In a televised speech eerily reminiscent in form and content to those made by Mubarak before his ouster, head of Egypt’s ruling military council Muhammad Tantawi did little to address the fears and demands of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian who took to the streets over the last few days in what many saw as a revival of the spirit of the January 25 revolution.
Tantawi expressed his condolences for those who died during several days of protests met by security crackdown. But he stopped short of issuing an apology. - Photo : Ali Garboussi
In a brief address aired on Egyptian television Tuesday evening, SCAF head Muhammad Tantawi accepted his government’s resignation and set next June as the final deadline for holding presidential elections. He also called for the formation of a government of national salvation. Tantawi said parliamentary elections set for next week will take place as scheduled.
Prior to his address, Tantawi had reportedly met Muhammed Morsy, head of The Freedom and Justice party (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood), and with former Arab League Secretary General and current presidential hopeful Amr Moussa.
Tantawi expressed his condolences for those who died during several days of protests met by security crackdown. But he stopped short of issuing an apology. The military establishment, he argued, is a victim rather than a culprit in the crisis.
Estimates of those who died in the protests ranged between 30 to 70 people with hundreds injured. Protesters are calling for the end of military rule and a swift transfer to a civilian one.
The high number of deaths has caused alarm over the extent of force used against protesters.
Many Egyptians fear that a newly-introduced tear gas was used by the interior ministry and armed forces to disperse protesters. Not all protesters, it seems were shot dead.
Some protesters suffocated after inhaling the newly introduced tear gas that was recently imported as part of the swap deal releasing Ilan Grapel, who was accused of spying for Israel.
Tear gas causes temporary incapacitation and, occasionally, seizures. The new CR tear gas, developed by the British Ministry of Defense as early as the 1960’s, may cause death. It causes severe skin irritation, muscle cramps and breathing difficulties. It may also result in temporary incapacitation and tremors in arms and legs. Exposure to large quantities of the gas may also be lethal.
The effects of the CR gas are approximately 6 to 10 times more powerful than those of the CS gas. The Israeli occupation army may have used the CR gas against protesters in January 2011, leading to the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma. Saddam Hussein succeeded in manufacturing CS gas in the 70s. He developed and used it against Kurds in Iraq and against Iran during the Iraq/Iran war.
Doctors warn that the use of water for the treatment of CR gas causes further irritation to the skin, unlike other gases. One doctor stated that “protesters should not use water or vinegar for the treatment of CR gas. Instead, they should take antihistamines, vitamin B-complex and potassium supplements, and wash their faces with glucose water.”
One manufacturer that produces similar weapons states on its website, “Due to CR’s persistent and long-term effect, presently very few liability conscious agencies use this agent.”
The regional director of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, Amani al-Sinwar, indicated that recurrent testimonies coming from Egyptian protesters confirm that the army and security forces have used CR gas. Al-Sinwar added that the network has received similar statements regarding symptoms caused by CR gas. Unlike other tear gases, CR gas causes involuntary vomiting and temporary incapacitation and blindness.
Al-Sinwar noted that the first time the network documented the use of CR gas was against protesters since the outbreak of peaceful protests in Egypt, was January 25. The network obtained testimony from activists at Tahrir Square, indicating that security forces had been using the CR-type gas.
The network has condemned this serious violation of civilian rights. They say the use of this gas is internationally prohibited and causes cancer and, possibly, fatality if exposed to for long periods.
english.al-akhbar.com, 23 novembre 2011.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.