Egyptian Pro-Democracy Activists Beaten At Rally; ElBaradei Criticizes Government
April 13, 2010
By: Randi Zung | Printer Friendly
On April 6, pro-democracy activists in Cairo gathered to call for political reform. The activists organized the rally to demand constitutional reforms that would repeal restrictive election laws and remove a 30 year old “emergency law” that forbids public demonstrations, BBC News reports. According to Ayman Nour, a politician and a figurehead of the opposition, the government’s repression of protestors was a deplorable act. He stated: “Hundreds of soldiers are denying the right of a few dozen civilians trying to express their desire to amend the constitution.”
Nour attempted to join the demonstration, but was blocked by police who intercepted him at his office, the Associated Press (AP) reports. Additionally, AP reported that the protestors, in addition to being brutalized by police, were also met by anti-riot squads. Media journalists were also attacked. The activist group, known as “the April 6 movement,” was formed in 2008 on Facebook and is primarily comprised of young democracy activists. The group currently boasts more than 70,000 members and plans to stage more public demonstrations.
According to Human Rights Watch, 91 activists were arrested by police and countless others were beaten, Voice of America (VOA) reported. The protestors are said to be allied with Mohammed ElBaradei, Egypt's former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who has publicly expressed the need for political reform. ElBaradei, who did not attend the protest, has expressed his intentions as a possible candidate in next year’s presidential election – running against President Hosni Mubarak who has been in office since 1981 – on the basic condition that the election is free and fair. According to current Egyptian law, opposition parties are restricted from engaging in political reform. In addition, VOA reported that the majority of the detained protestors were released by the following day.
In an interview with the Washington Post, ElBaradei stated that he will abstain from participating in activist demonstrations until the Egyptian government begins to recognize and practice democracy. Although he acknowledged his role as a figurehead in the push for democratic reform, he stated: “But my role is not to run in every little demonstration around Cairo or in the countryside. That's not my role.” ElBaradei, who uses Twitter to voice his political opinions, said that taking part in demonstrations would cause the opposition to become dependent on his image. Instead he stated that the Egyptian people needed to assert their own voices, and that they had a “responsibility” to fight for their own freedom. According to ElBaradei, the current government is a “single-party system” that poses as a democracy.
For previous news on Egypt, please see:
Associated Press - Egypt police violently disperse pro-reform protest