“Egypt is going through a decisive moment in the history of its revolution that demands alertness and solidarity from each and every one of us in order to stop the state from turning and from entering into a state of complete chaos,” the statement said.
The communique was the latest in a series of moves made by the country’s military leaders this week in a thus-far futile attempt to restore order and salvage their damaged reputation.
“This is the military spreading chaos, and it’s very, very irresponsible,” said Heba Morayef, an Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch. “It fits in with their narrative, which is the military is the neutral guardian of security which enjoys the trust of the people. That’s why they would much rather have private citizens involved in identifying ‘thugs’ and ‘agents.’ ”
In an earlier statement, the generals took the unusual step of apologizing for the deaths and promised to provide medical care to those wounded battling riot police near Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The statement prompted activists to ask why the leaders hadn’t stopped the attacks by police and military forces days ago.
The bloodshed and the manner in which the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has responded have led to unprecedented criticism of an institution that has for decades been considered sacrosanct.
“After nine months, everyone has finally realized that the SCAF is driving the country to the edge and that the blood being spilled in Tahrir Square right now is nothing but the final episode of a series of mistakes and crimes committed by the military council,” the Egyptian Social Democratic Party said in a statement Thursday. The liberal party was among those who called for a two-week postponement of the vote scheduled to take place Monday. They are demanding an immediate transfer of most of the military council’s power to a national unity government led by a consensus figure.
After nearly a week of intense fighting, the clashes in Cairo appeared to subside Thursday as the military erected a barrier on the street that connects Tahrir Square and the Interior Ministry. Throughout the week, riot police fired large amounts of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and apparently live ammunition from the building. Fights between protesters and security forces also broke out in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, and other parts of the country.
The military chiefs’ standing has taken a hit. A poll conducted in October and released this week by the Brookings Institution said 43 percent of Egyptians believe the military council is working to slow or reverse gains of the January revolution that facilitated a soft coup that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.