Protests continue in Egypt demanding end to Mubarak regime
Published Jan 31, 2011 10:49 PM
Jan. 30 — Massive protests continue throughout Egypt to demand an end to
the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year dictatorship that has served
as an anchor for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. In the streets protesters
have fraternized with members of the military, while police forces have largely
retreated. Meanwhile, youth direct traffic, as self-defense committees have
been organized to defend neighborhoods from violence at the hands of
“thugs,” who many suspect to be plainclothes police and members of
the ruling National Democratic Party.
After three days of demonstrations in which tens of thousands of people faced
brutal repression at the hands of the Egyptian state apparatus, hundreds of
thousands came out on Jan. 28 to protest the police brutality, poverty,
unemployment and corruption they have endured under the Mubarak regime. Defying
a curfew imposed by Mubarak the day before, protesters hit the streets not only
in the capital city, Cairo, but in cities throughout the country.
In battle after battle with the police, protesters endured rubber bullets, live
ammunition, police batons and tear gas released from canisters stamped
“Made in the U.S.” In many of these battles the protesters emerged
victorious, chasing riot police out of the main square in downtown Cairo and
torching armored police cars, police stations and several NDP offices
throughout the country, including the headquarters in Cairo. According to
reports, in some places police officers took off their uniforms and joined the
Police weapons and tear gas come from the U.S.
On the evening of Jan. 28 Mubarak made an appearance for the first time since
the protests began, holding a press conference to announce that he was ordering
the rest of the government to step down and naming a new cabinet the next day.
Displaying just how meaningless this development was to the people’s
demands, on Jan. 29 Mubarak’s first appointment was Omar Suleiman as vice
According to investigative journalist Jane Mayer, Suleiman “has served
for years as the main conduit between the United States and Mubarak. ... Since
1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian intelligence service [and] was the
CIA’s point man in Egypt for renditions — the covert program in
which the CIA snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them
to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal
circumstances.” (New Yorker, Jan. 29)
Unimpressed by the cabinet turnover, protesters have vowed to continue
demonstrating until Mubarak resigns. Participating in the protests, from most
accounts, are all sectors of working-class Egyptian society, including students
and youth, women, socialists, secularist and Islamist forces, and members of
other classes. Even those who abstained from protest showed support for the
demonstrators, throwing water and lemons from balconies so demonstrators could
clear tear gas from their eyes.
A post on Twitter quotes an interview with a woman protester from Al Arabiya
who said, “We divided our family in two; one half protests and the other
half rests and protects the house.” (Sultan Al Qassemi, Jan. 30)
On Jan. 28 the military was called into the streets of Egypt to help quell
protests. Yet soldiers have allowed protests to continue unimpeded. In some
cases soldiers had their pictures taken with demonstrators on their tanks. One
soldier told protesters through a bullhorn, “I don’t care what
happens. You are the ones who are going to make the change.” (New York
Times, Jan. 29) Another said, “We are with the people.” (Washington
Post, Jan. 30)
Nonetheless, brutal repression has continued, with reports from hospitals and
morgues suggesting more than 100 deaths and thousands of injuries. There have
been reports of snipers firing live ammunition at protesters.
The Egyptian state has attempted to limit efforts at communication between
protesters and the larger world, shutting down cell phone service and social
networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. On Jan. 30, the state closed the
Cairo office of Al Jazeera television and suspended accreditation of its
reporters. Some reports state that journalists were also singled out for arrest
and repression in earlier marches.
Egypt: a significant fire
Before an equally dramatic uprising in Tunisia, the sequence of events in Egypt
was not dreamed of by Arab governments, their imperialist masters or even the
most revolutionary organizers within the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Emboldened by protests that led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali — another Western-backed president — protests have
spread to Algeria, Jordan and Yemen as well.
Egypt holds particular significance as a major prop of U.S. imperialism in the
region. Until the recent protests the U.S. was happy to ignore the repression
of the Egyptian people while providing the Mubarak regime with high-tech
weaponry. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the
world, receiving $1.3 billion annually in fighter planes, tanks, warships and
missiles. In addition, since the 1978 Camp David accords, Egypt has been a
bulwark to the neighboring Israeli settler state. In bordering Gaza,
Palestinians have had to dig tunnels into Egypt just to procure the basics of
life, since Egypt has consistently enforced an inhumane blockade of Gaza.
The U.S. has raised only the most tepid objections to state repression in Egypt
in the past week. As the situation has escalated, President Barack Obama has
mildly expressed support for an “orderly transition.” (Reuters,
Jan. 30) Egyptians on the streets this week have denounced the U.S. for
As a statement by the U.S.-based International Action Center declares, “A
seemingly all-powerful military, police and media apparatus, that has had the
support of the U.S. superpower for decades, is crumbling before the even
greater strength of a united people who have first conquered fear and may now
push the dictator’s regime into the dustbin of history.”
(iacenter.org, Jan. 28)
The very potential of a citadel of U.S. imperialism crumbling may inspire more
revolutionary actions — in the Middle East and Africa, throughout the
world and inside the U.S. The people of Egypt need and deserve the utmost
solidarity in this period.
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