February 2011

February 15, 2011

EDITOR: The Arab Revolt has turned viral!

For those who told us that there is nothing to worry about the Gulf joining in the wave of protest, Bahrain has today proven them very wrong! From Algeria in the west, to Iraq in the East, the revolt is spreading like wildfire. Those who have written off the Arabs as undemocratic, are the same people who have financed and supported the dictators across the Arab world.

Even in those countries where, for reasons of deep fear the population has not yet risen, such as in Syria, Libya, or Saudi Arabia, this is a matter of time. As the regional tyrants fall like domino pieces, each one has less power to support him in position. The question is, will the US and its western poodles learn to live and understand, not to mention value, these amazing developments?

The End of the Mubarak Era, by Carlos Latuff

Deaths heighten Bahrain tension: Al Jazeera online

Offering apology, King Hamad vows to investigate incidents but opposition group suspends parliamentary participation.
15 Feb 2011

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Manama reports on the ongoing unrest in the Bahraini capital
At least one person has been killed and several others injured after riot police in Bahrain opened fire at protesters holding a funeral service for a man killed during protests in the kingdom a day earlier.

The victim, Fadhel Ali Almatrook, was hit with bird-shotgun in the capital, Manama, on Tuesday morning, Maryam Alkhawaja, head of foreign relations at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

“This morning the protesters were walking from the hospital to the cemetery and they got attacked by the riot police,” Alkhawaja said.

“Thousands of people are marching in the streets, demanding the removal of the regime – police fired tear gas and bird shot, using excessive force – that is why people got hurt.”

At least 25 people were reported to have been treated for injuries in hospital.

An Al Jazeera correspondent in Bahrain, who cannot be named for his own safety, said that police were taking a very heavy-handed approach towards the protesters.

“Police fired on the protesters this morning, but they showed very strong resistance,” our correspondent said.

“It seems like the funeral procession was allowed to continue, but police are playing a cat-and-mouse game with the protesters.”

The developments came as the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, made a rare television appearance in which he offered condolences on the protesters’ deaths.

The process of change in the kingdom “will not stop”, the official Bahrain News Agency quoted Sheikh Hamad as saying on Tuesday.

Opposition’s move

Angered by the deaths, a Shia Muslim opposition group has announced it was suspending its participation in the parliament.

“This is the first step. We want to see dialogue,” Ibrahim Mattar, a parliamentarian belonging to the al-Wefaq group, said. “In the coming days, we are either going to resign from the council or continue.”

Al-Wefaq has a strong presence inside the parliament and within the country’s Shia community.

Video from YouTube showing riot police firing on largely peaceful protesters during Monday’s demonstration
Tuesday’s violence came a day after demonstrators observed a Day of Rage, apparently inspired by the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Shias, who are thought to be in the majority, have often alleged discrimination at the hands of the kingdom’s Sunni rulers.

Thousands came out on the streets on Monday to protest, sparking clashes with riot police.

Khalid Al-Marzook, a Bahraini member of parliament, told Al Jazeera that one person had been killed and that three others were in critical condition in hospital following Monday’s violence.

Bahrain’s news agency said that the country’s interior minister had ordered an investigation into Monday’s death.

The interior ministry later issued a statement saying that “some of the people participating in the the funeral clashed with forces from a security patrol”, leading to Almatrouk’s death.

“An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the case,” it said.

Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa has also offered his condolences to the dead man’s family.

Online reaction

Amira Al Hussaini, a Bahraini blogger who monitors citizen media for Global Voices Online, told Al Jazeera that there has been a huge outpouring of anger online in Bahrain.

“What we’ve seen yesterday and today, is a break from the normal routine – people like me, that are not necessarily in favour of the protests that are happening in Bahrain at this time, are now speaking out,” she said.

“I am trying to remain objective but I can’t – people are being shot at close range.”

Hussaini said that people in Bahrain were very afraid.

“We are afraid of going out in the streets and demanding our rights. Tunisia and Egypt have given people in Arab countries hope – even if you believe that something is impossible.”

“I personally have no respect for the police – they lie, they manipulate the story,” she said.

“This is being pitted as a sectarian issue – the Shia wanting to overthrow the regime. But it is not a Shia uprising.”

She said that people from all backgrounds and religions are behind the protests.

EDITOR: Israel is getting used to the new realities?

Below is an articles short on analysis but long on deep worries about the future – Israel is coming to realise, gradually, that the world around it is fast changing, and that the old certainties are gone, probably forever. Its crimes might not be defended in the future by all those who have done so in the past.

Israel faces emboldened Palestinian delegation in the UN: Haaretz

Israel’s new UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, will face an atmosphere of support for Palestinian causes in the UN and an uphill battle in generating sympathy for Israeli causes.

Palestinians are vigorously working to get the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building passed. They are working quickly to get support from the organization’s general assembly before Israel’s new UN ambassador Ron Prosor, takes up his position.

Israel will appoint their new UN ambassador after half a year spent with a temporary representative. Prosor, who has been serving as the ambassador in London will soon send his credentials to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. From there, he will receive the formal authority of a permanent UN ambassador, allowing him to fulfill his role in New York in an orderly way.

Prosor, a veteran diplomat valued in Israel for his work in the foreign service, can expect a difficult time at the UN’s New York headquarters. The list of problems and topics that Prosor will be forced to deal with in the next few months is long and troublesome.

What may surprise him is the degree of sophistication and diplomatic expertise that the Palestinians have become emboldened with in recent months during their work to move their interests forward, especially in behind the screen negotiations.

The new ambassador will soon discover that the absence of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has created an atmosphere of support for Palestinian issues, an atmosphere in the manner of which has not been felt in the UN for years.

The political stagnation, for which Israel is responsible, produced a wave of initiatives including the draft against Israeli settlements and the Russian initiative to dispatch a Security Council delegation to the Middle East to closely examine the reasons for the ongoing crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In addition, ambassadors of central nations in the UN are well aware of the cold relations between the White House administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an awareness which has allowed the atmosphere of criticism towards Israel in the UN continue, even among nations thought to be friendly with Israel.

Israel’s chance to prevent the Palestinians from gaining a majority at the UN on their proposal for an independent Palestinian state is slim. In addition, the new ambassador’s ability to generate sympathy and attentiveness for Israeli claims on topics related to the Middle East in the UN arena is very limited.

High up on Prosor’s list of priorities will be alerting the UN about the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as the ramification of UN resolution 1701, which calls on the Lebanese Army to deploy throughout the country, including in the Hezbollah stronghold of southern Lebanon, and prevent Hezbollah from acquiring more weapons. Another priority will of course be strengthening opposition to Iran’s nuclear program.

Prosor is well known for his work in London against schemes to delegitimize Israel. In the center of the United Nations in New York, he will need all the experience that he acquired in this field.

Egyptian army hijacking revolution, activists fear: The Guardian

Military ruling council begins to roll out reform plans while civilian groups struggle to form united front
Jack Shenker in Cairo
A man takes a picture of his daughter on an Egyptian army tank in Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP
Egypt’s revolution is in danger of being hijacked by the army, key political activists have warned, as concrete details of the country’s democratic transition period were revealed for the first time.

Judge Tarek al-Beshry, a moderate Islamic thinker, announced that he had been selected by the military to head a constitutional reform panel. Its proposals will be put to a national referendum in two months’ time. The formation of the panel comes after high-ranking army officers met with selected youth activists on Sunday and promised them that the process of transferring power to a civilian government is now under way.

But the Guardian has learned that despite public pronouncements of faith in the military’s intentions, elements of Egypt’s fractured political opposition are deeply concerned about the army’s unilateral declarations of reform and the apparent unwillingness of senior officers to open up sustained and transparent negotiations with those who helped organise the revolution.

“We need the army to recognise that this is a revolution, and they can’t implement all these changes on their own,” said Alaa Abd El Fattah, a prominent youth activist. “The military are the custodians of this particular stage in the process, and we’re fine with that, but it has to be temporary.

“To work out what comes next there has to be a real civilian cabinet, of our own choosing, one that has some sort of public consensus behind it – not just unilateral communiques from army officers.”

There is consternation that the army is taking such a hard line on the country’s burgeoning wave of strikes, which has seen workers seeking not just to improve their economic conditions, but also to purge institutions of bosses they accuse of being corrupt and closely aligned to the old regime.

“These protests aren’t just wage-specific,” said Abd El Fattah. “They’re also about people at ground level wanting to continue the work of the revolution, pushing out regime cronies and reclaiming institutions like the professional syndicates and university departments that have long been commandeered by the state.”

The ruling military council has called on “noble Egyptians” to end all strikes immediately.

Egypt’s post-Mubarak political landscape has grown increasingly confused in the past few days, as the largely discredited formal opposition parties of the old era seek to reposition themselves as populist movements. Meanwhile younger, online-based groups are trying to capitalise on their momentum by forming their own political vehicles, and the previously outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has announced that it will form a legal political party.

After decades of stagnation, the country’s political spectrum is desperately trying to catch up with the largely leaderless events of the past few weeks and accommodate the millions of Egyptians politicised by Mubarak’s fall. “The current ‘opposition’ does not represent a fraction of those who participated in this revolution and engaged with Tahrir and other protest sites,” said Abd El Fattah. But with a myriad of short-lived alliances and counter-alliances developing among opposition forces in recent days, uncertainty about the country’s political future still prevails.

“Despite various attempts to form a united front, there’s nothing of the kind at this point – just a lot of division,” said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert at the Brookings Doha Centre. “You’ve got numerous groups, numerous coalitions, and everyone is meeting with everyone else. There’s a sense of organisational chaos. Everyone wants a piece of the revolution.”

This week a number of formal opposition parties, including the liberal Wafd party and the leftist Tagammu party, came together with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and a wide range of youth movements to try and elect a steering committee that could speak with a unified voice to the army commanders and negotiate the formation of a transitional government and presidential council.

Yet those plans have been overtaken by the speed of the military’s own independent proclamations on reform, raising fears that civilian voices are being shut out of the transitional process.

Some senior figures inside the coalition believe the army is deliberately holding high-profile meetings with individuals such as Google executive Wael Ghonim and the 6 April youth movement founder Ahmed Maher in an effort to appear receptive to alternative views, but without developing any sustainable mechanism through which non-military forces can play a genuine role in political reform.

“The military are talking to one or two ‘faces of the revolution’ that have no actual negotiating experience and have not been mandated by anyone to speak on the people’s behalf,” claimed one person involved with the new coalition. “It’s all very well for them to be apparently implementing our demands, but why are we being given no say in the process?

“They are talking about constitutional amendments, but most people here want a completely new constitution that limits the power of the presidency. They are talking about elections in a few months, and yet our political culture is still full of division and corruption.

“Many of us are now realising that a very well thought-out plan is unfolding step by step from the military, who of course have done very well out of the political and economic status quo. These guys are expert strategic planners after all, and with the help of some elements of the old regime and some small elements of the co-opted opposition, they’re trying to develop a system that looks vaguely democratic but in reality just entrenches their own privileges.”

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February 14, 2011

The Greatest Knockout of All, by the great Carlos Latuff

EDITOR: The Boycott is biting, and Israel is fighting back with undemocratic legislation

It has taken a few years to build the BDS movement, and much remains to be done in the different countries around the globe. nonetheless, its effects are now clear, and Israel is fighting back with another undemocratic and unconstitutional law, badly worded and without any basis in law, either Israeli or international. The attempt here is to frighten and punish anyone who criticises the Israeli occupation and its ravages.

Calls grow for free Egypt media: Al Jazeera online

Pressure is mounting to rid state media of loyalists of Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president.

Pressure is mounting for Hosni Mubarak’s appointees to be removed from Egypt’s state media.

During the recent pro-democracy protests state television broadcast propaganda for the government and now some fear it may not be impartial during the country’s transition to democracy.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from Cairo.

Protecting Israel from its citizens: Haaretz

The parliamentary investigative panel to examine organizations’ funding sources actually have no interest in questions of legality and constitutionality. All they want is to delegitimize protest and political opinions, and to scare us.
By Avirama Golan
On Tuesday, a Knesset committee is due to approve on second and third readings the bill combating boycotts against Israel – another hysterical proposal by the right wing and Kadima MK Dalia Itzik designed to protect our weak and tiny country, which is being attacked from within and without.

