Protests at Tahrir Square

2011 Protests at Tahrir Square

Cairo, Egypt

January 25th, 2011

Avery Nackman and Matt Marinelli

 

Prezi

 

 http://prezi.com/ktzmkotszswg/2011-protests-at-tahrir-square/#

 

Essay

From corruption to revolution the political structure of Egypt’s government took a turn towards a new future in 2011.  Protests in Egypt erupted in 2010 with the death of Khaled Saeed and escalated to a protest of unparalled numbers at Tahrir Square and other locations in 2011.  Tahrir Square itself is centered around important political and cultural buildings.  Tahrir Square has only served as a gathering for protest in the last 60 years since Egypt’s citizens protested the occupation of Port Said from England France and Israel in 1956 (Trueman). It became the social base of revolution in 2011 because it is one of the largest public spaces in Cairo as well as its close proximity to important political and cultural buildings.

Public space in Egypt’s crowded cities is fairly limited. Even Tahrir Square used to merely be a circle for Egyptians wealthy enough to afford a car to drive along and exit the street. The streets of Cairo are famously littered with trash as some 5 million people of the 8

An aerial image of Tahrir Square empty before the 2011 protests.
An aerial image showing the sheer number of protestors in Tahrir Square as well as the temporary “tent city” the protestors set up for their 18 days in the square.

million total population lives in slums without access to the city’s public services (Emadi). Without public space, the rich and the poor have little interaction, thus causing the poor to be disillusioned with the rest of Egyptians. Public space is a necessity for urban centers as it allows for intellectual and social interaction among its citizens. Perhaps the most important role of public space in democratic societies is the potential for the people to come together and as one voice, express discontent with their government. On January 25th 2011 Egyptians did just that by occupying Tahrir Square with the purpose of protesting police brutality and an encroachment on civil liberties (El-Naggar). When pro-Mubarak thugs

and police officers attacked the peaceful protest, the mission of the protestors changed; they now wanted the removal of Hosni Mubarak from his 30 year reign over the people.  Mubarak’s government had long been associated with torture and police brutality, yet Egyptians never felt unified enough to oppose his iron fisted rule.

The death of twenty-eight year old Khaled Saeed in Alexandria managed to ignite the revolution within Egypt. Police brutally beat Saeed to death for his knowledge of corruption within the police force.  Saeed possessed a video of “policemen sharing the spoils of a drug bust” and because of the video, police attacked him in a public internet café (Ahram online).  Police brutality occurred under the Mubarak government long before the death of Saeed; however his death caught the attention of middle class Egyptians as they could identify with the circumstances of his murder.  The police claimed that had choked on a packet of marijuana, yet when his brother was allowed to see his brother in the morgue, he discovered Saeed’s body horribly beaten and disfigured (Khalil). Police have little power in the Egyptian government as a whole, so the people called for Hosni Mubarak to locate

Political cartoon picturing Khaled Said crushing Mubarak on a cake. January 25th was the first day of protests and the twitter hash-tag for the protests. Said would have been 29 on the 27th of January.

the corruption. However Saeed received no justice in death as “the Mubarak regime began a smear campaign against Khaled” claiming Saeed a deserter as well as a drug user (Ahram online).  People identified with Saeed as he was a middle class Egyptian with no links to extremist groups. Members of the 2011 protests claimed that they protested because “Khaled could have been my brother…Khaled is not an activist, so this could happen to anyone,” which became one of Egypt’s resolves in the revolution against Mubarak’s regime (el Magd).  Citizens of Egypt, in response to Saeed’s death, took their voices to protest in an area that holds a history of protests in Egypt.

Tahrir Square itself is a history of Egypt’s modernization as the buildings flanking the square each come from a different era. To the south of the square, the Mogamma stands as a constant reminder of Egyptian bureaucracy. This soviet era building contains government offices which issue paperwork from birth certificates to passports, essentially every Egyptian in the city had to enter through those doors which represent the power of the government (Alsayyad). To the West of the square, the headquarters of the Arab League stands as a reminder of the unity of the Arab States and the attempt to modernize the region after World War II, an idea that was not popular with the people at the time. To the North lies the Egyptian Museum which contains artifacts from when Egypt was ruled

This map labels the specific location of buildings around Tahrir Square as well as the square’s location within the city of Cairo.

by pharaohs, a symbolic connection to the autocratic government of Mubarak. One block away, the headquarters of Mubarak’s political party overlooks those who pass through the square (Alsayyad). All of these quasi political buildings impose a feeling of power and control over Tahrir Square, making it the ideal place to contest the government enacting those feelings. Protestors united together to overcome the power of the government, which was manifested physically in the presence of the police and by the structures surrounding Tahrir Square.

