Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Demands of the Egyptian Revolution, 25 January to 18 February 2011

What are the demands of the Egyptian Revolution? How have they evolved since 25 January?

The protest of Tuesday 25 January was called with three aims: the sacking of the country's interior minister Habib al-Adli, the cancelling of Egypt's perpetual Emergency Law, and a new term limit on the presidency (Guardian 24 Jan 2011). But already at this protest pamphlets widely distributed in the crowd called for the overthrow of Mubarak (Guardian 25 Jan 2011) and there were chants calling for the same (YouTube 7 Feb 2011Al Jazeera 9 Feb 2011).

In a subsequent interview Wael Ghonim, the Google marketing manager who initiated the 'We are all Khaled Said' Facebook page and was for a while a figurehead of the protest movement, said that the movement needed to unify its demands and that he was planning to meet with the different groups in Tahrir Square for this purpose. Asked about the movement's initial demands, he said: "On the first day we wanted a minimum wage, an unemployment allowance, constitutional amendments that prevent reelection of the president and a transfer of power to the president’s son, the abolition of the state of emergency and the dismissal of the interior minister". The resignation of Mubarak had been added as a demand later. (Al Masry Al Youm 9 Feb 2011).

[On Friday 28 January Mubarak made his first statement, saying that he was going to replace his cabinet. On Saturday 29 January he appointed Omar Suleiman as Vice-President and Ahmed Shafiq as Prime Minister (BBC News 29 Jan 2011). On Sunday 30 January Suleiman said that Mubarak had asked him to begin a dialogue with all the country's political parties (Guardian 31 Jan 2011).]

By the 'March of a Million' day of Tuesday 1 February an English-language banner at the centre of the square extended this call to the whole regime: 'The people demand removal of the regime'.

On Tuesday 1 February Deutsche Presse-Agentur  reported that "several opposition groups" had sent a list of four demands to Suleiman, namely that: Mubarak "and his regime" must step down; a transitional leadership should be formed; a committee should be established to write a new constitution; and parliament should be dissolved. (Yahoo News India 1 Feb 2011)

[Also on 1 February Mubarak made his second statement, saying that he would not rerun for president again and calling for constitutional amendments with regard to presidential elections.]

On 4 February (or maybe earlier) a huge banner was hung on the side of a building on Tahrir Square, listing seven demands:
1) Bringing down the President
2) Dissolution of both houses of parliament
3) Immediate end to state of emergency
4) Formation of a transitional government of national unity
5) Elected parliament to undertake constitutional amendments to hold presidential elections
6) Immediate trials of those responsible for the murder of the revolution’s martyrs
7) Expedient trials of the corrupt and thieves of the country’s wealth
( 5 Feb 2011Flickr 1Flickr 2)

On Saturday 5 February the Guardian reported that a process of collective decision-making on Tahrir Square had led to a new set of demands, including the election of a founding council of 40 public intellectuals and constitutional experts to draw up a new constitution to be put to the Egyptian people in a referendum, and then the holding of fresh and national elections. These had been endorsed by "the 300", the online activists who had initiated the 25 January protests. The Guardian adds that "other demands to have come out the square include the end of the country's Emergency Law, the dismantling of the state security apparatus, and the trial of key regime leaders, including Mubarak." (Guardian 5 Feb 2011).

[Also on 5 February the entire executive board of the National Democratic Party (NDP), including Gamal Mubarak, were replaced. The reformist Hossam Badrawy was appointed as Secretary General (Al Masry Al Youm 5 Feb 2011)]

On Sunday 6 February at a press conference a coalition called the Coalition of the Angry Youth Uprising, including the 6 April Youth Movement, Young People for Justice and Freedom, and the Muslim Brotherhood's youth wing, called for the Mubarak's resignation, the abolition of the Emergency Law, the dissolution of parliament, the formation of a "National Salvation Front", the formation of a judicial committee to investigate the death and injury of protesters, and for the army to protect protesters in Tahrir Square from attacks by "pro-regime thugs". They rejected the talks that had taken place that day between Suleiman and some other activists (Al Masry Al Youm 6 Feb 2011).]

