Calls to commemorate Mohamed Mahmoud a day early 'to avoid clashes'

Ahram Online, Sunday 17 Nov 2013

Some activists will demonstrate ahead of Mohamed Mahmoud anniversary to avoid being 'trapped' by state or Muslim Brotherhood commemorations

Mohamed Mahmoud
File photo: Protesters throw stones towards riot police during clashes after a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of fatal clashes at Mohamed Mahmoud street, in the vicinity of the Interior Ministry, in Cairo November 22, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian activists have called to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes a day early, on 18 November, so as to avoid clashes with other groups honouring the event.

In a statement published on Facebook by a number of Egyptian activists, they cited fear that the anniversary of the 2011 clashes may be "appropriated by state or Muslim Brotherhood forces to serve their respective interests."

"The Mohamed Mahmoud anniversary comes in complex political times that the country has never witnessed before…the revolutionary movement is completely scattered and the struggle between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the political scene," the statement read.

"It is clear that each camp in this fight [the state and the Muslim Brotherhood] will be the main beneficiaries if the situation escalates on the anniversary… Indeed, it is possible that the camps wish for such escalation…both the police and the Muslim Brotherhood need new blood to strengthen their position and their political sway in the ongoing negotiations," the statement added.

The Mohamed Mahmoud clashes, which erupted between protestors and security forces outside the interior ministry headquarters on 19 November 2011, marked the symbolic beginning of a movement that opposed both military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although the army came under fire for the violence, as the country was then under military council rule, the Muslim Brotherhood was also condemned  for denouncing the protesters and accusing them of trying to foil the upcoming elections.

Ahmed Harara, who became a symbol of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes after losing his only good eye (the first was lost during the 18-day revolution that toppled former autocrat Hosni Mubarak), is one of those warning against possible confrontations.  

Harara has cautioned in several interviews that the official Mohamed Mahmoud commemoration may be used as a "trap" to encourage additional violence.

The activist statement warns that "the state may take advantage of clashes to pass restrictive protest laws or declare another state of emergency." In a similar vein, the statement suggests the Muslim Brotherhood will use the day to "drag the revolutionary camp into the Muslim Brotherhood's fight."

To avoid violence, the activists have called for demonstrations on 18 November, one day ahead of the official anniversary. The demonstration is supported by the "Martyr Gaber Salah Movement," a group named after Gaber Salah ('Jika') who was killed by police last year on the clashes' first anniversary.

The Monday demonstration will begin at 5pm in Cairo's Abdeen Square, where Jika's former home is located. Rallying under the banner "Don't forget, always remember," the protesters will demand retribution for all those killed, restructuring of the interior ministry, accountability for police crimes, and an end to military trials of civilians.

"Police brutality remains the same...The police continues its torture of detainees, arbitrary arrests, and violation of human rights...the police continues its repression under the current interim government just like it did under Mubarak, SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood...the martyrs' killers have not been held accountable as was the case under all former regimes," the statement read.    

However, a number of groups, including Way of Revolution Front have maintained their plans to demonstrate on the anniversary's actual date, which falls on Tuesday, 19 November, holding the police responsible for securing the demonsrations.

Egypt's interior ministry stated on Sunday that it has taken all necessary measures to secure Tuesday's commemoration of the 2011 clashes.

In an official statement, the ministry warned against "elements that might infiltrate the gatherings to threaten public security and peaceful protest." 

Clashes erupted on the first anniversary of Mohamed Mahmoud in 2012, leaving at least three dead including the 16-year-old Jika.

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