Last Updated: Wed Jun 01, 2011 15:08 pm (KSA) 12:08 pm (GMT)

Egypt revolution gloss fades as military rulers anger youth leaders

Army soldiers arrest an intruder (C, hidden) dressed as a woman, whom army soldiers said is a suspected spy, during a demonstration. (File Photo)
Army soldiers arrest an intruder (C, hidden) dressed as a woman, whom army soldiers said is a suspected spy, during a demonstration. (File Photo)

Three months after former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, activists behind Egypt’s revolt have grown increasingly frustrated with the new military rulers, accusing them of the very same practices the uprising sought to abolish.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took charge after Mr. Mubarak ceded power in the face of 18 days of anti-government protests, has repeatedly maintained it is the guardian of the revolt, committed to protecting its goals.

But its status as revolt hero began to fade with allegations of human rights abuses, crackdowns against protesters and attempts to silence critics.

While the uprising achieved its main goal of ousting the 83-year-old former president, the unelected military council maintains its absolute power in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Social networking sites have been awash with a laundry list of grievances against the military council, including the pace of democratic change and more specifically accusations of alleged torture, jailing of critics and arrest of activists.

Activists and human rights groups have insisted on keeping up the pressure against the military rulers for democratic change.

“Once again we reiterate that the Egyptian revolution had broken out against the oppression, suppression and violation of freedom expression and the sovereignty of the law means evidently that nobody is above criticism,” said the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in a statement, according to Agence-France Presse.

“No more human rights violations will be ignored in Egypt after the January 25 revolution,” the group said.

On Tuesday, more than 20 pro-democracy youth groups said they would boycott a meeting organized by the ruling military council, accusing the army of returning to the autocratic measures of the Mubarak era.

In a statement, the groups said they would reject any dialogue while military trials of civilians carry on.

They said the army had failed to investigate claims of violations by military police and denounced a new set of laws criminalizing protests and sit-ins.

On Wednesday, the military council said it would continue to invite youth groups for talks, citing “the importance of maintaining dialogue with the great Egyptian people and the youth of the revolution,” AFP reported.

But its promise of continued dialogue was drowned out by an outcry over allegations that female protesters were forced to undergo virginity tests in March, after an apparent admission by an army general to CNN.

Amnesty International said on Tuesday that authorities must bring to justice those responsible for the tests.

The general, speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, had defended the practice.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” he told the US broadcaster.

Amnesty—which had previously collected testimonies of women following the March 9 protest—condemned the admission as “an utterly perverse justification of a degrading form of abuse.”

“The women were subjected to nothing less than torture,” it said.

But a senior military official denied to AFP that such tests had taken place, saying the allegations were “baseless” and that the army would take legal action over what was published.

Activists and youth groups were further infuriated by news of the questioning of two journalists and a prominent blogger over criticism of the army on live talk shows.

Reem Maged and Nabil Sharafeddine, the two reporters, and prominent blogger and activist Hossam al-Hamalawy were questioned by Adel Morsi, who heads the military justice authority.

At the Cairo military prosecutor's office where Mr. Hamalawy and Ms. Maged were questioned, dozens of activists and relatives of people they say were detained after anti-government protests chanted demands for freedom of expression

They questioned why Mr. Mubarak was being investigated by civilian courts, while peaceful protesters faced military trial, according to Reuters.

“They said it would be civilian (rule) but it’s turned out to be military,” the protesters shouted as Mr. Hamalawy arrived.

Ms. Maged, the host of TV show Baladna (Our Country), said later in a video circulated on YouTube that she had agreed not to publish information attributed to vague sources.

Separately, three counselors were summoned for questioning on Tuesday for speaking to the media without getting permission from the high court, after they called for military trials of civilians to be stopped on a pan-Arab TV channel, Reuters reported.

Last month, an Egyptian military court sentenced a blogger to three years in prison, in what Human Rights Watch described as a “serious setback to freedom of expression” in post-Mubarak Egypt.

(Abeer Tayel, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net)

Comments »

Post Your Comment »

Social Media »