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

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence