And what of Egypt…?

Strength in numbers

In the interests of cultivating a general narrative of what it going on, here are some field notes. This NYTimes photo montage speaks louder than anything about what is happening this weekend in Egypt.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The backdrop: Tunisia

The immediate backdrop for the current revolutionary protests in Egypt is the successful peaceful revolution in Tunisia. The Tunisians had long unsatisfied with Ben Ali,  a corrupt leader handing out the spoils to his family and friends while letting the people go hungry, and engineering elections while cracking down on any political opposition. They protested in huge numbers, and for days on end resisted the police crackdown. Finally, unable to restore his authority, the dictator-president panicked and fled. The Tunisians had won the right to try to move past dictatorship into something better. We have yet to see how deep the changes will be. They do not appear to be merely cosmetic, but the extent of democratic pluralism allowed, and the extent to which the new rulers of Tunisia will be truly new faces, instead of a reshuffling of old ones, also remains to be seen. But Tunisians are incredibly optimistic, and have accomplished something very significant.

The backdrop: Egypt and social media

All this was incredibly inspiring to repressed people all over the world, and especially in Arab states, which had followed the events closely. In an age where news travels fast and broad, where mobile phones pick up daily images of courage and bravado, the image of Arab Tunisians resisting their government successfully must have been incredibly suggestive to Egyptians who felt themselves in a similar situation. There is a lot of talk about the “social media revolution.” Of course, twitter and facebook did not cause any revolution. People caused the revolution. But they are an incredibly useful tool for organization at the grass-roots level, since they enable a fast-spreading web of information exchange linked through social associations that are infinitely expandable. So a video, and idea, or a plan can get passed around in a matter of hours to hordes of people, because of the facilitating nature of how social media sites function. You don’t call your friends about every idea, every link, every image you like, but you do put these things into facebook, which allows your friends to quickly scan for the good stuff and pass it on to their friends.

Juan Cole offers a useful summary of the reasons the Mubarak regime has become so detested to the Egyptian people. A lot of it has to with the the United States, who has backed his torture regime. Under Nasser, Egypt has drawn much esteem across the Arab world when it stood up to Israel and the West in a series of major confrontations. But under Mubarak, Egypt has been seen as a lap dog for the US, who supports his regime as a puppet for US interests.

The Egyptian state has run a torture regime for decades, and the US has consistently shipped them the folks it wants tortured under the “extraordinary rendition” program. While most Egyptians sympathize with the Palestinian’s call for an immediate end to Israel’s illegal and repressive occupation, the Egyptian regime, under US pressure (and aid), has consistently taken a policy position in favor of Israeli interests, such as the closing the Rafah crossing from Palestine to Egypt. The country has also been pushed by the US to liberalize economically, which makes the poor very susceptible to the volatility of world markets. Since the crash in 2008-2009, the price of food there has skyrocketed, making many Egyptian frustrated with what they see as a regime more interested in helping out the West and in holding on to power than in helping its own people.

Some cobbled together notes on the weekend’s events

Mubarak, in a desperate attempt to get people to stop protesting, has fired his cabinet and promised to reshuffle the government. All the top officials are out, he promises to install new ones, who supposedly will address the complaints of the protesters.

The state or the people?

In the height of irony, however, his response to crowds protesting his military regime has been to roll tanks into Cairo on Sunday. His ability to command respect in the army is crucial. If the army can be counted upon to shoot into the crowds, he has a chance of staying in power. If, however, as is being increasingly reported, the army sees itself as part of the people more than part of the Mubarak regime, then his hold on power is surely lost.

We should remember that the army is not a thing, but a ton of individual people who each have to individually agree and consent for any order to get carried out.

Mubarak’s gamble is that he can make some cosmetic changes and appease enough protesters, or give the impression of doing so, while simultaneously repressing the demonstrations as much as he thinks he can get away with, that they’ll all go home and leave him in power.