“This law,” explain the architects of the proposal, “is designed to protect the State of Israel in general and its citizens in particular from academic, economic and other boycotts that are imposed on the country, its citizens and corporations, due to their connection to the State of Israel.” The law is designed to protect “the area under Israeli control, including Judea and Samaria.” According to the bill, “It is forbidden to initiate a boycott against the State of Israel, to encourage participation in it or to provide assistance or information in order to promote it.”

There is no problem, therefore, with a boycott by ultra-Orthodox consumers against supermarkets that open on Shabbat, or against a merchant whose sons serve in the Israel Defense Forces, even if it leads to their economic collapse. There might also not be a problem in boycotting fur exporters, for example. The only offense is “a boycott against the State of Israel,” and in effect against the settlements, whose products are the object of most boycotts in Israel and the world over.

That being the case, the bill – which is certainly not constitutional (we can make an endless list of freedoms that it undermines ) – opposes even international agreements that Israel has signed. First among them is the agreement to join the OECD and the agreement with the European Union. These require that products be marked, distinguishing the Israeli economy from that of the territories.

But even someone who believes that a consumer boycott is legitimate while an academic boycott is a despicable tool that harms Israeli education’s soft underbelly – someone who doesn’t move a single stone from the wall of the occupation – can’t support legislation that involves a consumer boycott directed only at the settlements, or silences anyone who demonstrates or speaks against them.

This is what will happen if the bill passes – and its chances are considerable despite the protest of many organizations, headed by the Coalition of Women for Peace and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. A “talkbacker” on the Internet who complains, for example, about the economic burden caused by the settlements can expect a lawsuit from a settler who can claim that the comment promoted a boycott of his products. The writer will be fined at least NIS 30,000 and the plaintiff won’t have to prove the link between what is written and the damage. Not to mention writers of articles and people who express opinions on radio and television.

Bizarre? Not compared to the next article: “If the interior minister sees someone who is not a citizen or a resident of Israel acting in contradiction to Article 2, or if the cabinet has decided by a majority of its members that such a person is imposing a boycott against the State of Israel, the interior minister is allowed to request the district court to deny that person the right to enter Israel for a period of at least 10 years.” So what? Will Ken Loach beg to be allowed to attend the Haifa Film Festival and be denied entry?

In other times we could depend on the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to reject such embarrassing texts out of hand. Not now. Questions of legality and constitutionality, freedom of expression and human rights are now dwarfed in light of the goal, whose distorted definition “protection of the State of Israel” justifies the means.

Behind this declared objective hides a more problematic one. The initiators of the glorious legislation of recent years – the Nakba law, the loyalty law, the community-admission-committee law, the denial of citizenship law (“the Bishara Law” ), the parliamentary investigative panel to examine organizations’ funding sources – actually have no interest in questions of legality and constitutionality. All they want is to delegitimize protest and political opinions, and to scare us.

Although Israelis find it hard to see the connection among the laws, which ostensibly refer to different issues and communities, the violent rape of the law book caused by this legislation has destructive results. And these results – which are collapsing the foundations of Israeli democracy – will harm everyone in the end, without distinction.

EDITOR: Connections are made

The Tahrir Square victory has become a rousing symbol for Arabs everywhere, including inside Israel’s Green Line borders. Below a young Palestinian student is voicing his clear criticism of western and Israeli voices which through a deeply Orientalist view, have argued for the denial of freedom to the Egyptians and Arabs elsewhere.

The resurrection of pan-Arabism: Al Jazeera online

The Egyptian revolution has resurrected a new type of pan-Arabism, based on social justice not empty slogans.

The Egyptian revolution has resurrected pan-Arabism but this is not the pan-Arabism of previous generations [GALLO/GETTY]
The Egyptian revolution, itself influenced by the Tunisian uprising, has resurrected a new sense of pan-Arabism based on the struggle for social justice and freedom. The overwhelming support for the Egyptian revolutionaries across the Arab world reflects a sense of unity in the rejection of tyrannical, or at least authoritarian, leaders, corruption and the rule of a small financial and political elite.

Arab protests in solidarity with the Egyptian people also suggest that there is a strong yearning for the revival of Egypt as a pan-Arab unifier and leader. Photographs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former Egyptian president, have been raised in Cairo and across Arab capitals by people who were not even alive when Nasser died in 1970. The scenes are reminiscent of those that swept Arab streets in the 1950s and 1960s.

But this is not an exact replica of the pan-Arab nationalism of those days. Then, pan-Arabism was a direct response to Western domination and the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel. Today, it is a reaction to the absence of democratic freedoms and the inequitable distribution of wealth across the Arab world.

We are now witnessing the emergence of a movement for democracy that transcends narrow nationalism or even pan-Arab nationalism and which embraces universal human values that echo from north to south and east to west.

This is not to say that there is no anti-imperialist element within the current movement. But the protests in Egypt and elsewhere promote a deeper understanding of human emancipation, which forms the real basis for freedom from both repression and foreign domination.

Unlike the pan-Arabism of the past, the new movement represents an intrinsic belief that it is freedom from fear and human dignity that enables people to build better societies and to create a future of hope and prosperity. The old “wisdom” of past revolutionaries that liberation from foreign domination precedes the struggle for democracy has fallen.

The revolutionaries of Egypt, and before them Tunisia, have exposed through deeds – not merely words – the leaders who are tyrants towards their own people, while humiliatingly subservient to foreign powers. They have shown the impotence of empty slogans that manipulate animosity towards Israel to justify a fake Arab unity, which in turn serves only to mask sustained oppression and the betrayal of Arab societies and the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian pretext

The era of using the Palestinian cause as a pretext for maintaining martial laws and silencing dissent is over. The Palestinians have been betrayed, not helped, by leaders who practice repression against their own people. It is no longer sufficient for regimes in Syria and Iran to claim support for Palestinian resistance in order to stifle freedom of expression and to shamelessly tread on human rights in their own countries.

Equally, it is no longer acceptable for the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas to cite their record in resisting Israel when justifying their suppression of each other and the rest of the Palestinian people. Young Palestinians are responding to the message of the movement and embracing the idea that combatting internal injustice – whether practised by Fatah or Hamas – is a prerequisite for the struggle to end Israeli occupation and not something to be endured for the sake of that struggle.

Events in Egypt and Tunisia have revealed that Arab unity against internal repression is stronger than that against a foreign threat – neither the American occupation of Iraq nor the Israeli occupation galvanised the Arab people in the way that a single act by a young Tunisian who chose to set himself alight rather than live in humiliation and poverty has.

This does not mean that Arabs do not care about the occupied people of Iraq or Palestine – tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands have taken to the streets across Arab countries at various times to show solidarity with Iraqis and Palestinians – but it does reflect the realisation that the absence of democratic freedoms has contributed to the continued occupation of those countries.

The Arab failure to defend Iraq or liberate Palestine has come to symbolise an Arab impotence that has been perpetuated by the state of fear and paralysis in which the ordinary Arab citizen, marginalised by social injustice and crushed by security apparatus oppression, has existed.

When they were allowed to rally in support of Iraqis or Palestinians it was mainly so that their anger might be deflected from their own governments and towards a foreign threat. For so long, they put their own socio-economic grievances aside to voice their support for the occupied, only to wake up the next day shackled by the same chains of repression.

All the while, both pro-Western and anti-Western governments continued with business as usual – the first camp relying on US support to consolidate their authoritarian rule and the second on anti-Israel slogans to give legitimacy to their repression of their people.

But now people across the region – not only in Egypt and Tunisia – have lost faith in their governments. For make no mistake, when protesters have gathered in Amman or Damascus to express their solidarity with the Egyptian revolutionaries in Tahrir Square, they are actually objecting to their own rulers.

In Ramallah, the protesters repeated a slogan calling for the end of internal Palestinian divisions (which, in Arabic, rhymes with the Egyptian call for the end to the regime), as well as demanding an end to negotiations with Israel – sending a clear message that there will be no room left for the Palestinian Authority if it continues to rely on such negotiations.

In the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Arabs poured onto the streets determined to continue the liberation of the Arab world from the remnants of colonial domination and the creeping American hegemony. In 2011, millions have poured onto the streets determined not only to ensure their freedom but also to ensure that the mistakes of previous generations are not repeated. Slogans against a foreign enemy – no matter how legitimate – ring hollow if the struggle for democratic freedoms is set aside.

The protesters in Cairo and beyond may raise photographs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, because they see him as a symbol of Arab dignity. But, unlike Nasser, the demonstrators are invoking a sense of pan-Arab nationalism that understands that national liberation cannot go hand-in-hand with the suppression of political dissent. For this is a genuine Arab unity galvanised by the common yearning for democratic freedoms.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.

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February 13, 2011

EDITOR: Now comes the real struggle, and the real dangers

One feels like apologising for including here so much material on Egypt, instead of Palestine, but this is an incorrect and limited viewing of the context of the Palestine context. Egypt always was, and will continue to be a crucial regional context of the Palestine conflict. This is why Israel is now somewhat worried about its ability to continue the stranglehold over Gaza – without Mubarak’s willing cooperaion and his own blockade, this will be impractical. The wider context of the Arab world, and its willing coopration, until now, with the colonial project of Israel is also going to be affected by the changes now under way in Egypt. This means that one must carefully monitor those developments, also for their effects on the Palestine situation. One sign is the unexpected, almost panicky calling of PA elections by Abbas – a move that would be impossible without the Egyptian developments – Abbas is as frightened of the future as all the other potentates around him.

The tyrant has fallen after 18 days of herculean struggle by the people of Egypt, but his system of control and oppression stands intact, its leaders part of the Mubarak regime, direct beneficiaries of its illegal and immoral excesses. They did not just protect him during this long struggle, but their own illicit interests, and for those they will be prepared to continue oppressing the people. The coming period will be of a very dangerous and fractious nature, without any doubt.

Below are some articles which examine this theme, both in terms of news and analysis. Not only the people of Egypt, or the whole Arab world, but also the rest of us elsewhere, will be watching the situation as it develops for signs of the old regime protecting its privileges and fighting against the modernising and democratising of the country. The enemies are a legion – apart from the whole raft of inner beneficiaries of the corrupt regime, there are the other tyrants in the Arab world, Israel, the US and its many lackeys in the west, the large companies and conglomerates which flourished under Mubarak for 30 years – the list goes on, and we are speaking here of the strongest forces in the region and the world. To defeat those, as opposed to just defeating its figurehead, will take enormous courage and vision, and will be much more complex.

Despite this grave difficulty, the struggle is not hopeless. The people of Egypt have seen the fate of revolution elsewhere which were co-opted and corrupted by the ancien regimes which have preceded them. The East European current regimes, all a corruption of the anti-Stalinist uprisings, are a great warning sign for the Egyptians and the Arab world elsewhere. Difficult as it was to defeat Mubarak, it was still the easy part, involved limited violence and was all done in the light of the world media and enormous surging of support. The next stage will be fought in the dark corners of the social structures, will lack the clarity and courage of a whole people fighting for freedom, and will require the hawk-eye of continuous and tenacious protection of what was achieved. We should all watch out for the inevitable betrayal, and hope and work for the continued struggle to defeat the system of oppression, now that its symbolic snake-head was cut of. It will not be easy or straight forward. A revolution is either a continuous and organic process, fed and developed, or it dies and deteriorates and dies.

Egypt in transition – Sunday 13 February: The Guardian

After the euphoria of Hosni Mubarak’s exit Egypt is beginning a new era but already there are reports of skirmishes between protesters and the army

Egyptian protesters stage a sit-in in Tahrir Square, rejecting army's appeal to leave. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

11.53am: Police officers, some in uniform, are marching through Tahrir Square chanting that the people and the police are one.
It was the police, of course, who were used to crackdown on the protesters in the first week of the demonstrations.

11.45am: The UK government is under pressure to freeze any assets of Mubarak held in the UK, the Press Association reports.

