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Memorial at Egypt`s Tahrir Square sparks protest

PTI | Last Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 23:41

Cairo: Where tents once sprouted and giant crowds chanted against their rulers, Egypt`s interim Prime Minister on Monday inaugurated the start of what is to be a memorial to protesters killed in the country`s revolutionary turmoil in the center of Tahrir Square.

The inauguration comes a day before the anniversary of some of the fiercest confrontations between protesters and security forces on a street adjoining Tahrir Square, in which at least 45 people were killed by police in 2011.

Some of those who participated in those popular revolts feel the memorial doesn`t honor the dead as much as it tries to paper over the continuing deep disputes over Egypt`s future.

They say the military-backed interim government is seeking to impose its control over what they see as an intrinsically anti-authoritarian space.

The day is expected to bring new rallies and, it is feared, new unrest.

Activists were quick to point out the bitter irony of the government erecting a memorial to the "martyrs," when there is no effort to prosecute police or military officials over their deaths and there is less official tolerance for protests.

Soldiers routinely block the often-deserted square with armored personnel carriers and barbed wire on days authorities fear protests and clashes could reach the central Cairo plaza.

"No transitional justice starts by building a memorial in Tahrir," said political activist Rasha Azab, who took part in clashes in 2011 and 2012. "I have no doubt that this memorial will be destroyed soon. It doesn`t represent anything," he said.

Tahrir has been the symbolic heart of protest throughout more than two and a half years of Arab Spring revolt in the country. First, it was the main stage for the 18 days of protests that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Then it was the scene of frequent protests by opponents of the military, which took over direct power after Mubarak`s fall repeatedly leading to deadly clashes with the police and troops.

Finally, it was a main venue for protests against Mohammed Morsi, the first post-Mubarak president, and his Muslim Brotherhood, culminating in marches by millions nationwide that prompted the July 3 coup that removed Morsi.

Since then, supporters of the military and the new interim government have effectively claimed control of the square.

First Published: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 23:41
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