Some news clips surrounding Day 3 of the Egyptian protests against the brutal Mubarak regime.
First off, I’d suggest everyone read Unspeakable’s latest diary, which thoughtfully analyzes the latest news from Egypt, as well as Palestine, Lebanon, Tunisia and Yemen.
Major news items in this diary:
- Protests continue
- Major protests called for Friday
- ElBaradei returns
- Sinai becomes ungovernable?
- Muslim Brotherhood to join in
About the series: Adalah ("justice" in Arabic) is a diary series about the Middle East, with special (but not exclusive) emphasis on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The authors of this series believe in the right of self-determination for all the people of the Middle East and that a just resolution respecting the rights and dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis is the only viable option for peace. Our diaries will consist of news roundup and analysis. We invite you to discuss them in the comments or contribute with stories from the region which deserve attention. We ask only that you be respectful and that the number of meta comments be kept to a minimum.
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1: Protests Continue
Protests continue in cities across Egypt. While not as big as Tuesday’s protests, the fact that they continue in the face of severe police repression is critical. From Monsters & Critics:
Protests erupted throughout various parts of Egypt on Thursday in a third-day of anti-government demonstrations that have left at least six people dead
North Sinai near Sheikh Zuweid... Ismailiya... Tanta and Alexandria... Cairo
Very serious protests also continue in Suez, the site of the bloodiest police attacks, as a police station is torched in overnight protests.
An independent coalition of lawyers said at least 1,200 were detained (Haaretz).
There is evidence that the regime is greatly worried:
But this morning the Egyptian papers are full of reports that a series of emergency meetings are going on behind the scenes, as the government considers responding with wage increases, offers of new jobs, and other ways to try to answer the many grievances being expressed by the demonstrators and ordinary Egyptians.
But on the other hand, the regime has still offered no concessions:
Egypt’s ruling party said Thursday it was ready for a dialogue with the public but offered no concessions to address demands for a solution to rampant poverty and political change heard in the country’s largest anti-government protests in years.
2: Major Protests called for Friday
Following Tuesday's 'Day of Rage', which saw tens of thousands Egyptians take to the street in protest of a regime they are demanding steps down, activists are planning again, for tomorrow, Friday January 28. The difference this time, is that organizers hope the event will be bigger and better and that the government will be forced to concede to demands.
The event is once again being organized by several opposition and democracy movements, youth groups and opposition parties including the 6th of April Movement, Ayman Nour’s Al-Ghad party, the Democratic Front Party, Kifaya, Khalid Said supporters, El Baradei’s National Association for Change (NAC) and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which have officially endorsed tomorrow’s event.
The groups have again used social media including Facebook and Twitter to reach out to people, and have also this time sent activists out to the streets with flyers. The April 6th movement alone claim they have distributed 60,000 flyers so far.
3: Elbaradei returns
Mohamed Elbaradei, a reformer (former head of the IAEA) and challenger to Mubarak in the upcoming presidential election, returns to Egypt on Thursday. He has "volunteered" to become "interim" leader if asked, and clearly his people are laying the groundwork for him to attempt to take ownership of the protests. (Reuters | CNN)
ElBaradei "Tomorrow is going to be, I think, a major demonstration all over Egypt and I will be there with them."
Gamal Eid, the director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, an Egyptian human rights group, says
"whoever wants to be a leader of a democratic movement should be working among them. He cannot lead a real battle against corruption and authoritarianism by remote control or Twitter. People don't forget who stood next to them and who deserted them when they were calling for democracy and fighting corruption."
"My question to ElBaradei is if people started moving and taking by force their right for democracy, what is your role?"
4: Will the Sinai become ungovernable?
As I noted above, the sharpest and bloodiest protests have occurred in Suez, on the north end of the Suez Canal. These protests continued, and the demonstrators burned a police station. Raw Story and others report a "massacre" by police there trying to regain control of the town, but this is so far unconfirmed.
