Tens of thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday to denounce violence against protesters, especially outraged by images of female protesters dragged by their hair, beaten and kicked by troops and demand an immediate end to military rule.
The protesters held pictures of people killed in the deadly clashes that began last week and left at least 17 protesters dead.
The scene of military troops beating and dragging women on the ground — in one incident stripping one veiled protester half naked and stomping on her chest — shook many in the largely conservative country, where the military, in power since 1952, is highly revered.
The violence has also drawn wide international criticism and increased pressure from activists for those responsible for the violence to be held accountable, including the senior military officials.
“The women of Egypt are a red line,” the protesters in Tahrir chanted. “We either die like them or we get them their rights.”
Some protesters marched into the square with gags around their mouths, holding banners reading: “Our dignity.”
The escalation has also driven a wedge between Egyptians — many of whom are tiring of the protests and fear pressure on the military to step down would leave the country in serious turmoil.
Thousands attended a rival rally in another part of the city, chanting: “The military and the people are one hand” in support of the ruling generals.
They denounced the beaten women, expressing a sentiment shared by some that these protesters brought the violence on themselves.
“You deserve the military boots,” they chanted, addressing the women.
The military council took power after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February in the face of a popular uprising in February.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Islamists won almost 90 percent of seats in a parliamentary election runoff, bringing them closer to dominating the first elected body since Mubarak’s ouster, state media reported yesterday.
The leading Islamist Freedom and Justice Party won 40 out of 60 seats in the runoff for the second round of the three-stage elections, according to both the party and the official Al-Ahram newspaper.
The ultra-conservative Salafi Al-Nur party won 13 seats, Al--Ahram reported.
Islamists have dominated the elections, which opened on Nov. 28, the first since the uprising ousted Mubarak.