For those of you following Egyptian affairs, much hype surrounded this Friday's protests in Tahrir Square. It was anticipated as yet another "million man demo" or "day of anger/rage," two terms that have become trite. Some activists went so far as to dub the event as a second revolution. Admittedly, I fell for it and posted this article on Facebook.
But what I saw in Tahrir Square on Friday was familiar- and not reminiscent of the uprising in January and February. Like other Fridays over the past few months, the atmosphere was more of a rally than a protest. Perhaps this is because Egyptians who attended were not unified in their demands (not to mention that key political forces like the Muslim Brotherhood scornfully boycotted the protests). All agreed that Egypt's revolution has not yet brought about revolutionary change. Beyond that, everyone appeared to have their own agenda........
While my in sufficient Arabic comprehension skills usually prevent me from understanding the exact politics of Tahrir Square, this article on Al Ahram Online by Salma Shukrullah (unintentionally) highlights the failure of these fragmented political rallies to coalesce.
"Four stages were erected around the square, each with a different focus. The stage constructed by the Youth Coalition, near Talaat Harb Street, became the square's focal point after Friday prayer when the Imam sermonised from the stage, stressing that 'the demonstration is not planned to challenge a certain body but to put forward demands.' The socialist Popular Alliance Party stage closer to Abdel-Moneim Riad Square, however, was more expressive of its anti-military council sentiment. It also focused mainly on social demands including the application of a minimum and maximum wage. The stage closer to Kasr El-Nil Bridge, raised by the liberal Democratic Front Party, focused on demands to establish a presidential council and postpone elections."
Furthermore, the solidarity and respect Egyptians showed towards one another in Tahrir Square during the revolution was absent. I was predictably harassed as I waded my way through crowds (this never happened during the revolution). At one point, I panicked as a crowd suddenly formed and rushed toward me. It was a mob chasing a bloodied, zombie-esque man wielding a stick. When I asked with alarm what was going on, an Egyptian explained to me that the entire scene was a dispute between vendors over popcorn and Egyptian flag- selling territory.
Perhaps Egyptians are simply unable to tap into the true Tahrir spirit during this transitional period because no absolute demand (see: the fall of the regime) unites them. It is inspiring to see citizens keeping the public sphere alive. But the political arena may prove to be a better receptacle for agendas that compete rather than coalesce.