Top Ten Accomplishments of Egypt Demonstrators

The protest movement in Egypt scored several victories on Friday, but did not actually succeed in getting President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Their accomplishments include:

1. The hundreds of thousands (the Egyptian Arabic press is saying a million nationwide) of demonstrators showed that they had not been cowed by the vicious attacks of Ministry of Interior goons on Wednesday and Thursday, which killed 7 and wounded over 1,000.

Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square

2. By their determination and steadfastness, they put the Egyptian army in the position of having to protect them from further attacks by the petty criminals and plainclothes secret police deployed by the Interior Ministry. The alternative would have been a bloodbath that could have destabilized the country and would have attracted further international condemnation.

3. They showed that they still have substantial momentum and that the cosmetic changes made in the government (switching out corrupt businessmen for authoritarian generals as cabinet ministers) have not actually met their demands for reform.

4. They showed that they are a broad-based, multi-class movement, with working-class Egyptians clearly making up a significant proportion of the crowd in Tahrir Square.

5. They demonstrated that they are a nation-wide movement, bringing hundreds of thousands out in Alexandria, Suez, Ismailiya, Mansoura, Luxor, Aswan and elsewhere.

6. They put pressure on the Obama administration to hold Mubarak’s feet to the fire about an early departure.

7. They so reassured Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that they are the future of Egypt that he took the risk of calling for Mubarak to step down.

8. By making a Mubarak departure seem sure, they tempted new presidential candidates into the arena, as with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, who visited the crowds at Tahrir Square to some acclaim.

9. The optimism created by crowd actions caused Nobel prize winner Mohamed Elbaradei to make an about-face and affirm that he would be willing to run for president if drafted.

10. Gave cover to to Ayman Nur of the Tomorrow (Ghad) Party and other leaders of opposition political parties to continue to demand Mubarak’s departure.

42 Responses

  1. There will be political arrests over the coming weeks and months, and many of the protestors will vanish into prison. The international community would do well to pay attention to this.

    This is why the protestors were so determined to get Mubarak to move out right away. Now he’s still there, and will deploy knocks on doors in the middle of the night to show the futility of resistance.

    This is not a victory for the protestors. It is a defeat. And some of them will pay with their lives.

    • Not at all. They knew they were marked for death the moment they entered the square. Every one of the persons who joins them — and thousands do so every day — know this.

      They know perfectly well that they are dead if they leave Tahrir. Only the removal of Mubarak and his associates can allow them to live.

      But the longer the uprisings in Tahrir and elsewhere continue, the longer Egypt’s economy stays stopped. It’s a general strike now, and the business community wants it over. Violence has been tried, and all it does is make more people join the protesters.

      Now the régime and its business partners are trying fake reforms, but the protesters aren’t fooled. They know they’re dead anyway, they may as well make their deaths meaningful — and in fact doing what they’re doing is their only possible route to survival, much less freedom.

  2. You forgot at least one:

    Exposed the brutality and dehumanization exhibited by the government apparatus, not just towards its own citizens but even foreigners. Especially the witch hunt on journalists.

    Noone can say with a straight face anymore that the current regime is better than the alternatives.

    Egypt has also been a favourite country for european vacationers for some years, and also quite popular in north america and asia. Now it’s apparent that egypt under its current regime is a country where even foreigners must be careful about what they do and say or there may be a knock on the door.

    • Egyptians are not dumb. They overly depend on tourism for a living and the economy would sink if tourists or foreigners are even touched. As for the reporters, just observe how annoying they can get to the extent that some celebrities loathe them.

      On another note, I hope that Dr Baradei goes back home to Vienna. He does not belong to Egypt as he has spent mostv of his life outside it and hardly knows anything about its people. Egyptians need a fellow citizen to help with their transformation to the qage of democracy and not a total foreigner.

      • ElBaradei grows ever better with familiarity. No, he is not Evo Morales and giving us the warm fuzzies. He is being A MAN. My esteem for him goes up daily.

        I am positive he knew the risk of being called opportunistic and took the necessary steps to be a voice of reason AND passion anyway. He has put his life at risk !! The US has harassed him and tried to “set him up” – and it did NOT work.

