protest grounds if their voices are ignored.

16:45 Chants rings out across Tahrir, as protesters call for the departure of Minister of Information Osama Heikal.

16:37 Standing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s stage, presidential hopeful Hisham El-Bastawisi speaks in Cairo’s packed Tahrir Square, criticising the supra-constitutional principles proposed by El-Selmi. The reformist judge states that the SCAF should submit an evaluation of its performance in the last ten months admitting therein its failures in handling many cases.

16:34 Safwat Hegazy gives a speech on the Salafist Nour Party’s stage, declaring, "You are the hope of Egypt". He states, "We made four mistakes. Firstly, we left Tahrir Square on 11 February; secondly, we did not choose a revolutionary council when we left square; thirdly, we let the military council choose Essam Sharaf's government which is not a revolutionary government, and lastly, we did not establish a revolutionary tribunal on 12 February to put those responsible for corrupting the country’s political life in prison. He also added, "It’s good we’ve realised these mistakes so that we may correct them."

Hegazy later led the crowd in a chant of "The people demand the dismantling of the regime."

16:30 Speaking to Ahram Online, a military source denies media reports that the SCAF plans to hand over power by the end of 2012. The source added that the ruling military council will stick to what was declared in the constitutional declaration this past summer. The declaration called for for parliamentary elections first followed by the selection of a constituent assembly to draft the new constitution followed by a national referendum to approve the new constitution and finally, presidential elections.

16:25 The Nour Party’s Abdallah Kamel calls Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad an infidel, labels Mubarak’s trial a scam and asks people to repeat after him, “Our Islam is our constitution,” referring to the Islamist call for Sharia law.

16:15 A speaker on the Salafist Nour Party stage calls for electing a president, an end to military rule and the application of God’s law. Responding to scathing allegations made against Salafists, the speaker asserted, “We are not Christian killers.”

16:10 Members of the Muslim Brotherhood organise a march around the square, waving their iconic green flags branded with the group's logo, two criss-crossing swords, and chanting against El-Selmi’s detested document. 

16:00 Thousands of Salafists demonstrate in the coastal governorate of Beheira against the “Selmi Document,” a set of supra-constitutional principles proposed by Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Ali El-Selmi.

In the demonstration, Salafist Sheikh Lotfy Abu Salem divided the nation into three groups: those who fear God and defend His law, those who follow El-Selmi and fight against God’s law and those who belong to the “sofa party” and simply do not care. 

15:54 Salafists campaigning for Hazem Abu-Ismail’s presidency bid are wearing jackets bearing his name.

15:50 Hundreds of activists, bearing red flags, from a slew of leftist groups and parties are marching towards the state-run TV building (Maspero), a hot spot for protesters who condemn the corrupt media and urge its purging. The marchers are chanting against the SCAF and de-facto leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

15:40 In a speech to Tahrir’s protesters ,Safwat Hegazy, an Islamist close to the Muslim Brotherhood, declared that if Selmi’s proposed supra-constitutional principles are not revoked he will ready himself for another “Battle of the Camel.” He criticised Egypt’s state-run television and the Minister of Information Osama Heikal for stating that most of those in Tahrir Square do not know why they are there.

15:25 Demonstrators in Tahrir Square are chanting: “The people demand Selmi’s resignation.” 

15:20 Two marches converge on Tahrir Square: one arriving from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque and the other from Giza. The former marcher was called for by the "We are all Khaled Said" Facebook page and managed to assemble around 3000 protestors. The latter march which amassed 20,000 demonstrators was organised by the No to Military Trials campaign and the Free Egyptian movement and was later joined by the Muslim Brotherhood.

14:55 Estimates of Tahrir’s numbers have reached into the hundreds of thousands. Alright, so we can say the square is packed.

14:50 Tens of Islamists in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan and Salafists in the Delta governorate of Menoufiya, where ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s hometown lies, demonstrate against the Selmi document following noon prayer.

14:45 Presidential hopeful Selim El-Awa gave a speech in Tahrir calling on the MB, Salafists and all other political forces to remain united. Promising to remain in Tahrir until all demands are met, Awa used his speech to condemn the Selmi Document and demand that the military council hold to the three-stage election schedule.

14:40 Mass demonstrations organised by the Brotherhood and the various Salafist groups to protest the Selmi Document continue in the port city of Suez.

The military in Suez have released a statement affirming that they have kept their promise and will organise and guarantee fair elections.

14:30 Leftists and youth movement members begin to gather at the Talaat Harb Street entrance to Tahrir Square calling for social justice, condemning the field marshal and chanting, “Freedom.”  

14:25 Marchers approach Cairo's revolutionary square from Qasr El-Nil Bridge.

