Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, February 2011
11th Day of the Egyptian Revolution:
Millions Demanding Departure of Mubarak
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN Editor's Note:
Millions of Egyptians came out on Friday calling for the departure of Mubarak, about two millions in the Tahrir Square and surrounding streets in downtown Cairo.
This came following two days of attacks by pro-Mubarak forces, composed basically from undercover security forces, members of the ruling National Democratic Party, and hired thugs. The masses wanted to tell the dictator that they insist on his departure, in order for the regime change to start.
The dictator still does not want to give up the fight, which led to the decision of the protesters to stay in the Tahrir Square until he leaves.
The revolution has started but has not achieved its major goal yet.
Egyptian Protesters Press Mubarak to Step Down Without Delay
Egyptian protesters are staging "Day of Departure" rallies to press President Hosni Mubarak to step down at once. The US military's top officer has said the Egyptian army has pledged not to open fire on the crowd.
France 24, 04/02/2011
Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for an 11th day of protest on Friday calling for an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.
On what they called the "Day of Departure", the crowd bowed in prayer and listened to a cleric declare: "We want the head of the regime removed". "Leave! Leave! Leave!" they chanted.
The mood was buoyant in the square, the epicentre of the protests, thronged by people from all walks of life, young and old, women and men, secular and religious.
"The people want the fall of regime. We want the murderer to be tried," shouted the crowd. They called on protesters from provinces across the country to join them.
Many of the protesters sat down after Friday prayers to listen to a Muslim cleric, over loudspeakers, calling on people to stay together in seeking their political demands.
"May God give you the wisdom and patience to stand against those who are trying to shake your goal," he said. Some protesters chanted "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" (God is the greatest, God is the greatest).
Barbed wire The army had surrounded the square with tanks and armoured vehicles and erected barbed-wire barriers. At one entrance, it was letting people in by only a small gap, creating a choke point as people queued to join the growing crowd.
Helicopters hovered over the city and 10 ambulances were parked in readiness at one spot on the edge of the square, which witnessed violence on Wednesday sparked by Mubarak loyalists who charged protesters.
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The cleric called for the lifting of emergency laws which opposition parties say have been used for decades to crush political dissent. He also demanded the immediate release of those arrested during the demonstrations.
After normal Friday prayers, protesters performed a special prayer in memory of those killed in the protests.
Hundreds of people walked to Tahrir Square across the Qasr al-Nile Bridge, queuing to pass through a checkpoint operated by protest organisers who were searching anybody seeking to enter the area. Army helicopters hovered overhead.
"We are not going to leave until our demands are fulfilled," protesters chanted from a bank of speakers in the middle of the square.
Earlier on Friday, Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi spoke to the army at the square's northern entrance near the Egyptian Museum.
"The army and people are united," protesters chanted after one demonstrator announced over loudspeakers that the minister was in the square.
Many of the crowd had kept vigil in Tahrir Square overnight, while others pitched tents or slept on the ground, defying calls from the army and the vice president they should go home because their demands had been heard.
The army on Friday began removing barricades the protesters had erected after supporters of the president launched an assault on them two days ago that killed at least 10 and wounded more than 800.
Organisers called on people to march from wherever they were towards the square, the state television building and the parliament building -- all within a mile of one another.
Protesters had formed human chains to guard Tahrir Square and were checking identities and bags as demonstrators streamed in, trying to keep out pro-Mubarak supporters. The atmosphere remained relaxed.
Protesters said barbed wire had been put out at all 12 entrance points to the square. Mubarak supporters on the main highway from Alexandria blocked cars from entering Cairo, a witness said.
Protesters throng Cairo, pushing Mubarak to go
By HAMZA HENDAWI
Associated Press, Feb 4, 12:08 PM EST
CAIRO (AP) --
Tens of thousands packed central Cairo Friday, waving flags and singing the national anthem, emboldened in their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak after they repelled pro-regime attackers in two days of bloody street fights. The U.S. was pressing Egypt for an swift start toward greater democracy, including a proposal for Mubarak to step down immediately.
