The recently completed renovations to Cairo's central downtown square, Midan Tahrir, have made the gathering of protesters there very difficult. A series of chest high fences now surround the once-open area that was a favorite for protesters. Cairo's largest anti-war protests at the outbreak of the war in Iraq began in Midan Tahrir, and it seems the government decided on a timely "beautification" project to prevent future ruckuses. So I had been curious to see where protest organizers would relocate to. And it appears they made a very clever decision yesterday. I just came from an interview with Amira Bahey Eddin, a Cairo lawyer who has worked on a number of high profile human rights cases (most recently that of Ashraf Ibrahim) and is close to many on the left who organized yesterday's demonstration against Mubarak. She said the success of the demonstration was due to its location, on the steps of Egypt's high courthouse. With 8,000 judges fighting through 14 million pending legal cases in Egypt (those numbers according to Zeinab Radwan of the National Council for Woman, the National Council for Human Rights, and the NDP's Policies Secretrariat), closing down the courthouse to prevent the demonstrators from gathering was not an option. People had to be allowed to come and go in order to appear in court and it was impossible for security to distinguish between those with cases pending and the rabble rousers.
The Arabist is published and edited by Issandr El Amrani, a writer and analyst based in Cairo, with contributions by friends.
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