Egyptian Protesters Demand Military Step Down in Wake of Blue Bra Beating

Demonstrations and clashes continued in downtown Cairo for the third day on Sunday, as protesters rallied against the police crackdown on Saturday, which entailed use of live ammunition and left 10 dead of 500 wounded. They demanded that the Egyptian military immediately step down, and continued to reject the appointment of a Mubarak-era prime minister, economist Kamal al-Ganzouri, as caretaker PM.

Emotions ran high in the wake of attack of police on women, including beatings and tearing off their clothes in public. The Cairo protests appear to be dominated by leftist youth groups. The demonstrators are also demanding presidential elections be moved up from June to January. In downtown Cairo, the Brotherhood is alleged to have declined to attend the rallies. (It has been focusing on winning parliamentary elections).

RT has published the disturbing video footage of extreme police brutality against the protesters, including their assault on a women in black modest clothing, who was exposed and stomped on.

A phalanx of women volunteers sought on Sunday to form a buffer between police and demonstrators.

Demonstrations were also held elsewhere in provincial cities, and these were sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis, the religious forces that have done best in the elections for the ower house of parliament, now being held in three rounds. al-Masry al-Yawm writes, “In Sharqiya, thousands of protesters accused the military council and the government of conniving with the former regime against the interest of the people.” In Alexandria, both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Coptic Church demanded that compensation be paid the victims of police brutality.

The Egyptian military is probably attempting to split the general population from the revolutionary, left-leaning youth. They likely deliberately put al-Ganzouri in, knowing that he is generally popular in Egypt but would be completely unacceptable to the revolutionaries.

Then they probably tried to provoke the peaceful protesters in front of the cabinet building to violence with their use of extreme brutality, so as to depict them as the trouble-makers. They may also have hoped to hang the Egyptian bad economy on the disruptions of the protesters (who are blamed for keeping tourists away and interfering the return of a normal economy.

If the military can keep the youth lefists from allying with the Muslim Brotherhood, and can depict them as wild men to the Egyptian middle classes, then the officers think they might be able to remain in power, with a fig leaf of an elected parliament.

Meanwhile, the early results coming in from the second round of elections show that religious forces continue to dominate, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party pulling in about 40% of the vote and the hard line Salafi fundamentalists gaining as much as 30%.

24 Responses

  1. It appears that the success of the Muslims at the polls has not dampened the left’s antipathy toward the military. They are not interested in using the military as a buffer against theocray. And the military’s brutality, which they should know will be filmed and viewed, makes them look like the crazy ones. Could the military be forced out by popular demand? What would happen in a real democracy dominated by Muslims? How would they deal with the economy? How much freedom would they allow?

  2. I don’t understand the leftist protestors’ strategy–if they persuade the Army to step aside, the Army is not going to turn power over to them, but rather to the Muslim Brotherhood. Shouldn’t the left be focused on the elections? If anything they are only providing an excuse for a coup.

  3. As I have written here before, I think the military is afraid of a total revolution and purge, Iranian-style. As I understand it, the military controls something like 40% of the economy of Egypt. They can’t let that go without a struggle. I don’t really follow what is going on in Tunisia, but it seems that the new regime is not trying to overturn everything. However, in Libya, it does seem that there will be a complete upheaval. In Syria, it seems the Alawite regime feels they have nothing to lose by fighting to the bitter end AS LONG AS THE ARMY STAYS LOYAL. So Egypt finds itself in a odd position. It doesn’t seem clear what the people want….do they want a massive upheaval of power, or simply a more responsive regime. At the beginning we kept hearing how everybody hated the police but respected the Army because of its supposed victory over Israel in 1973, but that credit seems to be wearing off.
    I guess the main question is where do the two Islamic movements (MB and Salafists) stand in this question. Will the Army try to buy them off by offering chairmand ship of some companies and some jobs to MB and Salfist people, or do the Islamists want a more radical makeover of the society and the regime?

