Friday, 8 July 2011

Friday of Determination in Cairo

Onlookers are wondering when Egyptian oppositionists are going to run out of names for each Friday demonstration. Today (8th July) its "Friday of Determination" and "march of a million" and its a nationwide protest demanding those responsible for the killing of over 1000 peaceful protesters be punished and the police overhauled. Ahram online has a blog updated live which chronicles the day's events. One item caught my eye:
14:20 Activists are now gathering to surround and secure the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square against any attempts at subversion or theft. There are no police or military forces protecting the museum. During the 18 day occupation of Tahrir square leading up to the ouster of Mubarak, thugs, believed to have been working with the police, attacked the museum with Molotov Cocktails, while others broke into it and vandalised several priceless antiquities.
Interesting phrasing in the circumstances. It's a bit worrying that the report says that there are no police or military forces protecting the museum, what's that about? Even if the demonstration is peaceful and in the cause of human rights, civil unrest is civil unrest and crowds can be unpredictable.

The crowds are beginning to gather in the Square after Friday prayers and the military government is reported to be having a very "hands off" approach to security this week as criticism of the military rule increases, with reports of some 7000 arrests of activists in the last few months.

UPDATE 11th July 2011:
1) Amro Hassan,'Tahrir Square looks like February all over again', LA Times blog - Babylon and Beyond, July 11, 2011
Protesters are demanding speedier trials for members of Mubarak’s regime who have been charged with corruption and the murders of hundreds of protesters during the revolution [...] an end to military trials set up for civilians detained in various incidents over the last few months, the firing of all former regime officials still holding public office [...]. Most of those joining the sit-in fear that the revolution is slipping away from them, and that the promises by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and the interim government cannot be trusted.
Presumably one of those that are threatened by this latest wave of civil disobedience is Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass.

2) Marwa Al-A’sar, 'Tahrir sit-in continues despite power cut, theft', Daily News Egypt July 11, 2011.
Zeinab El Gundy, 'Power cut in Tahrir Square triggers fears of imminent clampdown', Al Ahram, Monday 11 Jul 2011: "Electrial power to Tahrir Square was cut a short while ago according to Ahram Online's correspondent in the square. Power is also down in surrounding buildings. The protesters [are], concerned that the power cut may be part of a deliberate attempt to break up the sit-in...". It is not specifically stated if the Egyptian Museum is one of the buildings without power, if so this is a potential threat to its security and the objects inside it. There are reports of thefts taking place from protesters in the Square.

UPDATE 13th July 2011: Speculation that Hawass will be dismissed as a result of recent events: Kate Ta ylor, 'Revolution Dims Star Power of Egypt’s Antiquities Chief', New York Times, July 12th.
Until recently [...] a global symbol of Egyptian national pride. A famous archaeologist in an Indiana Jones hat, he was virtually unassailable in the old Egypt, protected by his success in boosting tourism, his efforts to reclaim lost artifacts and his closeness to the country’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak. But the revolution changed all that.

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