        To what standard are you holding him ?

        • I adamantly support your comments on El Baradei.
          A lesser man could simply sit in comfort outside the country and watch from afar.
          Yet, he risks his life to go to help the reform process and support the millions of brave people fighting for for their chance at dignity and a normal life. He is not opportunistic, and certainly is not trying to gain power. He is motivated by altruism and genuine care for his country. Besides, the stamp, stench and revulsion of the old regime stays with you a lifetime. I lived in Egypt for only 5 years, but keenly feel the injustice there. As a countryman, he surely feels and emphasises with the problems of life in Egypt.
          El Baradei, I salute you!!! You are certainly a force of good for change.

  3. The accomplishments of Egyptian demostrators are amzing, more sos if we remember that two months ago nobody would have bet that this was even possible. A police state with torture, disappearances, killing and imprisionment in profusion, supported by the US, Israel and UE countries, being the most powerful military in the arab world, with rebel or opposition groups greatly disorganized or suppresed… it’s just amazing to see this revolt in Egypt!

    However, I think time runs against the rebels. While they camp and wait in Tahrir square, the prospect of a true revolution is fading. Powerful people are manouvering behind the curtains, and a moderate US-approved transition is being consolidated. Mubarak is finished but his croonies are ready to maintain the ‘stability’.

    I hope to be proved wrong, but I’m afraid that Friday was the last chance for the people to proactively overthrow not just Mubarak but the entire regime. I still think that when you have 1 million people in a square you need to march over the Palace and key power centres as soon as possible. Tomorrow may be late.

  4. *demonstrated that even internet shutdowns, attacks on media & reporters, closing of FB, Twitter, etc. did not work

    *clever – 6th of April appoints as spokesperson, their leader now in custody

    *will resist efforts by the so-called group of Wise Men to co-opt their effort as they really want regime change – not just Mubarak’s departure.

    *believe the coalition has now created a clear manifesto and list of demands

  5. I firmly believe the die is cast, going back to any other form of gv’t now would bring a setback and in that wake would swim all the secret repressions once again.

  6. Amazing and my fingers are crossed that they are successful, then may be others will look to this in the future that they to can cause change unlike the hopey changey thing we got here in Amerika.

  7. The greatest accomplishment of the protestors so far, curiously, is that after showing its true face the regime (*cough* Egyptian Army) now has to force Mubarak from power to curtail embarrassment. If the Egyptian military didn’t have close ties with the US I think this probably would have ended in some Tiananmen-like crackdown. The US isn’t driving the process but it has effectively set limits to what the regime can do. Think there is now a decent chance relatively free elections will occur this year.

  8. Thanks for bringing to attention the names of Amr Mussa, Ayman Nour, and Mohamed Tantawi, who (in addition to El-Baradei) have sufficient stature that they could become successors to Mubarak. Are there any others?

    Repressive regimes do have the capacity to do something that is horribly effective in shutting down protests: nothing. That is, they avoid confrontation while maintaining heavy press censorship; they put enough military force on the streets to allow the economy to function; and they quietly assassinate/terrorize/jail lower-level leaders within the protest movement. This is what has been done in Honduras, whose resistance movement is proportionately an order of magnitude larger than than the Egyptian resistance. It’s also the basic strategy used against the Oaxaca uprising, where perhaps one-third of the population was actively involved (think of it… in Egypt, proportionately that would mean almost 30 million people in the streets).

    So, the next steps that the protesters take are critical. They have to keep the story alive, or else the foreign media and Washington’s willingness to deal will go away. They have to do it in a way that doesn’t involve inflicting casualties or alienate the masses of Egyptians or cause the Army to side openly with the regime.

    I think that the Army’s enforcing a line around Tahrir may be an attempt to encapsulate the protest. That is, make one safe place for protest, so that there’s no conflict for the cameras to record, but shut down any protest outside Tahrir. Then turn the security forces loose on the families of the protesters outside of the view of the media.

    I hope that I am wrong. I hope the protesters have a clear plan of what to do now that they have won their first point.

    • This is where Mubarak’s indiscriminate harassment of the foreign press has backfired; setting thugs on FOX camera crews is not a good idea if you want America’s conservatives wholeheartedly on your side.

      CNN’s coverage in particular has been — at least on the issue of Egypt — been affected by the wholesale attacks on its staff, to the point where it now tells the story straight, emphasizing that the lion’s share of violence in Egypt is coming from, and resulting from, attacks by pro-Mubarak forces, most of whom are paid to do what they’re doing. CNN’s become nearly as indispensable as Al Jazeera English, with the added advantage that most US cable and satellite TV providers haven’t banned it.

  9. better to die on your feet than to go on living on your knees, easy for me to say i am over 50 and invisible.
    yes, the prospect is very grim for this blossoming of courage and defiance.
    maybe just maybe……..

    • They feel they have no other choice, no other options. They know full well that they either win now or die trying — Mubarak, if allowed to stay in power, will not let them live, much less live peacefully.

      But the longer this drags on, the more it hurts the businessmen whose financial backing Mubarak needs. Egypt’s economy is being hit by the exact equivalent of a massive general strike. The thugs beating up the protesters are doing so because they’re paid to do so; what happens when they’re no longer paid?

      • “…they either win now or die trying.” There is nothing in the history of civil resistance which supports this statement, and indeed the opposite has been demontrated in many successful nonviolent movements: Occupying a single central square is dramatic, and may either initiate or culminate a major civil struggle, but it is not sustainable for more than about two weeks because the people in the square except for students have to go back to their jobs and families at some point. The most important thing that this movement has to do now is to diversify its tactics and put pressure on vulnerable institutions and other supporters of this regime (other than the army), through boycotts, targeted strikes, flash demonstrations and actions that are geared to releasing all political prisoners and guaranteeing free speech rights. There is going to be a transition process, and this movement has to become more than a single demonstration order to fight nonviolently across a much broader front to be the decisive influence on that transition. No revolution happens in two or three weeks.

  10. I’d like to add that they made Americans care about Arabs and Muslims and see them as equal human beings, and that’s a game changer and Israel knows it.

    • That’s what I thought about the Iran uprising, who even talks about that now?

      • Remember the CIA (according to their own declassiffied papers) actually paid the Shahs thugs directly. In Egypt they are paying the thugs by proxy. Dont worry about Iran all dictators deserve their Ceauşescu moment and in this new connected and video’d world they will get it.

        If Mubarak wants to stay in Egypt maybe he should pay 50% of his estimated 80 billion dollar in income tax to the country he claims to love so much.
        But I think Saudi is calling for him. His place in history will not be one of a great Egyptian hero no matter what he does. He is a greedy tin pot dictator more suited to North Korea who is so out of touch that he thought he could leave the country to his greedy family.
        He will be a footnote in history Mubarak – military dictator who sold his country to the racist zionists.
        Egypt will be better the minute he is gone.
        If they do have real elections then his scumbag mates will be joining him in exile.

  11. I don’t understand why the Egyptian protesters, who seemed so savvy throughout this revolt, are now believing the U.S. and Egyptian governments enough to let them stall the exit of Mubarak and put a torturer who is worse if not the same as Mubarak lead the country through a transition to what is obviously the same place it was before the demonstrations.

    Terribly disappointing.

  12. Oh my god!
    Now it seems that not even Mubarak is being sacrifized in the short term:

    Obama’s envoy has just said that Mubarak must remaing to steer the transition! At the same time, the Egyptian governement spokeperson said clearly on TV that the governement is trying to negotiate with some key people from the ‘opposition’ in a bid to isolate those protesting in the streets. Counterrevolution is showing its true power.

    Is it everything lost? No, but the chances for Egypt’s people are fading by the hour.

    Lesson probably learned: you can not give a second of peace to the people’s enemies. A revolution is a miracle, a lot of factors need to align for a revolution to have a chance. So when all this factors align and the miracle appears, for god’s sake! you need to push forward, to fight and overrun palaces as if there were no future, because it may turn out that there are no more opportunities.

