Barricades of burned police cars and other material at the entrance of Tahrir must keep attackers out. (Photo Hossam al-Hamalawy).
Is this Friday going to be decisive? That is what the protesters at Midan al-Tahrir are certaintly hoping for. They expect that again thousands will flood the square after the morning prayers and called it the Day of Departure. But the situation is tense and unclear, with barbed wire and makeshift checkpoints around Tahrir to keep attackers out, and an army which the past days occasionaly separated anti- and pro-protesters, but whose overall posture is still unclear.
Sofar 13 people have been killed in the fights. Alarming news is that many attacks have taken place on human rights activists and the foreign press. The office in Souq al-Tawfiqiyya Street of the Hisham Mubarak Legal Aid Centre, The Centre for Social and Economic Rights and The 6th April Youth were raided and about 10 people were arrested, among them the head of the Hisham Mubarak centre, lawyer Ahmad Seif. Also one of the field officers of Human Rights Watch is missing. And as far as the attacks of the foreign press is concerned, a whole luist is circulating of people having been arrested, beaten up, or otherwise harrassed.
Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that the Egyptian police yesterday also arrested seven youth leaders of the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square shortly after they visited leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei.The seven were named as Shadi al-Ghazali Harb, Amr Salah, Amr Ezz, Ahmed Doma, Amr Arafat, Nasser Mustafa Shawki and Nasser Abdel-Hamid.
But apart from that, Today's most prominent news is that the United States are now working to get Mubarak out immediately. The New York Times quotes an unnamed American official who says that one of the schemes discussed in Cairo is for Mubarak to hand over power to a transitional government headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman with the support of the army. Mubarak himself repeated yesterday that he would not leave. In a surprise interview - (or rather a sort casual meeting with ABC's 'star' Christiane Amanpour) - he was reported to have said that he was fed up and willing to leave, but had to stay in order to protect the stability of Egypt.
General Suleiman said similar things in an interview he had with state tv. Protesters calling for the departure of Mubarak were not part of Egyptian culture, he said, 'because we all respect Mubarak as a father and leader'.
Preparing for the battle, if one is to come (Photo Hossam Hamalawy)
But it were not those words, although bad enough, that underlined fairly clear why transferring power to the new vice-president is really a very bad idea.(If, this to be added, it means that he will stay till September and not will start talks with the opposition to relinquish power immediately to a completely different, transitional government.) In the rest of the interview Suleiman said that the protesters should go home now, since all their demands had been met. He claimed that he was talking with the opposition, which is not true as the opposition refuses to meet him.before Mubarak has gone. The president, he said, would leave in September, his son would not be a candidate, and changes to the constitution would be worked out, with regard to the time a president could stay in power. But for that a parliament was needed, he added. The January 25 Movement wanted to dissolve the parliament, he said, 'but how could reform be worked out without a parliament'. thereby forgetting to mention that the recent parliamentary elections had been falsified on a scale even unprecedented for Egyptian standards. He accused the foreign press - particularly Al-Jazeera - of telling lies about the unrest. And it was intersting to hear him say - the man who was and maybe still is in charge of Egypt's intelligence - that he did not know who had been responsible for the violence at Midan al-Tahrir. The government would look into that, had said, into 'the fact that it was a conpiracy'.
It was Suleiman's first public appearance in Egypt ever, after more than 20 years as boss of intellligence and aide to Mubarak. Blogster Zeinobia noted that apart from the obvious lies he was telling, he made a frightening impression, with a cold expression and not looking straight at the interviewer or the camera. She said that the same 'defiance and arrogance of the Mubarak regime' were reflected in his words with the familiar old 'talk of conspiracies , agendas , foreign elements roaming in the country and saboteurs', while at the same time he was putting 'the blame on everybody except the regime including that unfriendly channel in a friendly country' - by which - of course - he meant Al Jazeera.