Footage from the violent repression that has been endured by Egyptian protesters can be widely seen on the internet and social media. According to the independent news agency Democracy Now, violent clashes took place in Cairo between the army and protesters at Tahrir starting on Friday 16th of December1. One of the most shocking footages of this violent repression is the video of a woman being dragged on the streets with her clothes ripped off and the beating of fellow protesters that wished to help this woman (see “Battle of Tahrir” here, viewer discretion advised). Since clashes began on Friday 16th of December there are reports of 13 dead an hundreds injured according once again to Democracy Now2 and there also claims that there has been intimidating practices and violence being undertaken in order to avoid media to report on the full extent of the repression.
On the other hand, however, Spanish free newspaper 20minutos alleged that there are 12 deaths together with 815 injured. Only when the dust settles and in conjunction with an independent investigation it will be possible to tell the extent of violence being suffered in Tahrir. Nonetheless an astonishing speculation circulated by this Spanish newspaper, in accordance with testimonies, is that there where snipers located near Tahrir that are allegedly responsible for 4 deaths in these clashes: “A sniper was located on the roof of the Mugamma building (HQ of several ministries and located in the emblematic square), declared Mustafa, one of the protesters”3 reads the beginning of the second paragraph.
The use of live ammunition on the protesters is a line of investigation that should not be dismissed as a picture uploaded to twitter at 6:09 AM on the 20th of December shows a bloodied hand holding what looks like the remains of live ammunition used by the Egyptian army to disperse protesters4. Moreover the video uploaded to YouTube also shows an army soldier firing a handgun which undoubtedly seems like live ammunition (see video above, min 01:37). The Spanish newspaper quotes a 9 year old boy saying “I have seen a man with a shot in the head” and that protesters drew a circle around the victim’s blood to emphasize this violent event5.
Protesters are demanding the military council (also known as SCAF – Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the transitional authority in Egypt after Mubarak was overthrown) a halt on this violence and a greater respect for human rights, freedom of speech and protest6. On the other hand the military authorities claimed on Monday 19th of December that such violence is due to a third party and deny any kind of responsibility7.
Such testimonies of violence and repression in Egypt did not go unnoticed in the international context. A website brothered to many of the recent civil uprisings across the world and ostensibly set up by the Spanish 15M movement to build links between these uprisings (www.takethesquare.net) made a call to concentrate in front of Egypt’s embassy in Madrid in sign of solidarity8. This solidarity protest was also called in Barcelona, Catalunya; by the International Comission of the 15M movement in Barcelona for the 20th of December9. These prompt solidarity demonstrations were quickly arranged, according to the text in takethesquare, because protesters at Tahrir wished to trigger international solidarity, overcome the media blockade or manipulation as well as putting pressure on western governments supporting SCAF and Egypt’s diplomatic services abroad1011.
Due to the quick arrangement of this solidarity demonstration not many people turned up in front of Egypt’s embassy in Madrid (C/ Velzaquez 69) on the evening of the 19th of December, approximately 50 people or more according to several twitter users. Police presence was mild and several identifications took place around 18:00 local time, once again under dubious legal circumstances. Despite all, people stood their ground, and were seen improvising banners on-site as well as chanting “Egypt is killing, and the world stands by looking” or “Shame on you!”12
Halfway into the protest two people were allowed to talk to an unofficial delegate from Egypt’s embassy and on their return they shared with the rest the informal chat about the violence experienced at Tahrir. The feedback contradicted official statements from Egypt since the Embassy “blamed the Army and took note of our outrage”13 commented a twitter user on-site. However it is difficult to contrast such statement, which ultimately implies that part of the Egyptian diplomatic staff feels that SCAF is responsible for these violent turn-out of events. The two demonstrators in Madrid that spoke with an undisclosed and unofficial delegate from the embassy transmitted the Spanish protesters’ concern about such ruthless repression, deaths and the crumbling of human rights in Egypt. They also noted that the Spanish 15M movement (also known as the ‘indignados’) was closely brothered to Tahrir since they’re tactics of occupying public spaces as well as their demands inspired the beginnings of Acampada Sol, considered by many the birth of the 15M movement across Spain that has now expanded borders into the USA amongst others.
Closer to the end of the solidarity demonstration, anything between 19:00 and 19:30, began the projection of videos in solidarity with Tahrir which included footage of the woman being dragged and beaten across the streets with her underwear visible (see video above). Since violent repression had not ended by 19th of December, during the last few minutes of the solidarity protest in Madrid there were talks on extending this protest to the next day: 20th of December. This time, they called for people to bring candles and light them up in front of Egypt’s embassy in Madrid and then march to Puerta del Sol, the emblematic Spanish square where the first protest camp was set up after the repression protesters suffered on 15th of May 201114.
Moreover, on the night of 19th of December Anonymous and CabinCr3w alleged to have interrupted the service of dozens of Egypt’s governmental websites, also in an act of solidarity with Tahrir1516. Amongst those websites taken down by Anonymous and CabinCr3w were several high standard government websites such as http://senate.gov.eg/ and presidency.gov.eg. Some of this websites were shut down for over 24 hours17 and the IP address of Egypt’s governmental server was also shared on twitter, inviting fellow ciber-activists to join in the cybernetic attack against Egypt’s government servers to keep the websites down for days to come.
