I am totally disgusted by what happened to the peaceful protesters last Wednesday. Today in Tahrir I had a chat with some army officers and conscripts to see their take on things, here is what they said:
1. They genuinely think that those sitting-in were up to immoral acts. (not too surprising given their rural background where girls staying outside of their homes at late hours is strictly taboo).
2. They cited physical evidance of large quantities of condoms that were found in and around the sit-in site (impossible to believe, but it would not surprise me if someone planted them)
3. They also said some of the girls looked a bit funny and they couldn't think they were decent (obviously not very used to unveiled women from an upper middle class background).
4. During the week, when they chatted up many who sitting-in they seemed to hold no coherent political demand.
5. They drew the conclusion that those were not "genuine" protesters, but a bunch of mindless rabble that are being controlled by "dark and evil" forces.
6. The "dark and evil" forces are working to split the country up along sectarian lines and also to cause the people to clash with the army.
7. Their policy with regards to the thugs is the put them in the "freezer", i.e. given them a serious roughing up and beating.
8. They acknowledged that mistakes could be made and that they could inadvertently incarcerate innocent protesters in their pursuit of thugs.
9. They shared with me their frustration that those who are sitting-in in Tahrir are causing them undue pain and stress. They suffer from sleep deprivation and are very tense that something really nasty could happen as a result of the sit-in.
10. They mention the even of there were some honorable protesters in Tahrir, but they attracted many "unsavory" elements in their midst. They mentioned that the protesters handed over them a drug pusher at some point.
11. After several "battles" between the thugs and the protesters, they came to the conclusion that "enough is enough" and that they could on put with all the disturbance that is caused by those sitting-in and since they are primarily a mindless rabble, they should be forcibly removed.
I am not writing this to be an apologist for the army or to justify their action and methods in any way. I genuinely abhor torture of any kind. It is however very important for us to understand their motives. Some might see that their actions as part of a pattern of greater conspiracy against the revolution, I honestly can not tell. But one thing is for sure, we can not afford to antagonize the rank and file of the army. It was their sympathy for our cause that saved us during some of the darkest days of the revolution. I am not calling for an end for sit-ins or demonstrations, but we really have to think of ways of winning them over, their leadership and their conspiracies be damned.