Tahrir hijacks the Revolution

15-12-2011 09:07 AM

Youssef Sidhom

WATANI International

4 December 2011

This is not the first time I disagree with the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square. Since its outbreak and success in overthrowing the Mubarak regime, I have watched the Revolution with mixed feelings. It was obvious the revolutionary fever was short on reason and wisdom. The Tahrir revolutionaries, in my view and on several instances, overstepped all boundaries of reason. They acted as though they exclusively held the right to decide on Egyptian affairs and the course of democratic transformation the country should take; they alone possessed the wisdom, and were entitled to speak on behalf of the Egyptian public. The reluctance of the authorities—military and civilian alike—to take any action regarding what went on in Tahrir raised my concerns. The revolutionaries insisted that the entire leadership of the national security apparatus should be dismissed, on grounds that it belonged to the previous regime; their demand was met. This dragged the country miles backward on the way of the direly-needed restructuring of the security system. The revolutionaries attempted to impose specific perspectives and scenarios on the trials taking place of the former regime’s figures. They were not told this was a flagrant attempt at manipulating or intimidating the ongoing judicial process. I read the situation as unwarranted pampering of the revolutionaries and corruption of the revolution.

Today, some two weeks on the renewed demonstrations in Tahrir, I fail to sympathise with, let alone grasp, what the revolutionaries are doing. I see a frightful, unreasonable attempt to hijack the revolution in a way which jeopardises the country’s safety and security. This while we are at a critical junction in history, requiring solidarity and wisdom to secure free, peaceful parliamentary elections as the first step on the road to democratic transition. Here are some sources of my worries and points of contention with the Tahrir revolutionaries.

Following the success of the revolution, Tahrir Square became the preferred site for demonstrations and sit-ins, the place revolutionaries would flock to whenever they wished to voice concerns or express protest. This was justifiable in the absence of a clear, time-oriented vision for democratic transformation. Today, however, the vision is clear. Legislative elections have already begun, with various electoral blocks contesting the largest number of seats. I hardly understand why the revolutionaries persist in their adventurous practices, jeopardising these achievements. Is it a ploy to put the brakes on the progress made in that direction?

The 18 November demonstration, called for by the Islamist currents and termed the “Friday of the one demand”, sought to protest against the twin document offered by Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmi: a document on constitutional principles and another on the selection of the constituent assembly to draft the new constitution. All the movements across the political spectrum had already rejected articles 9 and 10 of the constitutional principles, which state that the Egyptian military forces protect the constitutional legitimacy and stipulate the formation of the “National Defence Council” to carry responsibility over the protection of the country. It remains difficult for many of those concerned with the future of this country, however, to comprehend why the other constitutional articles and the proposed criteria to select members of the constituent assembly were being opposed. Resounding slogans warned of “confiscating the people’s will and their right to draft their own constitution and elect the body that will write it.” Obviously, none of those who raised these slogans had bothered to scrutinise the content of the document and to objectively tell us where exactly the confiscation of the people’s will lay. Nor did any of them bother to read the criteria proposed for choosing members of the constituent assembly, to tell us whether these criteria would create an assembly representative of the various groups in Egypt or not.  

No sooner had we heaved a sigh of relief that the “Friday of the one demand” ended peacefully, than revolutionaries descended on Tahrir on Saturday, raising new demands. We might or might not agree with these demands. But the protestors started harassing the security forces and marched towards the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior in the nearby Mohamed Mahmoud Street. A horrific confrontation followed between the revolutionaries and the security forces, the worst since the January Revolution.  The disproportionate and unjustifiable use of force by security troops left dozens dead and hundreds injured. Watching this bloody showdown, I could not help asking why the demonstrators had insisted on breaking into the Interior Ministry, thereby bringing about all that violence. Why did they let things get out of control? The victim count revealed that ‘infiltrators and thugs’ had been among the protestors.

The tragedy of Tahrir and Mohammad Mahmoud street led the revolutionaries to raise the ceiling of their demands. Calls for an end to violence, putting on trial the officials responsible for killing demonstrators, and accepting the resignation of Essam Sharaf’s cabinet were reasonable and even necessary. But calls for postponement of the legislative elections and the departure of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its substitution by a civilian council chosen by Tahrir were, in my opinion, thoughtless and reckless. I could not understand why there appeared to be no wise men or women in the Square to recognise the grave consequences of these propositions. How did they fail to realise that these calls inevitably lead to anarchy, devastation and even civil war? The SCAF adopted a sensible approach when it apologised for the excessive use of force and pledged to hold accountable the officials responsible. It dismissed Dr Sharaf’s cabinet, said the elections would go on as scheduled, and brought forward the date of handing over power to 1 July 2012. These decisions worked as the ‘safety valve’ to preserve the stability of the nation.  

The Tahrir revolutionaries were not satisfied. They persistently called for the SCAF’s departure and the dismissal of the new PM Kamal al-Ganzouri—notwithstanding the fact that many of us fervently hope the new cabinet would work to ward off the looming economic catastrophe—and casting doubts over the ongoing election process. They even besieged the Cabinet headquarters, vowing to ban Dr Ganzouri from going in. 

Last but not least, I wish to register my revulsion and disgust at the reported sexual harassment by some Tahrir youth against young women and female journalists who go to the square to cover the events or support the demonstrators. The practice is a stigma on the face of the revolution; history will remember it as evidence of the absence of manhood and nobility from the square. Crimes of rape and harassment take place everywhere, but their occurrence in broad daylight in the square while the revolutionaries remained silent brands it as an evil revolution and an evil square.   

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