The Revolution has not failed - it just stalled, and is now back live on the streets!

The Revolution has not failed - it just stalled, and is now back live on the streets!
The Egyptian masses have done it again. They bring cheer to the hearts of all anti war activists across the world at a time of new warmongering by our own western leaders. They show immense courage in the face of horrific violence vetted out to them by the Supreme Council of the Armed Force’s (SCAF) boot boys – the black-clad Central Security Forces - back in November and December. They show once again a glimpse of a different world – of tolerance, justice and freedom, a world without war and where no child will die because of lack of food or healthcare.

On Wednesday 25 January 2012 the Egyptian people occupied streets and squares across Egypt to celebrate the anniversary of their revolution that overthrew the western backed military dictator Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of thousands packed in to Tahrir Square having marched from as far as Giza, Mohandissen, Shubra and other outer suburbs. They crowded the streets around the square and stretched across the bridges over the river Nile leading to the square. Ten thousand students alone marched from Cairo University. Tens of thousands also converged on squares in Alexandria, Suez, Ismailiya, Mahala and other cities throughout Egypt. Many protesters carried empty coffins to commemorate their slain friends and relations.

On a visit to Tahrir Square at Christmas I saw many injured protesters, some with eye patches. So many protesters lost eyes in the clashes in November and December. One such victim, a 31-year old dentist named Ahmad Harara, who received 28 injuries to his face and lungs on the ‘Friday of Anger’ on Tahrir Square on 28th January last. He later lost his right eye. On 19 November he was protesting on the Square again, this time calling on the ruling Military Council (SCAF) to step down, only to be shot in his left eye by the military that attacked the protesters and their encampment. He has since lost his left eye. Now blind, he still returns to Tahrir Square.

One of the shrines on the square had pictures of a young medical student named Alaa who was shot in the head at his first ever demonstration in December. He had volunteered his medical skills to tend the wounded. Beside his image is a picture of Sheik Emid a respected, charismatic Muslim Brotherhood clergyman who also was shot dead. He had been a regular attendee on the Tahrir protests. There is also the well-broadcasted image of the young woman stripped of her upper garments being horrifically beaten by soldiers.

Their fellow citizens on the anniversary remembered all these heroes of the revolution this year as they marched through the streets. These massive demonstrations totally eclipsed the planned celebrations by the SCAF in its continued efforts to hijack the revolution.

There may be different aspirations among the protesters. Michael Jansen, writing in the Irish Times the following day, noted the message of the Muslim Brotherhood that “the revolution has succeeded and called for an end to protests, strikes and disruption. They urged Egyptians to stand behind the new parliament.” But other reports online clearly show a huge numbers of Egyptians that are holding the military to account as is clear from their chants:

“Down with military rule, we the people are the red line”.

“The people demand the downfall of the regime” – just like they chanted against Mubarak one year ago.

“Civilian, civilian. We don’t want it militarized” – referring to the slow pace of change to a civilian government and clearly calling for an end to military rule.

“Bread, freedom, human dignity” - which was the initial chant of the protesters in January 2011.

“Our demands are the same, freedom and justice”.

The Revolution is back – and its live on the streets of Egypt. Jack Shenker, writing in the Guardian from Cairo on 25 January quoted one protester thus:
“But this just shows you that the revolution never went away – it is here, it is alive, and it is stronger than ever. When we left the square after Mubarak was toppled, people always said 'well, we can come back if things go wrong'. They did go wrong, and today is about reclaiming our streets and returning to Tahrir."

At time of writing the ‘April 6 Youth Movement’ and the ‘National Front for Justice and Democracy’ have both announced plans to stage an open-ended sit-in in Tahrir Square as has the pro-Baradei ‘Seven Demands for Change’ movement. Let us see what Friday brings?
So what has been achieved one year on from the ousting of Mubarak?

