As a Cairene surrounded by the intensity and dynamism of the second wave of mass Tahrir protests, one tends to forget that other parts of the country are fighting their own battles that, although, smaller in scale, are just as intense and significant to those residents fighting for their rights. After only three days in Alexandria, I could not help but feel that the people were fighting a more difficult battle in the war that is Egypt’s revolution against the old regime. The uphill struggle facing revolutionaries here involves the media and local politics.
While news agencies – both national and international – focus on the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) dealings with the protesters and political factions in Tahrir, only a few heads turn to Victor Emanuel Square at the end of Smouha street outside the office of the Central Security Forces’ (CSF) office. The hundreds of protesters pale in comparison to the thousands present in Tahrir. The fewer CSF officers available to deal with the demonstrations, however, results in a heightened sense of fear as they respond with arguably more ferocity. With hardly any consistent reporting and a systematic effort to break mobile phones and confiscate recording devices, protesters face an authority trying to maintain their level of impunity. Despite only three confirmed deaths, the intensity of the injuries witnessed rivals those seen in Tahrir, including broken arms, internal bleeding, concussions, lacerations, and of course gas inhalation.
The other factor at play involves the leanings of a substantial portion of the population towards the Islamist parties. Many in Alexandria do not entirely trust the Muslim Brotherhood to represent their interests, but few can argue the fact that its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) remains one of the most organized political groups with one of the strongest campaigns. Those who would not choose FJP candidates tend to lean towards the Salafis and their Nour Party. With expectations that Islamist parties will win a large portion of parliamentary seats, many of their supporters in Egypt’s second largest city resent the protesters and argue that they have intentionally engineered the demonstrations to interfere with the elections timetable.
Sadly, the resulting dynamic leaves Alexandria’s revolutionary youth vulnerable to brutal authoritarian tactics by security forces with little support from their local neighborhoods. Nonetheless, approximately three thousand demonstrators gathered in front of al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque to attend the "Million Man March" that took place this Friday, marching to the military headquarters in the north of the city, spending hours calling for freedom from oppression. Despite a lack of organization and internal support, those in Tahrir would no doubt admire their tenacity and national pride … if only someone could see them!
Tarek Radwan is an Egyptian human rights activist specializing in international law and conflict resolution. He has worked for Human Rights Watch’s MENA division and the United Nations mission (UNAMID) in Darfur as a Human Rights Officer. He currently provides consulting services on civilian protection and Middle East issues.
Photo Credit: LA Times