Wednesday, April 07, 2010

April 6 demonstration exposes the weak-points of Egyptian opposition elite

Protests have become a daily scene in the Egyptian street that they do not make international news headlines anymore. The demonstration launched by young activists in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, on Tuesday, to celebrate the second anniversary of the 6 April Strike was going to be “just” another nonviolent protest, if it was not for the brutal interference of security forces.

The demonstration, which marked the most violent clashes since 2005, was calling for the change of certain articles in the Egyptian constitution to give equal opportunities to candidates of the presidential elections due in 2011. Journalists and activists were physically assaulted and more than 70 persons were arrested and shipped on large police trucks to detention centers miles away from the demonstration’s scene.

The top notch of today’s clashes between nonviolent protesters and security forces was the historical appearance of plain-clothes policewomen. They were ordered to beat women activists and assault them physically. Ironically, the policewomen, though obeying orders, sympathized with the young protesters they assaulted. According to Asmaa Mahfouz, a member of 6 April Youth movement, “a police woman kept pushing me to run while she was beating me, urging me that she is forced to do so!”

Tuesday’s demonstrations’ call for changing the constitution was inspired by the calls of ElBaradei’s National Association for Change (NAC). Since his return to Cairo in February, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA director, was pushed by some intellectual elite to run for the presidential seat in the 2011 elections. The current constitution does not allow him to run. Thus, he started a new movement calling for changing the constitution. He has appeared in the international media on daily basis and a lot of young people followed him and labeled him as “their long-awaited hope.” Yet, ElBaradei never showed today among those who were calling for the same cause he is fighting for. Even worse, the elite members of his infant association never participated.

Hamdy Kandil, NAC’s spokesperson explained yesterday why the association cannot participate by saying: “We cannot call the members of association who belong to different political affiliations to participate in the rally in order not to disband them.”

I do not understand what exactly would “disband” the respected members if they participated in a demonstration that calls for the same cause they formed their association for; i.e. constitutional change! The whole day, neither ElBaradei nor his elite supporters stated a word in favor of the protesters. They kept silent in a very disappointing way. ElBaradei and his elite friends’ appearance should have rescued the young activists who were beaten furiously today. If they were in the demonstration scene, the security forces were not going to take any brutal action against protesters out of respect to the international community.

Ayman Nour, a rival presidential candidate, was the only political elite who had the courage to participate in protests today. Nour and his supporters from the al-Ghad party clashed with security men who tried to prevent them from moving towards the demonstration in Tahrir squar. Nour’s son was beaten and arrested by security forces for about one hour.

Though suppressed, today’s April 6 protests demonstrated the regime’s apprehension, opposition elite’s shameful lethargy, and young activists’ dedication and love of their homeland.

This article was written during the protests yesterday. For minute by minute updates, follow me on Twitter (@daliaziada)

This morning (Wednesday, April 7, 2010) UPDATES:

- Elbaradei asserted his rejection and condemnation to the attacks on April 6 protesters. He also asserted that security forces do not have the right to treat protestors like this. Elbaradei, then, mentioned that he will announce a formal stance later! Kandil made similar statements too. For me, this was expected from Elbaradei and other elite members to wait in their air-conditioned offices and then show up after the demonstration ends and the risk disappears to “condemn” and “reject.”

- The number of detainees reached up to 92 persons by the end of yesterday. Then, they were taken to temporary detention centers all over Cairo. This morning, they were released under the guarantee of having the addresses of their residences.

This morning (Wednesday, April 7, 2010) UPDATES:

In another shameful reaction by a prestigious member of the opposition elite, Abdul Rahman Yusuf, the General Coordinator of Elbaradei Presidential Campaign issued a press release today to condemn the regime (like his boss above) for using violence with young demonstrators.

But that is not all! The majority text of his press release is condemning the young people who started the demonstration yesterday. “I call upon young political activists to reconsider what happened and to show responsibility!” According to him, being young people going to streets to express their opinions is an "irrational" and "reckless" move that "they should not have done!" He describes April 6 demonstrations yesterday (which calls for Elbaradei’s campaign cause of changing the constitution as “a satirical misery” that he tried to prevent!

It is obvious that Yusuf wants to show the regime – out of fear of course – that neither he nor Elbaradei supports yesterday’s demonstrations.

Long live Egyptian youth; Shame on Egyptian opposition elite!