Tens of thousands arrive in Tahrir for 'Martyrs' Friday', unaffected by MB's alternative Aqsa march

Ahram Online, Friday 25 Nov 2011

Friday's Martyrs' Friday is expected to be amongst the biggest Egypt has seen since 25 January, despite an alternative "Save Aqsa" million-man march called by the Muslim Brotherhood

Tahrir 24 Nov.
The sign says: "The heroes of Mohamed Mahmoud, Thank you". The picture is of Tahrir on Nov. 24 (photo: Reuters)

Tens of thousands of protesters have been arriving at Tahrir Square since early this morning to join in the “Martyrs' Friday," million-man march. The numbers are expected to easily hit the one million mark, called by the revolutionaries, as they had done on Tuesday. If anything, the numbers already in Tahrir indicate that Friday's protest is destined to exceed in terms of numbers that of Tuesday.

This is despite a call by the Muslim Brotherhood for an alternative million-man march in defence of Arab Jerusalem's Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's most holy shrines. The Brotherhood’s march is to rally before the Azhar Mosque, but it is not yet known whether they have any intention of marching towards Tahrir.

The protesters in Tahrir and revolutionary forces have taken the MB’s call as yet another "betrayal" by the Islamist movement, which had boycotted the Tuesday protest. The country's political forces and analysts are still trying to come to grips with the revival of Egypt's January Revolution, nearly ten months after the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak. They are especially stunned by the fact that this revolutionary resurgence takes place despite the active boycott of the Muslim Brotherhood, long held to be the most powerful political force in the country, and which had been expected to dominate the coming post-revolutionary parliament. 

Protesters in Tahrir have refused to allow any podiums to be erected in the square as has been the norm this time around, insisting that the podiums are often used by the various political forces to hijack the political will of the revolution.

The demonstration comes hot in the heels of a weeklong violent clashes between protesters and security forces after the latter tried to disperse a sit in inside the square last Saturday. The clashes have left at least 39 dead and several thousand injured.

Today the protesters are demanding that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forced (SCAF) – along with its head, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi – hand over executive power to a civilian authority. They are also calling for the formation of a civilian presidential council or a “national salvation” government with full executive powers to administer the transitional period.

Other demands include the immediate release of arrested activists, an end to military trials for civilians; a speedy investigation of recent clashes in Maspero and Tahrir; the prosecution of anyone involved in killing protesters; and a radical restructuring of the interior ministry.

Contradictory state media reports that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of SCAF, has charged former prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri with forming the new government have incensed the protesters further. Ganzouri, who served as prime minister under Mubarak between 1996-1999 is 77 years old, and is considered by the protesters a stark embodiment of all they hate about the regime which they set out to overthrow. Ganzouri's cabinet had included many of the figures now held in prison, or on the run outside the country, including most prominently former interior minister Habib El-Adly.

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