CAIRO: Thousands of protesters flocked to Tahrir Square on the Friday dubbed "Reclaiming Honor," to condemn the ruling military council for violence against protesters while dispersing the Cabinet sit-in last week.
The protesters chanted "Egypt’s women are a red line,” "Raise your head high, you’re more honorable than the one who stomped you," referring to the female protester who was trampled and stripped by military police.
Sheikh Hisham Atteya, friend of Sheikh Emad Effat who was shot to death during the clashes earlier this week, slammed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in the Friday sermon he delivered in Tahrir.
"We came to Tahrir after our women were stripped naked," Atteya said.
"You have failed in handling the transitional period, leave now," he said.
Violence raged in downtown Cairo last week, when military police cracked down on a weeks-long Cabinet sit-in. The violence left at least 17 dead and over 900 injured.
Sheikh Abdel Aziz El-Naggar of Al-Azhar told Daily News Egypt that SCAF wants to send a message to the people that their bullets don’t discriminate between a Sheikh or a doctor or an engineer.
"We never saw these flagrant violations under Hosni Mubarak’s reign," El-Naggar said.
Atteya read out a statement issued by a group of revolutionaries calling on SCAF to immediately hand over power to a civilian presidential council, following the parliamentary elections. The presidential council would include the elected head of the People’s Assembly, presidential hopefuls Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Hamdin Sabbahi, and professor Hossam Eissa, and George Ishaq, cofounder of Kefaya opposition movement.
Atteya pointed out that these figures could be changed according to the will of the people, while the principle of forming a civilian presidential council stands.
After praying for the martyrs, the protesters broke into chants. "The people want the execution of the field Marshal," they shouted, referring to SCAF chief Hussein Tantawi.
Father of martyr, ex-military officer Mostafa Shaker Abdel Fattah took to the stage in tears asking how his son could die at the hands of military forces, when he participated in the 1967 and 1973 wars.
Protesters marched around the square carrying a mock coffin draped in the Egyptian flag as they chanted, "Down with military rule."
Several marches poured into Tahrir Square from Al-Azhar Mosque, Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque and Al-Qasr Al-Aini.
The protest also saw a high turnout of women who marched around the square slamming SCAF and demanding it step down.
"I wish I would’ve died before seeing the footage of our women being dragged and beaten by our own military," Fatma Selim, a math teacher said.
"I’m sure I taught some of these soldiers but I didn’t teach them to treat women like that," she added.
Maysa El-Badawy, 47, said that her Australian sister-in-law canceled a trip to Egypt after she witnessed how SCAF treats Egyptian women.
"Our ruler and protector is attacking our women and beating them, SCAF is the one who is driving foreigners away from Egypt, not the protesters," El-Badawy said.
Karima Al-Hifnawy, co-founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and member of the association of Egyptian Women for Change, took the stage and told protesters that “Egyptian women won’t be broken."
Al-Hifnawy slammed Islamic powers who refused to join the mass protests and called for respect and dignity for Egypt’s women.
"I will not forgive any Islamic powers that denounced this girl [who was stripped and dragged] and said she wasn’t our daughter …where’s your manhood and chivalry?" she asked.
The notorious picture and videos of a woman being dragged and stripped by military forces during bloody clashes that erupted last Friday dominated the media and heightened criticism against SCAF’S brutality.
Feelings of resentment against the Muslim Brotherhood, who announced that they wouldn’t participate, were expressed by the demonstrators.
"Where are you now? An Egyptian woman shouldn’t be stripped naked," chanted the women, addressing the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said it wouldn’t participate in the protesters to preserve stability and avoid escalating the situation.
Despite participating in the protest, Sayed Ismail, a young member of the Nasserist Party, defended the army saying “Egyptian soldiers would never strip an Egyptian woman naked.”
He justified the security forces’ action, claiming that the woman cursed the military forces and stripped herself, but said that he was against any kind of brutally against any Egyptian, not just women, and called on SCAF to step down.
Many prominent political powers joined the mass protests, including the Salafi Al-Nour Party, Al-Wasat, the liberal Egyptian Bloc, the Revolutionary Ghad and Al-Wasat Parties, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Kefaya Movement for Change, Youth for Freedom and Justice and the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth.
However, the presence of these political powers in the square was not significant, as the iconic square seemed to be dominated by Egyptian citizens, not affiliated with any particular political stream.
Shawqi Lotfy held up a cross in the square saying "I don’t want my three-year-old daughter to grow up to be beaten and stripped naked by [military forces] on the streets."
The protesters called for the swift prosecution of those responsible for brutally attcking the women during the clashes.
Most of the protesters interviewed by DNE said they wouldn’t stay overnight, while supporting the people’s right to hold an open sit-in until their demands are met.
A few tents were set up in the center garden, surrounded by a huge Egyptian flag.