Factions evident at celebrations of Egyptian uprising


HUNDREDS OF thousands of Egyptians yesterday poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the streets of Suez and other cities to mark the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak last February.

The avenues radiating out from Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the cradle of the uprising, and the bridges across the Nile were crammed with people seeking to join the demonstration but unable to reach Tahrir because of the throng.

Unlike last year on this day, the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-orthodox Salafis did not boycott the demonstration. They were out in force and the square was divided between them and the secular revolutionaries who made the uprising.

The main beneficiaries of the revolution, the fundamentalists, who had been excluded from politics, put forward their message on 10 loudspeakers mounted on a platform set up in the square. They said the revolution has succeeded and called for an end to protests, strikes and disruption. They urged Egyptians to stand behind the new parliament where fundamentalist parties won 70 per cent of seats.

The revolutionaries returned to the square to call for a continuation of the uprising and to demand the end of the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which assumed power after Mr Mubarak’s ouster. They hold that the SCAF has obstructed the transition from dictatorship to multiparty democracy in order to maintain the military’s grip on power and that the fundamentalists are collaborating with the generals in a counter-revolution.

Muslim Brothers shouted “ Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!) and condemned the “enemies of Islam” while secular liberals accused SCAF chief field marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi of being responsible for the deaths of 150 protesters in a crackdown against dissent since the generals took power. “Tantawi, come and kill more revolutionaries, we want your execution!” they chanted. Some 12,000 civilians have also been brought before military courts and sentenced to terms of imprisonment since the uprising.

Meanwhile in Syria, anti-regime activists reported that security for- ces fired with heavy weapons upon restive quarters of the central city of Hama.

Co-ordination committees said 4,000 soldiers backed by tanks were operating in the city in violation of the Arab League peace plan. The pro-regime Watandaily said an offensive had been launched to retake areas that had fallen to the rebels. At least eight people were killed, including the head of the Red Crescent in the northern town of Idlib, Dr Abdulrazak Jbero, who was shot dead in “unclear circumstances” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Although the government has extended the mission of league monitors in Syria, members of the Gulf Co-operation Council have withdrawn 55 observers from the 165-member team reporting on regime compliance in ending the crackdown. Senior Emirati political analyst Abdel Khalaq Abdullah revealed that the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait had been reluctant to pull out their monitors, but Riyadh, the council heavyweight, had insisted because of the danger to their lives.