Disillusionment sets in among opposition activists in Egypt | World| Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 02.08.2011
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Disillusionment sets in among opposition activists in Egypt

Six months after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president in Egypt, a sense of unease is setting in among the champions of democracy who overthrew him. The ruling military council is coming under fire.

An Egyptian puts on a mask in support of the revolution

Those who took part in the revolution are nervous

On February 11, Egyptians celebrated the fall of President Hosni Mubarak on the streets of Cairo. They were euphoric in the hope that they will be able to create a democratic society in Egypt.

But six months on, that sense of euphoria has evaporated. After Mubarak resigned, a military council took power in the country. The council says it wants to transfer power to civilians as soon as possible and has set a timeframe for parliamentary elections, with voting expected in November.

No one anticipates that the army will try and disrupt free and fair elections, but many protesters believe the army does want to keep a hand on the levers of power - perhaps by seeking to control national security.

The protesters' fears were confirmed, when, in late July, the army began reining in opposition protesters - using methods that harked back to the Mubarak regime. On July 23, in the district of Abbassia in Cairo, the army apparently stood by while a group of thugs broke up a peaceful demonstration. Around 300 people were injured. Nineteen-year-old Mohammed Kamal watched what happened:

A woman paints 'we love Egypt' on a wall in Cairo

Euphoria is over; reality is setting in

"In Abbassia, I saw that the Mubarak regime still exists. It was as if the army had teamed up with the thugs. The gangsters hit out at us and the army just watched and did nothing. They could easily have overpowered them."

Controversial declaration

On the same day, the army leadership issued a declaration which shocked the opposition to the core. Declaration 69 accuses the April 6 protest movement of trying to sabotage the democratic reconstruction of the country. But the April 6 activists aren't just anyone. They were at the forefront of the Internet movement which coordinated the revolution.

Army Commander Hassan Al-Roweny went even further. He claimed that human rights groups like the April 6 movement are agents from abroad, who are being paid to drive Egypt into the ground. All that sounds only too familiar to many Egyptians. They often heard propaganda of that kind under the Mubarak regime.

Bothaina Kamel is an independent politician, who was in central Cairo at the time of the revolution:

"I had a private conversation with General Ismail Etman during the revolution on Tahrir Square. He told me then that he thought the human rights groups and the revolutionaries were hired agents. That was the opinion of a military council representative even during the revolution, and now General Al-Roweny has simply confirmed that that view still holds."

Demonstrators with nooses in Tahrir Square, July 18

In July, there were more protests in Tahrir Square against the military council

Anger among activists

Asmaa Mahfouz is one of the young founders of the April 6 movement. She gave sarcastic thanks to the military leadership.

"Declaration 69 really made my day. It proved that Mubarak is still alive in Egypt. It showed all of us that the fall of Mubarak was just a show for the people."

Among the main demands of the opposition is that Mubarak and the old guard should be held to account - there are fears that the criminal investigations into officials and police officers are being dragged out. That includes legal action against those who were responsible for the deaths of demonstrators during the revolution.

All eyes will be on Cairo on Wednesday, when Mubarak himself is due to go on trial, in what will be a real test for the military leadership.

Author: Jürgen Stryjak, Cairo / ji
Editor: Michael Lawton

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