Facts And Context About Ongoing Egyptian Protests
Blogger’s Note– This post is updated through 12 noon on 2/6.
This post seeks to offer history and context for what is taking place in Egypt. It is good to get the facts on what is taking place right now. It also has value to go back and better understand the underlying circumstances. This post attempts to offer a mix of current events and larger context.
There are significant protests taking place in Egypt against the longtime and undemocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981. A leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, has returned to Egypt. This is a strong challenge to the Mubarak government. Various oppostion forces in Egypt exist, but none of these groups can be said to be leading the demonstrations.
Europe and the United States are pushing for some type of transition of government. But at the bottom line, the Egyptian government does not appear to be yielding power. President Mubarak won’t give up power. But Mr. Mubarak’s departure is all that will meet the demands of the demonstraters. Given that the powerful army will not back a harsh crackdown, how can Mr. Mubarak hang on?
It is good to see people fighting for freedom and for a better life. People have to take charge of their lives. While circumstance does not always allow that, we see in Egypt that people can move ahead even in tough circumstances.
Let’s hope that something better does come to Egypt.
(Update 2/6—Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei says he is being excluded from talks. Mr. ElBaradei also says that the issue should long-standing change instead of an immediate demand that Mr. Mubarak leave power.)
(Update 2/1—The U.S. says Hosni Mubrak should go.)
(Update 1/31—The respected U.S. online newspaper The Christian Science Monitor reports that it is not clear what opposition group or groups have the upper hand if President Mubarak is forced from office.)
(Update 1/31-–Some wealthy areas of Cairo are being attacked by mobs.)
(Update 1/30-—Here is the AlJazeera blog on Egypt.)
(Update 1/30—2000 people in Chicago marched for democracy in Egypt.)
(Update 1/28–-Live updates of events on the BBC.)
(Update 1/28–Today’s protests are the largest yet.)
(Update 1/27–Reuters Africa reports many disruptions in internet service in Egypt. The government does not want people to organize.)
(Update 1/27– Mohamed ElBaradei is back in Egypt.)
(Update 1/27–As the BBC reports, the protests are now on day 3.)
(Update 1/26—Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Egypt.)
(Update 1/26– The latest videos and reports from Al-Jazeera.)
From the L.A. Times—
“The most obvious effect is the empowerment of the citizen. The individual who felt helpless before the all-powerful state has now discovered that ultimate political power really does lie in his or her hands — that in spontaneous and collective action, a repressive regime, enjoying widespread regional and international support, can be brought down in a few weeks.”
(Below–Hosni Mubarak with former President George W. Bush.)
From the 2010 Amnesty report on Egypt—
“The government continued to use state of emergency powers to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offences or involvement in terrorism. Some were held under administrative detention orders; others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials before military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in police cells, security police detention centres and prisons, and in most cases were committed with impunity. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were curtailed; journalists and bloggers were among those detained or prosecuted. Hundreds of families residing in Cairo’s “unsafe areas” were forcibly evicted”
(Above–Mr. Mubarak getting a symbolic shoe tossed his way in the ongoing protests. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari.)
After protests in Tunisia that began this month, the government in that nearby North African nation was toppled. Yet it remains unclear if what will replace the old corrupt regime in Tunisia will be any better than what came before.
The population of Tunisia is as a general matter more educated and more connected online than is the population of Egypt. This is said in no way to disparage the Egyptian people. It is simply to say that when people have not been free for many years, it can be tough to establish a functioning democracy.
From Mother Jones—
“Inspired by the recent protests that led to the fall of the Tunisian government and the ousting of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptians have joined other protesters across the Arab world (in Algeria, notably) in protesting their autocratic governments, high levels of corruption, and grinding poverty. In Egypt, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.”
(Above–The Nile River in Cairo. Here are facts about the Nile River. Here are various travel blogs that describe visiting Cairo.)
Global Voices is an excellent resource for citizen bloggers and citizen reporters from across the world. Here is the Global Voices Egypt page.
Here is an extensive series of articles on Egypt published last July by The Economist. This link is to the first of the eight articles. Links to the others are on the right side of the first article.
From The Economist–
“Political talk in Egypt has always been acidly cynical, but now a new bitterness has crept in. This has not been prompted by any change from above, since little has really changed in Egyptian politics since President Hosni Mubarak came to office 29 years ago. The sour mood is informed instead by the contrast between rising aspirations and enduring hardships; by a growing sense of alienation from the state; and by the unease of anticipation as the end of an era inevitably looms ever closer.”
(Above–Map of Egypt.)
At the bottom of both the BBC links are links to Egyptian and Tunisian media outlets.
Let’s hope that both Egypt and Tunisia find a path to better governments and towards a society that allows people to best use the talents they have in life. Let’s hope that these folks don’t end up with a right-wing religious government.
Let’s also use this North African unrest as a chance to learn more about this part of the world. We all have the abilty to learn more. Accessible and affordable technology, as well the old- fashioned daily newspaper and public library, are always available to help us learn more about the world.
(Below–The Suez Canal Bridge. Also known as the Mubarak Peace Bridge. People in Egypt seem ready to pass on over to something new.)