  4. Dear Juan Cole,

    Thank you so much for your invaluable work. I check your site almost daily.

    This is a small request and I don’t know if you would have time for it, but in case you do I’ll put it out there.

    There is a very similar video to the one you have posted above, except that the soundtrack is a woman singing in Arabic, and the video is a little longer, about two minutes and 47 seconds.

    In the beginning of the video Arabic typing appears on the screen, then the music begins. Would you, or one of your colleagues, be able to comment on what is typed into the frame of the video, and what the song is saying?

    The video has gone viral, with more than 1 million hits in I think a little more than a day. I saw it at both the Guardian and El Pais Internacional. I found it very moving. I thought it might be helpful for others too to understand how the song and the typed words frame what we are seeing in the video itself.

    The link to El Pais is here:

    link to eskup.elpais.com

    Thank you very much,

    T Mayer

  5. It seems to me that the protesters want what they say they want. Democracy. And that if Egypt’s voters want a Muslim government, they would be fine with a Muslim government.

    The people who do not want a Muslim government are not the protesters, but particularly people in the United States who have no right to vote in Egyptian elections.

    Unfortunately the United States has an extraordinary amount of leverage over the Egyptian military dictatorship and the US seems to be using its leverage not against the Muslim political parties, and not against the left-wing protesters, but against the people of Egypt.

    • Re Arnold’s claims that the U.S. is behind the scenes orchestrating the crackdown. I’ve never subscribed to the devil theory of history. Most of the time, reality is just too damned complicated & messy. The mess that is Egypt reflects the mess that is Egyptian society with a deeply fragmented civil society and an immature political tradition. If you have evidence to back up your charges that the U.S. is pulling strings behind the scene, I’d like to see it. Otherwise, it’s mere speculation.

      • …keeping in mind that “the US is pulling strings behind the scenes” is not a wholly-absurd thesis. Maybe we are.

        But nor is it a charge that we should just accept on faith, because it would fit in nicely with what some might want to believe.

      • Interesting concept that you, John, not me, introduced of “the devil theory of history”. I’ve never written that. What exactly do _you_ mean when _you_ write that?

        But lets just say we can be sure the US is more adamant that the pro-US military dictatorship in place not relax the siege on Gaza and that the dictatorship maintains the flow of Sinai gas to Israel than it is that the pro-US dictatorship cede power over foreign affairs to a civilian government.

        We can also be sure that somehow the pro-US military dictatorship has gotten the message that Westerners are reassured by the military’s commitment to deny Egyptians civilian control over foreign policy.

        It is meaningless to say that the situation is “messy & complicated”. I’m still right because the United States, maybe in what to you seems a messy and complicated way, is not expressing any opposition to the military’s intention, already expressed to Western reporters, to withhold sovereign control of foreign policy from Egypt’s voters.

        • John Caddidy,

          Mr. Evans has not heard the State Department make public statements about Egypt’s internal political situation, so therefore, the only reasonable thing to conclude is that we’re the puppet master.

    • the US seems to be using its leverage not against the Muslim political parties, and not against the left-wing protesters, but against the people of Egypt

      And you base this on…what?

      • you base this on … what?

        Based on the relationship the US has had with Egypt for over 30 years, including the relationship Barack Obama had with Hosni Mubarak where both he and Joe Biden at different times said Mubarak was not an authoritarian dictator because Obama and Biden liked Mubarak’s policies regarding Israel.

        Do you think the United States wants to see Egypt’s foreign policy come under the control of Egypt’s voters?

        If you believe that, your position is vastly more unreasonable, vastly more difficult to support with any evidence than mine.

        • Nothing you’ve written is evidence that the United States is pulling strings. You’ve written an explanation of what the United States’ motive would be if it was pulling strings, but you skipped over the part of actually providing any reason to think they’re doing so.

