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Concessions Meaningless Say Tahrir Protesters: “We Want a New System”

While this video of the shooting of an unarmed man in the streets of Alexandria circulated online, the mainstream western headlines were full of talk about the meeting between Vice President Omar Suleiman and “the opposition.” Many of the headlines say something like the Business Week’s “Egypt’s Opposition Agree With Suleiman on First Steps” or the LA Times’s “EGYPT: Vice president offers new concessions.”

Those “concessions” apparently included an offer to relax restrictions on freedom of the press. The headlines didn’t mention that at almost the same time these talks were being held, Al Jazeera’s Cairo correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was arrested by military authorities and held for seven hours.

In the U.S., both President Obama in his interview with Bill O’Reilly, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been making comments as conflicted as before. The Guardian described them as “Dithering White House All At Sea.”

Suleiman has issued a statement on the meeting which Emptywheel analyzed earlier here:

In other words, having redefined the protests as the direct cause of the breakdown in security (even quoting Hosni Mubarak’s February 1 speech that did the same), Suleiman has all but promised to use the emergency law to prosecute those who caused that breakdown in security.

It will not be surprising to see Suleiman’s claimed agreement with the opposition to be used as justification for clearing out the demonstrators who refuse to go along and already on Sunday evening, there were signs the military may attempt to regain control of at least part of Tahrir Square.

8:52pm Reports of human chains created to block the army tanks from entering the Tahrir Square.

7:50pm Reports of gunshots fired by army into the air near the cordon they set up inside the barricades, near Egyptian museum.

Protesters clashed with army as they try to confine space available to protesters with barbed wire.

As has happened throughout the past 13 days, no one seems to be listening to the people in Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt who are still in the streets. They are not agreeing to the Suleiman/Obama-Clinton scheme and they really don’t like Suleiman:

“If Mubarak is still president, nothing will happen. If he will leave, then Omar Suleiman, no problem if he meets our demands,” said Amr Mahmoud, who has spent 12 days in the square with his wife, Reem. “But Suleiman was part of the old system. We want a new system.”

“Why does America want to work with this man?” asked Mahmoud. “He has not been good for Egypt. He has not been good for us. He has served Mubarak and he has served America. We do no trust him and if they have chosen him, then we do not trust America. We will stay here until we get what we want.”  . . .

[More after the jump]

From Al–Masry Al-Youm:

Leaders of numerous youth organizations, calling themselves the Coalition of the Angry Youth Uprising, announced at a press conference today that they would not negotiate with the Mubarak regime until their demands for the president’s ouster were met.

The group, which includes the 6 April protest movement, Young People for Justice and Freedom and the Muslim Brotherhood’s youth wing, insist that the activists who met with newly-appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman on Sunday did not represent them or those now in Tahrir Square.

“The people who negotiated with Suleiman only represent themselves. All the youths organizations are united in their position–no negotiations until Mubarak’s departure,” says 6 April leader Ahmed Maher…

Activist Shady al-Ghazaly Harb says that the agreement reached by those opposition representatives who met with Suleiman failed to meet demonstrators’ minimum demands.

Activists, meanwhile, maintain that no one has the right to convince those now in Tahrir to leave–except through the realization of their demand for Mubarak’s resignation. “The millions in the square don’t belong to anyone. If any organization withdrew from the streets right now, it would be their loss,” says one activist.

Maher says unknown people are appearing on television to speak on behalf of the youth organizations, while the regime has made it impossible for the media to reach actual members of these organizations by confiscating phones and detaining activists.

“Someone who is responsible for killing 300 people and hurting another 3500 can’t stay in power,” says activist Zyad al-Eleimy. “There are now 4000 families who have a personal vendetta against the regime. Mubarak must leave to preserve national stability.”

…Maher insists that, if Mubarak refuses to step down, the Tahrir Square protests would continue, and young people would take further escalatory measures.

The Muslim Brotherhood also reject the Suleiman “agreement:”

“We cannot call it talks or negotiations. The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned … that he [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase,” Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a member of the MB, told Al Jazeera….Fotouh described the meeting as testing the waters for what concessions the government was prepared to make.

He said he “did not see any … seriousness so far. They [the government] have failed to take concrete measurement on the ground. “If they were serious, the parliament would have been dissolved, also a presidential decree ending the emergency law”.

… He asserted that the organisation was not prepared to step back from its demand for Mubarak’s departure, saying that if it did, the move would be a “betrayal of the martyrs who have died in the these protests”.

From all reports, spirits in the square are good and the people have no intention of giving up or accepting half measures. In fact, here’s a video of how people are ushered out of the square when they need to temporarily leave:

On the way out of Tahrir square, this is how goodbyes are said.


We’ll come tomorrow
And bring our friends
And after tomorrow
We’ll bring our neighbours

See you tomorrow!

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com