Thousands including families with children flowed over bridges across the Nile into Tahrir Square, a sign the movement was not intimidated after fending off everything thrown by Mubarak suporters - storms of hurled concrete, metal rebar and firebombs, fighters on horses and camels and automatic gunfire barrages.
In the wake of the violence, more detailed scenarios were beginning to emerge for a transition to democratic rule after Mubarak's nearly 30-year authoritarian reign. The Obama administration said it was discussing several possibilities with Cairo - including one for Mubarak to leave office now and hand over power to a military-backed transitional government.
Protesters in the square held up signs reading "Now!", massing around 100,000 in the largest gathering since the quarter-million who rallied Tuesday. They labelled Friday's rally the "day of leaving," the day they hope Mubarak will go.
Thousands prostrated themselves in the noon prayers, then immediately after uttering the prayer's concluding "God's peace and blessings be upon you," they began chanting their message to Mubarak: "Leave! Leave! Leave!" A man sitting in a wheelchair was lifted - wheelchair and all - over the heads of the crowd and he pumped his arms in the air.
Those joining in passed through a series of beefed-up checkpoints by the military and the protesters themselves guarding the square. In the afternoon, a group of Mubarak supporters gathered in a square several blocks away and tried to move on Tahrir, banging with sticks on metal fences to raise an intimidating clamor. But protesters throwing rocks pushed them back.
The Arabic news network Al-Jazeera said a "gang of thugs" stormed its offices in continuation of attacks on journalists by regime supporters that erupted Thursday. It said the attackers burned the office and damaged equipement. The editor of the Muslim Brotherhood's website, Abdel-Galil el-Sharnoubi, told the AP that policemen stormed its office Friday morning and arrested 10 to 15 of its journalists. Also clashes with sticks and fists between pro- and anti-government demonstrators erupted in two towns in southern Egypt.
Various proposals for a post-Mubarak transition floated by the Americans, the regime and the protesters share some common ground, but with one elephant-sized difference: The protesters say nothing can be done before Mubarak leaves.
The 82-year-old president insists he will serve out the remaining seven months of his term to ensure a stable process. "You don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now," Mubarak said he told President Barack Obama. He warned in an interview with ABC News that chaos would ensue.
But the Obama administration was in talks with top Egyptian officials about the possibility of Mubarak immediately resigning and handing over a military-backed transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman.
Such a government would prepare the country for free and fair elections later this year, according to U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the continuing sensitive talks. The officials stressed that the United States isn't seeking to impose a solution on Egypt but said the administration had made a judgment that Mubarak has to go soon if there is to be a peaceful resolution.
Suleiman has offered negotiations with all political forces, including the protest leaders and regime's top foe the Muslim Brotherhood, over constitutional changes needed to ensure a free vote ahead of September presidential elections to replace Mubarak, who has promised not to run again.
Among them: provisions to ensure independent supervision of elections, a loosening of now suffocating restrictions on who can run for president and a term limit for the president.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leaders of the protest movement, lay out his scenario on Friday: a transitional government headed by a presidential council of two or three figures, including a military representative.
ElBaradei said he respects Suleiman as someone to negotiate with over the transition, but did not address whether he should have any presidential role.
The protesters in Tahrir have not seemed to have a unanimous view on Suleiman, a military man who was intelligence chief and Mubarak's top aide until being elevated to vice president last week. Some are willing to see him head any transitional government, others view him as too much of a regime figure and demand he go too.
ElBaradei repeated the protesters' condition that Mubarak must leave immediately before there can be negotiations with the government over the nation's future.
"He should hear the clear voice coming from the people and leave in dignity," ElBaradei told a press conference. "The quicker he leaves in dignity the better it is for everybody."
But he underlined that the protest movement is not seeking "retribution" or a complete purge. "Not everyone who worked with the regime should be eliminated," he said. "There will be no severance with the history and past of Egypt."
There were other potential difference with Suleiman's scenario. ElBaradei said the constitutional changes must include greater freedom to form political parties, which now effectively need the approval of Mubarak's ruling party. Protesters also demand the lifting of the emergency law in place for the entirety of Mubarak's rule, giving security forces near unlimited powers.
