Tahrir splinters

From all over Egypt, thousands of protesters converged on Tahrir Square today to protest — well, what, exactly? At some level, the answer is obvious: All the Egyptians in Tahrir are opposed to the continuation of military rule under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). But after that, the reasons people filled the ...

David Kenner
David Kenner
David Kenner

From all over Egypt, thousands of protesters converged on Tahrir Square today to protest -- well, what, exactly?

At some level, the answer is obvious: All the Egyptians in Tahrir are opposed to the continuation of military rule under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). But after that, the reasons people filled the streets today diverged significantly. And that ideological division was expressed in physical terms as well: Egyptian blogger Zeinobia counted nine separate stages in the square, each representing a different political movement.

Islamists made up a clear majority of the crowd, but liberal and leftists group were present as well. As FP contributor Ashraf Khalil pointed out, the (huge) stage for Salafist Hazem Abo Ismail, a former presidential contender who was disqualified by Egypt's electoral commission last week, was sandwiched between the stages of leftist and youth political movements.

From all over Egypt, thousands of protesters converged on Tahrir Square today to protest — well, what, exactly?

At some level, the answer is obvious: All the Egyptians in Tahrir are opposed to the continuation of military rule under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). But after that, the reasons people filled the streets today diverged significantly. And that ideological division was expressed in physical terms as well: Egyptian blogger Zeinobia counted nine separate stages in the square, each representing a different political movement.

Islamists made up a clear majority of the crowd, but liberal and leftists group were present as well. As FP contributor Ashraf Khalil pointed out, the (huge) stage for Salafist Hazem Abo Ismail, a former presidential contender who was disqualified by Egypt’s electoral commission last week, was sandwiched between the stages of leftist and youth political movements.

While many protesters had clearly come out to tout their preferred presidential candidate, the recent disqualifications have not affected some Egyptians’ political loyalties. The two boys pictured above are “Hazemouna” — supporters of Abo Ismail, despite the fact that he has been banned from contesting the upcoming election. In an effort to be ecumenical, they reassured me that my name, David, was shared by Muslims and Christians alike.

The other looming issue is the drafting of the post-Mubarak Egyptian constitution. The process was thrown into turmoil on April 10, when a Cairo court ruled that a Parliament-appointed assembly to draft the new constitution was unrepresentative of Egypt’s many political currents, and that a new body had to be appointed. The military is supposed to return to its barracks by July 1, but some protesters fear that the SCAF could hijack this process to grant themselves a prominent political role in the new Egypt. Below, protesters march to Tahrir carrying signs that read “People of Egypt, play your role. People of Egypt, write your constitution.”

So yes, thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir today — but they came for many different reasons and to express many different loyalties. As the military’s role in Egyptian politics becomes less visible (if not necessarily less influential), expect to see those differences increasingly come to the surface.

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