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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egyptian Uprising:
Protests Spread to Egypt,
Mubarak Dismisses Government

**4.16am** Upon watching the Al Jazeera coverage today, I can't help but notice that the Al Jazeera anchors and reporters seem to be using incendiary language in their descriptions, almost as if they were designed to inflame opinion. I can't help but wonder what they are saying, and how they are saying it, in Arabic. It's something to consider keeping an eye on. I bring this up because yesterday, the anchors didn't refrain from mocking Obama's Press Secretary while he was giving a presser yesterday and even mocked Obama, and there were two occasions were an anchor accidentally called Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, Barak Obama

Egyptian rioters burn cars in the streets of Cairo

As things stand now, it looks like the Egyptian protests will continue today (Saturday) and it will be interesting to see how things unfold, and if the Egyptian military forces side with the government or the protesters.

After the protests in Tunisia successfully toppled the government and forced the President to flee to Saudi Arabia [Wikipedia], similar events have begun in Egypt.

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.
On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.
The secret document in fullHe has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

Source: The Telegraph

I spent a few hours yesterday watching the riots unfold via the Al Jazeera livestream, reading their liveblog, reading tweets from Egyptians and others in the area. The rioters seemed to make a clear distinction in how they respected the military as opposed to the police forces. When Army Troops were introduced into the streets, they were often (not always) welcomed with cheers and escorted by mobs through to their destination. I saw several instances where rioters climbed onto tanks and armored personnel carriers and hitched rides. The police, however, were met with rocks and Molotov Cocktails.

Graphic showing the Internet Kill Switch in use in Egypt in an attempt to stop anti government protesters from being able to network their activities

The Egyptian government used its Internet Kill Switch (similar to what Obama has been seeking) in an attempt to deny rioters the means to organize. The above graphic shows the precipitous drop in Internet traffic when that was accomplished. All cell phone providers were also instructed to suspend cell phone service in Egypt. I note that most of the organizing activity for these riots were taking place in and near the mosques before and after prayers.

Here are a few videos to give you a taste of how things went yesterday...

In this clip, reported to be from Wednesday, and records a protest that took place in the 'Gamal Abd El Nassar' station and was posted to Ahmed Ajjur's blog, which includes instructions for Egyptians to circumvent the attempts of the Egyptian government to shut down Internet access to the protesters.

This is the first video uploaded to the Al Jazeera You Tube Account from their live coverage. In this clip, police fire barrages of tear gas at protesters gathered in front of the high-end Ramses Hilton hotel.

In this clip, rioters in Suez light several fires during their protests calling for an end to Mubarak's 30 year Presidency.

In this clip, police in Cairo use tear gas to disperse mobs of protesters.

In this clip, Police hold their fire while protesters perform their evening prayers. Praying five times a time at prescribed times is one of the five pillars of Islam.

In this clip, Protesters welcome the introduction of Egyptian military assets into the streets of Cairo.

Reactions to the protests and riots are varied. The Iranian government is hopeful that the riots across the Middle East result in pro-Western governments being toppled and replaced with hard line Islamic governments that will be friendly to Iran and less friendly to Israel and the United States. See article in the New York Times.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has responded by dismissing his top government ministers and has called for the formation of a new government...with him still as President.

Here are the latest updates to the Liveblog being run by Al Jazeera as I prepared this post (all times are local):

6:48 am Japan upgraded its security warning for Egypt on Saturday, advising travellers to Egypt to postpone journeys.