Suleiman has mentioned neither issue, though he said the regime is willing to discuss far-reaching changes.
Another issue is timeframe. Suleiman spoke of completing constitutional changes by July to hold presidential elections in September. ElBaradei said that was not enough time to uproot a system that has ruled for decades through a monopoly on politics and widespread election fraud to ensure a proper vote.
"People are not stupid not to understand that this is not really a genuine desire to go for reform," he said of the July/September schedule.
Instead, he said, the presidential council should rule for a year under a temporary constitution, during which time a permanent document would be drawn up and only afterwards elections held.
One self-professed potential candidate - Arab League chief Amr Moussa - appeared in the square Friday, his convoy greeted by chants of "we want you as president, we want you as president." Moussa, previously a former foreign minister under Mubarak, has an elder statesman appeal for some Egyptians, boosted by the tough rhetoric he takes on Israel.
Asked earlier by France's Europe 1 radio if he would consider a role in the transitional government or eventually running for president, Moussa replied, "Why say no?"
Another visitor to the square Friday: Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, who mingled with protesters and held friendly but heated discussions, telling them most of their demands have been met and they should go home. he was the highest level government figure to visit the square in more than 10 days of demonstrations.
At Tahrir, soldiers checked IDs to ensure those entering were not police in civilian clothes or ruling party members and performed body searches at the square's entrances, a sign that Egypt's most powerful institution was sanctioning the demonstration.
The atmosphere was peaceful after the 48 hours of violence between pro- and anti-Mubarak crowds battling with rains of rock and concrete torn from the street and shields fashioned out of sheet metal from a construction site. At least eight people were killed in the fighting and more than 800 injured. Gangs backing Mubarak attacked journalists and human rights activists across Cairo Thursday, while others were detained by soldiers.
The pro-Mubarak crowds that have attacked demonstrators and foreign journalists did not have a visible presence in Tahrir on Friday. On the other side of Cairo, dozens of regime supporters carrying machetes and sticks set up an impromptu checkpoint on the ring-road highway encircling the city of 18 million, stopping cars to inspect them and ask for IDs. The roadblock appeared to be looking for protesters heading to Tahrir. One of the armed men wore a sign around his neck reading, "We are sorry, Mr. President."
In Tahrir, protesters formed their own cordon inside the military's to perform a secondary check of IDs and bags. Many of those arriving brought fresh bread, water, fruit and other supplies, and the atmosphere was relaxed. Long lines formed at tables of people handing out tea and bread. Many waved the Egyptian flag or chatted amicably with the soldiers. Women in full face veils and enveloping robes stood close to women in blue jeans and tight tops.
Around the square were makeshift clinics, set up in the entranceways of stores, including a KFC. At one, a man received an injection in his arm. Above another was the sign of an interlocking crescent and cross.
Around 5,000 of the protesters prostrated themselves in prayer at noon. Though men and women prayed separately as is traditional, the women knelt in a block parallel to the men instead of behind them out of sight or in a separate area entirely as takes place in most Egyptian mosques. After uttering the concluding "God's peace and blessings be upon you" of the prayer, they began the chant: "Leave! Leave! Leave!"
A number of celebrities of Egyptian cinema and TV joined the march, including Sherihan, a beloved screen beauty from the 1980s and early 1990s who largely disappeared from the public eye because of health issues. "This is really a popular revolution, it's civilized and honorable," she told Al-Jazeera TV.
Mohammed Rafat al-Tahtawi, the spokesman of state-run Al-Azhar Mosque, the country's pre-eminent Islamic institution, announced on Al-Jazeera that he had resigned from his position to join the protesters.
"We're calling on this to be the largest protest ever," said Mahmoud Salem, a youth activist and blogger. "We are hoping it will be the last one." He said that during Thursday's turmoil, his car was attacked by regime supporters as he and four friends tried to deliver supplies to the square. He said the rioters relentlessly smashed the car windows and ripping off the side mirrors until he and his colleagues fled from the car.
"It was like a zombie movie," he said.
AP correspondents Maggie Michael and Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report.
Egyptian protestors pour in Tahrir square
CAIRO, Feb. 4, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Thousands of protestors are flocking to the Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Friday for the 11th day of mass protests.
Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and senior army officials visited the square Friday morning to check the situation and called for maintaining the security and stability.
People chanted "People and army are united," and soldiers checked IDs and performed body searches at the entrances to the square. The demonstrators prayed in the square where the clashes left at least eight dead and more than 800 injured late Wednesday.
The Armed Forces asserted that all the square exits are safe for people to return home, and they provide cars to transport the demonstrators.
There are crowds in Tahrir square, with helicopters flying over most of the heavily fortified streets, according to an eyewitness.
After the Friday prayers, people chanted the Egyptian anthem and called on the National Democratic Party members to leave.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he wouldn't run for the next presidential elections.
Friday has been named by some opposition parties as the "Day of Departure" as they insist the president to resign.
Egyptian defense minister visits Tahrir Square
CAIRO, Feb. 4, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Egyptian Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi inspected Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo where pro- and anti-government protesters clashed in the past two days, the state TV reported on Friday.
On Friday, dubbed as the "Day of Departure," thousands of protesters gathered in the square to force President Hosni Mubarak, who said he will not seek another term when his presidential term ends in September, to immediately end his 30-year-old rule.
The protests are expected to reach a peak after the Friday prayers, but the TV said a lot of protesters expressed their desire to end their rally and the army said it would guarantee their safe exit from the square.
The defense minister was talking to the demonstrators who are gathering for a possible pivotal point.
"The army and the people are united," protestors chanted over loudspeaker.
Armed forces announced Friday that all Tahrir exits are safe for protesters who want to leave the square, and that the military will provides cars to transport protesters to their homes.
Vice President Omar Suleiman said in an interview on Thursday " military forces' task is to protect people with all their constitutional and lawful rights, but now it has a new role to protect citizens and stand against outlaws and looters.
Editor: Bi Mingxin
Egyptian gov't, opposition in talks to end crisis
CAIRO, Feb. 3, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman said the government has started dialogue with the opposition parties and representatives of protesters to end the mass protests that began on Jan. 25.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been invited to meet with the government but they are still hesitant, Suleiman said in an interview with Egyptian state TV on Thursday.
Suleiman said he is meeting the representatives of Egyptian youth and other opposition parties in the coming two days, and that dialogue shouldn't exceed 10 days.
"Egypt faces a critical time following the protests," he said.
Suleiman, the former intelligence chief, was appointed as the country's first ever vice president for three decades last week. He said harmony between the Egyptian political parties need much time and dialogue.
The constitutional amendments will be left to public referendum and the amendment of 76 and 77 articles is a first step, said the vice president.
However, the amendments will require 70 days to pass, he added.
"We have a working plan starting with dialogue and choosing committees to study all issues separately and give them time to solve it," he said.
Suleiman said what happened in the Tahrir Square, the center of the mass protests, on Wednesday night, was a conspiracy.
Clashes between protesters and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak left at least six dead and more than 800 injured till Thursday, according to Egyptian Health Ministry.
Some people had their own agendas to exploit the youth revolution for their own interests, Suleiman said, indicating that they may be businessmen, foreign elements or militia infiltrators.
Military forces' task is to protect people with all their constitutional and lawful rights, but now it has a new role to protect citizens and stand against outlaws and looters, Suleiman said in the interview.
Suleiman also said a million tourists have flew out of Egypt in the past nine days. The country reported losses of 1 billion U.S. dollars in tourism.
Neither the president nor his son will run for the presidency, Suleiman added.
Suleiman also called on security authorities to release the detained youths who didn't participate in any violence acts during the clashes, and asserted that he guarantees that all youth demands will be fulfilled soon.
The vice president called protestors to go home and give the government a chance to protect them and regain normal life in Egypt.
Egypt has seen the largest mass protests in 30 years to challenge the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The protests, still with no sign of a quick end, have left more than 100 dead and several thousand people injured, with a great impact on the normal life of citizens due to the closure of shops and disruption of rail and air services.
Some opposition groups have planned to organize mass protests again on Friday. Analysts say Friday will be a day to test whether the moves taken by the new government are effective or not in ending the unrest.
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