Egyptian protesters want elections scheduled for Monday to be postponed and a council of elders to replace the military rulers who on Wednesday again sent in security forces to quell demonstrating crowds. The current protests are seen as a second – and decisive – phase of the January revolution that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. In the symbolic heart of the revolution, Tahrir Square, demonstrators were chanting the same slogans used 11 months ago, but this time directing them at the interim military ruler, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
“If the wheels of democracy move on Egypt and this problem is still here, then democracy will have failed,” said Ikramy Esayed. “Next Monday is very important for Egypt, but not because [the poll] should be held, but because we should acknowledge that this is not the time.” A second man, Nashad Bishara, agreed. “It is unsuitable now to hold elections,” he said. “For those who love Egypt stability must be established first. The truth is the army doesn’t want elections.”
Field hospitals set up around the square were overrun with casualties after riot police closed in on tens of thousands of people inside the square. Doctors said there appeared to have been more casualties over the past five days than during most of January, when several thousand people were injured.
Injuries were mostly from gas being fired by troops, who briefly negotiated a truce with demonstrators before violence re-erupted. The Guardian saw two women convulsing violently in a makeshift clinic set up in a church courtyard after inhaling gas. Doctors are reporting large numbers of patients who have reacted severely to the gas being fired. “I have not seen a reaction like this,” said one doctor in a triage centre inside a church on a street near Tahrir Square. “We are sending a lot of people to hospital. We can’t just treat them here.”