Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mubarak's counter offensive

Tahrir at midday on Wednesday. (Picture Amr el-Beleidy)

It seems Mubarak wanted to make a move this time. Yesterday evening he gave a speech in which he promised to step down in September when presidential elections are held. His goal was to secure a smooth transfer of power in the months that he is still around, he said. And he wanted to stay and die in Egypt, to which he devoted his life. It was a typical Mubarak speech, coarse, devoid of emotions, let alone empathy. Without any recognition of what is really happening in Egypt these days. Of course the crowds on Tahrir were not satisfied. 
But the speech appeared to be the beginning of a counter offensive. Soon after he had spoken, around midhnight, the first batches of pro-Mubarak demonstrants were seen in central Alexandria. Somewhat later some 300 people on motorbikes yelling pro- Mubarak slogans ('With our blood, with our souls we are for Mubarak') circled some rounds near Tahrir and left. On Wednesday  it was even worse: boats with pro-Mubarak sogans on the Nile and some 1000 people who marched to Tahrir, where still thousands of anti-Mubarak protesters people were gatehered. The protests reached a surreal level, when pro-Mubarak protesters entered on camel and horsebacks.

Pro-Mubarak supporters enter Tahrir on horseback. Oh no, this is not staged. This is absolutely a real spontaneous, popular protest!  

There's no doubt that all this has been orchestrated: Central Security, government employees, maybe even tourist guides,  who are forced to do this or are payed to behave this way. The Egyptian state tv will no doubt film their performance in order to show that 'the' Egyptian people still love their president. It's a kind of obstruction that's not new. The same people tried to create chaos, and looted shops and the Egyptian Museum. Some of them appeared to be in the possession of CS (Central Security) identity cards after having been arrested. It's a warning to the anti-Mubarak crowds that the regime has not yet lost its ugly teeth.
This pro-government show was accompanied by a speech by Ahmed Shafiq, the new prime minister, who on tv asked the Egyptians to go back home. Order should return. After all,  reforms had allready been promised, hadn't they? Also he promised that nobody  who has taken part in the protests will be punished. Egyptians above the age of four know how to read sentences like that: if it is said in that way,  the opposite will be the case.  But, most ominously, also the army looked as if it was a partner in this gambit. It also made an appeal to to the protesters to stop their actions and go home.
 It is as I wrote yesterday: Mubarak did not go yet, and it will take more time. Blogger and activist Hossam Hamalawy  Today on Twitter phrased a variatioon obn that theme: the counterrevolution is in full swing, if we give up now we have soon to look for our bodies in a dustbin. So new mass protest will take place on Friday. But will that already be the decisive day?

Update 17.00 o'clock:
 Well, something else for a change: the sign reads 'Yes Mubarak'  and under - not completely visible - something like: so and so many million against - 70 million in favour. 

The invasion of the pro-Mubarak forces - many of them armed with knives and sticks - left tens of people  wounded Today at Tahrir. The exact number is unknown.The newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm evacuated its headquarters after the offices of Al-Dostour (a likewise leftist newspaper) had been  attacked.  The pro-Mubarak crowd succeeded in capturing a few horses and also some men, several of whom appeared to carry identity cards of the Central Security forces. (Amn al-Merkazy). Others were government employees. Al-Masry al-Youm said to have heard fom them that the National Democratic Party paid them 50 pounds to take part in the rallies. (Other sources mentioned amounts of 100 pounds or even more). Eyewitnesses testified, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm, that the pro-Mubarak people assembled in three places: Mohandesseen, Talaat Harb Square in Downtown Cairo, and near the TV-building in Maspero, before they marched towards Tahrir, where some of them vowed to 'liberate the square with blood'. At the assembly places they were handed out pre-printed signs.  
It seems that Mubarak, from a contested president of Egypt, has become the leader of a bunch of gangs.

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