Peaceful Protests Turn Into Bloody Battleground

[hr]Video and Article By: Alyssa Mentzer [hr]

[dropcap] Y[/dropcap]oung Egyptians have been pushing back against the long standing oppression on the grounds of Tahrir Square, a central public area in Cairo that has been made famous by Arab Spring events.

“People were shot dead with live ammunition in Tahrir Square because of the protests and sit-ins,” Sarah Tonsy, political science, graduate student at the American University in Cairo, said. “It has been really, really bloody. “

Egyptians had strong opinions and criticisms against their president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak.  However, uprisings in Tunisia added fuel to an already burning desire, sending Egypt into mass protests on Jan. 25, 2011.

“They’ve even used nerve gas on the protesters which causes suffocation to lots of people and they even threw it in the metro stations surrounding Tahrir Square, so it’s very dangerous to actually go there,” Tonsy said.

According to the New York Times, tens of thousands of people filled the streets and gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the injustices they faced. What started out as peaceful demonstrations quickly escalated into violence

Infographic above illustrates the number of deaths due to political upheavals in 2011. (designed by Danielle Alio)

As these revolutions spread like wildfire, other citizens are taking lessons from the Egyptians.  “The young Egyptians do provide quite a heroic example. They literally risked their lives, not lunch, their lives, to bring about what they did,” Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services, regional director for Europe and Middle East, said.

“I came across a little 12 year-old girl, she had blood streaming from the side of her head and I asked her where was that from police beating her over the head and she was collecting stones, passing them on to the front to the young men who were attacking the police,” Pandeli Glavanis, Ph.D, Associate Director, Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, said.

“This was a 12 year-old girl and she had no mom or dad, anybody near. I said, ‘where are they?’ She said, ‘they’re somewhere here, I don’t know where.’ Everybody was running, fighting and so on.”

Demonstrators protested around the clock facing violence from pro-Mubarak protesters and police officials, which the military allowed.

According to witnesses who spoke with Al Jazeera, anti-government demonstrators threw rocks and firebombs at police forces. Police forces used tear gas, water cannons, batons and shot live ammunition into the air to disband protesters. Meanwhile, pro-Mubarak supporters entered Tahrir Square with sticks and knives.

“There have been these battles between the protesters and the riot police and the protesters and military police or some combination of them,” Max Strasser, news editor, Egypt independent newspaper, said.

“Sometimes people between the ages of 15 and 25 really feel like they are dominating the front lines and dominating the area, but not everybody. You see old women right near the front lines passing out medical aid to protesters or old men running up to the front lines to help throw rocks.”

After 18 days, on Feb 11, 2011, Egyptian President Mubarak finally resigned, leaving Egyptians celebrating in the streets without a leader. The military took this opportunity to take control over the Egyptians, which led to more unrest.

“Things are changing very quickly. It’s hard to keep up. Everyday is something new. You never know what the next day is going to bring. Some days a protest that is planned ends up being really small and the day after it turns into clashes that last for five days,” Strasser, said. “The political scene is very dynamic.  It’s definitely a fast-paced moving situation here.”



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