The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Lazoughly Protest

Yesterday, a group of about 200 (Kifaya-ish types) gathered in Lazoughly Square to protest against torture in Egypt. The protest coincided with the International Day for Victims of Torture.

The protest's site was highly symbolic. Held in a square named after Mohamad Ali's first interior minister, Lazoughly is where State Security and the Ministry of Interior are located. So the protesters demonstrated where a lot of torture is said to happen in Cairo.


Pictures of the latest Protest are available here.

The demo was scheduled to take place before a press syndicate function where groups would launch a declaration against torture. So the Demo started at 430pm (and it was hot!).

Everyone gathered on a sidewalk under al-Gad restaurant in Lazoughly as al-Amn al-Markazi (CSF) closed in on them to confine their demo.

Now, there were a lot of signs denouncing torture and detailing individual cases on poster boards. But there were no original slogans about torture.

Instead, it turned into a anti-Mubarak (and anti-top regime figures) protest very quickly. With Kifaya leaders like Mohamad Abd al-Qaddos and Kamal Khalil leading chants, it resembled a Kifaya protest except with many of the younger faces recently new to street politics. Other than Abd al-Qaddos and Khallil, however, this looked by a protest by the women's group al-Sharaa Lina (the Street is Ours) and Youth for Change (The Y4C people did not like being called that - they prefer to be nameless and independent).

Perhaps upset that the CSF was blocking the street or just a sign of the movement's building frustration that is loosely together on their anti-Mubarak message but different politically, the protesters tried to make a hole in the CSF line to take the streets.

At first, they were successful. Then the barricades were brought for crowd control. As noted, it was hot and people started to faint, which led to more tension between the CSF and the demonstrators.

Not contented to be on a small part of the street, the protesters began wrestling with CSF conscripts over the barricades. The yellow and black painted metal was lifted into the air in what seemed to resemble a dangerous game tug-of-war.

It did not take long for the protesters to want to break the CSF's lines again. So push turned to shove, as they say. After the CSF boys came under pretty sustained pressure, some of them panicked and pulled their long truncheons.

They began waving them more out of fear than anything. Their superiors had not given the order and so it looked undisciplined. A couple people received some hits to the head but no one was seriously injured while I was there.

These types of scuffles flowed and ebbed.

There would be tension and shoving for 20 minutes and then protesters spent 20 minutes recovering before having another go at the CSF.

In one break, water arrived. Many of the protesters offered the CSF water which they all resolutely refused.


I know that the CSF is the tool of repression but I sympathized with them during the protest. Most of them were scared of the protesters. They were all trying to look tough but underneath they were worried.

The mistake was, I think, that the protesters wanted out of the security cordon and the CSF was ordered to hold the line. So when the shoving started, the CSF conscripts took it personally as pockets of them defended themselves and each other.

This was not a case of the nasty regime employing its repressive apparatus arbitrarily although you can sure argue the fact they are there in the first place is the root of the problem, which is undeniable.

I don't know where Kifaya is going but I feel it is splitting. The movement is disorganized during protests. While some protesters challenged the CSF, others led witty Anti-Mubarak chants. There is also a divide that runs along generational lines. What started out as an umbrella organization welcoming all trends is now several groups willing to cooperate on a strictly Anti-Mubarak platform only. Beyond that, I don't see much communication.

The numbers in the demos are decreasing as summer pushes along and I have not seen Abd al-Halim Qandil, Geroge Ishaq, Hani Anani, or other top Kifaya brass since the Saad Zaghloul candle-light vigil where around 1000 people showed up.

There is another outing on Wednesday.

I received a call last night which said after the protest ended. A semi-march through downtown Cairo took place by a faction of the Lazoughly protesters. There were about fifty people chanting slogans en route to the Syndicate. There seems to have been more scuffles.

I heard Alaa and Lelia Soueif were beaten by security (again). Alaa's group also had two cameras stolen by the plain-clothed police.

I was not there so I cannot confirm this last development.