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Egyptian Groups Unify for Huge Protest Friday

  • Al Pessin

George Ishak, founder of the Kefaya (Enough) Movement and one of the leaders for National Coalition for Change, shouts anti-government slogans during a protest in front of the High Court in Cairo (File Photo - December 12, 2010)

George Ishak, founder of the Kefaya (Enough) Movement and one of the leaders for National Coalition for Change, shouts anti-government slogans during a protest in front of the High Court in Cairo (File Photo - December 12, 2010)

Egyptian activist groups have agreed to a joint plan for a huge demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday, a move designed to avoid clashes among protesters with different views.

After meeting for several hours Wednesday, representatives from about two dozen activist groups agreed to work together on Friday. Leaders were concerned about the possibility of clashes among competing groups like the one last Saturday that caused about 300 injuries.

One activist who attended the meeting, George Ishak of the Egyptian Movement for Change, says there was a lot of frank discussion, but in the end the activist leaders reached an agreement.

“All the opposition movements will be in one unit against any division between the opposition movements," said Ishak. "So we will go to this demonstration with one vision. We will keep our revolution, and we don’t permit anybody to divide us."

Ishak says the group leaders agreed to share one stage at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday.

A statement issued by one Islamist group, the Gamaa Islamia, confirmed the agreement. Activists say the meeting agreed that another Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, will provide security on the square.

Among other things, the groups are calling for an end to the emergency law left over from the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. They want public trials for Mubarak and other former officials, and the prosecution of police officers and soldiers accused of attacking protesters during the revolution earlier this year. They also want more power for the civilian government, which now works under the ruling military council.

Various groups have different specific demands, and tension seems to be highest between those who sharply criticize the military council and Gamaa Islamia, which is supporting it.

Earlier in the week, the Egyptian Center for Human Rights called on the activist groups to stop trying to undermine each other, particularly with accusations of foreign influence. George Ishak says Wednesday’s agreement moves the groups in that direction.

“Nobody has all the reality. We are different. We have many visions," said Ishak. "And every group, every element, has his right to show himself without any objection. Without any talk about ‘you follow a foreign agenda’ or something like that. It is forbidden.”

Organizers talk about drawing a million people to Tahrir Square Friday, and are arranging pick-up points in various parts of the country.

At the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Emad Gad expects a lot of people to come out, but hopes things will quiet down after that for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Monday.

“I think it will be a very big demonstration and each side will try to avoid any kind of clashes," said Gad. "And after that, I think they will clean Tahrir Square in order to receive Ramadan.”

But youthful protesters who have been camped out on the square for the last several weeks say they won’t leave until all their demands are met.

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