The 23 December 2011 Tahrir protest, dubbed the 'Friday of Reclaiming Honor', focused on women and fed heavily from popular outrage at the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led by Field Marshall Tantawi. Tensions were high after footage emerged of Egyptian soldiers brutally beating, stripping, and ultimately dragging away an unconscious woman who had fallen while trying to flee Tahrir Square. The footage was broadcast worldwide through the internet and outraged Egyptian civil society for breaking religious norms and violating human decency. For many, the attack - which has been compared to the Rodney King beating in the United States and is reminiscent of Mubarak-era tactics - signaled the last straw in popular patience and trust in SCAF. Hilary Clinton demanded Egypt's rulers respect the rights of women and rights groups around the world mobilized to condemn SCAF.
January will be one year since the revolution began in Egypt, and few - if any - of the initial promises made by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have come to fruition. The revolutionaries continue to maintain a presence in Tahrir, even as the brutality of the police and cold weather intensify.
The 23 December Friday protest came after an exceptionally violent week of clashes between revolutionaries and members of the police and armed forces. Security officers were filmed throwing rocks from buildings down on protest marches - breaking bones and endangering lives. Riot police were also seen firing their revolvers into crowds of people, killing many (although despite video footage, the Egyptian authorities claim it was a 'third party' - neither government nor protester - responsible for the deaths by live ammunition). Finally, and perhaps most significantly, riot police were filmed setting upon a fleeing woman with unrestrained brutality, bludgeoning her with their batons, stripping off her clothing, and kicking her bare torso.
No SCAF is an increasing popular slogan among revolutionaries eager to see the fulfilment of the revolution with the introduction of popular civilian leadership. #noSCAF is also a popular twitter hashtag attached to protest announcements, documentation of protester abuse by police and army, and reports of political back-room dealing that threatens direct democracy in Egypt.
As blogger Sarah Carr has pointed out, the massive concrete walls erected on four streets heading from Tahrir Square to the Interior Ministry are as much a monument to the success of the revolutionary spirit as they are a testimony to the fear of the Egyptian Military rulers of further popular anger. The walls, nearly 20 feet high and 4 feet thick in places, block all traffic through some of downtown Cairo's primary thoroughfares.
Field Marshall Tantawi - a Mubarak ally and anti-reformist - is Egypt's de facto head of state, promising transition to civilian rule, but consistently balking at protester demands to speed the process. Tantawi has come under increasingly vitriolic criticism for recent attempts to enshrine the ultimate authority of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in any future Egyptian government - including proposed legislation that the military budget shall never be publicly examined and that SCAF maintains ultimate authority over any decision taken by a future president.
The global fury over video footage of Egyptian soldiers brutalizing and stripping a woman fleeing Tahrir square last week led to a very rare apology by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), who promised that those responsible would face 'action'. Women in Tahrir have rejected the apology in totality, dismissing SCAF - an all male collection of high ranking military figures - as violent and unconcerned with their rights.