Juan Cole points out that, whatever effective power Mubarak may still have, he has definitely lost much of his authority. He explains the Weberian notion of power as the actual ability to use violence to impose control on people, while authority is the ability to achieve consent without using violence. To the extent that  Mubarak’s regime is currently maintaining control through the use of tanks and by shooting people (over 100 dead so far, plus 1,000 wounded), his authority has been totally lost and his control exposed for what it truly is, essentially a thing of violence (as all states our, including our own in the US).

Mubarak’s use of violence, police, and military to get everyone to shut up and go home (thus far, unsuccessfully) has been typical of his regime from the start. While there is a constitution under which civil liberties are supposed to be protected by a judicial system, there is an “Emergency Powers” clause that has been evoked for 29 of his 30-year reign. This allows him to suspend civil liberties and the protections of law, to lock people up for no reason, to suppress dissent, to use the police to intimidate people into obeying.

On Sunday, looters and street thugs broke into the museum and destroyed two ancient mummies.

The army, on Sunday afternoon, deployed in wealthy neighborhoods to protect them from looters.

Thousands of people tried to storm the Ministry of the Interior building on Saturday. Police opened fire on them, killing several.

The army imposes curfews, from 4pm to 8am on Saturday night. No one respects them.

The US and Western powers have slowly changed their rhetoric to reflect developments. They obviously are interested in as little change as possible in Egypt, whose been cooperating nicely with their interests. But they can’t be seen as supporting police crackdowns over peaceful demonstrations for democracy. It has been amusing to watch their word games try to match to events as they seem to become inevitable. First it was: we like M’s regime, it is stable (Clinton), nothing really wrong, he’s actually not really a dictator (Biden). Then, as opposition groups have gained power and the revolt is increasingly successful, the rhetoric has shifted toward a late-comer’s agreement with what everyone has already decided: “Oh ya, democracy is good, we think so too!”

ElBaradei joins the protestors and calls for the Mubarak to leave

ElBaradei, who has become the defacto leader of the opposition, reacted to the early US rhetoric of “Egypt is a stable country” with sardonic dismay:

“I was stunned to hear secretary Clinton saying the Egyptian government is stable. And I ask myself: at what price is stability? Is it on the basis of 29 years of martial law? Is it on the basis of 30 years of [an] ossified regime? Is it on the basis of rigged elections? That’s not stability, that’s living on borrowed time.”

<http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates>

The administration appears to be trailing in the wake of things, approving the shots that have already been made, trying to keep an air of legitimacy for whichever side wins. It will only come out against Mubarak and start uttering the word democracy if it thinks the peaceful revolution is inevitable.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

AlJazeera got taken off-air on Sunday. Mubarak and company don’t want the people to hear all that poison about democracy and Egyptian protestors calling for Mubarak to step down. Keep them in the dark.

Political prisoners are being sprung from jails in the hundreds on Sun.

Egyptian tanks, donated to the regime by the US compliments of US taxpayers, are being deployed Cairo, the capital.

ElBaradei gets the official support of the all of the opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which is certainly the most powerful. This makes him the de facto opposition leader. He immediately calls for Mubarak to step down. Leave, Mubarak!

It seems there is now a scramble over how the power vacuum would be filled if Mubarak does get pushed out. So there are Muslim fundamentalists, who would like to see and Islamic state set up; there are secularists of various colors. This is a major concern for Western powers, who don’t want to see a regime come to power that would be sympathetic to the US’s official enemies, from the Palestinian Hamas leadership to Hizballah in Lebanon to Iran to certain Iraqi factions.

