News / Middle East

Towering Gates at Cairo's Tahrir Square Draw Criticism

A general view of Cairo's Tahrir Square, taken on Jan. 26, 2014, the day after thousands of demonstrators protested in the square.
A general view of Cairo's Tahrir Square, taken on Jan. 26, 2014, the day after thousands of demonstrators protested in the square.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Towering metal gates erected near Cairo's Tahrir Square by army-backed authorities have drawn criticism as a new form of police repression in an area where Egyptians launched a historic uprising for democracy in 2011.

Its top bristling with spikes, and painted in the national colors, the three-meter-(10-foot)-high structure was put up in what the Interior Ministry has depicted as an effort to restore a semblance of normality to central Cairo.

It replaces one of the many temporary concrete walls that sprang up in the district over the past three years. It has been left open so far since it was opened on the weekend, restoring Kasr el-Eini street as a major traffic thoroughfare, but could be shut at a moment's notice.

"These gates were put up temporarily. In the case of any security incidents, they will shut the street," said Hany Abdel Latif, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Critics say the fortified structure perpetuates what they hoped were only temporary blockades and reinforces the sense of a nation in crisis seven months after the army ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"I would like to ask: does anyone know the opening times of the Kasr el-Eini crossing?" Hanan Hagag, a journalist, quipped on her Facebook page, likening the barrier to Egypt's heavily-guarded border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

The sentiment points to the turmoil still facing Egypt.

Street protests that often turn violent and militant attacks have become commonplace since Morsi was removed after mass protests against his rule in Tahrir and elsewhere.

The Interior Ministry, a hated tool of oppression in the Hosni Mubarak era, is the main instrument in a state crackdown that has landed Brotherhood and secular activists in jail.

Unsettling Look of Permanence

While other arteries into Tahrir are generally open to traffic, security forces do close them off from time to time using barbed wire coils, typically ahead of anticipated protests.

But because of its look of permanence, the imposing metal gate across Kasr el-Eini is especially offensive to democracy advocates in the Arab world's largest country.

The Kasr el-Eini entrance is the nearest on Tahrir to public buildings including parliament and government offices. The gate is not the only new barrier to have been erected in recent weeks.

Down the road from the gates, concrete blast shields have been put up outside government offices to protect them from the bomb attacks that have spiralled since Morsi was removed.

"They were talking about turning Tahrir into a museum, a place of celebration," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the liberal Dustour Party. "Instead they are installing these ugly iron gates and trying to prevent and ban demonstrations in Tahrir Square itself."

Last month, on the third anniversary of the uprising against Mubarak, Tahrir was taken over by supporters of army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who is widely expected to be elected president in a forthcoming election.

The authorities have sought to curb protests that were a regular feature of the three years since Mubarak's downfall, passing a law that heavily restricts demonstrations.

Ruweida Omar, a rights activist, said: "We had hope that one day the concrete barriers would be removed. The iron barricade has taken away that hope. When I saw the gate, I really thought that we were living under siege."

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid