In Tahrir Square the anger is growing again. Where is the revolution the crowds fought for?

Mubarak may be gone, but the new order is floundering. In Cairo, Robert Fisk finds fury returning as people still demand change

Share
Related Topics

Something has gone badly wrong with the Egyptian revolution. The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – just what the "Supreme" bit means is anyone's guess – is toadying up to middle-aged Muslim Brothers and Salafists, the generals chatting to the pseudo-Islamists while the young, the liberal, poor and wealthy who brought down Hosni Mubarak are being ignored. The economy is collapsing. Anarchy creeps through the streets of Egyptian cities each night. Sectarianism flourishes in the darkness. The cops are going back to their dirty ways.

It really is that bad. You only have to walk the streets of Cairo to understand what's gone wrong, to wander again across Tahrir Square and listen to those insisting on democracy and freedom as the old men of the Mubarak regime cling on as Prime Minister, under-ministers, in the very figure of Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the head of that "supreme" council, childhood friend and Mubarak loyalist – even though he did force the old man to go. Tantawi's equally elderly head is now framed in posters around Tahrir and the old January-February cry is back: "We want the end of the regime."

On the traffic island, the groupuscules of the revolution now have their individual tents with tiny carpets and plastic chairs on the dust, debating Nasserism, secularism, the Christian civil rights union ("The Mass Bureau Youth Movement"). The Muslim Brotherhood are, of course, absent, along with the Salafists.

"We've got sick of the Military Council which is using the same tools as Mubarak," Fahdi Philip, 26, a veterinary student from Cairo University, tells me as we sit amid the summer heat. "The judgements on the guilty are slow in coming. The state of insecurity is still with us."

Too true. Almost 900 civilians were killed by Egypt's state security police and snipers during the revolution and only one policeman has been tried – in absentia – for killing demonstrators. When a mass protest by the families of the martyrs poured into the streets last month, the cops reverted to form.

In front of television cameras, they threw stones at the protesters, beat them with sticks and – in one extraordinary incident – danced towards them waving swords. A so-called "National Council for Human Rights" has blamed both sides – demonstrators, they said, threw Molotov cocktails, the police replied with tear gas – while truckloads of stones were brought to Tahrir Square on 28 June, to be thrown by young men in identical T-shirts.

More than 1,100 civilians, soldiers and policemen were injured. Fearful of further violence , Tantawi's "supreme" council announced the establishment of a new fund with capital of £10.5m to compensate the families of those killed or wounded during the revolution.

But no sooner do I open my morning newspapers in Cairo – free-spoken, they are at last, unfettered, largely bankrupt – that I espy a colour photograph of Field Marshal Tantawi appointing a new "Minister of Information", a former opposition politician but information minister just the same – only months after the same Tantawi had announced the total scrapping of the information ministry.

No problem, the authorities said, this was only to help the press fulfil its "democratic" duties before the ministry would again be shut down. Just as the young Coptic Christian vet – see how we now note the religion of Egyptians again? – had said, Tantawi was using Mubarak's old tools.

Yet what can the Egyptian papers report but the collapse of the law which the revolution was sworn to uphold? I go to the Qasr el-Aini hospital, serving just a small sector of the capital close to the old American University campus, only to find that their emergency register shows that on an average day – in just this narrow district – 30 men and women arrive with gunshot and stab wounds.

Each Thursday/Friday weekend, the figures go up to an average of 50 victims. Among the young in Tahrir Square, this looks like a conspiracy; empty the streets of police and give the people a taste of the chaos they brought

upon themselves – and soon they'll want the state security men again. The country is safe for tourists, the ministers tell the travel agencies. Really? Egyptair, the state airline – boldly advertising the "new Egypt" with movie shots of the Tahrir Square demonstrations of early February – has just posted a four-month loss of £104m.

The Marriott hotel on Gezira – the old palace on the Nile with its marble lions and stuccoed roofs – has 1,040 rooms and only 24 tourists. "The revolution used to be good," a shopkeeper friend tells me when I put my head in the door of his shirt shop. "Now the revolution isn't good."

Just over a week ago, protesters planning the start of Friday's demonstration were attacked by street vendors with knives and stones. The usual stories were heard: it was all planned by the powers-that-be. At not one of the recent protests over the revolution's "martyrs" has there been an Islamist group present.

I meet up with an old Egyptian journalist friend. The staff of the coffee shop come to greet him, to introduce themselves as his fans, to tell him not to stop exposing the corruption of Egyptian life. He is worried. There is talk of a "civil mutiny", he says. Of people who want to burn the police stations again, take over the government or take the law into their own hands by killing specific policemen. There are widespread stories – I heard them myself in Tahrir Square – that youth groups will try to close the Suez Canal unless the security authorities who killed the innocent in January and February are brought to trial. The unkindest voices now call for the death penalty for Mubarak.

Weirdly, there's also a conviction, according to my journalist friend, that the "supreme" Egyptian military council cannot get on with the work of government and start the trials unless Mubarak dies. "They would like him to die. They want him out of the way to give them a breathing space before they deal with his sons. Tantawi is worried that the mobs will come for him. But he knows that if Mubarak dies, the Egyptians are a kind people and will largely forgive him because he was a soldier and he was so old, and there will be a period of calm."

There are reports that Mubarak has at least once since his house arrest in Sharm el-Sheikh been taken to Saudi Arabia for secret medical treatment, and there are many revelations now of how he was dethroned. One, from the highly respected Egyptian writer Abdul Qader Choheib, says that Mubarak agreed to resign after being confronted by Tantawi, his vice-president Omar Sulieman – the former intelligence boss and a friend of Israel – and General Ahmed Chafiq.

Mubarak apparently pleaded with them not to release his resignation statement until his sons, Gamal and Alaa, were on their way to Sharm el-Sheikh – not to save them from imprisonment (which anyway failed) but because he feared that Gamal would do something "unreasonable" since he had already objected when Mubarak appointed Sulieman as vice-president during the last days of the revolution.

The advantage of the revolution, it seems, was that it had no leaders, no one to arrest. But its disadvantage, too, was that it had no leaders, no one to take responsibility for the revolution once it was over.





React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
More From
By Robert Fisk in Cairo
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head Porter / Concierge

£16000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks