Egyptian activists have dubbed Friday as “Egypt’s Second Revolution.” With more planned strikes, they hope it will be as big as (if not bigger than) the protests which rocked the country on January 25th. While there are multiple demands for this Friday’s demonstration, the forefront of the effort is protesting the actions of the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF). Following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, the senior military officials comprising SCAF stepped in as Egypt’s military government.
In the days leading up to May 27th, the hashtag “#noSCAF” has been trending on Twitter in Egypt. On May 23rd, Egyptian bloggers collaborated in an “anti-SCAF blogging day,” writing posts about their reasons for returning to the streets in protest.
This may seem unexpected considering Egyptians seemed to feel stronger ties to the military during the first protests in January, particularly when they demonstrated restraint in firing on protestors. However, several incidents, as well as increased military trials for Egyptian civilians, lead activists and protestors to believe that SCAF is not necessarily a lesser evil than the Mubarak regime.
SCAF has proposed tremendously unpopular laws since Mubarak stepped down. One bill proposed the criminalization of protests, strikes, and demonstrations, which could yield a fine of up to 500,000 LE or a year in prison (or both). Ironically, this was met with a massive protest in response. “Insulting the military” also became a crime in Egypt under SCAF, which materialized with the sentencing of blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to 3 years of detention because of his unorthodox views.
SCAF also announced, which it later denied, that Egyptians living outside of the country would not be allowed to vote through their embassies. This gave rise to protests at Egyptian embassies and consulates all over the world, from London to Toronto to Paris. It remains unclear whether or not Egyptians abroad and dual citizens will have the right to vote in September.
In recent weeks, the military has used violence against peaceful protestors in Cairo. In a solidarity effort with Palestinians on Nakba Day, some Egyptians organized a protest at the Israeli embassy. The protesters demanded that the Israeli flag be removed from the embassy and replaced with a Palestinian one.
While not all activists agreed with the demands of this protest, or even the protest itself, very few could accept the violent military response of firing on peaceful protesters. Some commented that since the military arrived at the protest already wearing gas masks, they intended to violently break-up the protest.
More recently, religious sectarian clashes took place outside of a church in Imbaba, after a rumor circulated that a woman who had converted from Christianity to Islam was being held hostage inside. As violence erupted among those at the church, which resulted in 12 deaths and scores of injuries, Egyptian riot police left the area and the military was markedly absent. The delay in the military’s appearance at the scene gained SCAF further criticism on the front of protecting religious minorities.
In the final preparation for tomorrow’s massive strike, three young artists — film director Aida El Kashef, graffiti artist Mohamed Fahmy who goes by the moniker Ganzeer, and musician Adel Rahman Amin — were arrested for distributing leaflets and posters about May 27th, a serious blow to the idea of freedom of expression and assembly that Egypt’s “first” revolution hoped to instill.
SCAF’s actions are, in short, antithetical to the original demands of January 25th. Tomorrow, we can expect that Egyptians will come out in massive numbers, but it is uncertain whether they will compare with those which started in January. With dozens of political parties emerging, Egyptians appear to be more divided now than they were against Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, has publicly stated that they will boycott Friday's protests, in contrast with their position toward participating on January 25th. Numbers will be important tomorrow because Egypt’s largest-scale demonstrations have generated the most results for citizens’ demands.
SCAF’s response to peaceful protestors will also be key in defining the efficacy of tomorrow’s movement. Similarly, if SCAF merely issues a televised or written response to the protests, such as through the Facebook page they used to communicate with Egyptians since Mubarak stepped down, protesters will demand action over rhetoric. If the military uses violence against protesters, we can expect May 27th to carry on to the 28th, or beyond.
Photo Credit: Dalia Malek