CAIRO: Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and clashed yesterday with dozens of protesters as they tried to tear down a cement wall built to prevent demonstrators from reaching the Parliament in central Cairo.
The violence came on the eve of the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Three weeks of mass protests that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011, eventually forced Mubarak out of office.
Since then, Egypt underwent a tumultuous transition under the interim leadership of military generals until the election last June of Muhammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yesterday’s clashes may foreshadow a violent anniversary on Friday, when youth activists and opposition groups have called for large rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace in the upscale Heliopolis suburb.
The opposition has demanded a suspension or radical changes to be made Egypt’s newly adopted constitution, which an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly drafted amid deep polarization and mass street protests.
The constitution passed with a 64 percent “yes” vote in a December referendum in which around 33 percent of voters took part.
In an online video message posted yesterday, the nation’s most prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei urged Egyptians to rally in the streets but warned that change will take time.
“I demand from each one of you, all across Egypt, to prove that the revolution must continue and much be completed,” said ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former head of the UN nuclear agency in the message.
“Egyptians rose up for the sake of freedom, dignity and social justice,” he said. “We must not stop until we see all the demands achieved. It will take time but we have to put ourselves on the right path.”