The question remains, why Tahrir Square, why not anywhere else in Cairo or even Egypt itself? There are other cities where people could gather and protest, yet the epicenter of the 2011 protests was at Tahrir Square. It can be argued that the protests focused in and around the Tahrir Square area for very specific reasons. Not only is the square located in the capital of the nation, but its location is ideal for protests against the government. Certain government buildings woven in the fabric around Tahrir Square make protests almost certain to gain attention. Additionally, the square has a symbolic and historical past which gives the space more meaning to the Egyptian people.  Tahrir Square literally translates to “Liberation Square” and now stands as a symbol for all Egyptians as their ability to make a difference in their own futures much like they did in the past.

Public space in the Middle East has historically been characterized by plazas that were built for mosque overflow. People would gather and meet after services, essentially forming a public space. Religion and government have always been closely related in the Middle East, so much so that only recently has public space been formed separate to religious structures. Cairo itself is planned much like Paris, small plazas connect long boulevards together to form a web of streets and blocks, very different from an American style city (Embassy). This urban plan creates choke points in circulation and, naturally creates spaces that are more important than others. Tahrir Square has seven streets that lead into its traffic circle with three minor squares feeding into it as well. This creates a hierarchical space ideal for protest as it is sure to gain attention by halting traffic circulation in Cairo’s largest square.

Interestingly enough, during the 2011 revolution, protesting was not the only activity occurring in Tahrir Square. Vendors set up tents to sell food to the men and women who gathered in the square during the day and after dark when the protesting for the day was calming down, poetry was read, political debates raged, artists painted the scene, and Muslims prayed when the prayer call was made and the scene became something different; Egyptians gathering together and finding their long lost identity once more. Shadid interviewed protestors and one stated, “”Who knows what life will be like after Tahrir, I don’t know if we can win or not. They have power, but we’re not weak” (Shadid). The protest symbolized Egyptian’s desire to come together and have a voice in their government, ”After we get rid of him, we’ll clean the square, we’ll cherish the square, it will be a symbol of making something new” (Shadid). This peaceful exchange of ideas and culture is almost counterintuitive when one thinks of a revolution to topple a government, yet they are all functions of public space. The protest can be described as Egyptians occupying the space of Tahrir Square to share ideas and become a unified people.

Tahrir Square holds a strong symbolic, political, and cultural value for the people of Cairo who gathered to protest against Mubarak’s regime and regain their sense of security.  Under Mubarak’s regime, poor and middle class Egyptians felt mistreated and neglected.  People hadn’t felt safe throughout the 30 year reign of Mubarak, yet the death Khaled Saeed was the last straw.  After protests in Tunisia, Egyptians had more confidence and took their anger to the streets.  Protests started in response to Saeed’s death and escalated at Tahrir Square. Architecture played its own role in why the protests centered within Tahrir Square. The buildings flanking the square are symbolically linked to the autocracy that Egyptians lived under every day. What better place to bring the people together as one, rich and poor, young and old, to shrug off the rule of a tyrant and say to the world that Egypt was a nation of freedom.

 

Images

Latuff, Carlos. “Happy Birthday Khaled Said!” Cartoon. The Guardian . Web. 15 Sept. 2013. < http://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2011/jan/27/egypt-protests>.

El-Attal, Dina. Millions of Protestors at Tahrir Square 2011. 2011. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.< http://praxistheatre.com/category/egyptian-revolution/>.

El Shafei, Jennifer. This is what Tahrir Square (Freedom Square) looked like before the revolution in 2011. Web. 15 Sept. 2013. < http://in2eastafrica.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Tahrir-Square-in-Cairo.jpg>.

James, Joan, and Ken Seamon. Where is Tahrir Square. Web. 15 Sept. 2013. < http://www.egyptholiday.com/where_is_tahrir_square_egypt.htm>.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Modan_Tahrir_%282005-05-343%29.jpg

Picture of the Mogamma building located in Cairo next to Tahrir Square that we used in the Prezi.

Argenberg, Vyacheslav. Statue at Tahrir Square, with Mogamma building, downtown Cairo. 2005. VascoPlanet Cairo, Cairo. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Modan_Tahrir_(2005-05-343).jpg>.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/The_Egyptian_Museum.jpg

Picture of the Egyptian Museum located in Cairo next to Tahrir Square that we used in the Prezi.

The Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Private Collection. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Egyptian_Museum.jpg>.

http://cdn2.img22.rian.ru/images/41196/64/411966483.jpg

Picture of the Arab League headquarters located south of Tahrir Square in Cairo that we used in our Prezi.

Desouki, Khaled. First, after the “Arab Spring” Arab League summit opens in Baghdad. 2013. AFP. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://ria.ru/arab_news/20120329/608692266.html>.

Picture of the Former NDP Headquarters used in the Prezi is taken from Google Earth.

RESEARCH RESOURCES

 

Protests in Tahrir Square

Cairo, Egypt

January 25, 2011

Avery Nackman and Matt Marinelli

When Egyptian protestors took to the streets in January of 2011, it was merely the result of a long history of oppression by the Mubarak regime and the people’s desire to free themselves from unjust and overbearing rule. The beating of Khaled Said in Alexandria in 2010 by police for his possession of a video implicating two police officers in a drug deal set the stage for massive revolt, inciting anger in the hearts of the Egyptian people that was cultivated until protests in Tunisia gave Egyptians confidence to take their qualms to Tahrir square in 2011. After 18 days of protesting and battle between government forces and protestors, Mubarak stepped down from power and the military took control of the nation to oversee democratic elections.

Protesters gathered in Tahrir square to end the regime of Mubarak.

Tahrir_Square_-_February_9,_2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tahrir_Square_-_February_9,_2011.png

RESEARCH RESOURCES

 

Protests in Tahrir Square

Cairo, Egypt

January 25, 2011

Avery Nackman and Matt Marinelli

 

When Egyptian protestors took to the streets in January of 2011, it was merely the result of a long history of oppression by the Mubarak regime and the people’s desire to free themselves from unjust and overbearing rule. The beating of Khaled Said in Alexandria in 2010 by police for his possession of a video implicating two police officers in a drug deal set the stage for massive revolt, inciting anger in the hearts of the Egyptian people that was cultivated until protests in Tunisia gave Egyptians confidence to take their qualms to Tahrir square in 2011. After 18 days of protesting and battle between government forces and protestors, Mubarak stepped down from power and the military took control of the nation to oversee democratic elections.

 

Protesters gathered in Tahrir square to end the regime of Mubarak. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tahrir_Square_-_February_9,_2011.png.

 

RESEARCH RESOURCES

 

Journalism

Egypt Independent – Anger in Alexandria: “We’re afraid of our own government”

Khalil, Ashraf. “Anger in Alexandria: “We’re afraid of our own government”.” Egypt Independent. N.p., 25 June 2010. Web. 7 Sept. 2013. <http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/anger-alexandria-we%E2%80%99re-afraid-our-own-government>.

 

Article with minor details of the protest and information of Saeed’s death.  Article goes into detail about how Saeed became a martyr of Egyptian civil rights.  Will use the article’s testimony and words from the member of the community that go into detail about the problem with the police forces in Egypt as well as Mubarak’s regime.

The National – Egypt’s ElBaradei leads thousands in protest against police

el Magd, Nadia A. “Egypt’s ElBaradei leads thousands in protest against police .” The National. N.p., 26 June 2010. Web. 7 Sept. 2013. <http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/africa/egypts-elbaradei-leads-thousands-in-protest-against-police?pageCount=0>.

 

Article about Mohamed ElBaradei as a revolutionary leader during the protests prior to the one in Tahrir Square. Also relates back to Saeed’s death again to talk about whom he was and the premise of his death.  Includes testimony about Saeed’s death and views on the protest.  Will use the information about Saeed’s death and the testimonies from his mother to reveal the corruption in government and the police.  Also using the information about ElBaradei and a powerful political face as we turns the tides of protest eventually leading the revolution in Tahrir Square.

 

Ahram online – Khaled Saeed: The Face that launched a revolution

“Khaled Said: The face that launched a revolution.” Ahram Online. N.p., 6 June 2012. Web. 7 Sept. 2013. <http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/43995/Egypt/0/Khaled-Said-The-face-that-launched-a-revolution.aspx>.

 

Article that goes into great detail about the death of Saeed as well as the brutality demonstrated by the Alexandria police in the matter of Saeed’s proposed case.  Also gives the premise on which the police attacked and murdered him.  In addition, gives insight from the bystanders that were shocked to see the result of such police brutality. Will use the information presented about police brutality and how Saeed became the face of the protests in Tahrir Square (in the future) and protests around the time of his death.