The former president is reported to have amassed a family fortune worth billions of dollars held in British and Swiss banks and tied up in property in London, New York and Los Angeles. The Swiss authorities have already announced that they are freezing his assets held in their country, and former foreign office minister Lord Malloch-Brown urged the UK to follow suit.
“I think it would be a very prudent thing to do to freeze suspicious accounts here because it will take a new government quite a while to mount some kind of legal claim on them,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show. “It would be a real pity if when they did the money had gone. I think it would be great for the reputation for the City of London if those accounts were frozen now.”
Business secretary Vince Cable suggested that there was a need for an international approach, rather than the UK acting alone. “I wasn’t aware that he had enormous assets here but there clearly needs to be concerted international action on this,” he told The Andrew Marr Show.
“There is no point in one government acting in isolation but certainly we need to look at it. It depends also whether his funds were illegally obtained or improperly obtained.”
He said that the government would take action against any British bank which was found to have acted improperly helping Mubarak to move funds during his final days in office in order to shield them from any claim by the new administration.
“I would be concerned if the banks had been engaged in anything improper,” he said.
“One of the things we have done since this government got in is actually stopping the banks engaging in large-scale tax avoidance on behalf of their corporate and private customers. So the logic of that is the we would be concerned and would act if there was anything improper that had occurred.”
The director of the Serious Fraud Office, Richard Alderman, indicated that they were already tracking the assets of Mubarak and the deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“The public would expect us to be looking for some of this money if we became aware of it, and to try to repatriate it for the benefit of the people of those countries,” he told The Sunday Times.

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The tyrant has gone. Now the real struggle begins for Egypt: The Guardian

The protesters have stripped Mubarak and his foreign backers of their authority. But the roots of despotism run deep

Before the fall … anti-Mubarak protesters wave Egyptian flags at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 10 February 2011. Photograph: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images
For the last two weeks I have, like innumerable others, careened from the television news to internet updates and back, longing for the moment that came last night, when the tyrant finally yielded to a brave and spirited people. History has been made; celebrations are in order. But it is not too early to ask: what next?

The so-called Higher Military Council inspires no confidence. Does another military strongman lurk in the regime’s entrails? I wonder if western leaders, shamed into moral bluster after being caught in flagrante with Mubarak, will, when we relax our vigils, tip the balance towards “stability” and against real change.

I grow a bit apprehensive too, recalling the words of an extraordinarily perceptive observer of Egypt’s struggles in the past: “The edifice of despotic government totters to its fall. Strive so far as you can to destroy the foundations of this despotism, not to pluck up and cast out its individual agents.”

This was the deathbed exhortation-cum-warning of the itinerant Muslim Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-97) who pursued a long career in political activism and trenchant journalism. Travelling through Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt and Turkey in the last half of the 19th century, al-Afghani saw at first hand how unshakeable the “foundations of despotism” in Muslim countries had become.

That they were reinforced in the next century, even though many of the “individual agents” of despotism were plucked up and cast out, would not have surprised him.

He spent eight years in Egypt at a crucial time (1871-79), when the country, though nominally sovereign, was stumbling into a long and abject relationship with western powers. Invaded by Napoleon in 1798, Egypt had become the first non-western country to try to catch up with western economic and military power. Building a modern army and bureaucracy required capital, and Egypt’s rulers began large-scale plantations of a cash crop highly valued in Europe: cotton.

This led, in the short term, to great private fortunes. But, having bound its formerly self-sufficient economy to a single crop and the vagaries of the international capitalist system, Egypt was badly in debt to European bankers by the late 1870s. Unable to generate sufficient capital on its own, Egypt became heavily dependent on huge high-interest loans from European banks.

For British and French bankers, the state’s treasury was, as the economic historian David S Landes wrote, “simply a grab-bag”. Egypt’s nascent manufacturing industry stood no chance in an international economic regime whose rules were rigged in favour of free-trading Britain. At the same time, early modernisation in Egypt had also unleashed new classes with social and political aspirations that could not be fulfilled by a despotic regime beholden to foreigners.

In the late 1870s and early 80s, Egyptian resentment finally erupted in what were the first nationalist upsurges against colonial rule anywhere in Asia and Africa. Predictably, the British invaded and occupied Egypt in 1882 in order to protect their interests, most important of which was the sea route to India through the Suez canal.

In Ottoman Turkey, al-Afghani observed a similar advance of western economic and strategic interests backed by gunboats. In his native Persia, he participated in mass protests against the then shah’s sale of national land and resources to European businessmen.

Al-Afghani came to realise that the threat posed to the traditionally agrarian countries of the east by Europe’s modern and industrialised nation-states was much more insidious than territorial expansion. Imposing, for instance, the urgencies of internal modernisation and the conditionalities of “free trade” on Asian societies, European businessmen and diplomats got native elites to do their bidding. In turn, local rulers were only too happy to use western techniques to modernise their armies, set up efficient police and spy networks and reinforce their own autocratic power.

This was why, al-Afghani explained presciently in the 1890s, Muslims moved from despising despots coddled and propped up by the west to despising the west itself. Al-Afghani saw, too, the proliferation of the now-ubiquitous binaries (western liberalism versus religious fanaticism, stability versus Islamism), which ideologically justified to Europeans at home their complicity with brutal tyranny abroad. In 1891 he attacked the British press for presenting Iranian protesters against the Shah as Islamic fanatics when, in fact, they articulated a profound longing for reform.

Al-Afghani wouldn’t have been surprised to see that even national sovereignty and electoral democracy were no defence against such materially and intellectually resourceful western power. The secular nationalist Wafd party won Egypt’s first elections in 1924; and they kept up their winning streak over the next decade. But, acting in concert with the Egyptian monarch, the British made it impossible for the Wafd party to exercise any real sovereignty. (This was when, feeding on widespread frustration with conventional democratic politics, Egyptian Islamists first came to the fore – the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928.)

As the Indian anti-imperialist leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who followed the slow strangling of Egyptian democracy from a British prison, caustically commented in 1935, “democracy for an Eastern country seems to mean only one thing: to carry out the behests of the imperialist ruling power”.

This dismal truth was to be more widely felt among Arabs as the United States replaced Britain and France as the paramount power in the Middle East; and securing Israel and the supply of oil joined the expanding list of western strategic interests in the region.

The rest of this story would have been as familiar to al-Afghani as it is to us. Gamal Abdel Nasser presided over a relatively brief and ecstatic interlude of Egyptian freedom. But his socialistic reforms did not rescue Egypt from the perennially losing side in the international economy; and Nasser’s successors, all military strongmen, worked on reinforcing the foundations of their despotism: they struck military alliances with western governments, opened the national economy to foreign investors, creating a small but powerful local elite committed to the status quo, while a fully modernised police state bullied the steadily pauperised majority into passivity.

The edifice of this despotism was always bound to totter in the age of instant communications. Cursing the Muslim despots of his time, al-Afghani lamented on his deathbed: “Would that I had sown all the seed of my ideas in the receptive ground of the people’s thoughts.” Al-Jazeera and the internet have now helped accomplish what al-Afghani only dreamed of doing: rousing and emboldening the politicised masses, shattering the cosy consensus of transnational elites.

The protests grow bigger every day, swelled by new social classes, beneficiaries as well as victims of the ancien regime. Even the stalwart propagandists on state TV have found their inner voices. Assisted by YouTube, the demonstrators praying unflinchingly on Kasr al-Nil as they are assaulted by water cannons have swiftly accumulated even more moral-spiritual power than the resolute satyagrahis of Mahatma Gandhi did in their own media-deprived time. Amazingly, in less than two weeks, the protesters in Midan Tahrir have stripped the local despot and his foreign enablers of their moral authority and intellectual certainties.

The essential revolution in the mind has already been accomplished. A radical transformation of political and economic structures would be an even more extraordinary event. But achieving it won’t be easy, as Tunisia’s example already reveals; and Egypt’s own history warns us that the foundations of despotism are deep and wide. It is now clear that our virtual vigils will have to continue long after the western media’s very recent fascination with Egypt trails off, and assorted neocons and “liberal” hawks emerge from the woodwork to relaunch their bogey of “Islamism”. We may also have to steel ourselves, as victory appears in sight, for some more bitter setbacks in the long Egyptian battle for self-determination.

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February 11, 2011 Page 2

EDITOR: The unbelievable has now happened

After 18 days of amazing and bloody struggle by millions of Egyptians, the fall of the Pharaoh, dictator for over three decades, has made millions of Egyptian happy beyond words, as well as many millions elsewhere. This is the end of the bloody chapter in the history of Egypt, the heart and soul of the Arab world. This will not only affect Egypt, but the whole Arab world.

The dictators and undemocratic regimes in the whole Middle East can now work out what will happen to them, following Tunisia and Egypt. The North African remaining tyrants should prepare their nests in Saudi Arabia, though how safe is that? Maybe Tel Aviv might be safer for ex-tyrants?

The leaders elsewhere are well advised to start working out their exit plans. Those depending on their secret and brutal police forces have only themselves to blame if their people start taking to the streets, which they surely will. The PA should be especially worried, in the wake of the Palestine Papers and the Egyptian Intifada, as should the other leaders east of Cairo.

The Tunisia and Egypt days of struggle have now brought a new force to the Middle East – people’s power. Those who are frightened of Arab democracy, such as the UK, US and Israel, should now think thrice before they support the remaining tyrants. People have long memories, and while the Egyptian Revolution was enacted without violence on the part of the the protesters, the incoming democratic government of Egypt is totally unlikely to continue the Mubarak policies and support Israel by joining its cruel blockade on Gaza, or its brutalities elsewhere in Palestine. The Israelis may well start working out how to continue living in the Middle East without killing thousands every year. It will be necessary for them in the near future.

As far as the US is concerned, this period has shown more than clearly the shallowness, stupidity and criminality of its policies in the Middle East. Will they change? Quite unlikely, I think. All the mistakes they have made in all parts of the world have never taught them anything, it seems; they just love to repeat the same mistakes in new locations.

The next weeks and months are going to be anything but simple or srtaight forward, for sure; despite the great difficulties still facing the young revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, they are nonetheless likely to succeed in changing the narrative and socio-political discourse in the whole region. Those who lost their fear will find their power.

The 25th of January, 2011, will again be a historical date, a new beginning. Today we are all Egyptians!

Mubarak resigns – live updates: The Guardian

• Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has resigned
• Vice-president announces the army council holds power
• Cheers and fireworks as protests turn to celebrations

Egyptian anti-government protesters wave flags as they celebrate in Tahrir Square Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
6.50pm GMT: In this audio you can hear the emotion in the voice of veteran activist Ahmed Salah, as he shared what today means to him:

It brought tears to my eyes several times. I mean I have always had faith that we will win but this is remarkable. It’s like, how many days? We started on the 25th … and we won. That couldn’t have been imaginable just even a week ago, 10 days ago, that we will actually be free.

6.43pm GMT: More on vice president Joe Biden’s remarks on Egypt today:

This is a pivotal moment in history. This is a pivotal moment not just in Middle East history but in world history.

On Fox News though they have a different view. One presenter said it was the biggest event since “victory in Iraq”.

Carl Bernstein – the Watergate guy – says it’s on the scale of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

6.35pm GMT: The White House now says that Obama’s statement will take place at 3pm ET / 8pm GMT / 10pm EET.

6.29pm GMT: A spokesman for Egypt’s military has just appeared on television to read a new statement.

Read aloud in a flat monotone, the statement said that the supreme council of the armed forces was “currently studying the situation” and will issue further statements to clarify its position.

The military also had a farewell message for Mubarak:

“The supreme council of the armed forces is saluting President Hosni Mubarak for all he has given in sacrifice in times of war and peace.”

And it had kind words for the protesters:

“The supreme council of the armed forces is also saluting the spirits of those who were martyred.”

Note that the army’s statement made no mention of vice president Suleiman – interesting in the context of the Ahram Online report mentioned below. Further analysis of what this all means when we get the full text.

6.25pm GMT: The New York Times’s Lede blog alerts us to an intriguing report from Ahram Online, the English-language arm of the state newspaper Al Ahram, that “both of last night’s addresses by Mubarak and Suleiman were in defiance of the armed forces”:

Maj. Gen. Safwat El-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt’s General Intelligence and member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, asserted, in an interview with Ahram Online, that the address delivered by President Mubarak last night was formulated against the wishes of the armed forces, and away from their oversight. He claimed that Vice Preisdent Omar Suleiman’s address, which came on the heels of Mubarak’s address, was equally in defiance of the armed forces and away from its oversight.

