By Hajer Naili
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Two prominent women in Egypt's unfolding revolution say protest violence should put elections on hold. "It will be a circus," said Gigi Ibrahim, who is flying home from New York on Wednesday and plans to go straight from the airport to Tahrir Square.
NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--Two women prominent in Egypt's revolutionary movement say parliamentary elections scheduled to start Nov. 28 should be cancelled in light of the violence.
"I don't think that we should have any elections with the Security Council of Armed Forces in power," activist Al Shimaa Haidar, 21, said in an interview Monday evening during a protest outside the Egyptian consulate here.
"Mubarak controlled Egypt for 30 years and the SCAF is merely an extension of him," she continued, referring to Hosni Mubarak, the strongman president ousted in February. "Having an election right now; it is like having an election under Mubarak's time."
Gigi Ibrahim, 24, a prominent revolutionary, agreed. "These elections will be a big show, a big circus," she said in an interview on Sunday in New York. "It is not going to be like in Tunisia. These elections are not going to fulfill any demands."
Ibrahim said elections held under the supervision of the military council will only benefit the military council."
Ibrahim spoke on Sunday in front of few Egyptian-Americans gathered in front of the headquarters of the United Nations. Crying, she said the army was firing a type of tear gas that was extremely dangerous and only used in wartime.
The company producing the gas, she said, is Combined Tactical System of Jamestown, Pa.
Calls for comment on Tuesday ended in the company's voicemail system.
Ibrahim will be back in Egypt on Wednesday and plans to join the demonstrators right away. "I'm going from the airport to Tahrir."
On Saturday, Nov. 19, the clashes started after soldiers expelled dozens of protesters who were sitting in protest of the military council that has refused to give up power. The army has used extreme violence against the protesters, including robber bullets, live ammunitions and tear gas, according to various news sources and protesters.
After three days of intense clashes and dozens of killings, the Egyptian government resigned on Monday.
For Haidar, the resignation meant little. "It doesn't change the fact that the army is in control of everything. The government hadn't have a word to say over anything."
The current violence is the latest confrontation of many in the past nine months.
On Oct. 9 the army attacked demonstrators during an interfaith march in Maspero. At least 24 persons died and thousands were injured.
She said Egyptians had never given the military its trust, even though it joined demonstrators to help oust Mubarak. "We, the people, didn't hand over the power to the army. The protesters knew that the fight was not over, when Mubarak stepped down."
Ibrahim said the military has too much control to expect it to stay on the side of the revolutionaries. "These people are Mubarak's generals," she said, referring to the security forces that have been attacking demonstrators. "We took Mubarak out. His minister of defense came in power; so nothing changed. Mubarak was the head and the Army was the body. Basically, the army sacrificed Mubarak to preserve the system that was already in place. "
When the clashes started on Saturday, Ibrahim said she felt frustrated to be out of the country at such a time. She has addressed a few rallies in New York expressing support of the Egyptian protesters and otherwise spending a lot of time on Twitter trying to figure out how the situation is unfolding on the ground.
Predicting more clashes and more deaths, she said, "This is the price of freedom and people in Tahrir are willing to give this price to have their freedom."
Al Shimaa Haidar, who was in Tahrir Square during the first phase of the revolution, said she has been trying to get the attention of the West on the rising military threat against demonstrators since Mubarak's ouster but that few in the media would listen.
"I am not surprised of what's happening because this is what we have been trying to warn people against since the Army took over," she said. "The Army has never been on the side of the people. But nobody listened to us."
Haidar has been in New York since October promoting a documentary about the Egyptian revolution in which she plays a starring role.
During her visit she has made speeches in New York and Oakland--as part of the U.S. Occupy movement --to spread awareness about what's going on in Egypt and the financial support provided by the United States to the Egyptian army.
"The American government is also involved," she told Women's eNews. "The United States sends $1.3 billion to the Egyptian army. We are the second recipient of foreign aid after Israel. And besides that, Egypt gets $2 billion annually. Most military equipment and weapons are made in the United States. And this comes from the taxes paid by Americans."
Haidar has joined protesters in Tahrir Square from Jan. 25 to Oct. 15.
On Feb. 4 she was arrested and detained by the Army and then released.
During a March 9 crackdown on demonstrators, she said hundreds of people were arrested, including women who were "were tortured, abused and raped inside the Egyptian Museum."
She said the army makes no distinctions between men and women when its soldiers attack a crowd.
Haidar said that during marches in July that she helped organize she asked the country's only-female presidential candidate to come down on the streets.
"Boutheina Kamal is such a brave woman and I really appreciate what she is doing for the Egyptian revolution. She has been in the square, in the battle field fighting with us," she says.
However, Haidar does not think a woman yet stands a chance of gaining high political power. "They really don't mind having us on the streets, getting injured and killed," she said. "But when it comes to decision-making and participating in political process, it is still very hard for a woman. But we are still trying to change this. And I believe that we will manage to do it."
Hajer Naili is an editorial intern for Women's eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.
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