Tomorrow promises to be a stand-off, a sort of game of chicken, between the army and the protestors, who are still coming out in large numbers. A larger curfew has been declared, this time from 3pm to 8am, even though over the weekend it has been totally ignored. In the meantime, everyone everywhere is scrambling to get their hands on the reigns of power: Mubarak, the army, the people (in the form of mass protests), and opposition groups, including ElBaradei himself and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the moving words of one online commenter at the British Guardian:

I am an American who lived in Egypt for 3 years. I want those people in the streets to succeed so badly I can barely think. Egypt is a police state and the Mubarak regime a brutal dictatorship. Everyone is under surveillance and the police beat and torture people with impunity. My tax money has paid for it. I’m disgusted by Hillary Clinton and deeply ashamed of the $50 billion that has gone to buying peace with Israel at the expense of the health, prosperity and freedom of the Egyptian people. I’m also utterly terrified about what is going to happen today, because having seen the Egyptian security service at work before, I can’t possibly imagine that there is even the remotest chance for success. In any case, I am praying that the the people in the street can succeed in bringing their government down, because they deserve way better than what they have. Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates>

WikiLeaks has released a timely new cable on police brutality in Egypt.

Written by the US ambassador to Egypt

Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. […] NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone. Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-latest-developments>

From a wikileaks cable transmitting the (confidential) State Descriptions of Mubarak:

Mubarak is a classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics. The Muslim Brothers represent the worst, as they challenge not only Mubarak’s power, but his view of Egyptian interests. As with regional issues, Mubarak, seeks to avoid conflict and spare his people from the violence he predicts would emerge from unleashed personal and civil liberties. Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-latest-developments>

And in another cable, this one on Egyptian police brutality, and from February 2010:

According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the worst police torture takes place during murder investigations. He said that his brother-in-law who is a police officer in the Delta Governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh described “unrelenting pressure” from superiors to solve murder cases by any means necessary. XXXXXXXXXXX said human rights lawyers and XXXXXXXXXXXX have told him that to conduct murder investigations, police will round up 40 to 50 suspects from a neighborhood and hang them by their arms from the ceiling for weeks until someone confesses. Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-latest-developments>


From the columns of the Guardian’s liveblog on the events:

2.19pm: The protesters are in control of the central square in Suez says al-Jazeera. There is no police presence. Jamal Elshayyal, their reporter in Suez, says:

The police has been quite comprehensively defeated by the power of the people.

2.08pm: Al-Jazeera is showing extraordinary live footage of a police firing teargas canisters at protesters and protesters throwing them back. Police have cleared one of the main motorway bridges over the Nile. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60

And more from the same column:

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, gives this detailed account of how protesters overwhelmed police in Alexandria today.

After prayers, the protesters came out of a mosque and started shouting slogans. They were saying “peaceful, peaceful” and raising their hands. They were immediately attacked by police in an armoured car firing teargas. Fierce clashes started then, with exchanges of rock throwing. About 200 police faced about 1,000 protesters. The clashes lasted for nearly two hours. Then a much larger crowd of protesters came from another direction. They were packed in four blocks deep. Police tried to hold them back with teargas and rubber bullets, but they were finally overwhelmed. Then the police just gave up, at about the time of afternoon prayers. Protesters gave water to police and talked to them. It was was all peaceful. Hundreds of protesters were praying in the street. Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

An Associated Press reporter saw the protesters cheering the police who joined them and hoisting them on their shoulders in one of the many dramatic and chaotic scenes across Egypt on Friday. After chasing the police, thousands of protesters were able to flood into the huge Tahrir Square downtown after being kept out most of the day by a very heavy police presence. Few police could be seen around the square after the confrontation.

In contrast to many of the rest of us, the Israeli regime is none to happy about all these developments toward democracy. This democracy probably wouldn’t work in favor of their interest in keeping an Egyptian regime that obeys their commands. Said one Israeli minister:

“I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.”Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

Also this:

Teenager showed me teargas canister “made in USA”. Saw the same thing in Tunisia. Time to reconsider US exports? Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

Excellent summary from this Friday by Juan Cole:


 

on Egypt over the weekend

 

Mubarak has sacked his cabinet. He is trying to stem the flow of revolt by making a show of changing things up. This is what the regime always does. They did it in Tunisia, except that the protestors kept on and forced them to do more.

