The passionate youth of Egypt who drove the revolution of Tahrir Square are now being shot or jailed by the military junta and its courts. The developments form a sinister backdrop to the trial of the country’s former president and his allies.
Hosni Mubarak denied the charges against him on the first day of his hearing, where he was accused of ordering the deaths of protesters back in February.
The hearing, which will continue in ten days, could culminate in a possible death sentence for Mubarak.
The 83-year-old was in a hospital bed as he stood trial alongside his two sons and top aides, who are also accused of corruption and mass-killing.
Even with new faces in government, blood is still being spilled on the streets of Egypt.
Many of the protesters killed last February were too young to vote, yet old enough to die for their country. Today, a portrait of one of them, a 17-year-old boy killed by police on Tahrir square last winter, adorns one of Cairo’s central thoroughfares. There is even a talk of naming a street after him.
What makes someone a martyr and another a thug? In Egypt right now it is the date of death. Those gunned down prior to Mubarak’s resignation are celebrated as patriots who gave up their lives for the brighter future of their country. Those killed after his ousting are sometimes referred to as criminals who sought to undermine their country’s democratic strides. And it does not matter that they shared the same goals. In Egypt these days justice is about power and not the other way around.
That is the most likely reason behind the growth in influence of Islamist groups in Egypt where debate is intensifying over whether the post-revolution country will become a Sharia-ruled state.
Another young man RT met with also counted himself among the children of the revolution. Along with his younger brother, he celebrated Mubarak’s departure on Tahrir, believing it to spell the end of the police state. Three months later, the young man was killed in what his brother believes was a government sanctioned shoot-out.
“An army sniper shot my brother dead, the bullet went through his forehead and it came out on the other side. I saw it. No one here has a weapon like this – only soldiers do,” said Cairo resident Reda Radian Malak.
Unlike the families of people whose deaths are being blamed on Mubarak, these people received no monetary compensation for their loss. In fact, they are increasingly worried that the new military authorities may label them as thugs – an all-encompassing term for those who don’t appreciate the new military rulers.
“We expected the army to intervene, to protect people, to stop violence, but instead they started to kill people themselves,” recalls Reda Radian Malak.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took over as Egypt’s interim caretaker government when Mubarak stepped down. Brought to power by the protests, the generals, nevertheless, do not show much liking for mass gatherings.
The cradle of the Egyptian revolution – Tahrir Square – is now cordoned off by riot police. Those caught protesting are accused of public disturbance and tried in military courts.
“In the last seven months, there have been more people put on military trials than during any of the president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s reign, President Anwar Sadat’s reign or president Hosni Mibarak’s reign,” claims Egyptian human rights activist Noor Noor.
A scar on his forehead still has not healed but Noor Noor believes he got off lightly from his encounter with the police a month ago. A son of the former presidential contender who was jailed by the Mubarak regime, Noor says the new authorities are just a brutalized version of the old.
“There is a very little difference between the people who are ruling us now and Hosni Mubarak, and many of the crimes Mubarak committed against his people are currently been committed against us now by the people from the Supreme Council of armed forces that are ruling right now,” the human rights activist confides. “Whether it is using violence or oppressing the people, or even manipulating public opinion. But sadly – and this is what hurts more – these crimes are now being committed in the name of the revolution.”
Noor Noor keeps a bloodied t-shirt as a reminder that the Egyptian revolution is far from over. The former president is now on trial for his role in the mass killings but blood is still being spilled on the streets of Cairo.