January 25: A Waste of Time
Our correspondent Conor Sheils gives his view on the present state of Egypt, following the anniversary of the January 25th revolution.
As a relative newbie to this country my knowledge of Egyptian revolutions was mostly limited to international tv news and armchair political discussions with my dad about the rights and wrongs of Middle Eastern politics. As a journalist I've covered many protests in the UK and Ireland, where demonstrations usually consist of trust fund kids waving homemade placards in an effort to irritate bored police officers. With this in mind, I relished the opportunity to cover the January 25th revolution anniversary and see Egyptian street politics first hand. However what I saw left me questioning whether anything had changed at all in the past three years.
My initial posting was outside the Journalists Syndicate on Abdel Khaleq Tharwat street, where a group of demonstrators from the April 6 movement were staging a largely peaceful demonstration against military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood. Predictably it wasn't long before the tear gas began to rain down - and when it rained it really did pour as overzealous police continued to fire cannisters at retreating protestors from the group which included both minors and young women.
The march eventually dispersed, leaving protestors and innocent bystanders of all ages and genders struggling to breath. Bully boy tactics but not all that surprising considering what I've seen in Egypt so far. However it was the actions which followed that genuinely shocked me. The police stood idly by and watched as a group of pro-Sisi demonstrators arrived at the scene shouting pro-military slogans. No tear gas, no birdshot, nothing. The supposedly impartial police force might as well have donned the creepy Sisi masks being sold by street vendors.
The disgraceful display of unfair policing continued throughout the day as time and time again the police lashed out at the unarmed April 6 activists.
It was a similar story when April 6 members clashed with a pro-Sisi mob in the area surrounding Talaat Harb square, as police detained activists while taking a soft line with pro-Sisi youths. Of course it wasn't just the police who had very clearly nailed their colours to the mast, as state and private media provided an all-night Sisi love-in. The nauseating coverage was backed up by 1984 style propoganda packaged as 'analysis' as pundits bleeted pro-Sisi nonsense while ignoring the desires and beliefs of the dissenting minority.
Egypt 2014 truly has turned the clock back. Dissent is crushed with brutal force and the opinions of many ordinary Egyptians are ignored by both the ruling military elite and their flock of useful idiots. The regime has taken the revolution away from the people right in front of their very eyes and worst of all , Egyptians are lapping it up. Of course, this isn't my birth country and this isn't my revolution so my comments come with a healthy dose of humbleness. However, as I returned home last night, I was left feeling sad and disappointed for the country I now call my home.
Based on what I saw on Cairo's streets this January 25th - the revolution is over. its goals unrealised and, in my eyes, the so-called celebrations were a farce.
Look around you, Egypt - the party is over. It's time to go home.