Tantawi: Emergency Law for Egypt Will End
At this time last year, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Egyptians thronged the now iconic Tahrir Square, demanding an end to decades of iron-fisted rule by US-backed tyrant Hosni Mubarak. In the year elapsed since, the guard changed hands to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (known as SCAF), which has been alleged to have killed more protesters than Mubarak. In recent weeks, the military junta ruling Cairo has infiltrated and shuttered several western NGOs on the pretext that foreigners are meddling in the revolution — of which the army has repeatedly said it is its vanguard and protector. As one of the early protest slogans went, “The people and the army are one hand.”
Now that hand has been fractured. Several more protests have taken place in the last few months, leading to the deaths of dozens. On the brighter side, elections have been held for the Parliament, although many doubt how influential it will be compared with SCAF. Further, the US State Department and other actors have expressed concern about the makeup of the parliamentary representatives, of whom nearly three-quarters are Islamists, whether of the more moderate Brotherhood, which has been a presence in Egyptian life since the 1920s, or the more reactionary and ideological Salafis.
One of the biggest bones of contention appears to have been at least symbolically dispensed with today, as SCAF commander Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi put an end to the highly unpopular “emergency” laws that have kept Egyptians in a state of fear for decades. According to a report in Al Jazeera, whose offices were harassed at several points throughout the last year, Tantawi said that aside from undefined “acts of thuggery,” the law would no longer be in force. Put in effect in 1981 when extreme Islamists assassinated Anwar Sadat, Mubarak repeatedly enforced the law, which became a flashpoint for the protesters who claimed the law was part and parcel of the revolutionary demand to change the regime.
Tantawi, say critics, is officially canceling the law tomorrow, on Jan. 25, as a symbol of the first year since the fall of Mubarak. Beyond symbolism, however, it does not amount to much, according to parliament member Essam Sultan. “This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” Sultan was quoted as saying. “The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between.” Thus, like other critics, he interprets the move as a half-measure seemingly intended to defuse tensions and convince Egyptians that SCAF is serious about stepping aside in June, when presidential elections are scheduled to take place.
“At least 80 protesters have been killed by troops since October,” Al Jazeera notes. Whatever Tantawi means by “acts of thuggery,” it appears these deaths are not meant to be included.
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