Tahrir Square, the center of last year’s massive demonstrations in Egypt, is the site of a protest once again. Tens of thousands have converged in the famed area of Cairo to voice their opposition to military rule and what they anticipate to be rigged elections.
After an interesting sequence of events, both Egyptian liberals and Islamists, two groups who often do not see eye-to-eye, came together to express their outrage. The event is thought to be the biggest display of dissent in the country since last year’s 18-day standoff in Tahrir Square that resulted in former President Hosni Mubarek departing from the country.
The liberals, who called for this protest two weeks ago, are seeking to ban Mubarek’s cronies from running for president in order to ensure real change will happen. Meanwhile, Islamists decided to join the efforts following the Egyptian election commission’s recent decision to disqualify their two top candidates from the presidential race. One of those candidates, Hazem Salah abu Ismail, was deemed ineligible because his mother is an American citizen.
With one month remaining until the election, the eligible candidates who seem to stand the best chance at winning the presidency are Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, considered a more liberal Islamist, and Amr Moussa, the Foreign Minister.
In addition to airing their own respective grievances, both liberal and Islamist activists are also directing ire toward the current military rule. Neither group appears to trust that the military is taking the proper steps to allow for a proper transition and fair election. “People still feel like the old regime has not gone anywhere, and under the army we are living with them still,” said Mohamed Hedaya, an Egyptian student.
Just because both groups have amassed in Tahrir Square does not mean there is the same sense of unity that arose during the Mubarek protests, however. Liberals and other secularists are wary of the Islamists’ intentions. “Islamists have abandoned the revolution and left the square a long time ago in order to seek political gains, and now they’re only coming back to further abuse the revolution and achieve more political benefits,” said Egyptian Communist Party member Sayed Abdel Zaher.
Still, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Gadou, has a more optimistic perspective on the dual protest. “The strength of the revolution was in all sects coming together. Now is the time for this to happen again to ensure that the revolution continues until a fair election is carried out.”
Photo Credit: Lilian Wagdy