A week ahead of the first round of parliamentary elections in Egypt, a large peaceful protest drew tens of thousands to Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Friday 18 November 2011, demanding that presidential elections are organized immediately after the Parliament is elected so that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces transfer power to a civilian government before April 2012. Around 200 protesters set up tents and declared a sit-in until their demands are met. Many of these protesters were from those who were injured during the first days of the revolution on the 25th and 28th of January this year. On Saturday morning, the police forces stormed the square and violently dispersed the sit-in, beating up the protesters with sticks and electrocution, and arrested around 50 people arbitrarily, according to El Nadim center for the rehabilitation of victims of torture.
Since Saturday afternoon, more protesters have taken to the streets to protest the disproportionate use of force and the violence by the police which led to heavy casulaties among the protesters.
On Sunday, the clashes between the Central Security Forces, under the authority of the Ministry of Interior , and the protesters are continuing. Solidarity protests have emerged in several Egyptian cities including Alexandria, Qena, Aswan, Mansoura, and Suez.
FIDH visited one field hospital located in a mosque in the vicinity of the Ministry of Interior and witnessed the constant flow of injured people arriving from nearby streets after they were suffocated from the very agressive tear gas widely spread by the Central security Forces.
The doctors met by FIDH in the hospital also report a large number of people sustaining injuries from rubber bullets in the upper part of their body, especially the nose and the ears and the forehead.
The shooting of rubber bullets in the head also resulted in several people loosing sight in one of their eyes, among which activist Malek Malek Mustafa, and Al Masry Al Youm photographer Ahmed Abdel Fattah.
The Military eventually raided Tahrir Square on Sunday late afternoon, setting tents on fire and dispersing the protesters who soon reoccupied the area. Clashes continued over night. According to doctors and direct witnesses, live ammunitions were used by the police forces, in addition to rubber bullets and large quantities of tear gas.
“ We strongly condemn the excessive use of force against the protesters and the violent dispersement of the sit-in in Tahrir. FIDH reminds the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that the right to peaceful assembly must be guaranteed, together with the freedom of association ” declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “We are also very much concerned by the latest and worrysome declarations from SCAF General Mohsen El Fangary stigmatizating NGOs as inciting popular dissent”.
Furthermore, FIDH calls upon the authorities to open an independent, impartial and prompt investigation into the brutal attacks against the protesters, and hold those responsible accountable.