 

M . still appears to have some control over the army. This is a determining factor. If the army can be counted on to shoot into crowds for the regime, then the regime will likely stay.

 

Juan Cole does well to point out the distinction made by Weber between power and authority. Whatever the effective power he is able to wield, he has certainly lost overwhelmingly his authority within the country over its people. For now, the only way he is able to stay in his position controling national resources and political policies is to use real power, which means shooting people or threatening to do so. Hence, he is revealed as a police state, a dictator. (Though it should be clear that he has always been a dictator. The regime has been under constant “emergency conditions” for thirty years, meaning that the constitution’s civil liberties can be suspended on an executive whim.)

 

The army imposes curfews in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, to run from 4 pm to 8pm.

 

Saudi Arabia publically stands behind Mubarak “with all its (S.A.’s) resources.”

 

The police open fire at the interiror ministry, which thousands had tried to storm on protestors at 2pm on Saturday. Three are killed.

 

Looters and street thugs break into the museum and destroy two ancient mummies.

 

The army deploys Sat. evening to protect the wealthy neighborhoods from looters.

 

There has been a slow shift in rhetoric on the part of Western powers, from the US to France, Britain, and Germany. Each of these was quite content with Mubarak, besides the occasional parenthetical gripe about human rights. What they really cared about had nothing to do with human rights or democracy, but with economic policies (free market, please!) and the Middle Eastern conflict (proIsrael, please!). But as revolution has become increasingly immanent, the rhetoric has shifted, like a surfer belatedly trying to catch the wave before it passes and he is left stranded behind the tide. So Hilary Clinton, Secretary of the State Department, says: We support the Egyptian’s rights to protest. She says nothing about their rights to elect their leaders. Its like: we want you to be free…as long as you agree with American political policies. Vice-President Biden, the same day, distinctly declares the Mubarak is no dictator. I guess he forget to consider the fact that Mubarak rules thru rigged election and police-state tactics, having declared and “emergency situation” 30 years ago in order to suspend the need for civil liberties.

 

“I was stunned to hear secretary Clinton saying the Egyptian government is stable. And I ask myself: at what price is stability? Is it on the basis of 29 years of martial law? Is it on the basis of 30 years of [an] ossified regime? Is it on the basis of rigged elections? That’s not stability, that’s living on borrowed time,” said ElBaradei.

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates>

 

 

 

Now that the tide of revolution has really picked up speed, the West tries to catch up. For another 24-hours, they (and Israeli leaders) would utter platitudes about “stability” in the region. By which they mean political status quo, through a shuffling of the Egyptian cabinet or something similar. Only just today have the finally uttered the word democracy.

 

AlJazeera gets taken off-air on Sunday. Mubarak and company don’t want the people to hear all that poison about democracy and Egyptian protestors calling for Mubarak to step down. Keep them in the dark.

 

Political prisoners are being sprung from jails in the hundreds on Sun.

 

Egyptian tanks, donated to the regime by the US compliments of US taxpayers, are being deployed Cairo, the capital.

 

ElBaradei gets the official support of the all of the opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which is certainly the most powerful. This makes him the de facto opposition leader. He immediately calls for Mubarak to step down. Leave, Mubarak!

 

It seems there is now a scramble over how the power vacuum would be filled if Mubarak does get pushed out. So there are Muslim fundamentalists, who would like to see and Islamic state set up; there are secularists of many colors. This is a major concern for Western powers, who don’t want to see a regime come to power that would be sympathetic to the US’s official enemies, from the Palestinian Hamas leadership to Hizballah in Lebanon to Iran to certain Iraqi factions.

