A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Escalation and Mass Protest in Cairo but Less Bloodshed

Today's mass protest at the Presidential Palace in Cairo were mostly peaceful despite the use of teargas when demonstrators broke through a police line, but they did indicate that there is widespread anger against Morsi's Constitutional Declaration and the proposed Constitution. Protests were also reported across Egypt, but there is no sign that Morsi is prepared to back down prior to the referendum on the Constitution on December 15. And given the Muslim Brotherhood's strong electoral showing in rural Egypt and the general social conservatism of the country outside the major urban areas, it would be naive to predict the referendum will reject the proposed Constitution. (And even if that were to happen

In a related protest,  12 independent newspapers and five privately-owned television networks were "on strike" today with the newspapers not publishing and the channels dark. Five of the papers ran variants of the same image on their front page,  shown here from Tahrir, showing a human figure made of newspaper in a jail cell, all bearing the  slogan in red "no to dictatorship." The Tahrir caption shown adds "Al-Tahrir and the Free Media will disappear tomorrow."

While the liberal and secularist protesters showed their strength today, the sort of serious violence that occurred during the protests of last November and December, when the stripping and beating of "blue bra woman" became an international scandal. The decision last weekend by the Muslim Brotherhood to hold its pro-Morsi rally at Cairo University rather than in Tahrir Square showed a recognition of the risks of bloodshed and police and security forces refrained from firing rubber bullets or live ammunition today, using only teargas. The polarization of society is real and exacerbated by Morsi's actions, but the bloodshed of a year ago, with a handful of exceptions last week, is not yet in evidence.

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