The day before the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution of January 25, 2011, the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, said that the country’s decades-old state of emergency will be lifted on Wednesday. Tantawi said that the emergency law would still apply in regard to acts of “thuggery,” a term that he did not elaborate on and about which Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros said “no one exactly knows” the meaning of. The emergency law is by no means lifted in Egypt as one activist, Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told the Guardian:
“Tantawi’s speech does nothing to deal with the most harmful aspect of the state of emergency, which is allowing the police to retain powers to stop, search and detain anyone they suspect of being a ‘thug’, without having to obtain a judicial warrant.
“His comments are no different from Mubarak’s repeated promise to only apply the state of emergency to terrorism and drug trafficking, a promise that was routinely violated and only led to the creation of a state of exceptionality that put the police above the law.”
Bahgat also called on Egypt’s newly-elected Parliament to reject Tantawi’s decree and “insist on nothing less than the full and immediate lifting of the state of emergency and a return to normal civilian law.”
The emergency law was placed in effect in 1981 after Islamists assassinated president Anwar Sadat. Last year, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the military council that has ruled Egypt since the ouster of Mubarak, expanded the scope of the law, so that it also included labor strikes, traffic disruption and the spread of false information.
Protesters Demand Immediate End to Emergency Law
An end to the emergency law was a key demand of protesters who took to Egypt’s streets a year ago. Protesters had initially viewed the military’s presence favorably because they did not attack them and chants of “The Army and the people are one hand” were heard in the revolution’s early days. But a year later, over 12,000 Egyptians have been detained by military tribunals and, since February, many have been injured and killed by military forces. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a long-time voice of the opposition, has withdrawn himself from the presidential race in protest of the military’s continued hold on power.
Egypt’s democratic transition has been stalled if not stopped in its tracks and the military junta seems to have “entrench[ed] its power and prevent[ed] oversight of their activities“; after all, Tantawi was Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years. Last Saturday, Tantawi did pardon activist and blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad, who had spent more than 130 days of his detention on a hunger strike. Nabil was arrested after writing a blog post on March 8 titled “The army and people wasn’t ever one hand” and many have now taken up Nabil’s point of view.
First Day in Session For Egypt’s Democratically Elected Parliament
The newly elected Parliament’s first day in session proved chaotic. After being outlawed for years, the Muslim Brotherhood won nearly half the seats in the first free elections since Mubarak’s ouster. As the New York Times notes, the Brotherhood’s victory was “arguably the closest that Islamists have ever come to governing an Arab country since their movement was born here 80 years ago.” But the Brotherhood’s choice for speaker, Saad el-Katatni, who had previously served in the Parliament under Mubarak, was challenged by a former Brotherhood official, Essam Sultan, in a dispute that descended into a shouting match.
Anniversary of Egyptian Revolution
Protesters are planning to take to Egypt’s streets across the country and demand an immediate end to military rule. Anticipating this, Egyptian authorities have increased security at government buildings. Cairo’s state television building has been surrounded with barbed wire and armed soldiers. The SCAF is planning various official celebratory activities including ”military parades, air shows, a specially commissioned operetta and the distribution of prize coupons to citizens on the streets.”
In recalling the events of a year ago, activist Adel Abdel Ghafar writes about the first hours of the revolution on the New York Times’s Lede blog. This video shows a crowd gathering in front of the Mubarak’s National Democratic Party building as people look out on them; as Nabil writes “little did they know that this whole building would be burned down by protesters in a matter of days.”
This video shows the massive crowds assembling in Tahrir Square.
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Photo of mothers of martyrs by Gigi Ibrahim