 

Tomorrow promises to be a stand-off, a sort of game of chicken, between the army and the protestors, who are still coming out in large numbers. A larger curfew has been declared, this time from 3pm to 8am, even though over the weekend it has been totally ignored. In the meantime, everyone everywhere is scrambling to get their hands on the reigns of power: Mubarak, the army, the people (in the form of mass protests), and opposition groups, including ElBaradei himself and the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

In the moving words of one online commentor at the British Guardian,

m an American who lived in Egypt for 3 years. I want those people in the streets to succeed so badly I can barely think. Egypt is a police state and the Mubarak regime a brutal dictatorship. Everyone is under surveillance and the police beat and torture people with impunity. My tax money has paid for it. I’m disgusted by Hillary Clinton and deeply ashamed of the $50 billion that has gone to buying peace with Israel at the expense of the health, prosperity and freedom of the Egyptian people. I’m also utterly terrified about what is going to happen today, because having seen the Egyptian security service at work before, I can’t possibly imagine that there is even the remotest chance for success. In any case, I am praying that the the people in the street can succeed in bringing their government down, because they deserve way better than what they have.

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates>

 

10.26am: WikiLeaks has released a timely new cable on police brutality in Egypt.

Written by the US ambassador to Egypt

 

Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. One human rights lawyer told us there is evidence of torture in Egypt dating back to the times of the Pharaohs. NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-latest-developments>

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates>

 

From a wikileaks cable:

Mubarak is a classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics. The Muslim Brothers represent the worst, as they challenge not only Mubarak’s power, but his view of Egyptian interests. As with regional issues, Mubarak, seeks to avoid conflict and spare his people from the violence he predicts would emerge from unleashed personal and civil liberties. In Mubarak’s mind, it is far better to let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-latest-developments>

 

12.10pm: Another cable on Egyptian police brutality, this from February 2010:

According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the worst police torture takes place during murder investigations. He said that his brother-in-law who is a police officer in the Delta Governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh described “unrelenting pressure” from superiors to solve murder cases by any means necessary. XXXXXXXXXXX said human rights lawyers and XXXXXXXXXXXX have told him that to conduct murder investigations, police will round up 40 to 50 suspects from a neighborhood and hang them by their arms from the ceiling for weeks until someone confesses

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-latest-developments>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pixies/2011/1/30/1296424061934/Mohamed-ElBaradei-007.jpg

 

 

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/01/30/world/30egypt3_span/30egypt3_span-articleLarge.jpg

 

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/01/30/world/2nd-sub-egypt/2nd-sub-egypt-popup.jpg

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XnhHzs91MY&feature=player_embedded&has_verified=1

 

2.19pm: The protesters are in control of the central square in Suez says al-Jazeera. There is no police presence. Jamal Elshayyal, their reporter in Suez, says:

 

The police has been quite comprehensively defeated by the power of the people.

 

 

2.08pm: Al-Jazeera is showing extraordinary live footage of a police firing teargas canisters at protesters and protesters throwing them back. Police have cleared one of the main motorway bridges over the Nile.

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

 

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, gives this detailed account of how protesters overwhelmed police in Alexandria today.

 

After prayers, the protesters came out of a mosque and started shouting slogans. They were saying “peaceful, peaceful” and raising their hands. They were immediately attacked by police in an armoured car firing teargas. Fierce clashes started then, with exchanges of rock throwing. About 200 police faced about 1,000 protesters. The clashes lasted for nearly two hours. Then a much larger crowd of protesters came from another direction. They were packed in four blocks deep. Police tried to hold them back with teargas and rubber bullets, but they were finally overwhelmed. Then the police just gave up, at about the time of afternoon prayers. Protesters gave water to police and talked to them. It was was all peaceful. Hundreds of protesters were praying in the street.

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2011/1/28/1296219004898/Locals-pray-in-the-street-009.jpg

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

An Associated Press reporter saw the protesters cheering the police who joined them and hoisting them on their shoulders in one of the many dramatic and chaotic scenes across Egypt on Friday. After chasing the police, thousands of protesters were able to flood into the huge Tahrir Square downtown after being kept out most of the day by a very heavy police presence. Few police could be seen around the square after the confrontation.

