Egypt: video records brutal police beat-down

world | Nov 21, 2011 | By Martin Barillas

Violence raged in the streets of Cairo as Egyptian police and protesters clashed in Tahrir Square and nearby streets where the so-called Arab Spring brought about the downfall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. Following Friday prayers on November 18, protesters set up tents and stands and chanted slogans demanding the return of civilian government. Clashes between the protesters and police are reported variously to have caused as many as 35 deaths. A video uploaded by local newspaper Al Masyr Al Youm on November 20 appeared to show Egyptian security forces savagely beating protesters and drag them through the streets by their hair.

On November 21, despite the fighting, General Mohsen al-Fangari of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces gave assures that the election scheduled for November 28 is still a go. Said Fangari, "We will not give in to calls to postpone the election. The armed forces and the Ministry of Interior are able to guarantee the security of polling stations." In recent days, politicians and celebrities, including the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El Baradei, have asked for the postponement of the elections, as part of a review of the political calendar. They are asking to elect a constituent assembly first, then a President and finally Parliament.

Several parties and candidates have suspended their campaign after the weekend of blood that caused at least 13 dead and hundreds injured. Among the dozens of protesters arrested, there is also the only female presidential candidate, Bothaina Kamel, who, a few hours before being stopped, said that "the generals are criminals and outlaws. The Supreme Council of the armed forces is worse than Mubarak.

Thousands of civilians took to the streets over the November 19-20 weekend, most of whom belong to Islamist parties. Some sources suggest that violence was sparked when soldiers responded to firebombs hurled by protesters. Soldiers fired with live ammunition, apparently with the intention to kill, drawing some observers to draw similarities to the shooting of peaceful Coptic Christian protesters in Cairo on October 9. Violence also erupted in Alexandria, where reportedly four persons perished. The Supreme Council denied any responsibility and defined the protesters as insurgents. At least one member of the Supreme Council, Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazi, resigned in protest.

Over the weekend,   Al-Ahram – a pro-government newspaper -  published images of the fighting, it titled "Politics hijacked by violence." On the pages of another newspaper, Al Shouruk, presidential candidates strongly criticized the exaggerated reaction of the security forces. The chief columnist at Fahmy Howeidy, which until a few days ago urged people to be patient and trust in the military, lashed out against the government. "No-one - read the article - expected a similar situation eight months after the fall of Mubarak. Until today, the Supreme Council had given the impression impression of wanting to protect the values of the revolution, but has now become the oppressor."

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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