Opposition to Egypt’s ruling military council (Scaf) is growing following revelations of widespread torture of activists seized by military police and huge demonstrations on Friday of last week.
Friday’s mass mobilisations were a direct challenge to Scaf. They demanded a civilian council to replace the military.
The council has offered concessions such as promising a minimum wage and partially opening the Rafah border crossing to Gaza. But it combines these with savage repression.
It hoped these concessions would put the brakes on the revolution.
The military has an ally in the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood—which had been the main opposition movement under Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.
The Brotherhood called on people not to join Friday’s protests, and denounced them.
The military hoped a small turnout would allow it to initiate a backlash against the revolutionaries.
But the protests were some of the biggest since January.
Brotherhood leaders reacted by turning on younger members, many of whom are frustrated by the slow pace of change and the increasingly brutal military police.
The Brotherhood withdrew recognition of its representatives in the Revolutionary Youth Coalition for disobeying instructions not to take part in the demonstrations.
The coalition played a crucial role in the January revolution.
It also sacked its influential web editor for not denouncing the protests.
The military is attempting to co-opt youth leaders.
On the day following revelations that women arrested by the military police were subjected to humiliating “virginity tests”, it invited “all youth coalitions who have participated in the great January 25 revolution to connect with Scaf.”
The military police are replacing the old state security as the main tool of repression.
While civilian courts are imposing heavy fines and prison terms on Mubarak’s inner circle, activists face military courts set up under the emergency laws brought in by his regime.
The military wants to send a message that the revolution is over. The scale of Friday’s protests shows it is in full flow.