Halima Islam and Aysenur Goksen
Located in a critical, once a revolutionary area just off Tahrir Square Mohamed Mahmoud Street witnessed one of Egypt’s most deadly clashes on the 19th of November 2011. It is remembered as a battlefield between protesters and the security forces that gave waive to a new degree of violence on the streets of Cairo.
A déjà vu of the violence took place on this very street this past week. Egyptian Security forces (Central Security forces, CSF) mercilessly resorted to the usage of excessive violence against sit-ins, exercised by the relatives of the deceased during the February revolution of 2011. Acting as human shields and barricades for the peaceful demonstrators in the nearby Tahrir Square, protestors in the street became victims of tear gas, rubber bullets, toxic gas and live ammunition resulting in the death toll of 50 people. Subsequent clashes of the same nature followed a year later killing 2 teenagers aged 15 and 16.
According to reports issued by human rights organizations in Cairo, the military was indiscriminately targeting the faces of demonstrators, causing permanent damage to a number of them. A particularly disturbing yet popular targeting tactic by security forces during the confrontations was the use of bird shots in the eyes of the protestors, leading into blinding civilians. Today, the symbol of the Eye sniper has become part of the growing art generating from the Revolution. It has become a popular gratify along Mohamed Mahmoud Street, symbolizing a new wave of heroism amongst the demonstrators.
As the general public in Cairo marks the 2nd anniversary of the grave incident amongst conditions which at the time in 2011 were far from apparent, families of the victims remember the vivid scenes. Yousra Ramadan recalls “the thing I remember most about Mohamed Mahmoud is the tear gas.” As the gas tore through the street-leading up to the Interior Ministry- left a pungent smell for miles, irritating protestors as they approached the area. The police used tactics under the notion that the Interior Ministry was to be at a threat at the hands of these “violent” unarmed protestors. The Ministry’s location runs on a street parallel to Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Eye witnesses also recall the humanity of the protesters generated from the tragic day. Indeed, some capture footage of the spontaneous and successful organization of Egyptians against the security forces’s deadly shots. Field hospitals were set up in the spot and in Tahrir as rescuers from the public were aiding the demonstrators by taking them to ambulances on motorbikes.
Mohamed Mahmoud Street still symbolizes the fervor of the Egyptian people as protestors of various politically diverse profiles take the streets today. Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes of 2011, aided in pressurizing the government led by SCAF to accelerate the presidential election’s date at the earliest possible. In 2012, the marking of the first anniversary resulted in clashes of a different nature. Ironically the clashes took place against the democratically elected president. This year, marking the second year only just yesterday holds immense importance as we see Egypt’s once remarkable revolution reversed by the hands of the same army lurking in the back-shadows of the civilian democratic government under Mohamed Morsi. The commemoration coincides with a very strange celebration as well. Supporters of the popular Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi also began gathering in Tahrir Square to commemorate the anniversary and the birthday of the interim Minister of Defense. This can perhaps be observed as appropriation of a day of mourning for many Egyptian into a day of celebration for pro-coup supporters.
The Military vs. the Revolution:
The clashes of November 2011 were a milestone that brought even more violence for Egypt in the future. Two years into the Revolution, with two ousted presidents, one with the revolutionary wave and the other one with a military coup, Egypt is a place of many voices.
Tamarod is regarded as the driving force behind the mass protests that prompted the army to remove Mohamed Morsi as President in July 2013. Egypt has been plagued by unrest since the army stepped in to remove Morsi from power on July 3 amid protests by a military coup. Resistance from the people followed after this incident. A significant killing record took place in August 2013 when 1000 Muslim brotherhood supporters protesting the military coup were killed by the army. Some 2000 Egyptians have been arrested nationwide. Muhammad Morsi was on trial for the violence outside the presidential palace in December when five civilians were killed. However none of these charges have been made against the security forces, include the police and the “baltagi” thugs who caused killings of innocent civilians on a far bigger scale in August, killing more than 600 men, women and children.
For most of the protesters, the battle between the military and the people are not merely about the protests but about the resistance in the most basic sense. The strong presence of the police has not generated stability and order for the majority of the mainstream middle-class Egyptians. The police today represent a repressive regime that extracts its crude power on the people as they will. The best wish of the Egyptians is for the police to stay away from their lives.
Today Muhammad Mahmud Street remains a symbol of resistance between the people and the army. It also marks the important transfer of resistance from “the square” to the “streets”. More importantly, the episodes of Muhammad Mahmud Street highlights that the battle against the military should not be separated from the struggle for democracy. One should not forget the many Egyptians that had been killed in peaceful protests over the summer of 2013 while staying behind their votes in the ballot box.Last Mod: 22 Kasım 2013, 13:52