14:20 A large Syrian flag is touted around the square

14:15 Hafez Salama is giving a speech from the MB’s stage, as supporters fervently cheer him on.  The Salafist emphasises that the SCAF has offered nothing to serve Egypt in the past 10 months and that revolutionaries and Muslims are those who will see the revolution through. He ended his words, declaring, “Egypt is free, Muslim and Arab.”  

14:10 Syrians in Tahrir Square are holding a banner which reads: “The Syrian El-Karama (Dignity) Movement. The people demand international protection, a no-fly zone and the execution of the murderer.” Next to the condemning message is a caricature of Bashar Al-Assad.

Egyptian demonstrators are showing solidarity with the small assembly  of Syrians. 

14:08 Demonstrators marching to Tahrir Square from Giza tear down the elections campaign poster of Ahmed Mortada Mansour, son of Mortada Mansour who is accused of plotting the infamous Battle of the Camel.    

14:05 Tens of the members of the Salafist Asala Party are marching in Tahrir Square, calling for a speedy handover of power and holding placards bearing the party’s name and their demands.

14:00 The notorious Tarek El-Zomor, a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya who was previously accused of plotting the assassination of former presiden Anwar El-Sadat, gives a speech on the Brotherhood’s stage. He stresses that it has became clear that the SCAF is not planning to hand over power, adding that he is ready to martyr himself in the square in defence of the Revolution’s demands.  

13:55 Alaa Abd El-Fattah's family and supporters expected to celebrate his birthday later today in Tahrir Square. 

13:52 Dozens of April 6 Youth Movement members are marching in the square carrying their flags and chanting for a quick handover of power.

13:50 Dozens of April 6 Youth Movement members are marching in the square carrying their flags and chanting for a quick handover of power.

13:45 Independent Islamists are waving black flags emblazoned with the profession of Islamic faith: “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.” 

13:35 A speaker on the Salafist Nour Party’s stage near the Talaat Harb Street entrance attacks liberals and secularists in his speech. Members of the party are circumambulating the square, carrying a 500 metre flag adorned with the Nour Party's logo.

Nour Party members are also handing out a two-page flyer on Sheikh Hafez Salama, calling for all Islamist forces to unite behind the vision of an Islamic Egypt. It also calls on all Islamist parties to choose only one Islamist candidate so as not to divide the votes. The flyer calls for a conference to take place either at the Azhar or Nour mosque with the intent on uniting all Islamist forces.

13:26 Hundreds are currently marching from Giza to Tahrir Square. A march organised by several movements is expected to move from Talaat Harb Square to Tahrir Square at 3pm.

13:24 Salafist Sheikh Hafez Salama from Suez enters Tahrir Square from the Talaat Harb Street entrance surrounded by hundreds who zealously welcome his presence.  

13:15 Tahrir’s mishmash of political and ideological groups have raised several banners which despite their difference and divisions echo a rather unified sentiment. A large banner in Tahrir’s central island reads, “Yes to respecting the people’s will. 18 November: protecting democracy.” Another banner raised by Cairo University students associated with the Brotherhood reads, “MB students refuse El-Selmi’s document.” Yet another large banner states, “No to making the military council a state above the state,” while a banner raised by the Salafist Nour Party reads, “No to the supra-constitutional principles. Yes to the people’s will.”

The Bedaya (Beginning) movement has erected a banner which reads, “No to the extension of military rule. Yes to the handing over of power” and “No to the Emergency Law. No to the military trials of civilians.”  

The Revolutionary Socialists’ banner reads, “Wealth and power to the people”. A banner raised by the Popular Committees for the Defence of the Revolution states, "No to military rule." The main stage near the Mohamed Mahmoud entrance is hosting different political movements including the Brotherhood, Salafists and youth groups. The chants echoed are overwhelmingly against the Selmi document, against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), against the military trials of civilians and against the Emergency Law.

13:10 Alexandria’s rally from the iconic Qaed Ibrahim Mosque swells with numbers reaching 40,000. 

12:55 Supporters of the Salafist Nour Party chant, demanding “a civil state with an Islamic reference” and declaring, “We do not want a military state.” 

12:50 According to an Ahram Online reporter around 20,000 demonstrators are gathered at Alexandria’s Qaed Ibrahim Mosque, adjacent to the city’s main plaza, Saad Zaghloul Square. Though the press of protesters represent a wide spectrum of political and ideological beliefs, Salafist groups dominate.

Demonstrators are chanting “Down with military rule” and “Down with the field marshal.”  The vast majority of banners and mottos are calling for a swift transfer of power. Two marches are planned in the Mediterranean port city: one will set off from the Qaed Ibrahim Mosque while another from the district of Abu Qir. Both marches will converge on the Northern Military Zone, the army’s headquarters near Sidi Gaber. 

12:45 A banner belonging to one of the participating Salafist groups reads: “Sit-in until the regime is reconstructed. Our one demand is the handover of power by April 2012. To the military council: keep your promise; the 6 months have passed.”  The Muslim Brotherhood’s presence is highly visible in the square, as scores of members can be seen in their token green caps while others bear green flags and banners.  