Well, he and his sons and a few of their cronies are imprisoned and on trial. A newly elected parliament met for the first time this week. Young Egyptians have discovered the power of their unified actions. But little else has changed. Ahmed Maher, activist and April 6 leader, noted recently: “the regime remains fully intact, with its old constitution, its cliques and its networks of interest. The economic system has not changed. Nor does SCAF have the slightest intention to change or reform it.” Blogger Maikel Nabila, recently released from prison, said: “we are under a political regime that is corrupt, tyrannical and bloodthirsty and which we cannot leave in power for one more day, as this would jeopardize our lives and those of our siblings and loved ones.”

This has been clear throughout the last year in the following ways:
- the SCAFs unwillingness to relinquish power and withdraw to barracks
- its sentencing of 12,000 protesters in military trials since last January (some have noted in worse conditions than under Mubarak)
- its attempt to include a clause in the constitution that would have preserved special powers for the military
- its awful use of violence against protesters in Cairo on 19 November and 16 December, demonstrating how similar the SCAF is to the old Mubarak regime

Another blow to the revolution comes from the results of the election where the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists gained a clear majority of 67%. Many Egyptian revolutionaries accuse both groups of opportunism, playing to the SCAF gallery and not supporting the demonstrations that are calling for freedom and justice and an end to military rule.

The MB and Salafists did not initially support the large protest of 25 January 2011 that eventually led to the overthrow of Mubarak. They refused to support the protest on 23 December 2011 only days after military thugs had killed and injured many protesters. Just before Christmas the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the leader of one of the Revolutionary Socialist groups to Egypt’s Chief Prosecutor accusing him of inciting riots and being unpatriotic. This was very serious and could have involved the socialist leader serving prison time – or worse. The Socialists fought back through the media, won their arguments and forced a retraction from the MB leader, a first in Egyptian history. Many younger MB members denounced what their leader had done and many have since defected.

This shows that the MB is not the monolithic bloc that many western commentators think and it that it can be held to account. It must be said that some of the best protesters have been supporters of the MB. A strong characteristic of the revolution has also been the unity of Muslim and Christian protesters, seen again in the recent commemorations for the mainly Coptic Christian victims who died in a bomb attack on the Qiddiseen Church in Alexandria last New Year’s Eve.

There are difficulties and barriers to the successful outcome of the revolution but they are not insurmountable. The SCAF has been forced to cede many concessions on several fronts due to pressure from the revolutionaries on the streets:
- the holding of civilian trials for Mubarak and regime members
- the withdrawal of the clause regarding the special power of the military
- the agreement of a presidential poll in June this year rather than some time in 2013
- the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador following attacks on the Embassy after four Egyptian soldiers were killed by Israel
- the ongoing re-negotiating of the sale of Egyptian gas to Israel
- the recent outlawing of the hated virginity tests for women thanks to the action of a female activist who had to endure such humiliating treatment
- the release this week of many prisoners and the ending of military trials for civilian dissidents
- the partial lifting of the decades old emergency law this week

Jack Shenker’s interviewee gives us hope for the future:
"The challenge now is for the protesters to find a successful formula which will allow them to organise and thrive in the politics of Egypt today, and I'm betting on them succeeding because they have not lost their enthusiasm, they have not lost their faith in non-violence despite the enormous violence used against them, they have not stopped organising, and they have not lost their sense of humor. It's a confident humour that looks to the future because they know that time is on their side. Compared to that, SCAF has lost. The generals look like desperate people clinging on to the vestiges of power in the most unimaginative, banal and crude manner possible. And so the revolution continues."

One thing is certain. The Egyptian revolution has lit a spark that has flamed around the world inspiring the ‘Occupy’ movement that is now challenging the elite’s system of corporatism, competition and militarism. All anti war activists should take hope and learn from the Egyptian example.

Jim Roche, PRO Steering Committee IAWM

References: Ahramonline, Ahram Weekly, Al-Jazeera English, The Guardian, The Irish Times.