A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6 and a New "Crossing"

Once again it's October 6, Egypt's Military Day, which as I noted last year (when my post was about Anwar Sadat), and the year before, is a double anniversary, marking the crossing of the Canal on October 6, 1973, "the Crossing,"  (al‘ubur), seen by most Egyptians as the necessary step in the eventual recovery (through partial withdrawals and later full peace) of the Occupied Sinai. But it's also a mixed occasion, since it was on this date in 1981, while watching the Military Day Parade, that Anwar Sadat was assassinated.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has invited the people to celebrate Armed Forces Day in Tahrir Square (with all its revolutionary symbolism) and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Nasr Ciry, where Sadat was assassinated and lies buried, and the symbolic center of the Egyptian military.

In a post yesterday the blogger Zeinobia regretted that some young revolutionaries are dismissive of Military Day, but I fear that may be a symptom of how far we have come since the heady days, beginning January 31 and culminating with the fall of Mubarak, when the chant was "the Army and the People are One Hand." The Army's refusal to fire on protesters, its openly facing down the Security Forces in some instances, and finally the final shove out the door by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) made the Army the hero of the streets.

Things have changed, of course. The isolation and aloofness of SCAF, the uncertainties about its real intentions, and suspicions that it is drawing out the transition, have soured some on the Army. But it still has a far cleaner record than the Interior Ministry Forces, however much it may also be protecting its own economic prerogatives and influence. I hope Military Day goes peacefully, and that the new Crossing leads to a different kind of liberation.

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