It should be noted that the Anonymous movement, under OpEgypt amongst others, has aimed at mobilizing activists and resources on the net to at least help “Arab Spring” citizens search around the web avoiding internet censorship, such as that attempted by Mubarak’s regime in Egypt18. A pastebin text seen on twitter advises Egyptian citizens that, if at any point the current authorities attempt to cut off their internet connections they could attempt bypassing these by using 3G mobile phones as modems19. An irrelevant, yet useful guide for activists in countries under civil uprisings would be Anonymous’ OpNewBlood20. At first created as a way to introduce people into the Anonymous movement and several methods of surfing the web anonymously, it can become useful for activists and journalists alike in turmoiled countries to avoid their true identity being “freely” available on the net. Other documents and resources allegedly created or compiled by the Anonymous movement includes the Survival Guide for Citizens in a Revolution which synthesizes easy steps and procedures to follow to ensure survival, or at least reduce risk in times of uprisings21.
Undoubtedly, Tahrir is just a node of the so-called “Arab Spring” which is suffering brutal repression from the ‘establishment’, regardless of whether the latter is new or old; quasi-democratic or dictatorial. However mobilizations in Egypt tend to gather momentum even in mainstream media because it is considered by many activists, journalists or historians a victory… or at least a victory in the making against repressive and dictatorial regimes, through a novel tactic of protesting: occupying public spaces and opening “taboo” debates. Syria and Yemen to name a few, are fellow countries that are also suffering ruthless state violence against a vast majority of peaceful protesters.
Since 15th of October there seems to be a global consciousness arising from Syntagma Sq. in Athens to Occupy Wall Street in NYC, from the 15M movement in Spain to OccupyLSX in London; they may now welcome the “Russian Winter” since there are massive protests in Russia against alleged electoral fraud. Will the rise in civil and grassroots movements in the ‘Western’ world manage to push for a paradigmatic change in these times of uncertainty? Is there more than simple coincidence between this surge of protests across the world or are they interconnected in any way?
The statement from Tahrir to portester at OWS published by The Guardian22 suggests that indeed all of these grassroots uprisings are looking towards paradigmatic change in our lifestyles both at individual and collective levels, and targeting capitalism and it’s current crisis as the catalyst that is uniting such distant countries and cultures in solidarity with each other. A noteworthy observation since mainstream media speaks of the “Arab Spring” as uprisings that simply seek greater civil rights and democracy, yet these protesters also acknowledge the current economical structure as an impediment to the full development of more democratic societies. The world mobilizations against the Iraq War in 2003 were in many countries a one-off display of huge numbers. However in 2011 many governments have experienced the difficult situation of dealing with grassroots movements interconnected on a state and international level that, admittedly suffering booms or dips in activity, are challenging the current paradigms through which many understand the world around us and opening the ever-recurring debate of legality and legitimacy.
NB: This report was written and last updated on Tuesday, 27 December 2011. If you feel like you could contribute to the accuracy of the report, do not hesitate to contact @anonreports to add any other sources or information.
1 Democracy Now: Headlines 20 December 2011: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/20/headlines#2
4 Seen on Twitter via @Sherif969 20 December 2011: https://twitter.com/#!/Sherif969/status/148993380590952448/photo/1
5 20minutos.es: 20 December 2011, Para.3: http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/1254829/0/manifestantes-plaza-tahrir/denuncian-disparos-francotiradores/el-cairo-egipto/
6 Democracy Now: Headlines 20 December 2011: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/20/headlines#2
7 20minutos.es 20 December 2011, Para. 5: http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/1254829/0/manifestantes-plaza-tahrir/denuncian-disparos-francotiradores/el-cairo-egipto/
8 Take The Square: 19 December 201:1 http://takethesquare.net/es/2011/12/19/concentracion-frente-a-la-embajada-de-egipto-en-madrid-en-solidaridad-con-el-movimiento-de-tahrir/
9 International Comission Barcelona: n.d: http://acampadabcninternacional.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/catalunyatahrir-2012-19h-pl-catalunya-acampadabcn-assbarris-puntosol-acampadasol-15m/
10 Take The Square: 19 December 2011: http://takethesquare.net/es/2011/12/19/concentracion-frente-a-la-embajada-de-egipto-en-madrid-en-solidaridad-con-el-movimiento-de-tahrir/
11 Democracy Now: Headlines 20 December 2011: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/20/headlines#2 “The US alone provides Egypt’s military with $1.3 billion in annual aid”.
12 FotogrAccion: 19 December 2011, pictures from solidarity demonstration in Madrid: http://fotograccion.org/wp/2011/12/fotos-concentracion-frente-a-la-embajada-de-egipto-sol-con-tahir/
13 Seen on twitter via @AnitaBotwin 19 December 2011: https://twitter.com/#!/AnitaBotwin/status/148833318572539904
14 This information has been compiled by the updates posted by the following Twitter users that alleged to be on-site during Madrid’s solidarity protest: @AnitaBotwin @AnonyOps1 @fanetin and @leila_na
16 During the successive shutting down of these Egyptian websites, I verified myself the unavailability of many of these websites using http://www.isup.me/
17 Seen on Twitter via @CabinCr3w 21 December 2011: https://twitter.com/#!/CabinCr3w/status/149479256815181824
18 ABC News, Mubarak fined for phone, internet shutdown, 28 May 2011: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-05-28/mubarak-fined-for-phone-internet-shutdown/2735464
1 9Alternative Internet Connection in Egypt : http://pastebin.com/jyw4Xt4e
20 Anonymous OpNewBlood: http://serpentsembrace.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/the-opnewblood-super-secret-security-handbook/
21 Anonymous, Survival Guide for Citizens in a Revolution (download here): http://www.multiupload.com/1GA9HET58U
22 The Guardian, To the Occupy movement – the occupiers of Tahrir Square are with you, 25 October 2011: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/25/occupy-movement-tahrir-square-cairo