November 18, 2013
Egypt‘s government has been accused of rewriting history by building memorials in two squares where anti-government protesters were shot by soldiers and policemen.
In Tahrir Square in Cairo on Monday a brass band played patriotic musicas officials unveiled a hastily erected circular folly, nominally to honour those who died during the overthrow of Presidents Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Mohamed Morsi in 2013. But though the activists who led the fight against the former also called for the latter’s removal, many of them are now astonished at attempts by the police and army to hijack the legacy of the 2011 uprising and its aftermath – which were as much a revolt against the police and senior military officials as they were the overthrow of a dictator.
In a statement on Sunday police general Hany Abdel Latif incensed activists by offering police “condolences to all martyrs of the revolution whose immaculate blood will nourish the tree of our national struggle. Glory to the martyrs.”
In response, Mosireen – a collective of activists and film-makers – released a video that juxtaposed his words with a montage of police and army abuses, almost all of which have gone unpunished. “Never forget,” the video ends. “Always remember.”
Ahmed Maher, the leader of the 6 April movement that helped lead protests in 2011, said that a Tahrir memorial was long overdue, but that it should not have been built by the same people who had created the need for a memorial in the first place. “It’s funny,” Maher said. “They are the killers, and they killed our colleagues and our friends, and now they say they are very sad about what happened, and they respect us.”
The Tahrir monument follows the completion of a second memorial honouring police and soldiers that stands on the site of a square near the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in eastern Cairo. Morsi supporters see the construction as another whitewashing of reality: the square is where in mid-August. Only three police officers have been jailed for any abuses since the 2011 uprising against Mubarak.
The battle for ownership of Egypt’s revolutions will intensify on Tuesday, when secular activists, Islamists and supporters of the police and army will compete to commemorate the second anniversary of a series of fatal street clashes that were dubbed the second wave of Egypt’s 2011 uprising.
More than 40 activists were killed in Mohamed Mahmoud Street during days of fighting with police near Tahrir Square in November 2011, and were an attempt to force concessions from the military junta that succeeded Mubarak. For revolutionaries, the clashes’ memory are a reminder of both the brutality of Egypt’s security officials, and the fickleness of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which condemned the protests and forbade their followers from taking part.
“Mohamed Mahmoud is about the memory of our martyrs,” read an online statement from relatives of some of the victims. “It cannot be wasted on the struggle between two sides that oppose the revolution,” it added, in a reference to both Islamists and the security establishment.
But two years on, both of those groups are trying to claim ownership of the anniversary for their own purposes – to the fury of secular revolutionaries. Morsi supporters plan to use the anniversary to protestagainst the crackdown on their movement, even though they stayed clear of the original 2011 street battles. Supporters of the army and police, which regained public respect by helping to oust Morsi this summer, also plan a show of street strength on Tuesday.
“It is a rewriting of history from so many different angles,” said HA Hellyer, a Cairo-based analyst for the Royal United Services Institute, a British foreign affairs think
Source: The Guardian
Photo: Nguyen Hoang / AFP / Getty Images