The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Protest in Zaytoun


On Wednesday, 29 June, Youth for Change (Y4C) held a demonstration in the Zaytoun section of Cairo. The demo was to be held at the Church of the Holy Virgin (Kanesat al-Azra'). Instead, it was moved down the street because of the security's interference.

The group had come under pressure for conducting a demo at the Mosque of Sayida Zaynib so they choose a prominent church to assert their national platform that includes all Egyptians.


Pictures of the Demo are in this Album.

The protest was attended by around 200 people, who orderly chanted slogans against the regime. One slogan that stuck out was "Hosni Mubarak is a coward, remove your dogs from the square". This referenced removing the security presence so that the people could march.

The protest was, yet again, another in the the latest of Youth for Change's weekly traveling demos. While the movement does not seem to be growing, there is a feeling that Y4C is getting more emboldened with each step. While it is indiscernible what will result of all these demos, they promise to be a constant source of pressure until the elections in the fall.

While Y4C does not posture alternatives to their "No to Mubarak(s)" platform, predicting a conclusion is premature. Should the elections prove overtly managed and fraudulent, I see this group upping the pressure rather than disintegrating quietly after an objective unachieved.

The movement - even without obvious support from Kifaya's leadership (Where are Qandil, Ishaq, Anani, and others?) - has the strong mixture of being a little insane, very courageous, and highly organized. The future may not be theirs but they are determined to have a say (even if it is a subjugated whisper should the regime have its way).

Y4C was more discipline during this protest and only two very minor scuffles between the protesters and security over the barriers happened.

In fact - in what is becoming a visible trend - it was after the protest finished that the demonstrators were assaulted, away from the international media's watchful eye.

When everyone was returning to the metro, a load of al-Amn al-Markazi troops run down the street followed by security's top officials. We followed.

I personally did not witness any assaults.

But I stumbled upon a group of people - surrounded by CSF soldiers. Mohamad Shaqawi lay on the ground and was close to being unconscious. The people grabbed me into the circle to photograph. From what I could tell, Shaqawi was holding his abdomen in pain and had hit his head on the cement sidewalk. As I was shooting, a verbal argument broke out. People were screaming at plain-clothes security saying that them had hit Shaqawi (who is a leading organizer in Y4C). Security was saying that they had done nothing of the sort. Their version was that Shaqawi had slipped and fell. As this escalated, security asked their accusers "Did you see us touch him?" The people said "no but look at him now."

Eventually, Shaqawi was brought to his feet and escorted away by people as security slowly tailed them.

I asked someone later at the scene what he saw. Had security beaten Shaqawi, I asked. He told me that there was shoving because CSF surrounded them but that he was not beaten per say. This did not completely explain Shaqawi's abdomen.

The man then expressed despair. He claimed that as soon as Y4C leaves, thugs would be deployed to wreck shops and terrorize Zaytoun's residents so that Y4C could be blamed. This seemed to be a non-issue at the moment given Shaqawi's state.

We walked to the metro with the activists. Security followed to make sure that there was no trouble.


Next week's demo will be held in Imbaba.

The following day, while most of us were at Ayman Nor's trial, Y4C met at the journalists syndicate ahead of the meeting between the Islamists and Leftists to discuss a unified, national plan of action.

The activists promised us if they had over 50 participants, they would march. Apparently, they did try but security beat them badly. I, however, don't have anymore details at this time.