Suez is a key industrial area for Egyptian (and US) businesses, and it is rife with poverty. The Canadian Press and Reuters Africa both have good articles explaining the background of the tension in Suez and what people are rebelling against:
"Suez brings in the highest profit of all the cities in Egypt to the country and yet look at us - we are close to begging. We have no jobs, we scrounge to feed our families," Khaled said. "We don't want Mubarak, we don't want this government, we want our basic human rights."
Elsewhere in the area, protests continue:
In the eastern city of Ismailia [also on the Suez Canal], around 600 protesters were clashing with police in demonstrations, witnesses said. They said the police dispersed the crowds using tear gas.
The Interior Ministry claimed this protest numbered only 50 people.
Other protest have been reported in Rafah, and that roads to Rafah may have been cut.
The Sinai Peninsula is home to many Bedouin tribesmen. They are different in many ways from the urban Egyptians, and they are very disaffected from the government. They also have a lot of organization outside the state, and an economy heavily involved in the black market.
Reuters Afric claims the police shot dead 22-year-old man, Mohamed Atef, a young Bedouin protester in the town of Sheikh Zoweid. The participation of the Bedouin in the protests could make the whole of the Sinai ungovernable, and help undermine Mubarak’s government.
5: Muslim Brotherhood to join the protests?
CNN, among others, reports that the Muslim Brotherhood have finally come out in support of the protests, after holding themselves apart until now:
There's been talk of a huge outpouring after Friday prayers, and now two major symbols of opposition plan to make their presence known in the nation.
The Muslim Brotherhood has called for its followers to demonstrate after the weekly Muslim prayers -- the first time in the current round of unrest that the largest opposition bloc has told supporters to take to the streets.
To be clear, the organizations leading the protests are all already calling for major demonstrations after Friday prayers. Hence, the Muslim Brotherhood is piggybacking on the demonstrations, not leading them. It’s hard to say if the Muslim Brotherhood is supporting the protests or trying to take control of them, and whether their participation will do more harm than good.
6: Other news items
The US changes tune, as Sec. of State Hillary Clinton moves away from her earlier statements complimenting Egypt’s "stability" to more robust statements in favor of political reform and the right to protest. Again, I commend Unspeakable’s analysis on this point.
Israel expects the Egyptian government to weather the protests roiling the country and to remain in power, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Thursday, providing Israel's first official assessment of the crisis affecting its powerful southern neighbor.
"His regime is well-rooted in the military and security apparatus," the minister said. "They will have to exercise force, power in the street and do it. But they are strong enough according to my assessment to overcome it."
Reuters Africa has further analysis of Israel’s view of Egypt, and its fears of change in the region.
"Anonymous" joins the battle, hacking Egyptian government website.
The first open defection from the government (in this case, state TV), has taken place:
TV host Mahmoud Saad submitted his resignation Wednesday after he was prevented from airing his talk show, "Masr al-Naharda," or Egypt Today, on Egyptian state-run TV.
This is important, as the state-run media has tried to squelch any realization of how important these protests are. However, they are failing, and the Arabist compares today’s headlines with yesterday’s headlines:
The state press
Al Ahram: "Four dead and 118 wounded among the protestors; 162 policemen wounded and 100 arrests in Cairo and the governorates"
Al Akhbar: "Protests in Cairo and Suez; Minister of Interior has banned protests"
Al Gomhouriya: "Security forces will firmly face any attempt to break the law and spread unrest"
Rose al-Youssef: "In an exclusive interview, the Minister of Interior affirms that the Egyptian state is not fragile. This regime is supported by millions of Egyptians and a few thousand protestors will not destabilize it."
The state press:
Al Ahram: "Heated protests and calls for strikes in Lebanon"
Al Akhbar: "Protests in a few places in the capital and calm in the governorates"
Al Gomhouriya: "Demonstrators cut off traffic and cause disorder in Tahrir Square"
Rose al-Youssef: "Security deals with protestors in a tolerant but firm manner"