Egypt Erupts in Calls for Change
Reports are coming fast and furious from the streets of Egypt where thousands protested yesterday and again today. In the city of Suez where at least three and possibly seven protestors were killed by security forces yesterday, local sources say it is a “city at war.”
There are reports of a “massacre” in Suez as I type and media is being blocked from entering the city according to several sources. Mobile phone and all internet connections are also reported to be out and there have been reports of live fire.
Zeinobia, whose Egyptian Chronicles everyone should be following as well as her twitter feed, has pointed to this Facebook page to show support and get news:Support Protests in Egypt. On her own blog she explains the situation in Suez:
The Suez city is like a war zone currently , the updates coming from the city currently describing very violent clashes between the locals and the police forces. The people of Suez are extremely angry for the murder of three locals “Mustafa Reda , Soliman Saber and Gharib Abdel Aziz Abdel Latif” yesterday during the #Jan25 Anger Day protest.”…
Noting that 130 in Suez were injured yesterday – and that clashes erupted when the security forces tried to block funerals of yesterday’s victims, she goes on to write:
The Al Arbin is witnessing some sort of war, the police reportedly is using live ammunition and the citizens are using rocks and Molotov bottles. Just today another citizen of Suez is reportedly killed by the live ammunition of the security forces according to Masrawy.com and 90 are injured according to Al Shorouk News…
Again the people of Suez are suffering from terrible economic conditions as the factories owners there started to use cheap Asian labor instead of them creating a huge unemployment problem in the city. We are speaking about thousands without a job in a city. Suez has very strong history when it comes to fight , the IDF tried to invade the city several times and failed. Also many of the families in the Arbin quarter have roots in Upper Egypt , they do not give their rights easily.
Zeinobia has a series of videos from Suez – and hopefully more will get out.
She’s also just added this update from Suez: (click here) for more of her update:
* The clashes are going from bad to worse.
* There are thugs in the city who seized the opportunity and started looting in the city.
* The clashes and violence are spreading throughout the city from place to another.
* Protesters are reportedly encircling Al Anasri police station.
* The people of Suez are not only angry because of unemployment but they are angry of electoral fraud that took place in the last parliamentary elections
* There is a media blockage in Suez , no one is allowed to cover anything currently happening in the city.
* The clashes are moving to the suburbs of the city, there is reportedly a huge cloud of tear gas grenades
* Landlines are reportedly down in the city according to Al Jazeera reporter.
* The last thing we have heard from Suez that not less than 5000 citizens are having a sit in at the Geish street.
* Those who are destroying and stealing are unsurprisingly the thugs of the police !!
From Cairo, CNN’s Ben Wedemanhas earlier tweeted that:
We’re reaching the point where we can say #Egypt is in a state of revolt. President Mubarak remains silent. State is losing its grip.
The state’s grip may slip even more if the Reuters’ report that Mohammed El Baradei is going to return tomorrow evening to Cairo:
“Dr. ElBaradei will be returning tomorrow evening to Cairo,” said Baradei’s brother Ali in a message e-mailed to Reuters.
A member of Elbaradei-led National Association for Change told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the former diplomat will participate in the nationwide protests that broke yesterday.”
El Baradei has been seen as potentially the first “viable alternative candidate” to Mubarak’s rule (and plan to hand over the reins to his son) in almost 30 years.
Also from Cairo, we hear that electricity is being turned off in major sections of the city and security forces are blocking metro access to key locations as the crackdown continues.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights writes that:
there have been a total of 1000 protest-related arrests, 179 of which have since been confirmed by the center. The names and locations of the rest, however, remain unknown.
The center also stated that 350 protesters had been injured in Suez alone.
News of journalists held and injured continues to come in as well – an AP television crew has been arrested and has not yet been released and one of their photographers had his cheek broken by police yesterday.
When journalists gathered to protest this treatment earlier today, more were arrested and they are being held in the Gabal Al Ahmar camp. You can see photos of one of the arrests here.
As we watch, we must remember that the US has been a very big supporter of Mubarak’s dictatorial regime even in the face of report after report of his administration’s abuses.
Today we’ve seen a slightly more active voice from Washington with Secretary of State Clinton’s statement:
“We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” Clinton said in a statement with Jordan’s Nasser Judeh at her side.
“We urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications including on social media sites,” Clinton told reporters in the most blunt comments to date by the United States urging Mubarak to undertake reforms.
But of course, this was coupled with a White House statement that Egypt “remains a strong ally.” And many believe that the US administration is hoping that Mubarak can respond in a way that does not see him ejected from power as Ben Ali was in the Tunisian revolt which inspires the people of Egypt.
This US position is not lost on the protesters. As Zeinobia wrote last night:
It is 12:50 AM CLT now and our friends in Al Tahrir square are currently under huge attack from the security forces that are firing cannons of tear gas. Mass arrests are taking place in the streets of Al Tahrir. Many are injured. Ambulances are heading to the place
These tear gas grenades are made in the USA
Al Masry al Youm, an Egyptian news site which had one photographer hospitalized after beingshot with a rubber bullet yesterday noted:
Despite President Barack Obama’s recent assertion in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that the US “supports the democratic aspirations of all people,” experts say that Western reactions to recent civil unrest in Tunisia prove the West is not genuinely interested in promoting democracy in the Middle East.
“Events [in Tunisia] were quite embarrassing in terms of exposing western seriousness about democracy in the region,” said Dina Shehata from the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. She pointed to the fact that the US had switched its stance on Tunisia only once “it became apparent that [Tunisian President Zine al-Abidin] Ben Ali was about to be deposed.”
Or as Robert Fisk wrote of the calls for change across the Middle East:
In Egypt, we British loved democracy. We encouraged democracy in Egypt – until the Egyptians decided that they wanted an end to the monarchy. Then we put them in prison. Then we wanted more democracy. It was the same old story. Just as we wanted Palestinians to enjoy democracy, providing they voted for the right people, we wanted the Egyptians to love our democratic life. Now, in Lebanon, it appears that Lebanese “democracy” must take its place. And we don’t like it.
We want the Lebanese, of course, to support the people who we love, the Sunni Muslim supporters of Rafiq Hariri, whose assassination – we rightly believe – was orchestrated by the Syrians. And now we have, on the streets of Beirut, the burning of cars and the violence against government.
And so where are we going? Could it be, perhaps, that the Arab world is going to choose its own leaders? Could it be that we are going to see a new Arab world which is not controlled by the West? When Tunisia announced that it was free, Mrs Hillary Clinton was silent. It was the crackpot President of Iran who said that he was happy to see a free country. Why was this?