El-Zayat said that represented a deep cleavage between the armed forces and the presidential authority of both Mubarak and Omar Suleiman.

6.18pm GMT: My colleague Hazem Balousha sends this from Gaza City:

Hamas is calling on people to rally tonight all over Gaza to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and his regime. People are patrolling the streets and raising Egyptian flags. Some Hamas fighters have fired into the air since it was announced that Mubarak stepped down.

6.13pm GMT: The White House has announced that Barack Obama’s statement on Egypt, scheduled for 1.30pm ET (6.30pm GMT) has been delayed, and the venue has been switched from the press briefing room to the Grand Foyer as the administration prepares to ramp up Obama’s response.

This is Richard Adams in Washington DC taking over live blogging duties.

6.08pm: Here’s a video of the full statement from the vice president Omar Suleiman.

Turn off auto-refresh at the top of this page to watch the full video.
It’s fair to say he doesn’t look very happy.

6.00pm: It can’t be very often that Amnesty International is joining in the celebrations of an army taking power but this has not been an ordinary day. Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

I congratulate the protesters for their extraordinary courage and commitment to achieve fundamental change. Persistent attempts to put down peaceful protests have not only failed but redoubled the determination of those demanding change. The way Egyptians have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers to demand dignity, human rights and social justice has been an inspiration to oppressed peoples everywhere.

The departure of one man is not the end. The repressive system that Egyptians have suffered under for three decades has not gone away and the State of Emergency remains in place. Those in power must grasp this opportunity to consign the systematic abuses of the past to history. Human rights reform must begin now.

5.58pm: Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor has been analysing what comes next.

On the army:

Rule by the military can only be temporary. Mubarak’s exit, the dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament, constitutional reforms and abolition of the emergency laws are all non-negotiable. If those reforms are achieved then Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – beyond the removal of a stubborn 82-year-old president long past his sell-by date.

It seems clear from the events of recent days – especially the confusion and contradictory messages on Thursday — that the army is divided. If it moves solely to protect its own privileged position, and that of the big businessmen who have done so well out of their links with the regime – then the system will not open up, at least not without large-scale repression and bloodshed.

On the implications for the wider Middle East:

Egypt’s extraordinary change matters first for Egypt’s 82m people. But what happens in the Arab world’s most populous country matters for many millions of other Arabs, who also suffer from unemployment, inequality, corruption and unresponsive, unaccountable governments – and share the language in which it is being covered in media such as al-Jazeera and social networking sites that official censors cannot easily block.

Other authoritarian regimes, shocked first by the uprising in Tunisia and now in Egypt, have been trying to pre-empt trouble by promises of reform, sacking ministers, maintaining subsidies or raising wages to buy off critics and defuse tensions. The symptoms are visible from Yemen to Jordan, from Algeria to Syria.

On the implications for the US:

Egypt remains a vital asset in allowing US military overflights, as the guardian of the strategically vital Suez canal, and a loyal ally in the regional confrontation with Iran. Mubarak has played a key role in supporting the western-backed Palestinian Authority and containing the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, not least because of its affinity with the banned Muslim Brotherhood – whose likely future role in a freer Egyptian political system is a key and much-discussed issue both at home and abroad.

The events of the last 18 days have forced Obama to shift away from stability to embracing if not promoting democracy – to the evident discomfort of other conservative Arab friends, especially the Saudis. Jordan and Yemen share those concerns – fearing that unconditional US support for them may now also wane.

This is a picture from yesterday when anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square shouted in anger after the first by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty Images
5.54pm: Joe Biden, the US vice president, who initially defended Mubarak, saying he was not a dictator and should not stand down, said: “This is a pivotal moment in history… the transition that’s taking place must be an irreversible change”

There has been reaction from other leaders.

The British prime minister David Cameron called for a move to “a move to civilian and democratic rule” . He said the departure of Mubarak offered Egypt a “really precious moment of opportunity”. Speaking on the steps of No 10, he said the new government should start to put in place “the building blocks of a truly open, free and democratic society”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “Today is a day of great joy. We are all witness to historic change. I share the joy of people on the streets of Egypt.”

5.49pm: The Nobel peace prize winner and Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei has been talking to Al Jazeera in the last half and hour.

“This is the emancipation of Egypt. This is the liberation of the Egyptian people,” he said in a phone interview with the broadcaster’s English-language news channel. “It’s a dream come true,” said El Baradei, who added that it was the Egyptian people who had been able to restore their “humanity and independence.

Asked what happens next, he replied: “What I have been talking about and proposing is a transition period of one year. We would have a provisional council, a transition government, preferably a provisional council including a person from the army and civilians, but the main idea would be that the army and the people would work together for a year up to the point where we could have a free and fair election.”

He said his message to the Egyptian people was: “You have gained your liberty, you have gained the right to catch up with the rest of the world. Make the best use of it you can and God bless you.”

5.48pm: There has s been a jubilant response in Lebanon and Tunisia, the Associated Press reports:

Moments after Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman made the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation, fireworks lit up the sky over Beirut. Celebratory gunfire rang out in the Shiite-dominated areas in south Lebanon and in southern Beirut.

On Al-Manar TV, the station run by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah faction, Egyptian anchor Amr Nassef, who was once imprisoned in Egypt for alleged ties to Islamists, cried emotionally on the air and said: “Allahu Akbar (God is great), the Pharaoh is dead. Am I dreaming? I’m afraid to be dreaming.”

In Tunisia, where a successful uprising expelled a longtime leader only weeks earlier, cries of joy and the thundering honking of horns greeted the announcement. “God delivered our Egyptian brothers from this dictator,” said Yacoub Youssef, one of those celebrating in the capital of Tunis.

5.47pm: Amr Mousa, an Egyptian, and the secretary general of the Arab League, who has previously hinted that might stand for presidency, has given his reaction:

I look forward to the future to build a ntional consensus in the coming period. There is a big chance now and a window has opened after this white revolution and after the president’s concession.

Asked if he was interested in being president, he said: “This is not the time to talk about that … As an Egyptian citizen, I am proud to serve my country with all the others at this stage, to build a consensus of opinion.”

5.46pm: Our political correspondent Allegra Stratton says the UK has already been considering the prospect of an asylum application from Mubarak:

The UK’s national security council (NSC) has considered what happens if Hosni, his wife Suzanne or or their son Gamal Mubarak, indeed any of the president’s family, would like asylum in the UK. Remember Gamal has a five-storey house in Knightsbridge.

A government source says that the Foreign Office is aware that the UK’s government’s new position on the middle east – hands off, welcoming of change – would be troubled if the UK were to also grant any asylum requests to Mubaraks or indeed other deposed Arab leaders.

The text from the NSC meeting, held last week, says: “The NSC is working on predicting where and when events might occur next. There is a low risk that former heads of state and members of regimes might seek refuge here. Many have the documentation and money to get here, and some will have links to the UK. Each request will be considered, in consultation between the Home Office and Foreign Office, on a case by case basis.”

So, cautious language, but the source says they are thinking about what their position will be as and when any request comes through. There will be a question mark over exactly what the FCO and Home office could do given Suzanne was born in Wales and is thought to have British citizenship.

5.42pm: In what has turned out to be a momentous day, here is a summary of events.

President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and handed over power to the army. His vice president, Omar Suleiman, said in a short TV address: “In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state.”

Protests turned to celebrations around Egypt. “Cairo erupts in celebration as 18 days of defiant protest finally delivers a revolution after 24 hours of euphoria, dashed hopes and victory,” our correspondent Chris McGreal wrote from outside the state TV centre. “There was a complete eruption of humanity, I have never seen anything like it. The world’s biggest street party has really kicked off here,” said Jack Shenker from outside the presidential palace.

But there are still questions over what happens next. The army is now in charge and it has yet to make its intentions clear.

Protesters celebrate President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters
5.28pm: Our correspondent Chris McGreal was outside the Egyptian state TV building when the historic announcement was made. In this audio report, he says:

They were completely stunned. When this very brief announcement came from the vice president Omar Suleiman, he simply said “Mubark’s gone”, there was a a pause. Then a ripple went through the crowd and they went wild. Some fell onto their knees praying, people were weeping instantly. They were hugging each other, chanting in unison, “Mubarak’s gone”, words to that effect. There was joy, euphoria, call it what you want. I think people couldn’t quite grasp that this revolution that they’d led fro 18 days had finally delivered.

But Chris warns there will now be close scrutiny of the army:

Of course there will be a sobering up. Not many people are thinking of what the military role means and of course once the military is in the saddle so to speak, people will be looking to it to actually deliver. They will be wanting to see, for instance, the dissolution of parliament, the lifting of the state of emergency, all the kind of things they have been demanding as well as Mubarak’s resignation. I think they’re feeling newly empowered, I think people realise the can hold parliament to account of bring it down and if it’s seen to be not delivering they may well be back out on the streets.

5.20pm: There are reports that the Egyptian army is to make another statement soon.

5.19pm: Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, has been quick to instill a note of caution:

But the game isn’t over, and now a word of caution. I worry that senior generals may want to keep (with some changes) a Mubarak-style government without Mubarak. In essence the regime may have decided that Mubarak had become a liability and thrown him overboard — without any intention of instituting the kind of broad, meaningful democracy that the public wants.

Senior generals have enriched themselves and have a stake in a political and economic structure that is profoundly unfair and oppressive. And remember that the military running things directly really isn’t that different from what has been happening: Mubarak’s government was a largely military regime (in civilian clothes) even before this. Mubarak, Vice President Suleiman and so many others — including nearly all the governors — are career military men. So if the military now takes over, how different is it?

Mubarak resigns as Egypt’s President, hands power to army: Haaretz

Massive crowd in Cairo square at center of protests explodes with joy following announcement by Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday after 30 years as president and handed control to the military, bowing down to an historic 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands.

The massive crowd in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square exploded with joy, embracing, weeping and waving Egyptian flags, and car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million in joy after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.

The people have brought down the regime,” chanted the crowds in the square.

“In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic,” said a somber Suleiman. “He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor.”

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young supporters were among the organizers of the protest movement, told The Associated Press: “This is the greatest day of my life.”

“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he said, adding that he expects a beautiful transition of power.

A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition group, said Egyptians had achieved the main goal of their popular uprising after Mubarak’s resignation.

“I salute the Egyptian people and the martyrs. This is the day of victory for the Egyptian people. The main goal of the revolution has been achieved,” Mohamed el-Katatni, former leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, told Reuters.

Katatni said the Brotherhood awaits the next steps to be taken by the Higher Military Council, which has taken charge of the country’s affairs after Mubarak’s decision.

Earlier in the day, a ruling partly official reported that Mubarak and his family left Cairo for the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, proving he is giving up his presidential powers.

Protesters seeking Mubarak’s overthrow moved overnight to the Ittihadiya presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis for the first time since demonstrations began on Jan. 25.

EDITOR: The final stage of the revolution seems to be here! (those lines were written in the early morning…)

In another facile speech, Mubarak has clarified beyond any doubt, that he is not in touch with reality. Omar Suleiman, his sidekick and servile deputy, is not much more connected either. Both seem to think that they can spout more lies and get the demonstrators home, and continue with their corrupt regime, by promising democracy by September. The Egyptian people know – it is now or never!

Meanwhile, on the farm in Washington, the animals are in disarray… not quite decided if they prefer democracy to ‘stability’ they keep swivelling like a weather-vane gone out of control. It seems that Obama is listening to both sides, and keeps changing his mind on a daily basis. Two things are now clear:

1. The US administration is not well-informed (they don’t seem to have Al Jazeera on the White House channels…) and is not clear about what is happening in Egypt. This may sound incredible, but there is no other expalnation to their bizarre switching of policy.

2. The US administration is also not clear and have not decided what they want out of this situation – do they prefer to see the dictator continue and choke the Egyptian people, or do they risk allowing democracy in Egypt to develop? The choice is difficult for a governemnt which has supported dictators and and brutal occupations as far as memory goes, and not just in the Middle East. Do they want ‘stability’, or do they want to foment unrest and be the arbiter?

This situation is most dangerous for the whole Middle East, now moving at enormous speed to modernise and democratise, after decades of corrupt and brutal regimes. In the end, the US seems just as confused as Mubarak about the direction of events.