[On Tuesday 8 February Suleiman announced that a committee had been formed to draw up changes to the constitution.]

On Wednesday 9 February Ahram Online reported that activists had formed a coalition of six groups, including the April 6th Youth Movement, Youth for Justice and Freedom, El Baradei's campaign, the Popular Democratic Movement for Change, the Democratic Front, the youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook group to represent the movement. It had 14 group representatives, including Ahmed Maher of the April 6th Youth Movement and Wael Ghonim, and an assembly of several hundred members. Their demands included an end to police brutality, abolition of the Emergency Law, free and fair elections, constitutional changes, and Mubarak's resignation. (Ahram Online 9 Feb 2011)

[Also on 9 February strikes and labour protests began to break out across Egypt]

On Thursday 10 February, the journalist Robert Naimon wrote that "four key demands have been constantly lifted up by protesters and opposition parties which are essential for a credible transition to democracy", namely: (1) end arbitrary detentions and release those detained, (2) end the state of emergency, (3) guarantee free electoral competition, (4) restore full judicial supervision of elections. (Huffington Post 10 Feb 2011).

Also on 10 February, the blogger Wael Khalil posted a list of demands which he said "are the summary of various discussions at Tahrir Square, and are, of course, not representative of everyone at the square". The demands were:

Immediate demands:
1. The resignation of president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
2. Cancelling the Emergency Law
3. Dismantling the state secret service
4. An announcement by (Vice-President) Omar Sulieman that he will not run in the next presidential elections
5. Dissolving the Parliament and Shura Council
6. Releasing all the prisoners detained since January 25
7. Ending the curfew so that life resumes as normal across the country
8. Dismantling the university guards system
9. Referring officials responsible for the use of violences against the peaceful protesters since January 25 and those responsible for the organised thuggery which followed January 28 to an investigation committee
10. Sacking Anas El Fiqi [Minister of Information] and stopping the attack on protesters in government owned media through threats and calling protesters traitors, and ending the spread of hate against foreigners in the streets.
11. Reimbursing shop owners for their losses during the curfew
12. Announcing the demands above on government television and radio

Demands for the transitional period:
1. Drafting a new constitution
2. The right to set up newspapers and open television and radio stations without a prior permission
3. Putting the minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian Pounds into effect
4. The right to set up political parties, by notification
5. The right to set up associations and unions, by notification
6. Achieving a real autonomy and independence for national newspapers and television and radio stations, through new legislation and the reformation of companies, establishments of ministries
7. Cancelling the national service in the police force
8. Ending the security clampdown on telecommunications and the internet
( 10 Feb 2011 (Arabic); Global Voices 10 Feb 2011Al Masry Al Youm 10 Feb 2011)

[Also on 10 February the Armed Forces Supreme Council issued its 'Communique no. 1', stating that it had met and would continue meeting. In the evening Mubarak made his third statement, saying he had proposed various constitutional amendments and suggesting that he had delegated some of his powers to the Vice-President, but asserting that he would remain as President until September.

[On Friday 11 February the Armed Forces Supreme Council issued Communique no. 2, stating that would ensure the ending of the state of emergency as soon as the "current circumstances" were over, and that it would ensure a "peaceful transfer of authority" towards "a free democratic community that the people aspire to". Later that day Suleiman announced that Mubarak had stepped down as president and charged the Supreme Council with administering the affairs of the country (BBC News 12 Feb 2011). Later again the Supreme Council issued Communique no. 3, referring to "the demands of our great people everywhere for fundamental change" and stating that the Council "is not a replacement for the legitimacy that is acceptable to the people".]

On Saturday 12 February, the Guardian reported that "some of the organisers of Egypt’s revolution announced they had formed a council to negotiate with the military and to oversee future demonstrations to keep up pressure on the army to meet demands for democratic change". The Guardian cited Khaled Abdel Qader Ouda as one of the organisers, and said that the group had produced 'People's communiqué no. 1', with a set of demands (Guardian 12 Feb 2011).

