Dispatch from Tahrir Square: By Tarek Radwan

Tahrir Square at night

Tarek Radwan, an Egyptian human rights activist, has been on the ground in Tahrir Square since the outbreak of protests on November 18, leaving only briefly to update his Facebook and Twitter feeds, he says. Tarek offers this snapshot of the defiant mood on the ground, shortly after a disappointing speech by Field Marshal Tantawi, in which the embattled head of the SCAF offered limited concessions that fell short of protesters’ core demand, an immediate end to military rule:

"Stepping into Tahirir Square, one feels an immediate sense of elation and defiance. The clashes between Egyptian Central Security police supported by the Armed Forces and the protesters since Friday have reignited the revolutionary spirit that temporarily lie dormant since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Today’s "Million Man March" saw nearly 100,000 protesters flood the streets in and around Tahrir, chanting for the removal of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and demanding the right to express their opinions.

While the square itself remains filled with tents, food carts, and lively debate, tear gas and rubber bullets rain down on protesters nearer to the Ministry of Interior. Casualties continue to mount as reports of the use of live ammunition and attacks by plain clothed thugs filter through the crowd. This excessive use of force, however, only serves to fuel the passions of the protesters who have organized emergency cordons for motorcycles to speed the wounded to civilian field hospitals.

The military leadership must understand that Mubarak-era brute force tactics tactics can no longer quell the Egyptian people’s demand for freedom of expression and association. Without a complete rejection of super constitutional exceptions for the military, a speedy transfer to civilian rule, and a thorough investigation for those who have died, many Egyptians will continue to view the upcoming elections as a pointless political exercise, their anger unlikely to dissipate any time soon."

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: Washington Post

Image: 2011-11-21T180530Z_01_AMR22_RTRIDSP_3_EGYPT-PROTESTS-11785.jpg