12:35 Following Friday prayers, the tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square repeat the chants echoing from the main stage near the Mohamed Mahmoud entrance: “Allah Akbar” (God is Great) and “Down with the document,” referring to El-Selmi’s proposed supra-constitutional principles. 

Many of the demonstrators are carrying Egyptian flags. 

12:20 Demonstrators gathered at the Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque begin their march toward Tahrir Square.

12:10 Protesters begin Friday prayers. 

11:55 Demonstrators in the square are getting ready for Friday prayers which will be led by Sheikh Mazhar Shahin of the Omar Makram Mosque located on the square’s periphery. Shahin has consistently been the go-to preacher for Tahrir’s noon sermon since the 18-day uprising. 

In his sermon, Shahin warns Israel not to interfere in Egypt’s affairs, stressing that all revolutionaries despite their political differences should unite. Asserting that the revolutionaries are keener on actualising the demands of the revolution than is the ruling military council, Shahin urges a swift handover of power to a civilian authority by May 2012 at the latest.

 11:50 Dozens are gathered at the Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque about to march to Tahrir Square. Ahead of today’s protests, the “We are all Khaled Said” Facebook page called for a march from the abovementioned mosque to the square under, calling for presidential elections soon after the upcoming parliamentary polls.

11:45 Protesters circumambulate the square: some wearing the MB’s green cap while others raise Qurans and chant “the Quran is our constitution” and “Oh field marshal, the men are in the square,” referring to Egypt's de-facto military ruler Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.  

11:35 The Ministry of Health declares that it will place 18 ambulances as well as 3 mobile clinics in Tahrir Square. The ministry’s official spokesperson, Mohamed El-Sherbini, added that hospitals have been placed on high alert in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Suez.

11:25 Buses transporting Salafist and Brotherhood members from Egypt’s different governorates continue to arrive near Tahrir Square.

10:40 Tens of Syrians join Tahrir's protests, chanting against Syria's president, Bashar Al-Assad.

10:30 Tens of thousands of protestors have gathered in Tahrir Square well before Friday’s noon prayer, chanting against the “El-Selmi Document” which contains government-proposed supra-constitutional principles. Several stages have been erected. Two main stages have been put up near the Mohamed Mahmoud entrance, another opposite the Mogamma government building and yet another near the Talaat Harb Street entrance. In all six stages have erected around the Cairo's largest square. The entrances to Tahrir have all been closed off, as demonstrators created committees to search those entering the square. In the square’s metro stop, Anwar Sadat station, dozens are queuing at each of the six or so entrances.

Most of the gathered protestors thus far belong either to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and it's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, or to one of the participating Salafist groups.

Several tents were erected in the square Thursday night in anticipation of the largest Friday demonstration since July. Banners, reading “Down with military rule” could be seen early Friday morning all around the protest’s venue.

A number of groups including the MB, several factions of the Salafist movement, the Adl Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Democratic Workers Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, April 6 Youth Movement, Revolution Youth Coalition and others have declared their plan to participate. Others, however, have decided to boycott. They include the Free Egyptians Party, Tagammu Party, the Wafd Party, and the Egyptian Communist Party. While some of those planning to join the Friday of One Demand are calling for a quick handover of power, others are also protesting the Selmi Document which contains the highly controversial supra-constitutional principles.  

2:00 Hundreds of protesters began preparations for Egypt’s ‘Friday of One Demand’ in Tahrir Square on Thursday night, with indications some are preparing for a sit-in. Around two hundred protesters gathered at the epicentre of Egypt’s revolution last night, setting up tents and podiums on the central island area. Others were busy hanging banners and placards on street and traffic lights.

One of the banners read: “The Friday of One Demand - the handover of power.” Other placards had slogans against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), such as “down with the military council.” Many political parties have been calling on the ruling SCAF to come up with a timeline to end its interim rule in the near future.

As usual ahead of mass demos, street vendors were numerous in Tahrir, trying to make the most of the occasion. They, along with demonstrators, caused some minor traffic disruption.Popular committee members wearing yellow vests were trying to organise traffic and the iconic square bustled with people and vehicles.

Some of the protesters had blankets and were already preparing to sleep on the central island, an indication they were eyeing an open-ended sit-in. Some tried to evoke memories of the popular uprising by playing famous patriotic songs.

Should protesters stage a sit-in, it would be the third in Tahrir Square. The first historic sit-in started during the revolt in January. It lasted for 18 days and resulted in the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.

The second one started on 8 July and was forcibly dispersed on 1 August. It was held to demand the fulfilment of the revolution’s demands. For a while afterwards, joint military and police forces were keen to prevent protesters from gathering on the central island in Tahrir Square. Later, however, it hosted other million-man marches.

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