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Hoda Osman

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Egypt: Tantawi Did Not Learn From Mubarak

Posted: 11/23/11 10:44 AM ET

The similarities were striking. Never before did I feel the real strength between the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak and the current rulers of the country, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), like today.

An announcement was made. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the de facto leader of the country, will be making a speech. Hurray! After four days of incredible brutality against the protesters in Tahrir Square and other Egyptian cities by the security forces, there's finally a response.

Everyone waited anxiously for the statement, just like we used to do earlier this year for Mubarak's speeches. The disappointment was familiar. It was not much different than the former dictator's statements. The same language, tone, justifications and even the bad production (Mubarak had a slightly better cameraman). Most dangerously, the same disconnect with the realities on the ground.

Over the past few days, hatred towards Tantawi and the SCAF has been building up as the attacks on the protesters intensified, resulting in the deaths of over 30 and the injury of over 1000.

Scores have lost their eyes as a result of security forces aiming at the face. One video circulating on the Internet shows a member of the security forces congratulating another on hitting a protestor in the eye. "Good job... you got him in the eye," we hear him say. One protester, a dentist, has lost sight in one eye during the uprising in January and the other one during the recent clashes. "I lost the other one," he remembers shouting. Ahmed Harara has become an example of the sacrifices protesters are making.

Another video, shows a member of the security forces dragging a body into a pile of rubbish.

Excessive amounts of teargas are being used against the protesters every day.

The stories, pictures and videos are plenty.

And that's just over the past five days. Since February, the SCAF has tried over 12 thousand civilians in military courts, including blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is considered a symbol of the January 25th revolution.

Military prosecutors gave a number of female protesters virginity tests in March. No proper investigation has been completed.

Examples of the crackdown on the media are also numerous. The SCAF is quite intolerant of criticism.

Now Tantawi shows up on the television screen, defending and praising the armed forces and gives very little. He accepts the resignation of the government, (there are reports that it's been rejected several times). One of Mubarak's solutions was also changing the government. It didn't work then, it won't work now. It's simply too little, too late.

Tantawi confirmed parliamentary elections will start as scheduled on November 28th. Many are now questioning how elections could be held under the current circumstances. How will the police that has been fighting the people, protect them to cast their votes safely.

The only concession Tantawi gave was setting a deadline for the presidential elections, end of June 2012.

At the end of his speech, he quickly mentions that if the people disapprove of the SCAF, they could leave but it would have to be decided through a popular referendum.

Conclusion: Tantawi does not get it.

A number of public personalities and party leaders who had participated in an emergency meeting with the SCAF, said many of the issues they had agreed on were not mentioned by Tantawi, particularly the immediate end of violence and retreat by the security forces.

Mubarak's speeches used to result in a divide between Egyptians, with some accepting the little he was giving and others asking for more.

This time, it seems the protesters are determined to accept nothing less than a handover of power to a civilian government until presidential elections are held.

Time is Tantawi's worst enemy right now. If he follows Mubarak's style of delayed response, and the violence continues, the demands will increase and the situation will become more complex.

 

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