Egypt’s revolutionaries fight the army, and win.

The ongoing revolution in Egypt has taken a dramatic turn, with protesters successfully resisting an assault by the army on Tahrir Square.

Yesterday (Friday the 8th of April) one of the largest protests in Egypy since the ouster of Mubarak took place. The protest itself represented an important break with previous mass demonstrations, in that Egypt’s armed forces, and in particular Field Marshal Tantawi – the head of the council, were the focus of much of the anger displayed. There were even, among the protesters, some rebel army officers, who spoke out about corruption in the armed forces and called for an end to the rule of the Supreme Military Council, who have been in charge of the country since Mubarak’s resignation.

Some Syrian men working who strung a Syrian flag between two a lamp post on Friday's protest.

Protesters climb a street sign to get a better view of the stage.

As has happened often since the army assumed power, they waited till late at night, blocked off all entrances to Tahrir Square, then attacked the crowd with Tazers and Batons, arresting many, including many of the defected soldiers. In a first there was also extensive use of live ammunition, mostly it was fired above the heads of the crowds, but reports of injuries and even fatalities have been circulating.   So far the Egyptian ministry of health has confirmed one dead. Reuters has reported two. There may be more. I was told today by a protester that he had seen the body of one person killed moved from the scene of the crime (outside the Tahrir KFC).

This time, however, the army didn’t manage to disperse the protest. Sometime around dawn, after fighting running battles around downtown Cairo through the night, the protesters retook the square, driving the soldiers out, trashing and burning army vehicles, then using them, along with the barbed wire and movable barriers abandoned by the army to build barracades and cordon off the square. They then began putting up tents for the first time since their camp was destroyed on the 9th of March.

While those in the activist community have long been critical of the army, which is closely tied to the formerly ruling National Democratic Party, to America and to Egypt’s business elite, many in the Egyptian population have had a deep faith in them. This faith has been eroded however by the army’s repeated attacks on demonstrations, its arrests torture and prosecution through military tribunals of protesters, and in especially its repulsive subjection of female protesters to “virginity tests”. Not many, however, thought that there would be such a direct confrontation between the armed forces and the protesters so soon. Even fewer would have imagined the people would win. Again the Egyptian revolution has surprised me at least with its depth and strength.

After hearing that the square had been retaken I headed down and shot these images. The video is much clearer if you watch it on youtube in HD.

A burning army truck.

A protester removes the license plate of one of the destroyed army vehicles.

The protester with his new souvenir.

A protester holds up an unfired bullet in the square. There were plenty of empty casings too, from both blank and live ammunition.

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An egyptian man holds up two V for Victory signs next to the burning carcass of an army truck.

A man films the carnage on his mobile phone.

A man films the carnage on his mobile phone.

A protester shows his feelings by relieving himself on the army's property.

A protester shows his feelings by relieving himself on the army's property.

A young man celebrates next to a burning bus, which was being used to transport retreating soldiers when it was overrun and pelted with stones by the protesters, forcing the army to flee on foot.

A young man celebrates next to a burning bus, which was being used to transport retreating soldiers when it was overrun and pelted with stones by the protesters, forcing the army to flee on foot.

More evidence of the violence and intimidation. It wasn't hard to find.

More evidence of the violence and intimidation. It wasn't hard to find.

A young Egyptian man holds out an electrified baton he says was taken from the army.

A young Egyptian man holds out an electrified baton he says was taken from the army.

A man wearing a helmet, also taken from the army.

A man wearing a helmet, also taken from the army.

A woman holds up a book stained with what she says was the blood of a victim of the army's attack last night.

A woman holds up a book stained with what she says was the blood of a victim of the army's attack last night.

Protesters building a barricade to make further attacks on the square more difficult.

Protesters building a barricade to make further attacks on the square more difficult.

The tents are back, this one being constructed out of some of the banners from the previous day's protest.

The tents are back, this one being constructed out of some of the banners from the previous day's protest.

About Austin G. Mackell

I am a freelance journalist who has worked for a variety of corporate and community outlets from my hometown of Sydney and from the Middle East, including from Lebanon during Israels 2006 invasion and from Iran during the tumultuous presidential elections there in 2009. I have recently moved to Cairo to watch the revolutions in Arab world unfold.
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7 Responses to Egypt’s revolutionaries fight the army, and win.

  1. Kate says:

    These are great Austin. I especially love the guy filming with his phone.. and the woman with the bloodied notebook is incredible too. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Kate says:

    Just realised how awful it sounded commenting on the quality of your photographs and not at all mentioning the events, its incredible to see such continued strength of the activists in Cairo, and I’m so glad you’re there to offer a window into what’s still happening, as much of the worlds media moves on and so little attention remains focused on what happens post-fall, it’s encouraging to see resolve of the community, but devastating to witness the indiscriminate brutality of the military, solidarity quickly forgotten and business-as-usual bullshit again the norm.

  3. Jordan says:

    Austin,

    Great photos and writing, but don’t kid yourself. The army is using tremendous
    restraint and the protestors didn’t win anything more than a battle. Read up on
    Kwangju, South Korea, if you think civilians can defeat an organized army w/ violence.

    Also, in the fouth picture (close-up of the bullet), note that that’s an unfired bullet.
    It’s still attached to the casing and probably just fell out of a clip. In general, you’ll never
    find fired bullets (unless you
    are doing forensics), only spent casings (like pic #3). Spent casings only show that
    bullets were fired, but we know this already – mostly into the air or there would be
    dozens of fatalities. I mention this only b/c I like what you are doing and think it’s
    important that skilled people document what’s happening – so I don’t want to see you
    undermine your own credibility by making statements that don’t make sense.

    Good luck and keep up the brave and important work!

    • HI Jordan, your riht this isn’t the end of anything, but it was a victory of sorts. And yes, good point about the bullet, will edit the caption, but as you saw there were the spent casings of fired bullets… thanks for your interest… and Thanks kate too. Your thoughts are always very much appreciated.

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  6. Xiuhcoatl says:

    What a horrible place to be, I am amazed by the reziliance of any people who can smile to a camera in the face of such fear.
    Your gift is not in your photography but to have given some people a reason to smile.
    I do not envy the places where you will tread.

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