All over Egypt, the millions are now rising without fear, witha single voice. We have just heard that Mubarak and his family has run away, apparently to Sharm El Sheikh. Well, it is not far from there to Saudi Arabia. The revolution is on its to victory.

Report: Mubarak, family leave Cairo amid persisting unrest: Haaretz

Al Arabiya says beleaguered Egyptian president leaves for Sinai of Sharm el-Sheikh as protesters call on the military to take action to push Mubarak out.

The Al Arabiya report came as Egypt’s powerful military backed Mubarak’s plan to stay in office until September elections earlier Friday, enraging hundreds of thousands of protesters who deluged the squares of Cairo and Alexandria and marched on presidential palaces and state television – key symbols of the authoritarian regime.

The army’s show of solidarity with the president was a heavy blow to protesters who called on the military to take action to push Mubarak out after he announced Thursday night that he would hand most of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman but remain in office.

The Armed Forces Supreme Council, the military’s highest body, depicted itself as the champion of reform in its latest statement. Trying to win the trust of an angry and skeptical population, the army promised to make sure Mubarak lifts hated emergency laws immediately once protests end. Mubarak and Suleiman had only given a vague timetable for ending the law – when security permits.

Still, the profound disappointment that Mubarak did not step down on Thursday turned to rage on Friday and protests escalated.

“What are you waiting for?” one protester yelled in the face of an army officer outside Mubarak’s main palace, Oruba, in northern Cairo, where a crowd of demonstrators grew to more than 2,500. “Did you pledge your allegiance to the president or the people?” another shouted.

It was not known if Mubarak was in the palace, one of at least three in Cairo, or even in the capital. The palace was protected by four tanks and rolls of barbed wire, but soldiers did nothing to stop more people from joining the rally.

The march on the palace were the first by protesters who for nearly three weeks have centered their mass demonstrations in Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square.

More than 10,000 tore apart military barricades in front of the towering State Television and Radio building, a pro-Mubarak bastion that has aired constant commentary supporting him and dismissing the protests. They swarmed on the Nile River corniche at the foot of the building, beating drums and chanting, Leave! Leave! Leave! They blocked employees from entering, vowing to silence the broadcast.

Soldiers in tanks in front of the building did nothing to stop them, though state TV continued to air.

Egyptians hold ‘farwewell Friday’: Al Jazeera online

Pro-democracy campaigners march on state television and presidential palaces, as army calls for normal life to resume

Massive crowds have gathered across Egypt, including hundreds of thousands of protesters in and around Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square, calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to stand down.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital marched on the presidential palace and state television buildings, while many also gathered at Liberation Square, on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

At the state television building, thousands have blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on protests.

“The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside],” Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the state television building reported.

He said it was not clear if they planned to storm the building, but said that “a lot of anger [was] generated” after Mubarak’s speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.

“The activity isn’t calm, but there are a lot of people here who are tired of not having their demands met,” he said.

Outside one presidential palace where protesters had gathered in Cairo, our correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was “no indication that the military wants to crack down on protesters … in Cairo”.

She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely “friendly”.

Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.

Reports indicate, however, that Mubarak and his family have left Cairo, bound for an as yet unconfirmed destination, though Mohammed Abdellah, a spokesman of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, told the AFP news agency that the president was bound for his residence at the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.

In Tahrir Square, meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.

Our correspondent at the square said the “masses” of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have “clear resolution” and “bigger resolve” to achieve their goals than ever before.

He also said, however, that protesters were “confused by mixed messages” coming from the army, which has at times told them that their demands will be met, yet in communiques and other statements supported Mubarak’s staying in power until at least September.

Army statement

In a statement read out on state television at midday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-old emergency law but only “as soon as the current circumstances end”.

The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.

Many protesters, hoping for Mubarak’s resignation, had anticipated a much stronger statement.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed and vowed to take the protests to “a last and final stage”.

“They’re frustrated, they’re angry, and they say protests need to go beyond Liberation [Tahrir] Square, to the doorstep of political institutions,” she said.

Protest organisers have called for 20 million people to come out on “Farewell Friday” in a final attempt to force Mubarak to step down.

‘Anything can happen’

Hossam El Hamalawy, a pro-democracy organiser and member of the Socialist Studies Centre, said protesters were heading towards the presidential palace from multiple directions, calling on the army to side with them and remove Mubarak.

“People are extremely angry after yesterday’s speech,” he told Al Jazeera. “Anything can happen at the moment. There is self-restraint all over but at the same time I honestly can’t tell you what the next step will be … At this time, we don’t trust them [the army commanders] at all.”

An Al Jazeera reporter overlooking Tahrir said the side streets leading into the square were filling up with crowds.

“It’s an incredible scene. From what I can judge, there are more people here today than yesterday night,” she said.

“The military has not gone into the square except some top commanders, one asking people to go home …I don’t see any kind of tensions between the people and the army but all of this might change very soon if the army is seen as not being on the side of the people.”

Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city.

Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.

Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.

Protests are also being held in the cities of Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Mubarak said he was handing “the functions of the president” to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. But the move means he retains his title of president.

“I have decided to stick… by my responsibility in protecting the constitution and the people’s interests until the power and responsibility are handed over to whomever the voters chose next September, in free and fair elections,” the president said.

Halfway through his much-awaited speech late at night, anticipation turned into anger among protesters camped in Tahrir Square who began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air.

‘Go home’

Immediately after Mubarak’s speech, Suleiman called on the protesters to “go home” and asked Egyptians to “unite and look to the future.”

“Youth of Egypt, heroes of Egypt, go back to your homes and businesses. The country needs you so that we build, develop and create,” Suleiman said.

“Do not listen to tendentious radios and satellite televisions which have no aim but ignite disorder, weaken Egypt and distort its image.”

More than 1,000 protesters moved overnight towards the presidential palace in the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis in central Cairo.

Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.

The US and EU said the announcement to transfer some powers to the vice-president was grossly insufficient and falls short of genuine reforms demanded by the people.

“The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient,” Barack Obama, the US president, said in a statement

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February 11, 2011

EDITOR: The final stage of the revolution seems to be here!

In another facile speech, Mubarak has clarified beyond any doubt, that he is not in touch with reality. Omar Suleiman, his sidekick and servile deputy, is not much more connected either. Both seem to think that they can spout more lies and get the demonstrators home, and continue with their corrupt regime, by promising democracy by September. The Egyptian people know – it is now or never!

Meanwhile, on the farm in Washington, the animals are in disarray… not quite decided if they prefer democracy to ‘stability’ they keep swivelling like a weather-vane gone out of control. It seems that Obama is listening to both sides, and keeps changing his mind on a daily basis. Two things are now clear:

1. The US administration is not well-informed (they don’t seem to have Al Jazeera on the White House channels…) and is not clear about what is happening in Egypt. This may sound incredible, but there is no other expalnation to their bizarre switching of policy.

2. The US administration is also not clear and have not decided what they want out of this situation – do they prefer to see the dictator continue and choke the Egyptian people, or do they risk allowing democracy in Egypt to develop? The choice is difficult for a governemnt which has supported dictators and and brutal occupations as far as memory goes, and not just in the Middle East. Do they want ‘stability’, or do they want to foment unrest and be the arbiter?

This situation is most dangerous for the whole Middle East, now moving at enormous speed to modernise and democratise, after decades of corrupt and brutal regimes. In the end, the US seems just as confused as Mubarak about the direction of events.

Mubarak got the chair, the Egyptain people got the power, by Carlos Latuff

BREAKING NEWS!

Protesters outraged over Mubarak address, vow to continue revolution: Ahram online

Ahram Online, Friday 11 Feb 2011

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir sq and downtown Cairo this evening to celebrate what they believed was the imminant stepping down by President Hosny Mubarak were dumbfounded, then outraged as Mubarak finally addressed the nation on TV. Though Mubarak concluded his address by announcing the transfer of his powers to the vice president, he repeatedly asserted in the course of the address that he will remain in power until the end of his term in September.
Chanting “down with Mubarak”, “down with the regime”, the protesters vowed to mainting their occupation of Tahrir sq and their demonstrations until they bring Mubarak and his regime down, once and for all. They expect to bring millions to the streets in Cairo and across the nation in tomorrow’s Friday of Decision protest.

Egypt: A new wave of workers strikes and sit-ins: Ahram Online

Mass protests demanding change have triggered a fresh wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins across the country Wednesday, spotlighting long-ignored economic demands
Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

Workers in Cairo joined thousands of state employees on strike Thursday in spreading labor unrest that has pumped further strength and momentum into Egypt’s wave of anti-government protests. Writing in Arabic on placard center-left reads “Increase basic pay” and on placard center-right “End of work pension: 60 months. Infection risk pay: 100 percent. Rule No. 48 replacing rule No. 47.” (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Related
Five Suez Canal companies workers go on strike, no major disruptions witnessed yet

Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt

Steel and Canal shipyard workers strike in Suez continues
Following the “Million Man” demonstrations and mass strikes that escalated across Egypt on Tuesday, a new wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins also spread on Wednesday.
Ahram Online has been receiving continuous reports of strikes breaking out in both public and private companies across the country, many of which are still being confirmed. At the time of publishing, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) had confirmed the following:

More than 2000 workers started a strike in Helwan’s silk factories and circulated the office of the company’s chairman demanding his exclusion.

Thousands of workers have started a strike in Helwan’s coke factories demanding higher wages and full-time contracts.

In Mahala’s Spinning and Weaving factory, hundreds started a sit-in in front of the administration building.

In Kafr El-Zaiat hospital, 1500 nurses started a sit-in demanding their late wages.

Four hundred workers in Suez’s Egypt National Steel Factory started an open strike demanding higher wages.

In Menoufeia, more than 750 of Schweppes factory workers started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

More than 800 of the spinning and weaving workers in Menoufeia started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

In Cairo, 200 workers from the General Committee for Drug Supervision started a sit-in demanding full time contracts and higher wages.

Apart from the demands calling for democratic reforms that have triggered Egypt’s mass protests, social and economic needs have been at the core of the country’s political unrest in recent years.

Although a 2010 court ruling demanded that a new minimum wage be set, the government promised to set a minimum of only LE400 per month (about $70), allowing tensions to soar.

Catapulting, by Carlos Latuff

Egypt’s Mubarak refuses to quit: BBC

President Mubarak addressed the nation in a television broadcastContinue reading the main story
Egypt Unrest

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has said he will stay in office and transfer all power only after September’s presidential election.

His comments in a national TV address confounded earlier reports that he was preparing to stand down immediately.

Mr Mubarak said he would delegate some powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman, but the details of this remain unclear.

Thousands of anti-government protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square reacted angrily to his announcement.

There were chants of “Down with Mubarak”, and protesters waved their shoes in disgust. Thousands were reported to be heading towards the presidential palace some distance away.

The BBC’s Paul Adams, in Tahrir Square, said the mood contrasted dramatically with the celebratory, almost party atmosphere that existed in the hours running up to President Mubarak’s televised address.

Mr Mubarak had previously pledged not to stand in September’s poll, and said he would stay on to oversee a process of constitutional change.

Negotiations between the government and opposition groups have made little progress, with protesters disillusioned at plans for reform put forward by Mr Mubarak’s government.

Continue reading the main story
At the scene

Yolande Knell
BBC News, Tahrir Square, Cairo
This was the third time that President Mubarak has disappointed anti-government protesters since this uprising began by refusing to step down.

At the same time as he said on state television that he felt “pain in my heart for what I hear from some of my countrymen”, huge crowds of Egyptians were yelling “Be gone” and waving their shoes in dismay.

Mr Mubarak did try to reach out to young people, praising them and promising that the blood of their “martyrs” would “not go down the drain”. He restated his commitments to constitutional reforms and a peaceful transition of power in September’s election. He mentioned handing some powers to his vice-president, crucially without expanding on this point.

Some parts of this speech were condescending, with the president addressing Egyptians as “a father to his children”. He also answered rumours he had left the country by stating: “I will not separate from the soil until I am buried beneath it.”

Anger looks set to increase with more demonstrations already planned to follow Friday prayers. Many people chanted “tomorrow, tomorrow” as they left Tahrir Square.

