CAIRO: After weeks of violent demonstrations and the anniversary of “Black Wednesday looming today, activist groups are expected to continue to put pressure on the Egyptian government.
Last week, violence erupted for the second straight week as demonstrators showing their solidarity with judges Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham El-Bastawisy. Plainclothes police grabbed protesters from the procession, clubbing them repeatedly before rushing them into the blue detention vehicles parked nearby. Approximately 300 Muslim Brotherhood activists were arrested on Thursday alone.
Today, demonstrators are expected to take to the streets again, in protest over the actions of police and security forces last May 25. “Black Wednesday, as many opposition figures and democracy activists refer to last year, was a day marred with violence, including sexual abuses perpetrated against female demonstrators.
George Ishaq, coordinator for the Kefaya (Enough) movement, hopes that this day will be a day that all Egyptians will not soon forget.
“There is no more fear in this country and people refuse to go back, Ishaq says, noting the fact that over the past month each demonstration has seen a discernable increase in the number of people out on the street. This is despite hundreds still remaining detained in prisons across the nation.
“People are once again feeling that they are making a difference . they are showing that they are protesting against something and revealing their vision, he continues. “The atmosphere is changing.
Along with demonstrations scheduled at Cairo University, the Judge’s Syndicate and the Journalist Syndicate, Kefaya is planning a city-wide boycott of electricity.
“We plan to shut everything off at 9 p.m. for an hour . no lights. This will show the government that we are willing to have a strike against them, Ishaq adds.
More importantly, Ishaq says, is the way that people are going to come out and support the people who were abused during last years demonstrations.
“We are going to show them that their abuses can no longer be accepted and that the women who were sexually assaulted will have their voice heard.
Last May 25, journalist Abir Al Askary was reportedly taken from the scene and sexually assaulted by police and state security. There was an outpouring of disgust at these actions, which, until recently, had made journalists off limits to plainclothes police. However, over the past two weeks, incidents have been reported where photographers and journalists have been beaten and their equipment destroyed.
“A group of police thugs handpicked him from the crowd of journalists, around five or six thugs, and surrounded him, Lina Al-Ghadban, Al-Jazeera Cairo correspondent who was present on May 11, told The Daily Star Egypt after the event. “He was badly beaten, punched several times in the face.
These incidents have galvanized what was a teetering opposition. Along with the call of judges for independence and the numerous activists detained, the opposition seems to be picking up steam.
“We are suffering from a leader that is dependent on his charisma and that is waning, Ishaq believes. “[Judges] are the leaders and they must be independent on their own if we are to have a real democratic society.
With the U.S. now entering the debate over the Egyptian style of cracking down on demonstrators, Ishaq believes that it is time to show the world that they are ready to continue their struggle for freedom.
“We are ready to open the doors and our movement is of the people, he says.
Like Kefaya, the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood has been creating a storm over the past few weeks. Prominent Brotherhood members have been arrested, including Essam Al-Arian and Mohamed Mursi.
“The Brotherhood won’t let up in the face of police force and the NDP’s use of violence to hold their power, Hamdy Hassan, Brotherhood MP believes.
Today is expected to see more of the same violence against demonstrators, despite the opposition having planned non-violent demonstrations for weeks now.
Mustafa Awadallah, MP and Brotherhood member present at last week’s demonstrations, argues that the government is seeing their last straw of power crumble.
“This is all they can do to stop the people . hit and arrest them, he said. “The Brotherhood is better than all this.
“It is time to show our strength and unity, all opposition groups, on Thursday, Hassan continues. “We will be there to show our support to the victims of that horrible day last year.