Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, January 2011
Thousands Call for Mubarak to Resign in Coordinated Protests Across Egypt
France 24, January 25, 2011 -
Police clashed with protesters in the streets of Cairo and other cities Tuesday as thousands of Egyptians demanded that President Hosni Mubarak resign. As in Tunisia's revolt, Facebook and Twitter were crucial to coordinating the protests.
Inspired by the successful popular revolt in Tunisia earlier this month, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in Cairo and other cities on Tuesday, clashing with police as they voiced their anger at the poverty and corruption that have plagued their nation during President Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule. Two demonstrators were killed in Suez and a police officer died in protests in the capital, according to medical and security sources.
Police fired tear gas and sprayed water cannons as protesters carrying Egyptian flags and chanting anti-government slogans hurled stones and broke down police barriers. Street marches were reported in several other cities across the country, including Alexandria, Mansura, Tanta, Aswan and Assiut.
As in Tunisia,
social networking sites have been crucial to coordinating the
demonstrations across multiple cities and in keeping up the momentum.
Reports surfaced Tuesday afternoon that access to Twitter in Egypt had
been blocked. But in the days prior to the protests, messages about the
anti-government activities in Egypt were posted at a frenetic pace on
both Twitter and Facebook, the latter of which counts roughly five
million users in the desert nation.
It has been difficult to follow protest-related Twitter activity due to a veritable flood of messages on the micro-blogging network. Some Twitter users adorned their accounts with icons featuring the date of January 25, and "#Jan25" has been the key word or “hashtag” most frequently used by Egyptians exchanging information on the anti-government demostrations.
Though some Web users have been using Twitter to denounce the Mubarak
regime, others have called for caution, and many activists fear a
crackdown by Egyptian security forces. One Egyptian Twitter user in
California, Lobna Darwish, used her account to offer advice: “To avoid
electric shocks, put on several layers of clothing, particularly wool.”
Similarly ominous tips have been circulated on Facebook, such as how to
react if being beaten by police or what to do if taken away in a police
The group has expressed concern that the protests are being manipulated by opposition parties trying to score political points against Mubarak.
Unlike in Tunisia, Egyptian religious figures seem to be actively involved in the anti-government movement. The Facebook page of a group called “No More Silence After This Day” features several quotes from the Koran, as well as a link to a statement from a conservative Islamic organisation called the Salafist Movement for Reform, which has pledged support for the street protests and called on its members to participate.
Egyptian govt warns activists against Tunisian-inspired protest
By News Wires (text)
France 24, REUTERS -
Activists, inspired by the recent overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia, are planning to use a police holiday in Egypt to voice their frustration on poverty and corruption. Supporters of the action spread the word utilising social networking sites.
The Egyptian government warned activists hoping to emulate Tunisian pro-democracy protesters that they face arrest if they go ahead on Tuesday with mass demonstrations some have billed as the "Day of Wrath".
The rallies have been promoted online by groups saying they speak for young Egyptians frustrated by the kind of poverty and oppression which triggered the overthrow of Tunisia's president. Similar calls have been made in other authoritarian Arab states.
Coinciding with a national holiday in honour of the police, a key force in keeping President Hosni Mubarak in power for 30 years, the outcome in Egypt on Tuesday is seen as a test of whether vibrant Web activism can translate into street action.
"The security apparatus will deal firmly and decisively with any attempt to break the law," the government's director for security in the capital Cairo said in a statement.
Since Egypt bans demonstrations without prior permission, and as opposition groups say they have been denied such permits that means that any protesters may be detained.
Interior Minister Habib el-Adli has issued orders to "arrest any persons expressing their views illegally".
"I tell the public that this Facebook call comes from the youth," Adli said in an interview published by the state-owned newspaper al Ahram on Tuesday but released before midnight.
"Youth street action has no impact and security is capable of deterring any acts outside the law," he said, adding that he welcomed "stationary protests held for limited periods of time" and that police would protect the protesters.
"Our protest on the 25th is the beginning of the end," wrote organisers of a Facebook group with 87,000 followers. "It is the end of silence, acquiescence and submission to what is happening in our country. It will be the start of a new page in Egypt's history -- one of activism and demanding our rights."
Rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged Egypt's authorities "to allow peaceful protests".
But protests in Egypt, the biggest Arab state and a keystone Western ally in the Middle East, tend to be poorly attended and are often quashed swiftly by the police, who prevent marching.
The banned Muslim Brotherhood, seen as having Egypt's biggest grassroots opposition network, has not called on members to take part but said some would join in a personal capacity.
Cairo security director Ismail Shaa'er said the government had sent warnings to protest organisers that they would need an interior ministry permit: "In the absence of such permits, these demonstrations and sit-ins will be dealt with in a legal manner and those beyond the law will be arrested," he said.