    • Don’t overreact: The former ambassador’s remark was his own, he doesn’t have any continuing position in the administration, and it’s been walked back. Obama wants Mubarak out now. This isn’t a revolution, and it won’t be upended in a day. Re-read Juan’s list of accomplishments. That demonstrates the movement’s power. Ups and downs lie ahead. The key is whether the existing new political space that’s been created can be expanded, so that fair elections can be held. It’s about the conditions and terms that are agreed upon for those elections. What happened in Poland and South Africa can happen in Egypt: a nonviolent transition to democracy.

      • Poland?
        It’s easy and widely encouraged to turn towards the ruling world power, especially after the fall of the other (the enemy) world power.
        The difficult thing is to turn AWAY from the ruling world power.

  13. I heard a report on NPR that The Plan is to open up Egypt for business on Monday morning, banks, government offices, stores, all to be open as usual. The idea is to marginalize the people in Tahrir Square and leverage the fear of all those who just want the disruptions to stop.

    Could it work? Could the revolution, and the blood, sweat and tears of all those good people be in vain? Suleiman would be installed in the rotating dictator seat and nothing would change.

  14. The only real solution is to rid the place of the puppet master!
    If the US or Israel (or any power that sees the middle-east interests as secondary) have any say in the selection of the next govt. (which seems to be the case), then this revolution was not really successful.
    Excellent analysis by Michel Chossudovsky that the root of the evil here is the master and not so much the puppet:
    link to indymedia.org

  15. I too, was shocked to learn that he will most likely stay on for the transition. But he has been abandoned by so may people, including his own son. Who can he trust? There are also constitutional impediments to his resignation. Apparently there is no provision for an interim leader between presidents. I still believe that the Egyptian people will find a way. They’ve paid a high price.

  16. There’s an 11th, and I would argue, more important accomplishment of this muscular, spirited movement (which is what it is now): Creating new, defensible civic space in Egypt, in which the people can direct speech and take action that directs clear messages at all other Egyptians, at the regime, and at the international community. The dissidence and opposition that had been for years behind closed doors or on the internet is now out of the closet and in full public view. That space should now be expanded through the use of the full panoply of nonviolent tactics directed at residual supporters and institutions that undergird the regime, through boycotts, strikes, teach-ins, concerts — and the demands must extend beyond Mubarak’s resignation (now virtually a certainty within weeks if not days), and focus first on the release of all political prisoners from Egypt’s jails, full freedom of the press (broadcast as well as print), and totally unlimited freedom of speech. The movement should use its existing space to demand the vast expansion of free political space — and if it does so, the Obama Administration will have no choice except to support that demand, since that is what Obama himself has called for. And within that space, the movement can decisively influence the coming transition that will set the terms for presidential and parliamentary elections. This is not a revolution. It’s real democratization by the people themselves.

  17. I am finding that my last post was probably based on one sided information, the one side being the actions of the various governments and their justifications. I have now read the reactions of the protester’s leaders, which is absolute rejection of the proposals by the U.S.,etc. and a firm resolve to hold out for the original demands.

    I guess it takes time for one side to react to the other and have their reactions show up in the press.

    Also, more good news is that the ruling party leadership has resigned (not including Mubarak) and been replaced by a more hopeful crowd.

    See “Egypt Ruling Party Leadership Resigns”, head story on HuffingtonPost.com, for all of the above information.

    What a relief!

  18. Yes, they have also shown that without western help, the peoples of the middle-east are capable of pushing for democratic and just principles.

    No longer can anyone claim that Israel is the US’s ally because it is the only democracy in the middle-east. Rather the opposite is true, Israel is the only democracy in the middle-east because of its relationship to the US. Israel always was the British Empire’s way of maintaining control over the Suez region.

    No longer can anyone claim that the US and Israel want to bring justice and democracy to the middle-east. These are mere buzzwords used to mask killing just as many years ago people killed in the name of religion.

    • The only full democracy in the Middle East is Turkey.

