Thousands protest in Tahrir Square at lack of change
TENS OF thousands of Egyptians yesterday returned to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square and to the streets of other cities and towns across the country to take part in rallies to “correct the path” of the revolution launched last January.
In Cairo, 30,000 men, women and children carrying banners and flags poured into Tahrir Square from near and distant quarters to register frustration over the lack of change since president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in mid-February. They chanted, “Everything is the same after the revolution,” and demanded a timetable for an end to military rule.
They rejected summary military trials to which 12,000 detained activists have been subjected since the 18-day uprising and called for abrogation of draconian laws against freedom of assembly and the press imposed by the generals who exercise presidential power.
The massive turnout in spite of a boycott by the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups showed that the secular camp, the force behind the up- rising, can still take command of the streets. Police and troops vacated Tahrir Square ahead of the demonstration and avoided confrontation with protesters else- where.
Among personalities addressing the Tahrir rally was Abdel Hakim Abdel Nasser, son of still revered president Gamal Abdel Nasser, and two police commanders who testified at Mr Mubarak’s trial that his interior minister Habib al-Adly had ordered the police to use live fire against protesters during the uprising, killing 846 and wounding 5,500.
Some 2,000 protesters assembled outside the Israeli embassy and dismantled sections of a high wall built recently around the building while some marched to the interior ministry to condemn continued police violence against protesters, strikers and football fans and others made for the high court to demand a purge of Mubarak-era judges.
In Syria, five deaths were reported by opposition activists during demonstrations in several cities and towns calling for international monitors and an end to the regime of president Bashar al-Assad.
“Calling for international intervention is a sensitive issue that could be used by the regime to label its opponents as traitors,” stated Ahmad Khatib, a spokes- man for the revolutionary council, an umbrella opposition grouping. “We are calling for . . . observers as a first step.” Western powers that have intervened militarily in Libya have rejected such involvement in Syria.
While the opposition insists protests are peaceful, the government contends it is combating a foreign conspiracy to destroy Syria and accuses “armed terrorist groups” slaying 500 members of the security forces.
The regime’s line has failed to impress the West and Turkey, where prime minister Erdogan, a former ally, has been sharply critical of the crackdown that human rights groups say has killed 2,200.
However, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev – whose country has rejected tough sanctions on the Syrian regime – has said the opposition does include “armed groups” and some elements who could “even be described as terrorists.”
Human Rights Watch has said Syrian security agents “forcibly removed 18 wounded people” from a hospital in the restive city of Homs on Thursday and prevented medics from treating others.
“Snatching wounded people from the operating room is inhumane and illegal, not to mention life threatening,” stated Human Rights Watch regional director Leah Whitson.