Egypt marked the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution with a mix of celebration and dissent on Saturday, as supporters of the army rallied in Tahrir Square while clashes between protesters, security forces, and supporters of the military flared up nearby. Violence nationwide left seven dead and 47 injured at time of publishing, with 61 arrests.
Tahrir Square – Downtown
Thousands of demonstrators poured into Tahrir Square on Saturday, marking the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution with calls for Minister of Defence Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi
to nominate himself in the upcoming presidential elections.
The Ministry of Interior and armed forces provided heavy security around the perimeter of the square, placing metal detectors at entrances to Tahrir.
Commander-in-Chief Al-Sisi was the focus of the demonstrations, with people waving Egyptian flags and posters of the general, calling for him to become the country’s next president.
“We are here to celebrate the 25 January Revolution and demanding that Al-Sisi takes the presidency,” said Taher Al-Rifae, a 55 year old English instructor. “We showed the world we aren’t afraid when we voted in the referendum. Terrorism makes us stronger,” he added.
Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim urged Egyptians to celebrate in Tahrir Square on the revolution’s anniversary, which is also Police Day. Political parties including the Free Egyptians Party and Al-Wafd Party also called for demonstrations in the iconic square to mark the day.
Press Syndicate protest – Downtown
The mood was starkly different outside the square, however, as security forces forcibly dispersed several protests, including one which the Revolutionary Front said left two of its members dead.
Central Security Forces (CSF) dispersed the front’s protest in front of the Press Syndicate on downtown Cairo’s Abdel Khaliq Tharwat Street in Downtown Cairo on Saturday, the third anniversary of 25 January Revolution.
The front, who organised the protest, reported that two protesters were killed in the clashes following the dispersal. In a statement that was issued during the ongoing clashes, the front asked the protesters to leave the vicinity of downtown.
“The violence used by security forces against those who are trying to voice their opinions [adds to the crimes committed by] the current authorities, while … Tahrir Square is smeared with photos of [former president] Hosni Mubarak, who the people revolted against in January 2011.”
According to one protester, around 400 demonstrators had gathered in front of the Press Syndicate in a protest called for by the Revolutionary Front to commemorate the third anniversary of 25 January Revolution and against “the military, remnants of Mubarak’s regime and the Muslim Brotherhood” according to an earlier statement by the front.
The protesters had assembled at the intersection of Sherif and Abdulkhaliq Tharwat streets and chanted against “military rule” and the Ministry of Interior, only to be attacked by CSF from Talaat Harb square, leading to the protest’s dispersal.
Protesters regrouped at the beginning of Abdel Khaliq Tharwat Street from the Ramses Street side. What followed was a series of skirmishes between the demonstrators and CSF soldiers supported by pro-military civilians. Rocks and fireworks were used until the CSF began firing multiple teargas canisters and birdshot, which dispersed the protesters, who ran towards Al-Galaa Street.
Mostafa Mahmoud protest – Mohandessin
Another protest organised by the Revolutionary Front was also dispersed earlier in Mohandessin’s Mostafa Mahmoud Square.
Mahmoud, a 6 April Youth Movement member who witnessed the dispersal, said that protesters had gathered peacefully in front of Mostafa Mahmoud mosque planning to march to Tahrir Square, however were “attacked by APCs which fired teargas and birdshot.”
The protest was dispersed and protesters ran to side streets of Ahmed Abdel Aziz Street. They later regrouped and marched across 6th October Bridge to join the other protest outside the Press Syndicate.
However, the march willingly dispersed itself after news that security forces would attack them over the bridge, prompting them to take the bridge’s Zamalek exit and march onward in smaller groups towards the Press Syndicate. Moments later, APCs stormed 6th October Bridge heading towards downtown, followed by groups of soldiers, but never met up with the protesters.
Student protests – Old Cairo, Gezira
Students Against the Coup (SAC) meanwhile called on students to gather in Amr Ibn Al-Aas mosque and lead a protest to a “surprise” destination. Daily News Egypt arrived at the mosque before the prayer and there were no sign of security forces near the mosque. At midday prayer, police sirens sounded outside the mosque, with police forces arresting anyone suspected of being a protester as they exited after prayer. The group then announced that the protest had been called off due to the intense security presence in front of the mosque.
Another protest organised by the group was slated to be held in front of the Opera metro station on Gezira Island, but the outside of the station was filled with supporters of General Al-Sisi.
Despite this, the student group announced “the success” of what they called “the first phase of their plan” and that they would next proceed with their “escalation plan”. The group then called on their supporters to join the protesters downtown.
Anti-government protests also clashed with security forces in Maadi, Alf-Maskan, and Nasser City. The number of deaths and arrests has not been confirmed as of the time of print.
Roots of a revolution
On 25 January, 2011, millions of Egyptians protested in a number of governorates against the 30 year dictatorship of former president Hosni Mubarak. The largest protests gathered in city squares: Tahrir in Cairo, Al-Arbaein in Suez and Al-Qaed Ibrahim in Alexandria.
The protests, which called for “bread, freedom and social justice” and the downfall of the Mubarak regime, were largely fueled by public outrage over the death of torture victim Khalid Said by security forces, the forgery of the 2010 parliamentary elections, the Al-Qidisen church bombing, along with the soaring prices of commodities. Following 18 days of demonstrations, Mubarak stepped down as president on 11 February, 2011.