      (Israel doesn’t count because of its apartheid policies on voting rights.) Iran’s half-democratic, in that it has real elections to a parliament with real power, but they’re manipulated and there’s a second power base other than parliament — sort of like the UK before the King lost his personal power.

  19. I have a vague suspicion that the real owners of the Egyptian dictatorship are busy making sure that the Egyptians won’t get real democracy. The stakes are way too high for these masters – and the country whose name cannot be mentioned is making sure that the “west” will reinstall the old system with new faces.

    I am overwhelmed by courage of the Egyptian revolutionaries and am in no position to give advice, but my gut tells me that time is working against them. I do hope that my gut feel is wrong.

    • The inability of the manipulators to find plausible-looking new faces quickly tells me that even if this revolution does not work out, some revolution will succeed soon.

      The manipulators are no longer competent. They will therefore fail.

  20. The videos I’ve been downloading for over a week now of those demonstrating in Egypt, primarily in Tahrir Square in Cairo, for the end to Mubarak’s dictatorship and for freedom have been so moving, making me want to be able to take food and water to them even as I wanted to run away in 1956 and join the freedom fighters in the streets of Budapest. I was young then. I am old now and I feel humbled because all I have to offer are words, Nevertheless I put them down here in hopes that they will have some meaning for others.

    First, the particulars of what the demonstrators have accomplished does matter and what we have been privileged to share through the video reportage matters- the individual responses of the people, the black veiled woman shouting against the most powerful man in her country; the father carrying a child in his arms who is holding up a little hand-made anti-Mubarak sign; the doctor who drove 200 miles to offer his assistance in the makeshift clinics; the people bringing food and water into the Square under their coats and one saying, if we all bring something, there will be enough for everyone; the 80 year old feminist who comes into the Square everyday and who says, Look at all these women and men who have never known politics. So this is a real revolution… No doubt we all have been touched by the specific particulars of what we have been witnessing. These are only a few of the images and statements I have seen and heard that have moved me.

    Secondly, win or lose- there can be no draw here I think- is the fact that the reality that we have been witnessing in Egypt is a part of a larger reality: the ongoing struggle for greater human freedom. I wrote of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 at the beginning of my comment. Of course, the struggle I am speaking of began long before 1956, but I mentioned it because that’s when I woke up to the existence of this struggle. Thinking now of what is going on in Egypt, I find myself remembering a writer and a book and words that give me hope; the words are what Ma Joad says in Steinbecks “Grapes of Wrath” to her son who has decided to join the migrant workers union struggle. As she says goodby to him , she says not to forget that “the people keep coming.”

  21. Most of the above illustrates the adage that hope triumphs over experience.

    • There’s another adage too, a rueful and bitter and experientially validated one: “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” And enthusiasm. Every time.

      • No, actually that is never validated. Old age and treachery are worthless without competence, and competence is what seems to have deserted the people backing the Mubarak regime.

  22. Mubarak has installed his shadow government and they will clamp down with an iron fist. If the people of Egypt don’t get rid of his whole regime, nothing will change it will only get worse, they can expect the death squads to start making the rounds. torture, accidents, disappearances, executions, etc. The whole CIA book of dirty tricks will be employed.

  23. Juan – Excellent list. But we must wait and see… (BTW, we were grad students in Egypt at the same time!)

  24. I don’t believe that this is the end. If the sleeper has indeed awakened, there may be some interesting times ahead for Egypt. The forces of state oppression can’t kill them all; some will go underground and continue to resist. Egypt is not dead yet.

  25. Too bad the fog of language conceals and confuses so easily. We glibly use the phrase “Ministry of Interior” to refer to what I understand is something like the “secret police” and “state security apparatus,” when “Ministry of Interior” sounds so innocuous and helpful, like our own US Department of the Interior or the Minerals Management Service (that nonetheless employs playful bureaucrats who take drugs and sex in exchange for granting huge discounts to mining companies who buy up the public resource wealth of the nation for an untidy profit.)

    Too bad it adds words to a story, to append a parenthetical like (“secret police”) to a bland and fraudulent descriptor like “Egypt’s Ministry of Interior.” Leaves too many with the false impression of worthiness of that set of bad actors.

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