Monday, November 21, 2011

33 Dead in Egyptian Riots

by Rick Moran

Cairo exploded in violence over the weekend as demonstrators battled police over the right to occupy Tahrir Square. The protestors are demanding an end to military rule and an immediate transition to civilian authority.


The bloodshed in and around Cairo's Tahrir Square, epicenter of the anti-Mubarak revolt, threatens to disrupt Egypt's first free parliamentary election in decades, due to start next week.

Clashes have raged on and off since police used batons and tear gas to try to disperse a sit-in in Tahrir on Saturday.

Protesters have brandished bullet casings in the square, but police deny using live fire. Medical sources at Cairo's main morgue said 33 corpses had been received there since Saturday, most of them with bullet wounds. At least 1,250 people have been wounded, a Health Ministry source said.

"I've seen the police beat women my mother's age. I want military rule to end," said 21-year-old Mohamed Gamal. "I will just go home in the evening to change my clothes and return."

Islamists dominated demonstrations against army rule on Friday, but the unrest in Tahrir since then has drawn in many of the young activists who helped topple Mubarak on February 11.

Army generals were feted for their part in easing him out, but hostility to their rule has hardened since, especially over attempts to set new constitutional principles that would keep the military permanently beyond civilian control.

The military not only controls the government, but also the economy. Most of the largest and most profitable firms are owned by officers or retired officers who were loyal to Hosni Mubarak. They have no intention of giving up their livelihoods when the Islamists, as expected, take control of the government following the parlimentary elections.

The army has basically been in power since the 1950's. Nasser, Sadat, and then Mubarak were all ex-military officers who showered perks and favors on their friends in the army. The army will go to war to prevent the dissolution of their advantages and since they have the guns, it is liable to get very bloody before the issue is decided.

Rick Moran


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