Egyptians Defy Protest Ban, Plan big Rallies for Friday; Death toll Rises to 6

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed away from her unqualified support of the Egyptian government on Wednesday, saying, “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” The Obama administration appears to be rethinking its position in the region, worried that if popular revolts like that of Tunisia spread and succeed, the US will suffer from its support of the dictators unless it now at least urges them to democratize.

Journalist Mustafa Sulaiman reports in Arabic from Cairo for the Dar al-A`lamiya al-`Arabiya that protests, having raged Tuesday and Wednesday, started back up Wednesday night in Egypt and that there were confrontations between security forces and protesters in Cairo and in its northwest suburb, Madinat Suez. Clashes broke out on Ramses Boulevard and Galaa St., and in central Cairo. Attorneys and journalists demonstrated in front of their guild offices, which are next to oneanother, on Abd al-Khaliq Tharwat Strreet, which was closed off by security barriers.

Aljazeera English has video of the hundreds of arrests on Wednesday:

Sulaiman writes that security forces arrested 8 journalists, among them (ironically) Muhammad Abd al-Quddus, the head of the Committee on Journalistic Freedoms at his guild.

Protesters gathered in front of the High Court behind the offices of the Journalists’ Guild, while another crowd headed for al-Atabah Square.

In the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, people assembled before the al-Qa’id Ibrahim Mosque. Struggles broke out between these demonstrators and the security police, and ultimately the latter used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

In Suez, where 2 demonstrators were killed on Tuesday, he reports that thousands of people rallied in front of the morgue where the bodies were, shouting, “Long Live Suez, the Sidibouzid of Egypt!” (Sidibouzid is the town where Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest, setting off the Tunisian revolution).

He says that Egyptians report that Facebook was back on line in Egypt Wednesday night, after an outage that had lasted for several hours. (Facebook administrators had said that despite Egyptian reports of outages, their traffic in Egypt seemed normal). Twitter, on the other hand, was still inaccessible.

The subway is still not stopping at the Maidan al-Tahrir (Liberation Square) at the center of the city, as a crowd control measure.

AP says that in the southern city of Assiut, a small crowd of about 100 gathered, but were set on by police and half were arrested. Sulaiman reports that in that city, security forces arrested the Muslim fundamentalist activist Yusriya al-Shinawi, the sister-in-law of Dr. Muhammad Badi`, the director general of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the course of a demonstration in which she participated. Since Tuesday evening 122 Muslim brothers have been jailed (along with over 700 others).

Protesters were also arrested in the Delta city of Mansoura.

Back in Cairo, police cordoned off all the streets leading to Liberation Square, and the Interior Ministry for the first time deployed female police to search women pedestrians passing through checkpoints. Using women deprived the opposition of one of its accusations against the regime, that it had its secret police paw pious, innocent Egyptian women.

A fourth demonstrator died in hospital in Suez, of injuries he received Tuesday. Also in Suez, according to Reuters Arabic, crowds tried to firebomb the local HQ of President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. AP says that they also firebombed the police station, doing damage to both buildings.

This report says that police fired into the air to disperse crowds near the High Court, and used crowd-control trucks against other rallies, breaking them up.

A facebook page asking for demonstrations after Friday prayers on Friday immediately attracted 24,000 followers.

Aljazeera English’s Dan Nolan reports that there were confrontations between activists and secret police all over the city Wednesday night, though things had calmed down a bit by Thursday morning Cairo time.

16 Responses

  1. Professor: I know just about nothing about the Middle East. My total experience was a trip through the from Freemantle to Southampton via Suez in 1966 on a decrepit Italian passenger ship. My two lasting impressions were that British military patrols in Aden couldn’t possibly accomplish anything other than to keep the local communists from practicing close order drill in the main square (the British bailed out a couple of years later), and of extreme, grinding, poverty in Aden and Cairo.

    I’m sure things have changed. Nonetheless, I wonder if you could clarify what percentage of the population in, for example, Egypt can afford internet access, and what the demographics of the group that uses Twitter and Facebook in Egypt might be.

  2. Oh puhleeze! Prof Cole, the Obama admin, and more importantly, the US establishment, is doing what it always does, mouth platitudes whilst trying to undermine the popular forces they appear to support. You can bet that right now the CIA and Mossad are advising their Egyptian counterparts on how to defeat this popular rebellion.

    If this kind of revolt ever happened in Saudi Arabia the US would send its soldiers there to put it down directly!