The demands in the communiqué were reported more fully by the blogger Andy Roberts the same day:
"- The dissolution of the cabinet Mubarak appointed on 29 January and the suspension of the parliament elected in a rigged poll late last year.
- A transitional five-member presidential council made up of four civilians and one military person.
- For the formation of a transitional government to prepare for an election to take place within nine months, and of a body to draft a new democratic constitution.
- Freedom for the media and syndicates, which represent groups such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, and for the formation of political parties.
- Military and emergency courts must be scrapped."
(DARNet 12 Feb 2011)

Also on 12 February, Associated Press reported that a "coalition of youth groups that organized the protests" had put forward a list of demands, including: "lifting of Emergency Law; creation of a presidential council made up of a military representative and two 'trusted personalities'; the dissolving of the ruling party-dominated parliament; and the forming of a broad-based unity government and a committee to either amend or rewrite completely the constitution". Shady el-Ghazali Harb of the Democratic Front was named as a member of the coalition. (Yahoo News 12 Feb 2011).

[Also on 12 February, the Armed Forces Supreme Council issued Communique no. 4, stating that "the current government, and governors shall continue as a caretaker administration until a new government is formed.]

[On Sunday 13 February, at a press conference the Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said that the government would remain "as is" (Al Masry Al Youm 13 Feb 2011). The Armed Forces Supreme Council later issued its Communique no. 5 or 'Constitutional proclamation'. This affirmed the values of freedom, the rule of law, equality, democracy, social justice and "uprooting corruption", and announced that the constitution would be suspended; that the Council would run the country's affairs itself for 6 months or until elections were held; that both houses of parliament would be dissolved; that a committee would be formed to formulate amendments to the constitution which would be presented to the people in a referendum; and that the present cabinet headed by Ahmed Shafiq would "continue its work until a new cabinet is formed". Also, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry aasked the European Union to freeze the assets of six former regime members including Ahmed Nazif (former prime minister) and Anas al-Fiqy (former minister of information) (Al Masry Al Youm 13 Feb 2011).]

[Also on 13 February Wal Ghonim and another activist, director Amr Salama, reported a meeting they and six other "youth leaders", including several of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution representatives named by Ahram Online on 9 February, had had that day with two members of the Armed Forces Supreme Council, Mahmoud Hijazi and Abdel Fattah. According to their report the generals assured them that the army did not want to assume power; that it would not shoot any Egyptians; that its aim was to protect "the legitimate demands of the Revolution of January 25"; that the current government would be changed as soon as possible; that those guilty of corruption would be prosecuted regardless of their position; that a new independent constitutional commission would produce amendments to the constitution within  ten days to be put to a national referendum within two months; that the army would search for all missing protestors using a list to be provided by the eight activists; that it would act only as the guarantor of democratic transformation and would not interfere in the political process; and that it would pursue all those involved in death or injury of demonstrators. They also encouraged young people to form new political parties. Future meetings were promised with other young Egyptians of different shades of opinion. (We Are All Khaled Said Facebook Page 13 Feb 2011 (Arabic), Reuters 14 Feb 2011).]

On Monday 14 February the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution issued a policy paper calling for the formation of a new interim government of technocrats within a month headed by "a patriotic civil personality that the people respect and trust"; the dismissal of all ministers belonging to the NDP; the lifting of the state of emergency; the abolition of marital laws and exceptional courts; the dismantling of the NDP and confiscation of its assets; respect for the right to form associations, unions and media outlets; the dissolution of the state security apparatus; the release of all political prisoners; the abrogation within ten days of the law regulating the formation of political parties; and the drafting of a new law for the exercise of political rights within a month; and the lowering of the eligibility age for parliamentary and presidential candidates. (Al Mastry Al Youm 16 Feb 2011). According to a separate report the Coalition also asked for the drafting of a new constitution establishing a "parliamentary republic" with a separation of powers. (Al Masry Al Youm 15 Feb 2011)

Also on 14 February around 500 workers demonstrated state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation to demand the federation’s dissolution Al Masrty Al Youm 14 Feb 2011.

