11/21/2011

Casualties mount from protests in Egypt

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN---- Cairo (CNN) -- The number of people wounded in three days of clashes in Egypt has reached 1,700, a health ministry spokesman said Monday. In addition, 20 people have died, including at least 10 on Sunday in confrontations between protesters and security forces in Cairo. Doctors at Cairo's Tahrir Square said injuries include gunshot wounds, excessive tear gas inhalations and beatings to the head. "I have received many people suffering of convulsions," said Tarek Salama, a medic in a makeshift hospital in Tahrir Square. "Lots of gunshot wounds from rubber and bird shots. And I have seen two cases who have been hit with actual live bullets." Protesters attacked in Tahrir Square Protesters flee Egyptian security forces Arab spring burdens Egyptian economy Egypt Islamist fears Tahrir Square -- once a center of euphoria following the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February -- continues to be a major flashpoint for the unrest. "People here feel that they have been cheated and that they have moved from an autocracy to a military dictatorship," protester Mosa'ab Elshamy said. "So they are back to the square -- back to square one -- to ask for their rights once again." Egypt's parliamentary elections are set to take place November 28. But demonstrators are upset about a proposed constitutional principle that would shield the military's budget from scrutiny by civilian powers. They worry that the military would be shaped as a state within a state. Mohamed Higazi, a spokesman for the prime minister's office, said the government will continue dialogue on reaching a constitution that ensures the election of a civilian government. The military said it wants to transfer power to a civilian parliament and president, but many citizens are dissatisfied with the pace of the transition and the resolve of the military rulers. Some on the streets expressed little confidence in the current government, saying there had been little progress since Mubarak's ouster. "Nothing has changed," said Zahra, one protester. "We've gone backwards. The military council is garbage. Mubarak is still alive and well, and the people are dying." Fighting erupted Saturday when police worked to clear Tahrir of people who remained after massive protests on Friday. Thousands have denounced a plan for a constitution that would protect the military from public oversight. Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks and torched a police van. Scuffles broke out on side streets and clouds of smoke rose from burned tires. Clashes between protesters and police also reportedly broke out in the cities of Suez and Alexandria. Hisham Qasim, a publisher and human rights activist, said that Egypt can't afford anything -- including another revolt -- that could further hamper its already struggling economy. The nation's once thriving tourism industry continues to struggle, while unemployment remains high. "The poverty belt is now the ticking time bomb in Egypt," Qasim said. "It threatens that what we went through (earlier this year) could be repeated. ... I don't think we'll survive a second uprising in the span of 10 years." CNN's Ben Wedeman and Saad Abedine and journalist Ian Lee contributed to this report