The Egyptian ambassador to the US, Sameh Shoukry, suggested Vice President Suleiman was now the “de facto head of state” following Mr Mubarak’s speech, but this has not been confirmed.

In his address, Mr Mubarak said: “I express a commitment to carry on and protect the constitution and the people and transfer power to whomever is elected next September in free and transparent elections.”

Directly addressing protesters “in Tahrir Square and beyond” in what he said was “a speech from the heart”, Mr Mubarak, 82, said: “I am not embarrassed to listen to the youth of my country and to respond to them.”

He apologised to the families of protesters killed in clashes with the security forces in recent weeks, and said those responsible for their deaths would be punished.

Mr Mubarak added that the country’s emergency laws would only be lifted when conditions were right, and said he would ignore “diktats from abroad”.

He also appeared to call for the end of protests against his 30-year rule that began on 25 January.

“Egypt has gone through difficult times and we cannot allow these to carry on,” he said. “The damage to our economy will lead to a situation in which the youth calling for reform will be the first to be affected.”

‘Go home’
Mr Suleiman, speaking after Mr Mubarak’s address, said the protests had had an effect, and a process of constitutional change would now go ahead.

He added that President Mubarak had empowered him to preserve security and stability in Egypt, and restore normality – and he urged the protesters to return home.

“Youth of Egypt: go back home, back to work, the nation needs you to develop, to create. Don’t listen to radio and TV, whose aim is to tarnish Egypt,” he said.

Activist Mustafa Naggar, responding to the leadership’s statements, said: “The street is fed up with Mubarak. If Mubarak leaves the country, he will help to calm the crisis. If he continues, he will lead Egyptians into chaos.

“Plans for tomorrow stand. We will march in the millions to Tahrir Square and other locations.”

Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the United Nations atomic watchdog, tweeted: “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.”

Among the first reaction from the US – a key ally of Egypt – was a statement from Senator John McCain, in which he described President Mubarak’s announcement that he will remain in power as “deeply unfortunate and troubling”.

He added: “The voices of the Egyptian people are growing louder and more unified, and they are not demanding partial transfers of power or minor adjustments to the current government.”

US President Barack Obama has convened a meeting with his national security team at the White House following President Mubarak’s speech. The US government had in recent days stepped up its call for the protesters’ concerns to be addressed.

The European Union’s chief diplomat, Baroness Ashton, said: “The time for change is now. President Mubarak has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms.

“We will pay close attention to the response by the Egyptian people in the coming hours and days.”

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Mr Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party, Hossam Badrawi, had said the right thing for the president to do would be to step aside – and that he did not expect Mr Mubarak to be president on Friday.

At the same time, Egypt’s military announced it was standing ready to “protect the nation”. State news agency Mena reported that the high council of the armed forces was in continuous session “to protect the nation, its gains and the aspirations of the people”.

Defiant Mubarak refuses to resign: Al Jazeera online

Egyptian president vows to remain in office until his term ends in September, and not bow down to ‘foreign pressure’.

Hosni Mubarak, the embattled Egyptian president, has refused to step down from his post, saying that he will not bow to “foreign pressure” in a televised address to the nation on Thursday evening.

Putting to rest widespread speculations that he will quit, Mubarak announced that he was delegating some authorities to his new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, a close confidante.

In a much anticipated speech, Mubarak said he had put into place a framework that would lead to the amendment of six constitutional articles (including articles 77, 88, 93 and 189, and the annulment of article 179).

“I can not and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is,” Mubarak said.

He said he was addressing his people with a “speech from the heart”.

Mubarak said that he is “totally committed to fulfilling all the promises” that he has earlier made regarding constitutional and political reform.

“I have laid down a vision … to exit the current crisis, and to realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens … without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society,” he said.

Mubarak said he had “initiated a very constructive national dialogue … and this dialogue has yielded preliminary agreement in stances and views”.

A state of emergency, which has been in place since Mubarak took power 30 years ago, remains in place, though the president promised to lift it as some unspecified point in the future.

“I will remain adamant to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution and safeguarding the interests of Egyptians [until the next elections].

“This is the oath I have taken before God and the nation, and I will continue to keep this oath,” he said.

Mubarak said the current “moment was not against my personality, against Hosni Mubarak”, and concluded by saying that he would not leave Egyptian soil until he was “buried under it”.

Mubarak’s comments were not well-received by hundreds of thousands gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square and in other cities, who erupted into angry chants against him. Pro-democracy protesters had been expecting Mubarak to resign, and their mood of celebration quickly turned to extreme anger as they heard the president’s speech.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Liberation Square said the “mood completely altered as the president progressed with his speech”, with protesters expressing “frustration and anger” at him.

Hundreds took off their shoes and waved them angrily at a screen showing Mubarak’s speech, shouting “Leave, leave!”

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition figure and former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, responded to the speech by saying “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now”, on the microblogging website Twitter.

‘Go back home’

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, addressed the nation in a televised address shortly after Mubarak’s speech, and called on protesters to “go back home” and “go back to work”.

”]He said he had been delegated by the president “the responsibilities to safeguard the stability of Egypt, to safeguard its … assets … to restore peace and security to the Egyptian public, and to restore the normal way of life”.

He said that a process of dialogue with the opposition had yielded positive results, and that “a roadmap has been laid down to achieve the majority of demands”.

The vice-president said that steps had to be taken to “safeguard the revolution of the youth”, but also called for protesters to “join hands” with the government, rather than risk “chaos”.

He told Egyptians “not [to] listen to satellite television stations, whose main purpose is to fuel sedition and to drive a wedge among people”.

Army meeting

Earlier, the Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces had met to discuss the ongoing protests against Mubarak’s government.

In a statement entitled ‘Communique Number One’, televised on state television, the army said it had convened the meeting response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.

Thurday’s meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defence minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed the meeting.

“Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation… and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people,” the statement.

Tens of thousands poured into Tahrir Square after the army statement was televised. Thousands also gathered in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, our correspondent there said.

Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square that “everything you want will be realised”.

Hassam Badrawi, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), told the BBC and Channel 4 News earlier on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president during his address.

“I think the right thing to do now is to take the action that would satisfy … protesters,” Badrawi told BBC television in a live interview.

Ahmed Shafiq, the country’s prime minister, also told the BBC that the president may step down on Thursday evening, and that the situation would be “clarified soon”. He told the Reuters news agency, however, that Mubarak remained in control, and that “everything is still in the hands of the president”.

However, Anas el-Fekky, Egypt’s information minister, denied all reports of Mubarak resigning from early in the day.

“The president is still in power and he is not stepping down,” el-Fekky told Reuters. “The president is not stepping down and everything you heard in the media is a rumour.”

Mubarak met with Suleiman, the vice-president, at the presidential palace ahead of his address.

Protesters expected resignation

Mahmoud Zaher, a retired general in the Egyptian army, told Al Jazeera earlier in the day that Mubarak’s absence from the army meeting was a “clear and strong indication that [Mubarak] is no longer present”, implying that the Egyptian president was not playing a role in governance any longer.

”]Protesters had earlier responded to statements from political leaders as indicating that they had been successful in their key demand of wanting Mubarak to step down.

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has played a key role in helping protesters get organised, said on the microblogging site Twitter on Thursday evening: “Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians.”

Ahead of the speech, Jacky Rowland, our correspondent in Tahrir Square, described the atmosphere as “electric”, with “standing room only” in the central Cairo area. She said that thousands gathered there were “celebrating a victory which has been anticipated, rather than actually achieved”.

In Alexandria, Jamal ElShayyal, our correspondent, said the atmosphere turned “from joyous to now furious” as Mubarak completed his speech.

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February 10, 2011

EDITOR: The real alliance in the Middle East

It is clear for all to see the real Middle Eastern Alliance – US, Saudi Arabia, Mubarak and Israel, all actively supported by the PA! If this is what Obama meant by ‘change’ in his Cairo speech afgter his inauguration, it is really solid – support for undemocratic and dictatorial regimes everywhere. From supporting ‘change in 2010, Obama moved to supporting ‘stability’ in 2011. What a swift and impressive change… It seems that not only is the US and its ‘progressive’ president supporting dictatorial and undemocratic regimes, but also supporting theior torture machine… This is of course not new – the US has done so for over a century.

The Egyptian people will defeat this unholy alliance, even if it takes much longer to get rid of the dictator. After his ousting, he can obviously go to sit in Riad on his billions, unless brought to justice, as he should be.

‘Saudi king told Obama he’d fund Mubarak if U.S. halted Egypt aid’: Haaretz

Abdullah warned U.S. president that withdrawing $1.5 billion in annual aid would humiliate Mubarak, according to Britain’s The Times.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told U.S. President Barack Obama that his country would prop up Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak if the United States withdrew its aid program, The Times said on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama shaking hands with Saudi King Abdullah at a bilateral meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 3, 2009. Photo by: AP

Abdullah told Obama not to humiliate Mubarak, who is under pressure from protesters to quit immediately, in a telephone call on January 29, the newspaper said, citing a senior source in Riyadh.

Obama’s administration has wavered between support for Egypt in Washington’s conflict with militant Islam and backing for Egyptians who have been protesting for weeks to demand Mubarak and his government quit.

The United States has long nurtured its alliance with key ally Egypt, giving billions of dollars in aid as it seeks to influence affairs in a region whose autocratic rulers are struggling to contain social discontent.

The United States has stopped short of endorsing calls for Mubarak, 82, to leave office immediately. He said last week he would step down in September when an election is due.

On January 28, the White House said the United States would review $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt. Officials later said no such review was planned currently.

Celebrities and artists show support for people’s revolution: Ahram online

The majority of celebrities and artists have shown solidarity with ordinary citizens in the 25 January revolution, while others want to wait until the next elections
Menna Taher and Wael Eskandar, Wednesday 9 Feb 2011
Protester on top of a pole in Tahrir square waving the Egyptian flag
Artists have been actively involved in the people’s revolution which began on 25 January, two weeks ago. The involvement of celebrities has had an impact on the revolution, as the revolution will have an impact on the future work of those celebrities.

A statement was issued by several artists, poets, intellectuals and writers ordering President Mubarak to step down immediately.

The statement affirmed that Mubarak is responsible for the problems that Egypt has faced for the past thirty years and for the stagnation of economic life in Egypt, which has made many suffer, especially those who rely on their daily income. He is also responsible for the massive bloodshed witnessed in the past weeks by the police and NDP thugs.

The statement received over 200 signatures, including the signatures of actors Khaled Abol Naga, Asser Yassin, who have been active in the protests, as well as filmmakers Mohamed Khan, Dawood Abdel Sayed, Ali Badrakhan, Yousry Nasrallah, Mohamed Diab and Kamla Abou Zikry.

Visual artists Mohamed Abla also signed on behalf of the artists of the Cairo atelier. Abla appeared on El Ashera Massan, the talk show hosted by Mona El Shazly and spoke about Ahmed Bassiouny the artist, who died during the violent protests on 28 January (the Friday of Anger).

Bassiouny, a visual artist and a martyr of the uprising, was hit by a police car and died of a rupture in his heart and left lung.

Abla commented on the current cultural scene and how it destroys the dreams of youth and criticised the ministry of culture by saying that money gushes like torrents in the ministry, yet it restrains art. “Ahmed dreamt that Egyptian art would be known on an international level,” he said.

Khaled Abol Naga was interviewed on BBC and called for President Mubarak to step down after having himself experienced police brutality with gunfire during the protests.

Amr Waked is outspoken about the desire for change using peaceful means. He has been present in Tahrir square calling for the president to step down.

Other celebrities present in Tahrir constantly are Ahmed Abdallah, Ahmed Maher, Basma, Yosra El Lozy and Asser Yassin, as well as Mohamed Diab the director of the award winning Egyptian film, 678.

The composer Ammar El Sherei has also taken part in the protests and defended them strongly when he went on El Ashera Masaan with Mona El Shazly, and criticised Safwat El Sherif. After joining in the protest on Friday, he had a stroke and is currently in hospital.

Another initiation was a Facebook post by the independent filmmaker Mohamed Al Assiouty suggesting civil disobedience by refraining from paying bills and taxes.

Some artists were brutally beaten by the police, have died or are still missing. Amr Salama was beaten on Tuesday 25 January and published a post on Facebook two days later relaying a detailed account of what happened to him.

