Editorial: The spirit of Tahrir

Earlier this year, at the time of the toppling of Mubarak, the Egyptian army’s refusal to shoot at the protesters in Tahrir Square earned it the accolade of the Egyptian masses as an army that was on their side. Nine months later it is clear that this ‘army of the people’, far from protecting the democratic achievements of the February revolution, has been intent upon continuing the Mubarak dictatorship without Mubarak.

It has revived and expanded the much-hated emergency laws, used by the Mubarak regime to suppress dissent. Under the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) more than 12,000 civilians have been tried in military tribunals, while the much-reviled Mubarak is being treated to the luxury of a civilian trial. A vast number of detainees have been tortured. In an effort to maintain its grip on the levers of power by dividing the people through religious strife, the military has encouraged violence against the country’s Coptic christians.

On top of all this, at the beginning of November, the army proposed a number of constitutional principles that would allow it to intervene in politics even after the presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as requiring the civilian legislature to seek the army’s approval before issuing any laws affecting it – thus freeing it of all civilian control.

For several decades, senior members of the military elite in Egypt have had access to exclusive clubs, seaside resorts and, after retirement, lucrative jobs at state-owned companies, from where they have dictated the country’s economy and politics while holding themselves up as part of a hallowed institution, seemingly above the political fray. The actions of the top brass since February are a clear indication that these leeches wish to hold on to their privileged position at any cost. It is a sign of their determination to hold on to power, as well as their ineptitude, that, in response to the renewed protests in Tahrir Square, they appointed as prime minister Mr Kamal Ganzouri, who served in the same post under Mubarak.

Although it has been coy about it, the military elite appears keen on maintaining its ties with US imperialism, which is a considerable source of its funding and which is pulling strings behind the scenes to limit the damage resulting from the February revolution.

Not surprisingly then, in view of the above, hundreds of thousands of people have returned to Tahrir Square, erected tents and vowed to stay there until the military dictatorship leaves, handing over power to a civilian government. The protesters are committed to rescuing the revolution from the suffocating embrace of the military rulers who promised democracy only to deliver repression.

The response of the authorities to these protests has been brutal. Several scores of protesters have been murdered in cold blood. In one case the police have been seen dragging the dead body of a protester to a rubbish heap. Far from intimidating, such brutality has only served to fan the flames of revolutionary fervour. The protesters are more determined than ever to save their revolution, to safeguard the honour of the Egyptian masses and get rid of the continuers of the Mubarak regime.

The spirit of Tahrir Square has come back with a vengeance and is not likely this time to disperse without achieving its goals. We wish the protesters a long-awaited victory.