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

Time magazine talks to “a minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” and reports that Israel appears to be backing the Mubarak regime:

 

With a deep investment in the status quo, Israel is watching what a senior official calls “an earthquake in the Middle East” with growing concern. The official says the Jewish state has faith in the security apparatus of its most formidable Arab neighbor, Egypt, to suppress the street demonstrations that threaten the dictatorial rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The harder question is what comes next.

 

But this was the most eye-catching quote from the unidentified minister:

 

“I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.”

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

7.35pm GMT: There is a White House briefing on Egypt promised shortly, but the Associated Press has this bombshell – that the Obama administration is using US aid to Egypt as leverage over the Mubarak regime:

 

An Obama administration official says the US will review its $1.5bn in aid to Egypt based on events unfolding in the country, where the authoritarian government is struggling to extinguish huge and growing street protests.

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

 

I guess part of it is that Mubarak cannot respond with the massive violence it would take, both from internal and from external pressures. On one side, his people would hate him for it, and the army might not even execute his orders; on the other side the US and other Western countries would have a hard time justifying their support for him.

 

If you’re not following CNN’s Ben Wedeman @bencnn on Twitter then you should. Here are three tweets he has posted in the last 10 minutes:

Teenager showed me teargas canister “made in USA”. Saw the same thing in Tunisia. Time to reconsider US exports?

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

 

Gibbs also repeated that the “people of Egypt” would decide events – suggesting that the White House was prepared to cut the Mubarak regime loose – calling their grievances “legitimate”

 

Pasted from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates#block-60>

 

 

Sepoy, at Chapatimystery, writes a lucid critique of the common reductionsims being pandered by 24-hour media talk-a-thoners and fast-react bloggers:

 

It isn’t a domino effect.1 What happened in Tunisia, isn’t what is happening in Egypt and what is happening in Yemen and what is happening in Lebanon and what will happen in Oman. The internet or twitter or facebook is not behind this.2 Neither is al-Jazeera.3 Each of these states have their very particular histories, very particular teleologies which are more decisive – whether politically or symbolically – than anything in the social media netscape bullcrap. Yes, there are striking similarities: the dis-enfrachised populations, the dictators or prime-ministers propped up by Europe or America (those chaste defenders of freedom everywhere), the young and the connected. Yes, no one wants this to happen – America and Europe would rather eat crow than actually admit to a democratic program in Middle East or Africa (teh Mooslims!) and there are powerful and entrenched forces within these states who will not tolerate any challenge to their hegemony.

What we see is life itself. These are the millions who have been denied participation in their own lives. Millions who have suffered the oppressive, fanatic violence of a state propped up by vested interests. They were always visible, they were always trying to tell their story, trying to eek out an existence of dignity and honor. How long can that quiet struggle last? How many have to give up before one stands and says, I will not go silently.

 

Pasted from <http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/homistan/days_of_anger.html>

 

Juan Cole is, predictably, extraordinarily helpful. He points out the ironies in responding to massive protests, which complain about his military dictatorship, by sending tanks into Cairo. He also suggests some of the recent historical reasons the Egyptian has lost legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens:

Egypt’s cooperation in the Israeli blockade of Gaza and its general quiet alliance with the US and Israel angered most young people politically, even as they racked up economic frustrations. Cairo’s behind the scenes help to the US, with Iraq and with torturing suspected al-Qaeda operatives, were well known. Very little is more distasteful to Egyptians than the Iraq War and torture. The Egyptian state went from being broadly based in the 1950s and 1960s to having been captured by a small elite. It went from being a symbol of the striving for dignity and independence after decades of British dominance to being seen as a lap dog of the West. […] The present regime is widely seen in Egypt as a state for the others– for the US, Israel, France and the UK– and as a state for the few– the Neoliberal nouveau riche. Islam plays no role in this analysis because it is not an independent variable. Muslim movements have served to protest the withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities, and to provide services. But they are a symptom, not the cause.

 

Pasted from <http://www.juancole.com/>

 

 

 

 

 

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