Commenting on the wave of public unrest in Tunisia, Adli said talk that the "Tunisian model" could work in other Arab countries was "propaganda" and had been dismissed by politicians as "intellectual immaturity".
Activists and the opposition say the interior ministry refuses to issue protest permits, citing security reasons.
Sympathisers across the world have said they plan to protest in solidarity. In Kuwait, security forces detained three Egyptians on Monday for distributing flyers for the protests.
"On January 25th, Egyptian protesters will carry their cameras as their weapons," one Facebook user wrote, 10 days after Tunisians faced down their veteran leader's police state in a revolt flashed around the world in website images.
"They will use cameras to capture every policeman who will attack peaceful protesters and every scene of our protests to show it to the world."
Egyptian protester dies after setting himself alight
By News Wires (text)
One of two Egyptian men who set themselves alight on Tuesday died later in the day after suffering third-degree burns. His suicide follows a spate of self-immolations across Africa in recent days.
Two Egyptian men, possibly inspired by events in Tunisia, attempted to set themselves on fire Tuesday in downtown Cairo, just a day after another man burned himself in front of parliament.
Police managed to quickly extinguish the fire engulfing lawyer Mohammed Farouq Mohammed el-Sayed after he set himself alight outside the prime minister’s office and he was rushed to hospital with minor burns. Police say he may have been protesting police inability to find his long missing teenage daughter.
A second man, identified as Sayed Ali Sayed, attempted to do the same thing outside the nearby parliament building but was stopped by guards in the area. There was no word on his motive.
Tuesday’s incidents come one day after protesters in Mauritania and Algeria set themselves alight in apparent attempts to copycat the fatal self-immolation of a Tunisian man that helped inspire the protests that toppled Tunisia’s authoritarian president.
It also follows the self-immolation of an Egyptian man on Monday, who set himself on fire outside the parliament to protest the authorities’ denying him cheap subsidized bread to resell to patrons of his small restaurant east of Cairo. The man survived with burns to his neck, face and legs.
While isolated, the incidents in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria reflect the growing despair among much of the Arab public with no real means of expressing its dissatisfaction. They are deeply symbolic means of protest in a region that has little or no tolerance for dissent.
It was the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed man in Tunisia, last month that sparked the tidal wave of protests that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Friday.
Ben Ali ruled with an iron fist for 23 years. Similarly authoritarian rulers across much of the Arab world have been in power as long or longer, like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, in power since 1969; Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, in office since 1981; and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled that impoverished nation since he seized power more than 30 years ago.
The stunning collapse of the Tunisian leader drew a litany of calls for change elsewhere in the Arab world, but activists faced the reality of vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo and hard-line regimes that crack down on dissent.
But Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit ruled out the possibility that Tunisia’s political uprising will spread. Self-immolation as a method of protest is uncommon in the Arab world, where many associate it with protesters in the Far East or the Indian subcontinent. But Egyptian women in rural or poor urban areas have been known to set themselves on fire to protest violent husbands, abusive parents or an unwanted suitor.
22 January 2011 - 20H25
Opponents of Egypt's long-running regime should be able to follow the lead set by the toppling of Tunisia's veteran president, leading opposition figure Mohamed El-Baradei (C), pictured here during a 2010 protest, said in comments released Saturday
Opponents of Egypt's long-running regime should be able to follow the lead set by the toppling of Tunisia's veteran president, leading opposition figure Mohamed El-Baradei said in comments released Saturday.
"If the Tunisians have done it, Egyptians should get there too," the former UN nuclear watchdog chief told Der Spiegel for an interview to be published Monday.
Protests in Tunisia against president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali led to his ouster last week after 23 years in power.
There is much debate in the region as to how contagious the Tunisian "Jasmine Revolution" will prove to be.
While Egypt is suffering social problems and has seen a number of people set themselves on fire in an echo of the protest which sparked the Tunisia unrest, El-Baradei pointed to major differences between the two north African nations.
In Egypt the discontent arises from "fundamental needs" in a country where more than 40 percent of the population earns less than a dollar a day while Tunisia can boast "a substantial middle class", he said, evoking the possibility of "a revolt by the poor and the frustrated."
The 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner confirmed that he supports a national action day, scheduled for next Tuesday by the Egyptian opposition, though he would not be taking part.
"I don't want to steal their thunder," he explained, adding that he hoped the protests "will not degenerate."
He urged President Hosni Mubarak not to seek another term in office when his mandate expires in September, to lift the state of emergency which has been in place for 29 and to call "free elections".
Mubarak, 82, has not yet indicated whether he intends to stand for office again, but members of his camp say he will seek a new mandate.
El-Baradei said he is in principle ready to throw his own hat into the ring as long as the elections are "free and just".AFRICA Tunisian protest suicide sparks copycat protests in Algeria, Egypt TUNISIA Copycat effect: How one man's self-immolation engulfed a region
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