Ziad Bakir, the artist and graphic designer of the Opera House, is missing since 28 January.

Some big budget actors and producers have shown their support for the regime, including Ghada Abdel Razek, Ahmad El Sakka and El Sobky. They were seen at Mostafa Mahmoud square in Mohandessin, chanting pro-Mubarak slogans on Tuesday night after the president’s speech when he declared he will not run for president in the September elections and would look into amendments in articles 76 and 77.

It is worth noting that actors Mona Zaki and Ahmed Helmy supported Mubarak after the speech but later changed their position after the violent events that took place the following day. They have been spotted in Tahrir square giving out food to protesters.

A group was set up on Facebook entitled ‘The Blacklist of 25 January’ which includes numerous celebrities that have opposed the 25 January pro-democratic protests.

The Middle East does not need stability: Haaretz

This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies.
By Gideon Levy
When a tank enters a residential neighborhood, sows fear and destruction, and the local kids throw stones at it, what is this called? “Disturbing the peace.” And what do you call the detention of those stone-throwers, allowing the tank to continue on its way without any more trouble? “Restoring order.”

That is how we have shaped our disgustingly laundered language to serve our one and only narrative; how we would describe to ourselves the misleading reality in which we live. Meanwhile, tanks are no longer entering residential areas; order is somehow being maintained in the territories without them. The occupier oppresses, the occupied people overcome their instincts and their struggle, and good order is maintained – for now. Stability.

Egypt also suddenly dared to “disturb the peace.” Its people, who have had enough of the country’s corrupt government and the tyrannical silencing of their voices, have taken to the streets. Riots. The Western world, including Israel, has tensed in the face of this great danger – the stability in the Middle East is about to be undermined.

Indeed, that stability should be undermined. The stability in the region, something which Westerners and Israeli have come to yearn, merely means perpetuating the status quo. That situation might be good for Israel and the West, but it is very bad for the millions of people who have had to pay the price. Maintaining Mideast stability means perpetuating the intolerable situation by which some 2.5 million Palestinians exist without any rights under the heel of Israeli rule; and another few million Palestinian refugees from the war of 1948 are living in camps in Arab countries, where they also lack any rights, hope, livelihood and dignity.

This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies. In stable Saudi Arabia, the women are regarded as the lowest of the low; in stable Syria, any sign of opposition is repressed; in stable Jordan and Morocco, the apple of the eye of the West and Israel, people are frightened to utter a word of criticism against their kings, even in casual coffee-shop conversations.

The yearned-for stability in the Middle East includes millions of poor and ignorant people in Egypt, while the ruling families celebrate with their billions in capital. It includes regimes, the bulk of whose budgets are scandalously channeled to the military, endlessly and unnecessarily arming themselves to preserve the regime – at the expense of education, health care, development and welfare. The stability entails rule that passes from father to son (and not just in the region’s monarchies ) and false elections in which only representatives of the ruling parties are allowed to run.

It involves unnecessary, worthless wars, civil wars and wars between countries in which the people give their blood because of the whims and megalomanic urges of their rulers. It represses free thought, self-determination and the struggle for freedom. It consists of weakness, lack of growth and development, lack of opportunity for achievement and almost nonexistent benefits for the masses, whose situation is frightfully stable. In their poverty and oppression, they are stable.

A region rich in natural and human resources, which could have thrived at least as much as the Far East, has been standing stable for decades. After Africa, it is the most backward place in the world.

That is the stability we apparently want to preserve; the stability that the United States always wants to preserve; the stability that Europe wants to preserve. Any undermining of this stability is considered disturbing the peace – and that is bad according to our definition.

But let us remember that when Israel was established, this signified a huge disturbance to the region – one that greatly undermined its stability and posed the greatest danger; but it was a just disturbance, to us and to the West. Now the time has come to disturb the peace some more, to undermine the worthless stability in which the Middle East is living.

The peoples of Tunisia and Egypt have begun the process. The United States and Europe stuttered at first, but quickly came to their senses. They also finally realized that the region’s stability is not only unjust, it is misleading: It will be undermined in the end. When the tank invades our lives, stones must be thrown at it; the infuriating stability of the Middle East must be wiped out.

Workers to continue Egypt strikes: Al Jazeera online

Thousands of doctors are among those expected to join workers’ strike as anti-Mubarak demonstration enters its 17th day.

Egyptian labour unions held nationwide strikes for a second day, adding momentum to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

The move comes as the demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate ouster enters its 17th day.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Cairo, said about 5,000 doctors and medical students were expected to come out on Thursday.

Lawyers, public transport workers and the artists syndicate were also among those who joined the strikes, Al Jazeera correspondents reported.

“It’s certainly increasing the pressure on the government here. I think it’s worth making the distinction that the strikes going on are more of an economic nature, they are not necessarily jumping on the bandwagon of the protesters in Tahrir Square,” Dekker said.

“Many of them are not actually calling for the president to step down, but fighting for better wages, for better working conditions.”

Our correspondents reported that around 20,000 factory workers had stayed away from work across Egypt on Wednesday.

“[Strikers] were saying that they want better salaries, they want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to them by the state,” Shirine Tadros, reported from Cairo.

Some workers were also calling for Mubarak to step down, she said.

Culture minister quits

Meanwhile, Gaber Asfour, the recently appointed culture minister, resigned from Mubarak’s cabinet on Wednesday for health reasons, a member of his family told Reuters.

But the website of Egypt’s main daily newspaper Al-Ahram said Asfour, a writer, was under pressure from literary colleagues over the post.

Asfour was sworn in following the start of the protests on January 31, and believed it would be a national unity government, al-Ahram said.

Determined protesters continue to rally in Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square, and other cities across the country. They say they will not end the protests until Mubarak, who has been at the country’s helm since 1981, steps down.

Protesters with blankets gathered outside the parliament building in Cairo on Wednesday, with no plan to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators had put up a sign that read: “Closed until the fall of the regime”.

There was also a renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

Our correspondent said an internet campaign is currently on to mobilise expatriates to return and support the uprising.

Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

Meanwhile, 34 political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, were reportedly released over the past two days.

Our correspondent said that there are still an unknown number of people missing, including activists thought to be detained during the recent unrest.

Human Rights Watch said the death toll has reached 302 since January 28. However, Egypt’s health ministry denied the figures, saying official statistics would be released shortly.

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February 9, 2011

EDITOR: The Egyptian Revolution stands firm!

Today unions across Egypt have joined the protest, making it crystal clear that it will not be over until Mubarak is out. In his bizarre speech he has claimed that he must stay to make sure there is ‘no chaos’! It is exactly his remaining as president which causes and deepens the chaos. While he does OK with Israel and the US, and few other lackeys including the UK, he is not chnging what all Egyptians are saying for over two weeks now.

In the article from Cairo by Hani Shukrallah, the shenanigans of the regime are laid out to dry, and the impressive steadfastness of the protest movement is clear. While the regime has all the time in the world, as well as all the money in Egypt (see yesterday’s entry about the bounty of £70 Billion stolen from the poor of Egypt by the dictator Mubarak) so this is still unequal battle, what with Obama switching sides again to back the dead horse, no doubt under Israeli pressure and Pentagon ‘analysis’. Still, the old regime is a spent force, and the fear which permeated Egyptian society is gone.

Egyptians have chosen, time for the state to accept their choice: Al Ahram

The choices facing Egypt are not between dialogue and coup d’état, as the vice president said yesterday, but between a rickety authoritarianism and full vibrant democracy
Hani Shukrallah , Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

It totally escapes me what the vice-president was talking about when he issued us with the dire warning that Egypt faced two choices, either “dialogue” or “coup d’état. Trying to make sense of this most ominous statement, one is first of all struck by what coup d’état is supposed to mean in the context of our current reality.

There are two senses in which Gen. Suleiman’s use of the term may be taken, a “nice”, one and a “grim” one, though neither appears to render the statement awfully comprehensible. In the nicer sense, the vice president is telling us that if the army, which is starkly the single power running the country these days, responds to the revolution’s demands and asks Mubarak to step down, this would be tantamount to a coup, which – reading between the lines – would lead to military rule.

The argument, if that’s what it is, fails to convince. A popular revolution has been sweeping the country for the past two weeks, and all indications are that it is gaining momentum, rather than losing steam. For the state to bow to the people’s will, as expressed on streets throughout the country is not a coup d’état, is simply to bow to the people’s will. This cannot, under any legal or moral standard be deemed a coup d’état.

We’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s happened in Tunisia a few weeks ago, it swept through in all of Eastern Europe in the late 80s, indeed, it’s been happening across the globe from Latin and Central America to south and East Asia. In fact, it has been our long benighted Arab region that seemed to be the exception, standing immune to waves upon waves of democratization, which were making themselves felt everywhere else.

It so happens also that the army, here as in most of the above example, has been the state body able to step forward and play the role of power broker and guarantor of the transition to democracy.

Neither is the implied threat of military rule very credible. Popular revolutions, I wrote before, do not create military governments, military coups and counter-revolutions do.

Which brings us to the other, darker, possible interpretation of the vice president’s warning: a counter-revolution. Certainly that remains a possibility, but I’m sure the vice president is fully aware that it is becoming more remote with every passing day.

The thing is we’ve already had one counter-revolution and it has failed miserably, though at a horrible cost. We now have a pretty clear idea of how that counter-revolution was conducted, and the identity of some of those who directed it.

We now know, and I am sure the vice president and the prime minister are equally, if not more cognizant of the facts: an alliance of NDP officials and Oligarchs and the interior ministry and Egyptian state TV pursued a deliberate “scorched earth” strategy aimed at sowing fear and panic among the Egyptian people and the international community to show that without the Mubarak regime Egypt would fall into inescapable chaos and destruction.
So that we do not forget, the cynical criminality of this strategy involved the killing of some 300 peacefully protesting citizens and the wounding of thousands, the torching of public buildings, the attempted looting, torching and destruction of the Egyptian Museum, the overnight disappearance of the whole internal security apparatus and the synchronized opening of prison gates around the country, meanwhile letting loose criminal gangs of police agents alongside police and oligarch-run networks of thugs and diverse criminal elements to attack private citizens, public and private property, to murder, torch and loot. This, by the way, is the same “coalition” that was responsible for wholesale rigging of the 2010 and other elections.

The counter-revolution’s last card lay in the madness of the “foreign fingers” in the Egyptian uprising. The police agents and their thuggish friends were sent to infiltrate the “popular committees”, spread misinformation and hysteria about allege Israeli, American, Iranian, Hamas, Hizbullah and all sorts of other foreign conspiracies to foment revolution in the country. Foreigners, including a great many “foreign-looking” Egyptians were exposed to brutal attacks everywhere. The very people who were bemoaning the loss of foreign investment and tourism were willing to ensure that no one elsewhere in the world will even nod our way, possibly for a great many years.

By yesterday, and as Egypt witnessed its largest popular demonstrations ever, involving millions across the country, the counter-revolution looked dead and buried.

This is not to say that a revival of the counter-revolution is impossible. Neither can we as yet totally discount the possibility of a different kind of counter-revolution, as for instance, in having the army at last shoot at the people. Both scenarios are unlikely, however. For its part, the army’s commitment not to resort to violence against the people is now stronger than ever. We’ve even had the vice-president saying that President Mubarak, rather late in the day, has ordered all security forces to refrain from harming the protesters in any way.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the axis of evil, mentioned above, will once again resume its activities. After all, we are yet to see any of those responsible for crimes ranging from murder to high treason arrested or prosecuted, despite the repeated promises to do so.

The network remains intact, but there is every indication that it’s done its worst, it has been defeated, physically, as well as exposed. With the police agents and their thugs out of the picture, the hundreds of thousands in Tahrir sq continue to amaze the nation and world by the peaceful, and outstandingly self-disciplined nature of their ongoing.

The vice president is right, however, in saying that Egypt today faced two choices. He still needs to become aware of what these really are, however; for these two choices are none other than to maintain the old authoritarian order, cosmetically pluralized. Or to effect a radical transition to a fully democratic system of government.

Cosmetically treated authoritarianism, we’ve had for the past 30 years. Indeed, that’s what we have had more or less of since the late President Sadat launched his experiment in controlled pluralism way back in 1976. And, if a full scale revolution is any indication, we’ve had enough.

