News / Middle East

Egyptians Stage March Protesting ‘Soft Military Coup’

Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.
x
Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.
Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.
Stephanie Figgins
A small but passionate crowd of around 2,000 Egyptians marched Friday to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to express dissatisfaction with the two court rulings issued the day before dissolving the recently elected parliament and declaring Mubarak era official Ahmed Shafiq’s presidential bid constitutional. The court’s decisions cleared the way for the ruling military council to take over the parliament’s legislative powers. Observers say the rulings also positioned the perceived military-favored candidate, Shafiq, to win the executive, and threw into question the independence of the judiciary.

Following afternoon prayers, members of pro-democracy movements, political parties, youth groups, and the campaign of former presidential contender and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh gathered in the Cairo neighborhood of Mohandiseen to march together under the slogan “No to the soft military coup”.

Video of the march and protesters’ reactions by Davin Hutchins; follow @mevhutch

Protesters carried anti-Shafiq and anti-military signs, and chanted “Egypt is a country, not a barracks,” and “Shafiq is Mubarak.” Reflecting the outrage many Egyptians are feeling toward Shafiq - a symbol of the old regime, and now, for many a symbol of the failed transition process - demonstrators tore down Shafiq election posters, hit them with their shoes, then laid them out on the street so that cars and motorcycles would run over them.

Demonstrators demanded Shafiq’s disqualification from the presidential runoff election, and called for the creation of a presidential council to manage the affairs of the country - a last-ditch attempt to avoid the ‘lesser-of-two evils runoff,’ as it has been called by many Egyptians, between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister, Shafiq.

Sadeeqa Abu Saada lagged behind the march to stand on the median of a busy street, handing out flyers to passing cars that explained the need for a presidential council.  The flyer outlines a body made up of Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Nasserist who took third place in the first round, former presidential candidate Aboul Fotouh, socialist Abu Ezz el-Hariri, and Morsi - “just to have everyone involved,” she said.

Others passed around stickers for the so-called Mubatelun campaign, which calls on voters to invalidate their ballots during Saturday’s and Sunday’s election, under the logic that enough invalidations would undercut the legitimacy of the poll.

Images by Davin Hutchins & Yuli Weeks

One demonstrator, Ahmed, 25, said he believes that the runoff election proves that there has been no change in Egypt. “Even [U.S. Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton said on CNN that there was a revolution in Tunisia and Libya, and there is one now in Syria. But in Egypt and in Yemen, there have only been reforms. The regime is just as it always was,” he said.

“[The military council] thinks we’re idiots,” he added. “That when they change the person at the top, we’ll think there has been a regime change. But we’re not idiots.”

Ahmed, who said he had lost several friends to clashes with the police over the past 18 months, voted for Aboul Fotouh in the first round. This weekend, he said he would cast his vote for Morsi. He emphasized, “I’m not convinced with the elections. I think it will go to Shafiq. But I’ll do what I can by voting for Morsi.”

However, the outrage seemed to be confined to the small crowd of demonstrators - others were simply annoyed that the march was blocking traffic along the busy Qasr el-Nil bridge that connects Tahrir to Mohandiseen.

“Few people are on the streets because of the mass media,” explained Ahmed. “And the military controls the mass media here. It distorts our image to the people, tells them that we are thugs who want to rob the country.”

And the military has a powerful lever in its hands - security.

Since January 28 of last year, the notorious day on which the police forces retreated from the streets, every day Egyptians have been craving security in a way almost nostalgic for the days under the heavy-handed Mubarak regime. Shafiq, who markets himself as the law-and-order candidate, plays well into those fears and desires, many observers note.

Another demonstrator, Sadeeqa Abu Saada, attributed the rather small turnout to sheer exhaustion. “A lot of people share our feeling of rage,” she said. “But remember that it’s been almost two years. We’ve been out on the streets, many people have been hurt. So, some people are saving their energy for when they are sure -like when [the election results] are forged and Shafiq comes to power.”

Despite the rationalizations for the low turnout that were given - the biased media, the lack of security, and exhaustion - the march called into question the usefulness of activists’ continued use of street politics to try to change the course of institutional politics.

Abu Saada, who voted in the first round for leftist candidate Khaled Ali, who garnered just half of one percent of the vote, now says she believes the electoral process is rigged in the military’s favor. “I’m here because it’s all a farce,” she said. “The military will put Shafiq in power.”

For the runoff, she intends to invalidate her vote but not immediately. She says she will wait until the second day of the runoff to go to the polls, concerned that ballot boxes unwatched overnight are vulnerable to tampering. “We don’t know what will happen during this dark night,” she said.

Another demonstrator, Um Mohamed, was dressed in a long, black veil with a cloth band tied around her head that read “Down with military rule.” Like the others, she was against Shafiq, who she believes represents a return to the old regime. She said she plans to vote for Morsi, arguing that “the Muslim Brotherhood has always been with us in the revolution.”

However, Abu Saada contested Brotherhood’s revolutionary credentials, calling them political opportunists who have aligned themselves with revolutionary forces when it was convenient, and abandoned them just as quickly.

“The choice they put you between - the tyrants of the military and the tyrants of extremism - this is not the Tahrir, the utopia that we lived in for 18 days and after,” she said, referring to the turbulent beginnings of Egypt’s popular uprising.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More