The sit-in in Tahrir has been going on for over three weeks now. The key demand of putting on trial the murders of the protesters has yet to be met. The supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) has made a couple of concessions during the sit-in. Mubarak and El-Adly’s (the police chief who is believed have given order to shoot the protests) trail will be televised. There was also a significant reshuffling of the ministerial cabinet.
However, in the eyes of many who are now in Tahrir, those concessions did not go far enough and the key demand has yet to be met. For more details on the background to the sit-in, check my earlier post. The fact remains is that this extended sit-in is becoming more unpopular by the day. Many Egyptians fail to understand what it sit-in is all about and the SCAF controlled state media is constantly describing it as futile and counter productive and the prime cause of all economic woes.
Many also argue that it is not time for direct democracy, those who participated in the revolution should be getting ready for parliamentary elections that is coming up in a couple of months. They should be doing a better job of communicating with the masses. It they miss that opportunity, the Islamists will win by a landslide and will be the authors of the post-revolutionary constitution. These argument and some remedial actions are suggested in this blog post by Amr Bassiouny.
Many of the organized movements of the revolution have suspended their sit-in and issued a statement to that effect. However, most of the independents decided to stay in Tahrir in solidarity with families of the martyrs. These families are likely to be subject to abuse and harassment by the police if those responsible for the death of their loved ones are not put on trial first. So there is a moral imperative not to abandon them. However, such extended sit-in might eventually spell disaster. The relationship between the remaining protesters and shopkeepers in down town Cairo are becoming increasingly tense. The shopkeepers are loosing significant business due the sit-in. There is some fear that they might take violent action against those at the sit-in.
The more sensible amongst the protesters called for a scaling back of the sit-in and opening the square for traffic. However, a great many of the protesters see that this will slacken the pressure and will not bring justice to the families of the martyrs. That is despite their dwindling numbers after their diminishing ability to secure the square. The sad fact remains that every passing day many average folks are heaping more scorn the revolutionaries with the square being closed for normal traffic.
Collective decision making is becoming increasingly hard to do. Yesterday, I ran into Gigi Ibrahim and Rasha Azb in the square both showed signs of exhaustion. They have been trying hard all day talk sense into to the morally decent, but political naive to reach some sort compromise. The majority view in Tahrir at the moment is for continuing the sit-in while closing the square.
In any case, the revolutionaries should be doing a better job of communicating with the average Egyptians to counter the slandering campaign of state sponsored media. They should also find a way of helping those who are adversely affected by the sit-in to prevent further antagonism.
These are very tricky times indeed. Some battles you can choose, others you can not walk away from. For the latter a good strategy and clear vision is needed. Those are very hard to do without some form of centralized leadership. What was once a key strength of the Egyptian revolution is now turning into a major weakness.
Update: Catastrophe!!! As soon as I published this post, I learned that Tahrir is being attacked by police and army forces with the blessing and support of the residents. The sit-in is being violently brought to an end. This is the biggest set back to the revolution yet! I expect more curbs on the right to protest in the next few days. Please read this testimony to get a sense of what happened.