[Also on 14 February the Muslim Brotherhood called for a timetable for amending the Constitution and holding new presidential elections, for the abolition of military tribunals, the release of all political prisoners, free and fair parliamentary elections under judicial supervision, the abolition of the Emergency Law, and the formation of a new cabinet supported by the public Al Mastry Al Youm 14 Feb 2011.]

[Also on 14 February the Supreme Council issued another communiqué, calling on workers to end strikes (Reuters 14 Feb 2011).]

On Tuesday 15 February a group of intellectuals and representatives from professional syndicates had issued a statement calling for the abolition of the Emergency Law; the creation of a civil transitional government and presidential council; the establishment of "greater leeway" for the creation of political parties; the prosecution of Mubarak and members of his regime for crimes committed against the Egyptian people; the "purification" of the police apparatus from corruption; freedom of the press; and the implementation of  "a more equitable minimum wage and efficient tax system". The report also quoted a representative as a group "elected by the people" to draw up a new constitution. (Al Masry Al Youm 15 Feb 2011).

[Also on Tuesday 15 February the membership of the new constitutional committee appointed by the Armed Forces Supreme Council was announced and it met for the first time.]

On Wednesday 16 February the "Coalition of the 25 January Revolution" called for the immediate release of all political prisoners; the formation of a government cabinet consisting of technocrats; the abolition of the Emergency Law; and the abolition of the State Security Investigation Bureau; and "the retrieval of all monies pilfered from the public purse by members of the former regime". (Al Masry Al Youm 16 Feb 2011).

Also on 16 February the following demands were posted on a number of blog under the heading "We want the rights of our martyrs":
1. The dissolution of Shafiq's cabinet and the formation of a technocrats' cabinet.
2. The immediate release of all protestors who were detained during the revolution.
3. The trial of the high ranks of the ministry of interior and the NDP for the crimes they committed against the revolutionaries.
4. The dismantling of the Directorate for State Security Investigations.
5. The announcement of a timetable for the end of use of the Emergency Law.
6. Granting the right of peaceful protest for all Egyptians
(Atralnada, 16 Feb 2011 etc.)

On Thursday 17 February a group of activists calling itself "Union of the Youth Revolution" from parties including the Progressive National Unionist Party, the New Wafd Party, the Tomorrow Party, the Egyptian Communist Party, and the New Left Party called for the creation of a transitional council including representatives from the Egyptian Armed Forces, the cancellation of the Emergency Law, the dissolution of the state security apparatus, the dissolution of State Security courts, the dissolution of the NDP and prosecution of its leaders, the dismissal of the current Ahmed Shafiq government, the immediate release of all political detainees, and the setting of a fixed date within six months for presidential and parliamentary elections. (Al Masry Al Youm 17 Feb 2011)

Also on 17 February a group of 21 judges and legal experts called for the constitutional amendments to include one mandating the drafting of a new constitution establishing a parliamentary republic after national elections (Al Masry Al Youm 17 Feb 2011)

[Also on 17 February security forces arrested Habib el-Adly (former interior minister), Ahmed Maghrabi and Zuheir Garana (former ministers), and Ahmed Ezz (head of Ezz Steel) as part of a corruption enquiry. (Al Masry Al Youm 17 Feb 2011)]

On 18 February a huge 'victory and continuity march' was staged in Tahrir Square. Activist Gigi Ibrahim stated that its demands were the release of all political prisoners, especially those detained since 25 January, an end to the emergency and the resignation of the Mubarak-appointed governmentAhram Online 18 Feb 2011. The Muslim cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi gave a sermon to the march, calling for the dismissal of the government, the release of all political prisoners, a transition to civilian rule as soon as possible, an end to strikes, and the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. (Ahram Online 18 Feb 2011Al Masry Al Youm 18 Feb 2011). The most favoured chant in the square was reported to be 'The people want the country cleansed' (Ahram Online 18 Feb 2011).

First published 13 February 2011, revisions to 23 February.