(Associated Press: 1325 PST, February 10, 2011) Crowds of Egyptians erupted in chants after President Hosni Mubarak said he is transferring power to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but will not leave the country.
(Associated Press: 30 January, 2011) Thousands of protesters defied an evening curfew in Cairo on Saturday, and police opened fire at a funeral procession for a dead protester. Later looting and arson continued overnight as the police disappeared from the streets of the capital.
Born May 4th, 1928, Hosni Mubarak was a career military officer before entering politics. He got his start at the Egyptian Military Academy and the Air Force Academy and rose quickly through the ranks of the Egyptian Air Force before becoming Commander of the Air Force and Minister of Defense in 1972. President Anwar El-Sadat named him Vice President in 1975. He became Egypt’s fourth president in 1981 after the assassination of President Sadat, also assuming duties of Chairman of the ruling National Democratic Party. Mubarak’s government has been a key strategic ally to the United States throughout much of his tenure, receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid yearly and supporting the fight against Al Qaeda and Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
What sparked the Egyptian uprising?
Egypt has been ruled under a state of Emergency Law since 1958, with the exception of a brief period in the 1980’s, through which the government has suspended constitutional rights, maintained censorship, and extended police powers. Mubarak’s government has long faced harsh criticism from human rights groups worldwide for his actions against democracy activists and dissenters. Human Rights Watch has accused his government of torture, detention, and mass arrests. The country ranks 138th in the world in The Economist’s Democracy Index.
In the past year the cost of living has risen along with unemployment rates. Public anger has been directed at Mubarak, who has been accused of mass corruption and nepotism. A younger generation of pro-democracy activists, many of whom were born after Mubarak took power, have for the past several years utilized social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter to organize actions of dissent anonymously. Inspired by the revolution in Tunisia in mid-January, where a popular uprising ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, young activists called for January 25th to be a Day of Anger towards the government. Mass demonstrations were met with an unusually lax response from security forces. Police cracked down further throughout the week as the marches continued. Protests occurred Wednesday and Thursday, and the government responded by cutting internet access nationwide. On Thursday, the Associated Press released raw video of an activist being shot by police. Protesters geared up for a climax in demonstrations to occur on Friday, January 28, 2011.
What is Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and how did it inspire Egypt?
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took office in 1987, when doctors declared former president Habib Bourguiba medically incapacitated and Ben Ali had him constitutionally impeached. His government, which was supported by the US and France, was widely criticized for its corruption and human rights abuses.
On December 7, 2010, Wikileaks published US embassy cables that discussed the corruption and nepotism of Ben Ali's regime. On December 17, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest years of harassment and humiliation at the hands of corrupt local police officers; he died on January 4. His self-immolation sparked protests in the city of Sidi Bouzid; they escalated into rioting when police shot tear gas into the crowd. Since Tunisian media offered little coverage of the events, video of the police's severe treatment of the young protesters was disseminated on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, fueling the outrage against the government.
In the following weeks, violent clashes between police and protestors erupted across the country. The movement spread from the working classes to the upper classes; on January 6, 2011, 95 percent of Tunisia's lawyers went on strike after the police used excessive force at public gatherings by the Tunisian National Lawyers Order. Tunisian teachers soon joined them, and on January 10th, the government announced the indefinite closure of all schools and universities.
Ben Ali at first condemned the protests and threatened punishment for the perpetrators and the foreign news sites that he claimed led them on. However, on December 29, he reshuffled his cabinet then promised the creation of 300,000 new jobs. Just two weeks later Ben Ali dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency. He then fled the country, flying to Saudi Arabia after France denied him landing privileges. Egyptian citizens were buoyed by this turn of events, and took to the streets soon thereafter.
This conflict is more complicated than the people versus the State. The army is a revered institution in Egypt, and remains well respected despite the vitriol expressed towards Mubarak’s government. Police and security forces have been responsible for maintaining day-to-day order in the country and lack the public support that the army enjoys. Al Jazeera English reported this morning a woman yelling, “We have been waiting for the army to come save us from the police.” Various reports tell of tanks entering the streets to the cheers of protestors, with soldiers waving Egyptian flags. Al Jazeera English tweeted that there are “Unconfirmed reports that that army and the police are clashing.” Rowya Rageh of Al Jazeera English reported that protesters welcomed army tanks in the port city of Alexandria.
The protests are without a visible leader or leading group, and consciously so. Organizers decided not to associate the demonstrations with any specific group or person in order to make the point that the Egyptian people were standing as one. Despite this, there has been much talk of Mohamed ElBaradei assuming leadership of a possible transition government, should Mubarak step down. ElBaradei was the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations organization that he jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with in 2005. He has been a staunch supporter of democracy in Egypt for many years. ElBaradei returned to Cairo from Vienna on Thursday night, stating that, despite the risks, “I will be with the people today.” Reports surfaced today that ElBaradei had been detained and put under house arrest. Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill tweeted on Friday that, “ElBaradei definitely seems the West’s successor of choice, but is not particularly popular or well known in much of Egypt.”
In Cairo, the protests have been centered around the Sixth of October bridge, known as the “spinal cord” of Cairo, and Tahrir Square, translated to “Liberation” Square. Friday’s protests began as morning prayers ended and people leaving Cairo’s largest mosque in the downtown area were met with tear gas and excessive force from police. Around the nation, Alexandria and Suez have also been hotbeds of unrest.
(Associated Press: 1330PST, 28 January 2011) Egypt's military deployed on the streets of Cairo to enforce a nighttime curfew after the sun set Friday on a day of rioting and violent chaos that was a major escalation in the challenge to authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak. And,Egyptians living in the United States are expressing support for the protests underway in Egypt. See below for video updates on these stories from the Associated Press.
(Democracy Now! - 28 January 2011)Protests have erupted across Egypt again today with the largest and most widespread anti-government demonstrations seen so far. In an unprecedented display of popular protest, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are gathering in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Mansoura, Sharqiya and elsewhere. Intense confrontations are taking place with state security forces. The protests come amid a vast security clampdown. Earlier, the government blocked the internet, mobile phone and SMS services, with the hope of disrupting demonstration planning. Democracy Now! goes to Cairo to speak with Ahmad Shokr, an editor at the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm:
Democracy Now! Headlines
Uprising in Egypt: "This is the Biggest Political Challenge the Regime Has Yet to See from the Streets"