Tahrir protesters debate allowing traffic through the square

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CAIRO: Heated arguments continued around Tahrir Square on Sunday, as protesters debated allowing traffic through the square while continuing their sit-in.

As the numbers in Tahrir dwindled to a few hundred, Ashraf Hafez, representative of those injured during the 18-day revolt, believed there was no point in keeping the roads closed.

"We want to move the tents in front of the Mugammaa (a government administrative complex), so we can allow the flow of traffic back to the square while continuing our open sit-in," Hafez told Daily News Egypt.

However, Mohamed Antar, 32, interrupted Hafez saying that they would have no leverage over authorities if they opened the roads.

"Life will return back to normal and authorities will treat us as if we never even existed," he said.

Both Hafez and Antar were injured on Jan. 28 during the protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Hafez is forced to walk on crutches due to his injury.

"The injured in the revolution did not receive any kind of compensation; on the contrary the ruling military council and government want to humiliate them," said Hafez.

A violent crackdown on a sit-in of less than 200 injured protesters on Nov. 19 escalated into even more violent clashes with the police in and near Tahrir Square. As the clashes spread to other cities, more the 40 protesters were killed, the majority of whom in Cairo. Police backed down and a concrete wall was erected on the site of the clashes on Nov. 24.

The sit-in continued in Tahrir Square and outside the nearby cabinet headquarters.

Sayed Mahmoud, 35, a tea vendor in Tahrir said, "We won’t leave until we get the rights of our martyrs," adding that he wasn’t there merely to sell tea but to serve this country.

Members of the Ultras Ahlawy said they would stay until those responsible for killing peaceful protesters were prosecuted.

Sayed Abdel Fattah, 36, said that the hospital form documenting his injury was forged to include someone else’s name, who wasn’t one of the injured.

"They forged our documents and are taking the compensations for themselves instead of giving them to the rightful people who sacrificed their lives for Egypt’s revolution," he said, adding that he filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General.

Others stressed that there was no way they would open the square until Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi stepped down and handed over power to civilian authority.

"Security forces know who we are and what we look like and they will hunt us down for standing against Tantawi if we leave the square," said Ahmed Ali, 17.

Sayyed Mostafa, 22, claimed he was briefly detained on Saturday afternoon as he was heading home from the square, holding an Egyptian flag that read "Against the military rule."

Others demanded that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) issue a constitutional decree vowing to hand over power to a civilian rule by June.

On the other hand, Adel El-Saeid, 58, has been on hunger strike for six days and is calling for the retrial of Mubarak and his sons, describing the current trial as a "sham," in addition to the prosecution of the Prosecutor General.

When it came to the military council, El-Saeid believed the people need to be patient and give them a chance.

There were also calls for ending the sit-in altogether.

Gamal Mohamed and Hassan Farag visited the square on Sunday with a different agenda.
"What’s happening in Tahrir is chaos and we need to give the military council a chance," said Gamal Mohamed.

He was interrupted by Hassan Farag who described him as "a remnant of the former corrupt regime,” expressing his support for the people in Tahrir.

Dozens of protesters attempted to revive the spirit of the square despite the small numbers, chanting, "Leave," addressing Tantawi.

Most of the protesters interviewed said the elections were “rigged” and said the new parliament would be "powerless."

"A People’s Assembly (PA) without any jurisdiction is just like all the other previous PAs we had under Mubarak’s reign," Mahmoud Fawzy, 23, said.

Others criticized the fact the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), took the lead in the preliminary results of the elections, accusing them of striking a deal with the government.

"What have the Brotherhood ever done for us? They are the ones who want us to leave the square," said Shaimaa Saber, 24.

Most of the protesters were also against the new government headed by Kamal El-Ganzoury, describing him as a pawn in Tantawi’s hands.

The April 6 Youth Movement moved the sit-in from Tahrir Square to the cabinet demanding a new national salvation government instead of the current one headed by El-Ganzoury.

On his part, Abdel Moneim Adel, 25, said he just wanted to have a decent job where he can earn a living.

"The army keeps labeling us as thugs and thieves, but all we want is a decent living and things just keep getting worst," he said.

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