    At least now the right-wing will never be able to say that the “Arab street” doesn’t exist.

  3. My understanding is that the Muslim Brotherhood, officially and to date, has stood aloof from the protests. Will they decide to encourage their followers to join after Friday prayers? Were this to happen, Mubarak and his TonTon Macoutes will have something to worry about.

  4. Game over. The Egyptian regime is in a real pickle. If they detain demonstrators they’ll be condemned by the west. If they kill demonstrators, anger will increase and the number of demonstrators will increase. If the regime gives in to public demands, it will be viewed as a sign of weakness, hence people will be encouraged to continue to demonstrate in order to gain more concessions from the regime. The winds of change are blowing

  5. Thanks so much for your knowledgeable and reliable reporting. That said, I have a complaint. You write: “The Obama administration appears to be rethinking its position in the region, worried that if popular revolts like that of Tunisia spread and succeed, the US will suffer from its support of the dictators unless it now at least urges them to democratize.”

    This goes beyond “just the facts” reporting. It seems likely that many Obama administration decision participants feel this way. But you and I have no direct evidence. Your piece would have been better with just the facts.

    • Journalism consists of two separate activities, newsgathering/reporting and commentary. I am part of the commentariat, and what I presented was my analysis based on what evidence I can get hold of. If you don’t want analysis, you’re on the wrong site.

  6. These protests are great. With Tunisia, we have one brutal Arab dictatorship down, and, what?, 20 or so to go.

  7. Asalaam o alaikum,
    Eygpt is in labor ready to birth a new nation, I think. It will be painful, but definately not status quo anymore.

  8. Whenever I think of the Tunisian and Egyptian police and security services, I am reminded of this gem from, allegedly, Karl Rove:
    “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    All that “We’re an empire now” really means is “We have the upper hand now”, it would seem – with a bit of delusional rubbish about the end of history thrown in – as if that hasn’t been suggested before.

    Well, in a couple of places at least, the boot’s on the other foot. As regards those “security” officers, if I were an Egyptian or Tunisian Imam or Priest, I’d refuse to bury them.

  9. You write: “The Obama administration appears to be rethinking its position in the region, worried that if popular revolts like that of Tunisia spread and succeed, the US will suffer from its support of the dictators unless it now at least urges them to democratize.”

    Many people wonder whether the Obama administration has a master plan, a theory of foreign policy, or whether (as the above suggests) IT SHOOTS FROM THE HIP, MORE OR LESS CLUELESS.

    Also, it may be that where you have an immense bureaucracy (OK, DoS is small compared to DoD, but still large), re-directing it is like re-directing an oil-tanker — very difficult because a lot of momentum, momentum from the BUSH ERA. (And it doesn’t help that a lot of Bush-era political appointees have been kept on).

    THIS SUBJECT — IS THERE A PLAN, AND WHO IS RUNNING THINGS, SHOULD BE A CONTINUING THREAD HERE.

  10. I think the Egypt thing has just as much to do with Israel as it does with Tunisia. My first inclination is to compare the situation in Egypt with that in Syria. Syria has effectively used the threat of war with Israel to legitimize authoritarian rule, whereas after ’78, this faded as a legitimator for Mubarak. The sole way to maintain any credibility in the eyes of Egyptians was food price stability, labor market stability..normal governance issues. As the ominous Israel faded in Egyptian political discourse since the treaty, one could argue, it just became a matter of time before Egyptians were ready and able to confront Mubarak’s tenuous and lackluster explanations for the necessity of dictatorship. Then I read this wonderful line today: مبارك يأمر لمصر الطيران ان تكون على الاستعداد بحال قرر الشعب المصري ان يغادر

  11. Mr. Baradi is back & saying he has to be with his people.

    Now opposition has someone to rally around.

    General atmosphere will get much hot before it cools down.

    I hope US; UK & MI6 do not interfere on the pretext that all the demonstrations are due to Islamic Fundamentalism. They have to save 30-year-old Egyptian democracy under Mubarak. (As all three of them try to destroy Hamas to restore PA in Gaza Strip).

  12. “Now opposition has someone to rally around.”

    Is that so? Is Mr. Baradi charismatic enough to charm the youth? or will he be viewed as just another part of hated establishment and gerontocracy? Does Egypt have a generation conflict big enough to cause real turmoil or is it mainly that in the eyes of mosts Egyptians, Mubarak is overdue to and they don´t want his son as a successor?

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