          Basically, you’re using reasoning remarkably like that of the Iraq War’s supporters: you start out with your ideological vision of how things just gotta work, and then you assume that the facts just gotta support that vision.

          The word “reality-based community” was created to describe people who take the opposite tack.

  6. Perhaps the people on the street do understand the idea of the “Hegemon” and do not want to be a “sub” in this relationship. Perhaps they want autonomy outside of what is really being offered to them through the established “norms” within the geo-politcal schools of thought in the West? Perhaps they want the freedom to do what they think is in their best interests, not what the established Western hegemonies decide is best for them? Oh well.

  7. Considering the Middle East and the influence of money, one wonders how Newt Gingrich would so boldly declare the Palestinians are not a people. The answer is set out in today’s McClatchy News. In part:
    “Top donor Adelson — who owns two of Las Vegas’ premier hotel-casinos, the Venetian and the Palazzo, and is No. 16 on Forbes’ 2011 list of the world’s wealthiest people — gave the group $1 million in seed money in the fall of 2006 and kept the big checks flowing into last year. Adelson’s $7.65 million in total donations roughly match the amount that Gingrich’s cash-hungry presidential campaign had raised through mid-November, according to Hammond. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have been limited to donating $2,500 each to the official campaign for the GOP nomination.

    A staunch backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line policies toward a Palestinian state, Adelson publishes a free newspaper in Israel touted to be the most widely read in the Jewish state.

    Ron Reese, a spokesman for Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. that he runs, said that “he and Speaker Gingrich go back a number of years.”

    Reese declined to explain Adelson’s donations to American Solutions, but Gingrich’s provocative comments about Israel in exchanges with Jewish groups over the last two weeks seem to leave little mystery.

    Gingrich told Jewish activists that he’s counted Netanyahu as a friend since the 1980s. On The Jewish Channel, he said that the Palestinians are an “invented” people “who are in fact Arabs.” He told the activists that he’d move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on his first day in the Oval Office; that Netanyahu should encourage continued building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank as a bargaining chip and that, if elected, he would end aid to the Palestinian Authority if it incited acts against Israel.”

  8. Finally had an opportunity to watch that sickening video of police beating the demonstrators. If the elites running the military wonder why there’s so much hatred in the streets for them, I suggest they play this video a few times and “enjoy” the highlights. The cowards with the batons represent the worst of humanity. Seriously, did their parents or teachers ever instruct them about right and wrong?

    We saw something similar in Iran in the 70s, when the orchestrated fury against the demonstrations fed the same wellsprings of fury and fanaticism on the other side (that we see manifested nowadays in the brutal no-nothing ways of the Basijis.) Chickens coming home to roost and all that.

    I’m afraid none of this bodes well for Egypt.

    • If you were in Grant Park in Chicago in 1968, well gee willikers, guess what? Apparently a lot of Red Blooded Americans in our police paramilitary bashing heads and shoulders and kicking and kneeing and choking young, old, protesters, dopes just trying to get home, whose parents taught them something but who knows what?

      And there’s dozens of other examples — check what’s happening to Occupiers and anyone in the area when the po-lice are sent in to “evict” and “clean up,” and ask anyone who met an axe handle in Alabama in the days when “civil rights” had a narrow compass indeed (and the direction “we” seem to be headed once again.)

      It’s very much a “human” thing, real easy to start, and hard to control once things start churning and blood is spilled. Our species lacks some bit of DNA or brain structure that might let us get beyond this set of behaviors to something kinder and gentler.

      And I am still waiting for some “realist” to document why what seems such a patently fundamental truth, that there’s actually enough for all of us, enough to go all the way around the table, except for the pigs in suits on the far side who grab all but one cookie and then sucker the rest of us into fighting over that and the crumbs, is wrong.

  9. Thanks a lot M Juan Cole for these precious bit of informations. Ahdaf Soueif goes the same.

    Sooo they’re smashing the Egyptians down right now in Tahrir and Omar Makram.