Yes, Mr. Vice-President we are faced with two choices, the people have chosen, it’s time that you accepted their choice.

Labour unions boost Egypt protests: Al Jazeera online

Thousands of factory workers stay away from work as pro-democracy protesters continue to rally seeking Mubarak’s ouster.

Egyptian labour unions have gone on a nationwide strike, adding momentum to pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from Egypt, said around 20,000 factory workers stayed away from work on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera’s Shirine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said that some workers “didn’t have a political demand”.

“They were saying that they want better salaries, they want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to them by the state.”

However, Tadros also said that some workers were calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to step down.

The strike action came as public rallies calling for Mubarak to immediately hand over power entered their 16th day.

Determined protesters are continuing to rally in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, and other cities across the country. They say they will not end the protests until Mubarak, who has been at the country’s helm since 1981, steps down.

Protesters with blankets gathered outside the parliament building in Cairo on Wednesday, with no plan to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators have put up a sign that reads: “Closed until the fall of the regime”.

The government seems to be scrambling under pressure from major powers and pro-democracy supporters, Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reported from the city.

She said people in Tahrir Square were angered by a visit from Tamer Hosni, a famous Arab pop star, on Wednesday morning.

Hosni previously made statements telling the demonstrators to leave the square, saying that Mubarak had offered them concessions. “His comments really did not go down very well,” our correspondent said. The crowd reacted angrily and the military had to intervene to keep them away from him.

“People feel very strongly here,” Al Jazeera’s Dekker said.

Another Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from Cairo, said there was also a renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

There is even an internet campaign aimed at mobilising thousands of expatriates to return and support the uprising, our correspondent said.

Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo on Wednesday. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

Concessions fall short

Mubarak’s message has thus far been that he will not leave until his term expires in September.

As a gesture of goodwill, however, 34 political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, were reportedly released over the past two days.

Dekker, our correspondent, reported that there are still an unknown number of people missing, including activists thought to be detained during the recent unrest, while Human Rights Watch reported that the death toll has reached 302 since January 28.

Egypt’s health ministry denied the figures, however, saying that official statistics would be released shortly.

“He (Suleiman) is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed. But what will he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward.”

Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the five main youth groups behind the Tahrir Square protests.

Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice president, warned on Tuesday that his government “can’t put up with continued protests” for a long time, saying the crisis must be ended as soon as possible.

Suleiman said there will be “no ending of the regime” and no immediate departure for Mubarak, the state news agency MENA reported from a meeting between the vice-president and independent newspapers.

At one point in the roundtable meeting, he warned that the alternative to dialogue “is that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities”.

When pressed by news editors to explain the comment, he said he did not mean a military coup but that “a force that is unprepared for rule” could overturn state institutions, said Amr Khafagi, editor-in-chief of the privately owned Shorouk daily, who attended the briefing.

Response to Suleiman’s statements was grim.

“He is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed,” said Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the five main youth groups behind protests in Tahrir Square.

“But what would he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Suleiman said a plan was in place for the peaceful transfer of power, which included forming three committees  – one to propose constitutional amendments, another to oversee the implementation of the amendments and a third to investigate the violent clashes of February 2.

Egypt: A new wave of workers strikes and sit-ins: Al Ahram online

Mass protests demanding change have triggered a fresh wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins across the country Wednesday, spotlighting long-ignored economic demands

Wednesday 9 Feb 2011
Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt

Steel and Canal shipyard workers strike in Suez continues
Following the “Million Man” demonstrations and mass strikes that escalated across Egypt on Tuesday, a new wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins also spread on Wednesday.
Ahram Online has been receiving continuous reports of strikes breaking out in both public and private companies across the country, many of which are still being confirmed. At the time of publishing, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) had confirmed the following:

More than 2000 workers started a strike in Helwan’s silk factories and circulated the office of the company’s chairman demanding his exclusion.

Thousands of workers have started a strike in Helwan’s coke factories demanding higher wages and full-time contracts.

In Mahala’s Spinning and Weaving factory, hundreds started a sit-in in front of the administration building.

In Kafr El-Zaiat hospital, 1500 nurses started a sit-in demanding their late wages.

Four hundred workers in Suez’s Egypt National Steel Factory started an open strike demanding higher wages.

In Menoufeia, more than 750 of Schweppes factory workers started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

More than 800 of the spinning and weaving workers in Menoufeia started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

In Cairo, 200 workers from the General Committee for Drug Supervision started a sit-in demanding full time contracts and higher wages.

Apart from the demands calling for democratic reforms that have triggered Egypt’s mass protests, social and economic needs have been at the core of the country’s political unrest in recent years.

Although a 2010 court ruling demanded that a new minimum wage be set, the government promised to set a minimum of only LE400 per month (about $70), allowing tensions to soar.

Egypt police kill three anti-Mubarak protesters in desert clashes: Haaretz

Three killed, several wounded in clashes between police and 3,000 protesters in western province of Egypt, which marked first sizeable anti-Mubarak gathering in the area.

Three people were killed and several suffered gunshot wounds in clashes between security forces and about 3,000 protesters in a western province of Egypt, state TV and security sources said on Wednesday.

The clashes in New Valley, a province that includes an oasis in Egypt’s western desert, erupted on Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, according to security sources. State TV said three people died in the fighting but did not provide further details.

It appeared to be the first serious clash between police and protesters since officers all but disappeared from Egyptian streets after they had beaten, teargassed and fired rubber bullets at protesters on Jan. 28, dubbed the “Day of Wrath”.

President Hosni Mubarak sent the army onto the streets that night, but several days of looting and lawlessness followed the withdrawal of police and many prisoners escaped from prison.

On Monday, a security source said former Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adli had appeared before military prosecutors and may face charges of causing a breakdown in order during protests.

The protest in New Valley, about 500 km south of Cairo, was the first sizeable anti-Mubarak gathering in that area reported by security sources. The countrywide protests to topple the president are now in their third week.

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February 7, 2011

News Analysis: Egypt between revolution and counter-revolution: Al Ahram Weekly

Five youth groups mandated the Committee of Wise Men to negotiate on their behalf, with both the old and the young rejecting the vice-president’s compromise suggestions
Hani Shukrallah , Monday 7 Feb 2011

Muslim and Coptic protesters in Tahrir sq. raise a cross and a copy of the Quran in Sunday’s demonstration and prayers honoring the martyrs of the revolution (Photo: Reuters).
In Tahrir Sq, and among the various organized movements and bodies involved in the 25 January Revolution either directly, such as the youth movements, or indirectly, such as the so-called “Committee of Wise Men”, the general sentiment is one of disappointment and dismissal of yesterday’s proposals offered by Vice-President Omar Suleiman to “representatives” of political parties and other groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yesterday witnessed an unprecedented meeting between members of the “wise men” committee – who call themselves “the dialogue committee”, and blame the media for the “wise men” designation – and the representatives of five youth movements which have played a significant role in triggering the uprising, and providing a measure of field leadership to the protesters, not just in Tahrir Sq, but around the country. These are: The 6 April Movement; the Campaign in Support of Baradei and Democracy; the Door-Knock Campaign, The Muslim Brotherhood Youth; and the Youth Movement of the Democratic Front Party.

The Committee, which is effectively led by the former head of the Human Rights Council, Kamal Abul-Magd, is made up of some 30 non-partisan public figures, including most prominently, Ambassador Nabil Al-Araby, a former judge on the International Court of Justice, and member of the board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The committee also includes prominent law professor, Yehia Al-Gamal, Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, Egypt’s former ambassador to the US, currently the Dean of the American University in Cairo’s School of Public Policy. It includes as well, Naguib Sawiris, a Copt and one of the country’s top businessmen, as well as Egypt’s top publisher, Ibrahim El-Moalem. Between Sawiris and El-Moalem, the committee effectively has influence on two Egyptian satellite TV stations, O TV, and On TV (Sawiris), and a daily newspaper, Al-Shorouk (El-Moalem), all three of which have not been shy about providing favorable coverage of the ongoing revolution.

Other members present a variety of public figures including a smattering of former government ministers, diplomats, academics, journalists, businessmen and prominent political activists. According to Abul-Magd, membership in the committee is subject to a number of criteria, including non-partisanship, personal integrity and public approval. Chuckling, he adds, “and a smiling face”.

In the course of their meeting with committee, the youth representatives said they had been called by the office of the vice-president and asked to join yesterday’s dialogue with various opposition forces. They declined, and said they decided they would rather have the “dialogue”, or “wise men” committee, negotiate on their behalf. They were very clear however that they were ceding nothing to the committee, but rather asking it to deliver their demands and report back to them on the course of negotiations. This was readily agreed to by the committee; Abul-Magd and others assured the youth representatives that they made no claims to speak in the name of the protesters in Tahrir sq or anywhere else in the country, but were merely trying to help facilitate the realization of the objectives of the 25 January Revolution, with which they are fully accord.

Representing the committee in the meeting with vice-president Suleiman were law El-Gamal and Sawiris. El-Gamal arrived at the committee’s ad hoc headquarters at the premises of Al-Shorouk daily newspaper, and briefed committee members and the youth representatives on the vice-president’s offers, which had been set down in a statement, later published as the outcome of an agreement between the government and the protesters representatives.

In separate meetings, both groupings wholly rejected the statement, which they described as a manifest attempt to circumvent the revolution and subvert its basic demands. Similar reactions were later declared by the protesters in Tahrir and elsewhere, as well as by the Muslim Brotherhood, which had won a newfound, if still de facto legitimacy by being invited to the dialogue.

As matters stand today, the protesters continue to insist that President Mubarak either resign, or delegate his powers to the vice-president, in accordance with Article 139 of the Constitution, and fade out of the political stage, possibly moving to his Sharm El-Sheikh residence, or traveling abroad for treatment.

No one in the revolution camp is buying the constitutional amendment argument raised by Suleiman and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. According to this argument, the relevant article of the constitution allows the president to give over all his powers to the vice president or the prime minister with two exceptions: declaring war, or amending the constitution.

There are two responses to this. One, which is supported by prominent businessman and opposition figure, Mamdouh Hamza, is that a constitution that has been approved and amended several times by rigged referendums is made null and void by the revolution. “The people are the only source of legitimacy, at the present moment,” he says, adding “and it’s all nonsense anyway, just a pretext like a whole series of other pretexts they’ve been hanging on, including stability, the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak’s dignity, and so on.” The UK, he went on, does not have a constitution, and “they don’t seem to have any problem operating a democratic system of government.”

Another response, which was suggested by some of the young activists, is that Mubarak should offer the people a whole “package” of measures, at one and the same time, thus dissolving both houses of parliament, call for the amendment of the constitution, and announcing the delegation of his powers to the vice-president.

Yet there remains the situation on the ground. There is among the protesters and their supporters a very strong feeling that the regime is basically playing for time. And that they are quite capable of reneging on all promises once the protest shows signs of exhaustion, and begins to dwindle. “We don’t have any guarantees that within a few weeks, or a couple of months, thousands will not be rounded up and thrown in concentration camps, accused of being agents of foreign powers. After all, they’re still talking about foreign agendas and “foreign fingers” in Tahrir sq.”

As such members of the committee and the youth representatives agreed that a number of urgent demands must be met immediately, if the negotiating process is allowed to go on. “These demands,” said one committee member, “could be implemented in an afternoon.”

They include: 1) Eliminating the state of emergency, in force for the past 30 years; 2) immediate release of all political prisoners, and prisoners of conscience; 3) immediate arrest and prosecution of NDP Oligarchs, officials and police officers and agents implicated in the “criminal” attacks on protesters (killing over 200 people and thousands of injured), and on public and private property, including the attempts to loot and burn the Egyptian museum. 4) Bring an immediate halt to all forms of incitement against the protesters, by state officials and the state owned media. And, finally 5) fire the minister of information, Anas El-Fiqi, and put Egyptian state TV under the oversight of an independent Board of Trustees.

The 25 January Revolution continues to possess a great deal of energy, as evidenced by the determination that is still to be seen in Tahrir sq. and around the country. Till when, is anybody’s guess. It all seems to depend on who blinks first, the protesters or President Mubarak’s obviously crumbling order.


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