Raja is with WITNESS on a one-year assignment as our Middle East and North Africa Program Associate. She works to ensure that video is used effectively to take advantage of the critical moment of transition in the region. Most recently she was in Yemen covering the revolution as a media stringer and photojournalist. Read her previous posts on the blog here.
The streets of Cairo reverberate to the sound of tens of thousands of voices chanting in unison “the people demand the toppling of the Field Marshal!” Demonstrators reoccupy Tahrir Square and organize a peaceful protest to express their dissatisfaction towards the Egyptian military. Tear gas begins to fill the air and demonstrators are met with rubber bullets and ricocheting shotgun pellets. The activists flee the violent crackdown, escaping into side streets where the battle ensues into the night. (Below are some tweets from people I follow who were describing events as they unfolded.)
As violence escalates, Egyptian activists once again use their mobile phones to communicate amongst themselves and to send real time updates and pleas to the international community. They are streaming live video of events on the ground through their phones, the streams accessible by anyone with a solid Internet connection anywhere in the world. Several field clinics are setup to deal with the rapid upsurge of casualties. The final count so far: 33 dead and hundreds injured.
Following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak this past February, power shifted to the Egyptian military, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) as an interim government until elections could be held (the first wave of elections are slated to take place next week).
However, the SCAF soon revived the former regime’s emergency law. Since February, over 12,000 civilians have been arrested and tried in military court, which is more than Mubarak could manage in his 30 years in power. Some have even died while in military custody, leaving Egyptians deeply frustrated and distrustful of the interim rulers.
As in January and the months that followed, Egyptian activists are using video to document events and to seek justice. They have been using video in campaigns to raise awareness about the military trials and to call for an end to them. The Egyptian Democratic Academy, a non-profit youth organization based in Cairo and WITNESS partner, has been on the forefront, condemning the military trials and actively using video to advocate for an end to the military courts. In a recent post on their blog, they write:
The Egyptian Democratic Academy demands that the Head of Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and his deputy to appear on air immediately and provide a clear and open explanation; provide those involved in past and current atrocities against protesters to civilian prosecution (not a military one) and immediately accept the resignation of the Esam Sharaf’s Cabinet.
The following is a sample of videos that have been circulating on the Internet over the past few days showing the brutality of the SCAF against citizens and attempts to contextualize the call for the Council to step down.
For the past three days, courageous activists and citizen reporters returned to their work on the ground and shedding light on human rights. Please watch and share these videos.
Select Videos from Recent Events in Egypt
This video was produced a few months ago, with testimonies from those directly affected by the military trials:
This video shows a timeline of the escalating violence on November 19:
In this video, an activist shares a concoction made of natural ingredients as a way for demonstrators to withstand tear gas:
This video surfaced on November 20th, showing security forces firing at demonstrators and congratulating each other after shooting a man in the eye (via The Good, The Bad, The Elazul):
This video was filmed to refute SCAF’s denial of using firearms and claim of showing restraint (via The Good, The Bad, The Elazul):
This footage highlights scenes of overwhelming police brutality against demonstrators in Tahrir Square (via The Good, The Bad, The Elazul):
Amid the escalating turbulence, Egypt’s cabinet submitted its resignation to the SCAF yesterday. The cabinet’s resignation, however, failed to mollify the situation as activists’ discontent towards the military continues to grow. Many claim that the cabinet has always been complacent in regards to SCAF’s abuses and thus complicit; and that the cabinet has played more of a secretary role for SCAF, making the resignation immaterial. Street protests and clashes continue as demonstrators continue to demand civilian rule and the resignation of the military junta’s Field Marshal, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
We will keep you updated on this story’s developments.