The Egyptian army’s iron fist

December 20, 2011

The Egyptian military has carried out a crackdown on protesters outside the Cabinet office building, shocking the world with scenes of brutality caught on video and broadcast over the Internet and even on Egyptian television.

The demonstrators, taking inspiration from the movement in the U.S., started "Occupy Cabinet" in response to the killing and blinding of demonstrators during the Battle of Mohammad Mahmoud Street a month ago. Initially, the goal of protesters was to prevent the recently appointed transitional Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri from entering the buildings and taking the oath of office. After he was sworn in, protesters decided to maintain their occupation, setting up coffins marked with the names and photos of those who died in the November clashes to commemorate the revolution's martyrs.

In the early morning hours of December 16, soldiers detained and tortured one of the protesters, which served to provoke the crowd. The army and military police then carried out an attack on demonstrators that left nine people dead and hundreds injured.

Earlier this year, Egypt's military was celebrated as an ally of the revolution that toppled the dictator Hosni Mubarak after four decades in power. But the military council that took power after Mubarak's downfall has not met the demands of the mass of the population for greater democracy and economic measures to deal with grinding poverty. This latest assault represents another step in the new regime's attempt to crush dissent.

Here, we publish a December 17 statement by the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt in the wake of what's being called the Cabinet Office Massacre.

NINE MARTYRS, 500 injured. This is the result of confrontations between the Egyptian Occupying Forces [the military] and the revolutionaries in a fresh attempt to bring the revolution to its knees and to bring back the Mubarak regime.

And why not? After all, the leaders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) are the sons of Mubarak, and they are loyal to their economic self-interest. The generals of SCAF control around 20 percent of the economy and are completely opposed to the interests of millions of working people who barely scrape together a living. Most of them can't find jobs that offer the chance of a decent life or even the hope of changing their lives for the better.

Now, the "valiant" armed forces, military interrogators and gangs of government-backed thugs attacked the peaceful sit-in in the street of the Cabinet Offices. After fabricating an argument with Abboudi, one of the young ultras [football fans] who was playing football, they harassed him, subjected him to electric shocks and abuse, and then refused to release him for more than an hour.

Protesters confront Egyptian military forces outside the Cabinet headquarters
Protesters confront Egyptian military forces outside the Cabinet headquarters

This turned out to be merely a pretext for a pre-planned attack to disperse the sit-in by force and burn the protesters' tents. The old lies are again being circulated--that "local residents" are "offended" by the "protesters," even though the street where the sit-in is located does not block traffic, and the area itself is a district of government buildings, ministries and embassies and not a residential area.

Thugs and the commandos of "our" army in civilian clothes took over government buildings, which are now effectively under military occupation, including the parliament building itself, in order to throw stones and glass at the protesters and activists who joined them in Qasr al-Aini Street to express their anger at the attack on the sit-in. Dozens of demonstrators have fallen to baton charges, water cannons, rubber bullet rounds and live ammunition.

THESE DEVELOPMENTS follow a rising tide of workers' protests and the announcement by large numbers of workers' organizations of their intention to demonstrate and occupy in order to continue the revolutionary tasks of the redistribution of wealth in society and the cleansing of public institutions of the remnants of the Mubarak regime. This is why it was necessary to break up the sit-in by armed force--in order to block the possibility of unity between the working masses who brought down the Mubarak regime with their strikes in the last days of his rule and the revolutionaries at the sit-in outside the Cabinet Offices.

What you can do

Contact Egyptian government officials to demand that the assault on activists stop immediately. For Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, call 011-20-22-291-6227, fax 011-20-22-5748-822, and e-mail [email protected]. For Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzoury, call 011-20-22-793-5000, fax 011-20-22-795-8048, and e-mail [email protected].

If you live in or near New York City, join a protest against the SCAF on Wednesday, December 21, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Egyptian consulate, 1110 2nd Ave., New York, NY 10022-2093.

These events also come as the end of the parliamentary elections is approaching, and with it, the beginning of demands for the army to return to its barracks and the formation of an elected government.

All this points to a growing tendency within the army, which wants to create chaos and panic so that the generals can seize the reins of power by popular demand, or at least muzzle the revolutionaries until political positions and powers can be divided between the opportunist political forces which consented to enter the battle of parliament under military rule.

There is no alternative to continuing the revolution in the public squares, in the universities and in the workplaces. There is no substitute for working to win the popular masses, and at the heart of them the working class, to the revolutionary camp. If we do not, the Occupying Forces, under the leadership of Tantawi, will continue to kill revolutionaries and abort the revolution.

O masses of our people! The massacre of the Cabinet Offices has brought down the government of Ganzoury, who spent his life serving his master Mubarak and who wanted to enter the Cabinet over the blood of the revolutionaries. We must fight together for these demands in order to achieve the goals of the revolution to win bread, freedom and social justice, and so that the blood of the martyrs will not have been spilled in vain:

1. A revolutionary government with full powers
2. Retribution for the martyrs and the trial of the murderers on the military council
3. Reduction in prices and a rise in wages
4. Nationalization of the stolen privatized companies to provide work for the unemployed

The military council is leading the counter-revolution, but the revolution continues.

Further Reading

From the archives