Egypt’s Ministry of Interior announced on Thursday a new set of regulations governing the entry into Tahrir Square, which has remained an icon for the 25 January revolution for the past 33 months.
Ministry spokesman announced in a press conference that the electronic gates installed at the entrances to Tahrir Square during the celebrations of the great October war’s victory on Sunday were just the beginning.
“We are introducing a set of new regulations which will help effectively filter the crowds headed to Tahrir Square,” the spokesman said from behind his Ray Ban sunglasses.
New entry requirements include possessing a poster of general commander of the armed forces Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi.
“This poster would act as a pass to the square,” the spokesman said. “It doesn’t matter if the poster’s small in size, though the larger it will be, the more hours you will be allowed inside the square.”
Regulations also included memorising the lyrics of the latest nationalist hit song, “Teslam El-Ayadi” (bless those hands). Hassan Farahat, a protester who celebrated the October war victory in Tahrir Square on Sunday, said he was asked to sing along with “Teslam El-Ayadi”.
“At first, I missed a few words from the chorus,” Farahat said. “They wouldn’t let me enter until I knew it all by heart.”
The ministry spokesman explained the rationale behind such a regulation. “If Tahrir Square were a country, ‘Teslam El-Ayadi’ would have definitely been its national anthem. As a matter of fact, the state is currently considering changing the real national anthem to this patriotic song.”
Demonstrators aiming for Tahrir Square are now expected to provide a document stating the cause for their demonstration and their expected chants, according to the new regulations. Any chants which negatively touch upon the armed forces would disqualify their holders from entering the square.
“Note the use of the word ‘demonstrators’ instead of ‘protesters’,” the spokesman said. “We just feel that, at the moment, the people aren’t psychologically ready for protesting, and neither is the square ready to receive protesters.”
No time-frame was announced for carrying out the new regulations, though the spokesman denied they would be “indefinite”.
“We are going through exceptional times,” he said. “The dear people of Egypt have associated the image of Tahrir Square in their minds with the great armed forces’ achievement in ousting [former President Mohamed] Morsi. We do not want to taint that valuable image; let them enjoy their ‘liberty’ square.”
Tahrir Square was protesters’ first and usually only destination since the start of the 25 January revolution.