Egypt: An entire people stands up
Published Feb 1, 2011 11:22 PM
The ‘march of millions’ is the answer to decades of oppression in
Intergenerational uprising on Tuesday in Cairo
Since the early hours of the morning loud music from large speakers in front of
the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on the Corniche Al Nile in downtown Cairo has
been booming. Shortly past 8 a.m., at the end of the curfew, as the first cars
and pedestrians crossed over from the Nile Zamalik in the direction of the city
center, an additional person reports to the loudspeaker to speak. He promises
that the government understands the concerns of the people and resolves to keep
the country in peace and prosperity. A man holds a T-shirt in the air, on which
President Hosni Mubarak is caught looking down and smiling. A good three dozen
men wave the Egyptian flag and look around uncertainly, and some melancholy men
behind them run swiftly past them along the promenade towards Tahrir Square,
Liberation Square. While some — probably for fear of losing their jobs —
cheer the Mubarak regime — the others will demand this day the resignation of
the man who ruled Egypt for 30 years. Only rarely is there even a short battle
of words between the two camps, that is then quickly ended by soldiers, who
have been blocking for days now bank of the Nile between the State Department
and Tahrir Square.
"Today is a big day for us," a young man calls over, "thank you
for coming." He has an Egyptian flag slung over him and appears with his
friends to be reaching not at all quickly enough Tahrir Square, where today a
million people want to meet to march to the president’s palace. The
barricades were reinforced overnight, but army spokesman Ismail Etman had
already declared the day before that the military will protect the
demonstrators. "Everyone has the right to demonstrate peacefully," he
told a news conference. "The army respects the legitimate demands of the
Accordingly the crowds streamed cheerfully on this historic Tuesday to the
center of Cairo. Young couples and older married couples, groups of co-workers
and students, doctors in their scrubs, judges in their robes, chic women and
elderly men, with banners, bags, cameras and smiling faces as if they were on
their way to a football game or concert. On the military barriers civilian
orderlies helped search the bags, to be sure, that no weapons get into the
square. Some men are led away as provocateurs. Even as people flock to the
place they call out their slogans: "Down with Hosni Mubarak! Mubarak
disappear, today." On a large billboard at the edge of the square you can
read: "USA, don’t intervene. We demonstrate so, as we want it. You
can play your games with the tyrant."
The picture is colorful in Tahrir Square. Women with and without headscarves,
men in modern and traditional clothing, water and juice are distributed,
everyone has a smile or a kind word for foreigners and journalists, who are all
over. A man drives his wheelchair through the crowd and is directed to a safe
place on the outskirts, from where he observed the events. As Mahmoud Saad, a
prominent leader of the state television, appears on the square, he is lifted
on shoulders and hailed by the masses. Just a few days Saad had resigned in
protest over the coverage of the broadcast company.
On whatever they can get hold of, on cloth and plastic, milk and water cartons,
people write their demands. "Your time is over, now it’s my
turn,” a young man has written on a piece of cardboard. “Mubarak,
we hate you,” is in English on the poster, which an old man hangs up.
"Please go so Egyptians can live in peace."
Whether the march will actually take place is not so important a young man says
on the Tahrir Square. "If a million people are protesting today, here or
elsewhere in Cairo and other cities, it sends a the clear message to Mubarak:
He must go." For the first time in his life he feels like a
"responsible citizen” and not as a subject, the man continues. He
says his name is "Horus," after an Egyptian deity. All parts of
society were gathered in the square, "Men, women, young and old,
Christians, Muslims, rich and poor." He had always thought the Egyptians
were lethargic, but now they were standing there all upright. “That here
is the answer to decades of oppression," he says. "No one can undo
Translated from the original German on Junge Welt (Feb. 2) by John Catalinotto
Millions against Mubarak
Egypt's opposition called for a national "March of the millions,"
on Tuesday [Feb. 1] and the masses came. With the goal of bringing President
Hosni Mubarak closer to his resignation, the demonstrators in Cairo wanted to
move to the presidential palace, which lies in the affluent district of
Heliopolis in the north of the capital. In other cities across the country,
including Alexandria and Mansura, people also held large protest marches. A
simultaneous general strike led in some places to closing bus and rail
services. Banks, government institutions, schools and universities have been
closed for days.
The army had made it clear in advance that they would protect the
demonstrators. They said they would respect the "legitimate demands"
of the Egyptians and not use violence. Military controls were certainly
tightened around the central Tahrir Square, but there was an openly friendly
mood between soldiers and demonstrators. Even after 3 p.m., the start of the
curfew, people were trying to reach the square. They were bunched up in the
surrounding streets and on the Kasr Al-Nil Bridge, where during the protests in
the past week there was a massive police operation and many deaths. Up to the
time this article had to be submitted, the crowd had not yet made its way from
the center of the city to the presidential palace. According to observers, more
than two million people were on the streets.
Vice President Omar Suleiman, who was recently appointed by President Hosni
Mubarak, said on Monday night [Jan. 31] that he had made contact with
opposition groups to initiate a dialogue on political reforms. A spokesman for
the Parliament had earlier said that the November 2010 elections, which is
widely considered to have been falsified, would be reviewed by judges.
Representatives of all major opposition parties and movements in Egypt on
Tuesday [Feb. 1] agreed on a common position for their country’s renewal.
They demand Mubarak's resignation and a “government of national
unity.” In addition, the two chambers of parliament and regional
parliaments should be disbanded and a new constitution drawn up. The opposition
politician Mohamed ElBaradei called on Mubarak to make his office available and
to leave the country by Friday [Feb. 4].
Government bodies, meanwhile, shall continue to interfere with the conditions
allowing journalists to report. Also on Tuesday the Internet connection
remained interrupted and the office of Arab news channel Al-Jazeera remained
Barack Obama, meanwhile, sent his own negotiators to Cairo, among them a Frank
Wisner. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley was quoted in the press
as saying these negotiators should then meet with senior Egyptian government
representatives and reaffirm Washington’s call for democratic reforms.
Wisner, who in 1986-1991 was Washington’s top diplomatic representative
in Egypt and later was the U.S. special envoy for Kosovo, should meet even with
Mohamed ElBaradei, who is treated by the West as a possible candidate to lead a
transitional government. Diplomatic intervention is a sort of family tradition:
Frank Wisner senior had, among other things, established the operational
department of the CIA and was one of the main actors of Operation Ajax in 1953
against the then Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh.
Translated from the original German on Junge Welt (Feb. 2) by John
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