Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tahrir Violence Again

Yesterday saw new violence in Cairo's Tahrir Square:
"Clashes between Egyptian security forces and more than 5,000 protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square have left more than 1,036 people injured, according to witnesses and medical officials.

"Tahrir Square, the epicentre of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former president, was sealed off early on Wednesday as lines of security forces in riot gear strived to regain control from demonstrators.

"Witnesses said the clashes started on Tuesday when police tried to clear a sit-in at the state-TV building, which included families of those killed during the country's revolution earlier this year, known as the 'martyrs', according to the Daily News, an Egyptian news website.

"Witnesses said police attacked the families outside the Balloon Theatre in Agouza, where a planned memorial service for them was taking place."

Ursula Lindsey provides context:
"This violence is the inevitable result of the lack of transparency and of momentum in the judicial proceedings against former regime figures and especially the police (something we talked about on the last Arabist podcast). The families of martyrs' were shut out of the last session of the Habib Al Adly (the former Minister of Interior) trial; they went wild when the trial was postponed again. Everyday I read and hear stories about police officers who are on trial (or should be) going back to work at their old posts; and about families being bribed or threatened ('We'll arrest your other son on drug charges') if they don't drop their cases.

Now both Mubarak and Adli are scheduled to next appear in court on the second day of Ramadan. We all know that means a month-long postponement. And while justice drags out, the Ministry of Interior is in complete denial about the extent of its culture of abuse and the need for total reform. The police literally seem to hope that by sulking at home (and thereby showing people how necessary they are); and by making a lot of vague promises and handing out glossy brochures, they can teach people to appreciate them and rehabilitate their 'image.' But what they really want is their power back; they can't conceive of doing their job in any other way than with total impunity. They view the idea of accountability as undermining their prestige and authority. There is no sense of the moral authority that would come, eventually, from publicly cleaning house."

One of the bigger issues, seen especially in Lindsey's first paragraph above, is that much of the Mubarak regime remains in place. As I've suggested before, the military intervened mainly to save the system by removing its most visible symbol and then retooling it.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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