 

Shadid, Anthony. “At Night in Tahrir Square, Cairo Protest Gives Way to Poetry and Performances.(Foreign Desk).” The New York Times, February 7, 2011. Gale, Global Issues in Context A248472617

 

Shadid reports on the Tahirir Square protest and gives readers insight into the happenings of the protestors after dark. After long days of peaceful protest and pressure from pro-government forces, the night gives protestors respite from the violence. Through personal interviews, the author attains that there is a strong bond keeping Egyptians together that transcends the violence during the day. This source does not offer the most detailed information on the protest itself, but it is used to argue that the space of Tahrir Square is being used for multiple purposes; protest and peaceful collaboration.

 

Alsayyad, Nezar. “Cairo’s roundabout revolution.(Editorial Desk)(OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR)(Editorial).” The New York Times, April 14, 2011. Gale, Global Issues in Context (A253979693).

 

This source examines the history of the public square in the Middle East and the specific history of Tahrir Square as a place of protest. Alsayyad looks at the various buildings flanking the square and its position inside the city with respect to the political weave of influence within Cairo. This source will help us tie the topic of the protest to an architectural and historical track by examining the history and development of public space in the urban fabric.

 

El-Naggar, Mona. “The Legacy Of 18 Days in Tahrir Square.(Week in Review Desk)(THE ARAB WORLD)(Egyptian Revolution, 2011).” The New York Times, February 20, 2011. Gale, Global Issues in Context (A249492057).

 

El- Naggar writes an in depth description of the protest itself and the comradery felt among Egyptians during and after their protest. He interviews individuals who were affected by the protest, specifically a man who decided to stay in the country because of the hope he felt after Mubarak stepped down. This article is useful because it provides insight into the actual desires of the protestors and gives them a more human face.

 

Encyclopedia Entries

 

Wikipedia Entry on “Death of Khaled Saeed”

“Death of Khaled Mohamed Saeed.” Wikipedia. N.p., 6 July 2013. Web. 7 Sept. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Khaled_Mohamed_Saeed>.

 

Talks very little about his personal life, but gives references and great detail on Saeed’s death and about how Saeed became the face of the revolution.  Will be taking the references and some of the summaries about the protest and details about his death at the hands of the Alexandria cops.

 

Trueman, Chris. History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2013. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/suez_crisis_1956.htm>.

 

Website article that talks about the Suez Canal Crisis.  Used this article to reference the first protest at Tahrir Square that deals with the Suez Canal crisis with Britain, France, and Israel in 1956 that eventually lead to a battle at Port Said.

 

“Tahrir Square.” Embassy of Egypt. Embassy of the Arab Republic in Washington DC, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.egyptembassy.net/tahrir.html>.

 

Provides a timeline of Tahrir Square from when it became known as “Liberation” Square up till 2003 when a protest against the Iraq war began.  Gives good information about the different protests at Tahrir Square as well some small information about the urban renewal of Cairo in relation to the urban fabric of Paris.

 

Scholarly Articles

 

Emadi, Hafizullah. “Egypt: the fall of a modern pharaoh.(Essay).” Contemporary Review (March 22, 2011). Gale, Global Issues in Context (A258916710).

 

Emadi details the spark of the Tahrir Square protest as the uprising in Tunisia which began the Arab Spring. He writes an in depth article about the progression of the anger of the Egyptian people in response to Mubarak’s regime and details the desires of the protestors. Additionally Emadi mentions the efforts of pro-Mubarak supporters and government forces to displace the protestors from within the square. This scholarly article gives the best insight to the protest itself and will be helpful when looking at the battle between government forces and protestors.

 

Orthographic Documentation

 

New York Times – Middle East: The Battle for Tahrir Square

Farrell, Stephan, Scott Nelson, Sergio Pecanha, and Graham Roberts. “The Battle for Tahrir Square.” New York Times. N.p., 6 Feb. 2011. Web. 7 Sept. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/02/03/world/middleeast/20110203-tahrir-square-protest-diagram.html#panel/0>.

 

Diagrammatic map of central Cairo.  Shows the center of the revolution as well as all major nearby facilities that had to do with the revolution.  Will use the six day cycle to track the remaining days of protest and the activity of Mubarak’s regime.

 

 

Video and Audio

 

Youtube – Police Force Protesters from Tahrir Square

Police Force Protesters from Tahrir Squa. 2011. Web. 7 Sept. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSNXoPG6LGA>.

Video that gives a short summary of the protest and shows the police action towards peaceful protestors in response to Mubarak’s regime.  Will use as a visual on Word Press to show the actions taken by the police in Cairo.

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