Egypt updates

Shari'a Talaat Harb, Nov. 20: Tienanmen II

Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has an alternate identity as an emotionally volatile fourteen-year old, sending contradictory SMSes and veering wildly between appeals and imprecations on its Facebook page. In this capacity, it posted an apology on Facebook, offering its

“regrets and deep apologies for the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt’s loyal sons during the recent events in Tahrir Square. The Council also offers its condolences to the families of the martyrs across Egypt.”

Fine. Now stop shooting at them.

SCAF also held a bizarre press conference today, making clear that it would surrender power only on its own schedule. In a ludicrously transparent lie, one general claimed that the army hasn’t entered Tahrir Square since August — a falsehood video evidence immediately exposedBikya Masr reports:

General Hamdy Shahin affirmed that the [November 28] elections would proceed on time. … [Abdel Moezz Ibrahim, head of the Higher Electoral Committee] said that external monitoring of the elections was unnecessary. The Egyptians, he said, were of age and capable of monitoring their own affairs. …

General Mukhtar Al-Molla said that decades of corruption could not be erased in a month. He insisted on SCAF’s commitment to human rights, which he said were inviolable in all cases. The armed forces were not making any exceptions to them.

Molla said that the army had no desire to remain in power, a position which he said was a burden rather than a blessing. But if they withdrew immediately, he said, it would be a betrayal of the people. …  Shahin also claimed that the political parties often served only their own individual interests, whereas the army was concerned with the nation’s interests as a whole.

Molla defended the army’s role in the ongoing protests in Cairo, saying that those present in Tahrir did not represent Egypt, but their point of view had to be respected. Most of the demands of the demonstrators were reasonable, he said, and SCAF was working to implement them.

In the meantime, please stop shooting at them.

Feminist journalist Mona Eltahawy and dissident activist and Twitterer Maged Butter were both arrested last night and freed after several hours. Eltahawy says she was sexually abused in detention by half a dozen policemen who  “groped, prodded my breasts, [and] grabbed my genital area.”  Maged  is a committed young man whom I know from a trip I joined to visit revolutionaries in Suez this past July. Here are photos of him before and after:

Meanwhile, since activists have called for a “million-man” protest against SCAF after tomorrow’s prayers, the Muslim Brotherhood, now completely in the military’s pocket, responded by urging people to go out and demonstrate … for Al-Aqsa mosque in Palestine! “The issues of national security — and especially Palestine and Jerusalem — cannot tolerate delay,” their online statement reads.  @AbirKopty tweets: “I’m Palestinian & I’m against the #Egypt Muslim brotherhood rally tmrw for #Aqsa mosque. stop using #Palestine.”

The crowd in Tahrir remains large. A friend I spoke to by phone, though, says that the smell of tear gas won’t wash from the air. There is a temporary truce along Mohamed Mahmoud Street, leading to the Ministry of the Interior: that has been the front line of battles between demonstrators and Central Security (Amn al-Merkazi) forces for days. Last night there were serious clashes, though. AJE says:

Ambulances raced back from Mohamed Mahmoud Street and other frontline battles south and east of the square throughout the night, ferrying dozens of protesters suffering from tear-gas inhalation.

Fighting also resumed in other cities. In Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, clashes erupted for another night along a street near the main security directorate.

“Interior ministry forces are out of control … they’re not being professional and they’re not being controlled by the military council,” Rebab el-Mahdy, a politics professor at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera.

Whether el-Mahdy’s second point is true is not at all clear.

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