Conflict & Justice

Egypt: sit-ins continue despite government concessions


An Egyptian man waves two national flags during a protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square July 11, 2011, vowing to keep up their sit-in which began on July 8, despite a series of concessions by the Egyptian prime minister.



Egyptian protesters camping out on a dusty patch of land in the middle of Cairo's Tahrir Square held their ground on Tuesday, for the fifth day in a row, despite a warning by the military and several government concessions made to appease the growing anger on the street.

Thousands of demonstrators marched several blocks from their sit-in near Tahrir to the government office that houses the Egyptian cabinet, chanting for an end to military rule in Egypt.

"The people want to topple the Field Marshall," screamed hundreds of protesters in the streets near the cabinet on Tuesday, referring to 75-year-old Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.  

Field Marshall Tantawi is Egypt's top army commander and head of the military-led transitional council that has governed the country since Mubarak left office on February 11. 

Earlier on Tuesday, the military issued a stern warning to any Egyptians who "deviate from the peaceful approach during demonstrations and sit-ins and obstruct the institutions of the state," reported Agence France-Presse.

The televised announcement, which was issued by the spokesman of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, General Mohsen El-Fangari, was the first comment by the military since the widespread sit-ins and protests first began late last week.  A separate army press conference was held later on Tuesday.

But for many, the military's announcements only brought more anger.

“Once again, they are trying to calm the people down. They think they are giving confidence to the people, but actually they’re taking it away,” activist Mohamed Safi told Daily News Egypt.  Safi added that the military's “speech cements the fact that the army is not willing to respond 100 percent to the people’s demands.”

Thousands of Egyptian protesters have taken to streets since the "million-person" rally last Friday - in some cases blocking access to government buildings and shutting down highways and major thoroughfares throughout the country - in a bid to demand swifter political reform from their interim leaders.

(Read more: Egypt's second round of protests)

In the five months since Mubarak's ouster, many revolutionaries are still seeking real political change in Egypt. 

Their long list of demands can vary, depending on the ideology or political leaning of the protesters camped out in Tahrir, but the basic demands of all Egyptian revolutionaries are similar. Most want:

  • real, transparent reform of the national police forces
  • trials and suspensions of police officers accused of killing protesters during Egypt's uprising
  • an end to civilian trials in military tribunals
  • greater transparency and speed in the adjudication of former Mubarak officials

The government appeared to be listening to demonstrators over the weekend.

On Tuesday, an Egyptian judiciary council recommended that court cases of former Mubarak officials be televised on large projector screens to provide greater transparency to the Egyptian public.  Later in the day, the government announced that Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, had been given a 1-year suspended sentence on corruption charges.

Finally, Egypt's deputy prime minister, Yahya al-Gamal, resigned from office today.

Still, none of the concessions appeared to be enough for Egyptian revolutionaries.  

By late on Tuesday evening, thousands of protesters remained in the streets around Cairo's central traffic circle, vowing to stay in Tahrir until Egypt's government responds to their demands.