    IMHO SCAF acting in Egypt is from that wicked, kafr patriarchal system that has abused the Arabs & Muslims for so long.

    Is it “leftists” vs “rightists”? Or the people vs the old system of a few?
    How, how many should die, be groped or electrocuted or jailed, before we get rid of those wicked gangsters and of their vicious roots?

  10. Juan, a question occurred to me. If the Islamists were going to resist military rule in any way, it would seem that this brutal assault on an apparently conservative woman would be a heckuva opening. But instead, they seem to be directing a lot more energy against Coptic Christians.

    Meanwhile, the military is focusing its energy on repressing any opposition by secular or westernized Egyptians. The net effect would be to clear the way for imposition of religious law, since the secular/western opposition will be at a low ebb, while the Islamists will hold the levers of government.

    This suggests to me that the Islamists may have made a tacit deal with the military: let us enact religious law, and we will leave military rule completely intact. The US could shovel in some food aid to make ordinary people think things are getting better.

    I haven’t seen any comment on this possibility (perhaps because I know so little about the details of the situation or where one would go to find out). What do you think? Could a deal with the devil of this kind have been cut?

  11. Regarding the question of why the two Islamist movements are not making a big deal about the police assault on the woman protestor…I am not an expert on Egyptian society but I read an article that referred to the problem of harrassment of women in public in Egypt. The article pointed out that even women in conservative, religious attire are frequently bothered. The article said that an Islamic scholar was quoted as saying that women do not belong out in public unless escorted by a male relative who is escorting her. If she doesn’t have such an escort, she is asking for trouble. Thus, for a women to appear at an anti-government demonstration where it is liable for things to get out of hand is really inviting problems. Perhaps that explains the reaction, or lack of one, by the Islamists.

  12. That video is sickening. What kind of a man does that to a woman?

    Tough guys, six or eight on one, wearing helmets and carrying clubs, ganging up on a woman!

    I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that Michelle Bachmann. I couldn’t do it Liz Cheney. I couldn’t do it to some Klan woman who’d been screaming slurs and throwing rocks at children a minute before. I don’t have it in me.

    They’d broken the line already, they’d sent the protesters running. They weren’t fighting anyone; they were singling out a helpless person for a beating.

    A woman.

    What kind of a man does that?

    • What kind of a man does that, Joe? Well, the answer is kind of creepy but its this: A man who isn’t all that far from you, Joe.

      There is no lack of evidence that very nearly all human beings can ‘revert’ to a barbarous mentality much quicker than anyone would guess, and with far more brutality than most people think they are capable of.

      The old saying, which says something similar to ‘Every so-called civilisation is just 3 missed meals away from total collapse’. i.e. if a government screws up the food supply and a nation has to go three meals in a row without food, the general population will go utterly insane with rage and fear and just about any outcome is possible.

      Second, we know that people behave very differently in large groups than they do alone or in smaller groups. A large group of angry humans is a mighty force for catastrophe every bit the equal of terrible earthquakes or tsunamis.

      And then we have those experiments done in Stanford where they set volunteers up in a prison environment, with some as guards and some as prisoners. The results shocked most people as we found that even nuns are capable of administering lethal electric shocks if there is an authority figure present telling them they must do it. Google ‘stanford prison’ to read more on that.

      All together, we have to recognise now that it is perfectly possible, given the right circumstances and motivation, for someone like Joe to devolve into a beast capable of physically beating a defenceless woman and much worse. This is what happened at Gitmo, and probably every other military black prison around the world that the US operates, as new recruits were taught to seek out the most efficient ways to humiliate and eventually break a prisoner regardless of the dignity lost in the process.

      You can do this stuff, Joe. Almost all of us can. There is a very small number of humans that fight against this much harder than the rest of us, and sometimes they manage to resist it completely. But these people aren’t identifiable, and they aren’t the pacifists or other stereotypes.

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