6:38 am Internet and mobile phone networks are still down in Egypt.
6:30 am The headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party in Cairo are still on fire.
6:04 am Al Jazeera's Jane Dutton, reporting from Cairo, says the National Museum in the capital has not been damaged by the fire that destroyed the neighboring office of the National Democratic Party last night.  
5:29 am Associated Press news agency is reporting that China has blocked the word "Egypt" from the country's wildly popular Twitter-like service, while coverage of the political turmoil has been tightly restricted in state media.
5:13 am The Egyptian army secured Cairo's famed antiquities museum early on Saturday, protecting thousands of priceless artifacts, including the gold mask of King Tutankhamun, from looters.
4:17am Al Jazeera's Amyman Mohyeldin says the streets of Cairo are "still abuzz" but peaceful. The curfew, which thousands have defied since it came into effect at 6pm yesterday, is in place until 7am.
3:25am: PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, wrote this on Twitter a short while ago:  As President #Obama said, ideas in #Egypt cannot be suppressed. The people want change and the government must respond to that aspiration.
3:06am: A senior Muslim Brotherhood official tells Al Jazeera that Mubarak must resign immediately and that it's time for the army to intervene and "save the country".
3:00am Mubarak's decisioon to sack the government does not seem to be enough to appease protesters. "The problem is he is a corrupt president and had a corrupt government and if he brings a new government is will also be corrupt since the system is all corrupt", a man in Cairo tells Reuters. "It was never the government, by God, it is you that has to go, it is enough what you have done to the people," says another protester.

Here are snippets of how the events in egypt are being reported around the Arab world:

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Foreign Ministry urged the Egyptian officials to avoid using violent methods against the popular demonstrations in the country.

"It seems more appropriate that Egyptian officials fulfill the people's demands and avoid violence caused by military and security officials against this popular uprising," an informed source with the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

Egypt's popular uprising is based on the religious teachings and vigilance of the Muslims in the Middle East region, the source added.

This uprising aims to return Egypt to its original place in the regional and international political scenes, the source said.

"The Egyptian people deserve higher and more influential status" in the Middle East and the Muslim world, the source added.

The Egyptian government has cut all cell phone and Internet services amid anti-government demonstrations that began after the Friday prayers.

The army was brought in and military vehicles could be seen on the streets of the capital following violent clashes between police and protesters.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei was among top opposition figures who attended the rally. 

From Al Arabiya

CAIRO (Al, Agencies)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in his capacity as military ruler, extended on Friday a curfew to Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, state TV reported, following countrywide protests calling for the president to step down. State TV had earlier said the curfew would be imposed nationwide.

Mubarak ordered the Egyptian military to aid the security forces in controlling the growing protests nationwide, the Egyptian state TV said.

"According to what some provinces witnessed in terms of riots, lawlessness, looting, destruction, attack and burning of public and private property including attacks on banks and hotels, President Mubarak decreed a curfew as a military ruler," a state TV announcer said.

Tanks began deploying around Cairo, Alexandria and Ismailia and Suez, the official MENA news agency reported, after a day of violent clashes between police and protesters demanding an end to Mubarak's rule.

This is from Al Hayat in Beirut:

Fri, 28 January 2011
Husam Itani
The Egyptian authorities have missed the train of reforms, and it is the case of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s government before them. Now, President Hosni Mubarak can only resort to boundless power and oppression to maintain his authority, knowing that if he does so, it would be as though he was pushing himself toward the brink of the abyss.
Reforms, regardless of their depth and scope, are no longer enough. Indeed, the course adopted by the rule during the last thirty years can be summarized by the instatement of stalemate at the level of foreign, internal and economic policies. Moreover, it was characterized by the refusal to deal with the sensitive issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the distribution of national wealth, the transformation of the ruling party into a bloc for those benefitting from the privileges of the regime, the dissemination of the consumption facet over the economy and the position toward the Islamization of the community, with all that these factors carried in terms of repercussions on the values, the culture and the general behavior.
This approach caused massive losses in all various aspects of life. Egypt’s status around the world and among the Arab countries thus retreated, after it turned out that the mediation role that Cairo wanted to play between Israel and the Arabs required capabilities and competences which the Egyptian authorities did not enjoy. Moreover, Egyptian economy became exposed to harsh external transformations, due to its exposure to financial markets, without having any actual production force. In the meantime, social polarization deepened in parallel to the undermining of the tools of unionist, partisan and media expression. Thus, mini-states, which were never taken into consideration by anyone a few years back, became capable of defying the Egyptian role on many arenas that Egypt had monopolized.

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The battle against Mubarak is no "populist revolt." It was fomented by the tranzi-progressive/jihadi axis, and Obama had a major hand in it. The Muslim Brotherhood is waiting to swoop in and turn the situation to their advantage. I've blogged about it extensively here and here.