Egypt: Demonstrators Gather In Tahrir Square To Protest Military
Thousands of Egyptian demonstrators took to Tahrir Square Friday to rally against the military powers that assumed control after the departure of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
The protests erupted after the government proposed constitutional changes that would protect the military from civilian oversight and define the military as the guardian of “constitutional legitimacy,” sparking fears that the military could supersede a future, democratically-elected government’s rule.
Whereas liberals and social-media practitioners had dominated the protests against Mubarak earlier in the year, it was the Muslim Brotherhood and hardline Salafi-affiliated Islamists that made the strongest showing at Friday’s demonstrations.
As the BBC reports:
Witnesses say that Tahrir Square was split between the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the more hardline Islamist Salafi rivals, represented by several political parties.
The two set up separate stages and organised their own speeches and chants, only joining forces for Friday prayers.
The New York Times highlighted the tensions between the Islamist protesters and liberals, once uniformly opposed to Mubarak but now striving to achieve their own goals:
Egyptian liberals, torn between their fears of Islamist power on the one hand and of military rule on the other, mostly stayed home. The April 6 Movement, a pivotal force in the uprising, was one of the few liberal groups to make a conspicuous presence, calling it “the Friday of One Demand”—meaning a handover of power to the lower house of parliament after it is elected by April. “Of course there are fears of Islamists taking power,” said Dina Allithy, 23, a recent college graduate and member of the group. “But today we are trying to ignore all of that.”
The protests come nine months after the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak sparked widespread celebration among demonstrators.
In a conversation with the Council on Foreign Relations before Mubarak’s departure, Colgate University professor Bruce K. Rutherford pointed out that the former president was a “military man” and speculated on the level that the Egyptian head-of-state coordinated his actions during the February protests with military generals:
He was a career military officer and the head of the Air Force before he became vice president for President Anwar al-Sadat [who was assassinated in 1981*]. And the military sees him as one of them, so it's not so much a question of the military challenging Mubarak for power or anything along those lines. It's more a case of military men sitting down and reaching an agreement on what best serves the interest of the nation.
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