Koert Debeuf Column

Towards A Second Egyptian Revolution. (Column)

When I woke up this morning a strange fog was hanging over my neighborhood. It smelled like something was burning, but different still. Only after I entered Tahrir Square, I realised it was a cloud of tear gas. On Tahrir it was impossible to keep your eyes dry. Every five minutes tear gas was shot into the crowds. New and better equipment, activists told me, with the label “Made in the USA”. It is hard to think of a more efficient way for our American friends to destroy their fragile image even more… What happened on Tahrir in order to create a fog of teargas miles further down the city?

Last night, on November 19, I received a lot of disturbing messages from friends of mine who were on the square. In the morning the police cleared the square in a brutal way. There was no reason for this violence as protesters were just sleeping in their tents. After that security forces started with a severe crack down in which some thousand people were injured and two even killed.

It is not the first time that the military clears Tahrir Square. For security reasons. It is after all a major crossroad in Cairo. But this time the people don’t accept this anymore. The army is the one that refuses to abolish the emergency law and the military trials where already more then 12.000 people have been sentenced. It is the army that hesitated very long to give clarification about the electoral process. It is again the army that wants to have “extra-constitutional rights” by which their budget would stay secret and by which they could cancel any law adopted by the Parliament. And last but not least, it is the army that refuses to set a date for the presidential elections which would end their military rule. Today the Supreme Council even announced they would hand over their power by the end of 2012 if (!) the chaos would end.

The Egyptian people didn’t risk their life to end the rule of Mubarak and get another military one instead. That is why they are angry and why they won’t leave Tahrir that easily anymore. Many even talk about a second revolution in order to obtain real democracy. Are we witnessing the start of this second revolution right now? It is hard to predict. But one sign in that direction might be that whereas the mass demonstration of last Friday, 18 November, was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, I witness right now that Tahrir is filled again with the young and secular activists, the ones that were at the heart of the first revolution on the 25th of January. The EU should notice this as well and be faster than during the first revolution to support the demonstrators and their demand for freedom, democracy and the end of the military rule without delay.

by Koert Debeuf

FLI Koert Debeuf PortretKoert Debeuf lives in Cairo, Egypt, where he represented the EU parliament’s Alde group for many years. Currently he is Project Coordinator “World Leaders on Transitions towards Democracy” at International IDEA. He is a former advisor of a Belgian prime minister. Reporting from post-revolutionary Egypt, his columns are a window on events in the Arab world. Koert Debeuf is also author of ‘Inside the Arab Revolution’.

For more columns of Koert Debeuf, click here.

You can follow @koertdebeuf on Twitter

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