Egyptian military picks up iron fist left by Mubarak

Protesters say their revolution has been hijacked by generals

Egyptians set up tents again this week at Tahrir Square in Cairo, this time to protest what they perceive as the military rulers' reluctance to act against ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his loyalists. (Associated Press)Egyptians set up tents again this week at Tahrir Square in Cairo, this time to protest what they perceive as the military rulers’ reluctance to act against ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his loyalists. (Associated Press)
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CAIRO — The soldiers shouted, “Raise your head high — you’re Egyptian.”

It was one of the most inspiring chants by young protesters during Egypt’s revolution, encapsulating the newfound pride of a people rising up after a lifetime of humiliation under authoritarian rule.

From the soldiers, it was a taunt.

They barked it over and over at an activist lying belly down on the ground, stripped to his boxers, his hands and right leg tied behind his back. Each time Ramy Issam obeyed, he said, a soldier would stomp his head back onto the marble of the courtyard in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

To the youths who led the protests and to a growing number of other Egyptians, the secretive council of top generals that now rules the country is looking too much like the regime it replaced — authoritarian, ready to use brutal tactics and out of touch with the nation’s aspirations.

Egyptian Ramy Issam gestures as he recalls his ordeal at the courtyard of the Egyptian museum while visiting it for the first time since his detention, in Cairo, Egypt Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (Associated Press)

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Egyptian Ramy Issam gestures as he recalls his ordeal at the courtyard ... more >

The military, which was greeted with cheers when it pushed out longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February, has proclaimed its embrace of the revolution and democratic elections this year.

But protesters have returned to Tahrir Square for a sit-in since July 8 to complain that the military has hijacked the transition and has been reluctant to purge members of the old regime.

Reported abuses add darker undertones to those complaints. Multiple reports say detainees have been tortured.

To an unprecedented extent, the army also has been bringing civilians before military courts, notorious for their swift rulings with little chance for defense. In five months, more than 10,000 civilians have been put on military trial. They included protesters, activists and at least one journalist who wrote an article critical of the army, according to rights groups tracking the detentions.

“The revolution has been stolen by the military council,” said Mr. Issam, the long-haired “Singer of the Revolution” who is known for rousing the crowd in Tahrir Square with political tunes on his Spanish guitar.

“We made the revolution and we gave it to the military council on a silver platter. But everyone must know that we have learned how to say, ‘No.’ “

Mr. Issam seemed close to tears as he visited the Egyptian Museum in early July for the first time since his detention and recounted his ordeal to an Associated Press reporter.

He was among dozens grabbed by soldiers who broke up a March 9 sit-in in Tahrir protesting the generals’ slowness in implementing the revolution’s post-Mubarak demands.

Mr. Issam and the others were dragged to the nearby museum, the treasure trove of pharaonic antiquities that the military used as an impromptu base at times during the uprising. There, Mr. Issam said, he was beaten with wooden sticks and iron rods and given electric shocks. His hair was cut off with broken glass.

After a public outcry over that day’s crackdown, the council promised to review reports of torture, but no results of a review have been made public. It also admitted that some detained women were forced to take humiliating “virginity tests” and said the practice would not be repeated.

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