Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Wael effect

 Tuesday was the 15th  day. There were more people on Tahrir than ever before. (Picture Al-Masry al-Youm) 

Tuesday was the day after the night of the Wael Ghoneim interview on Dream Tv and the effect was enormous. More people came toTahrir than ever before, many of them newcomers and many of them confessing that the interview with Wael had had the effect to convince them to join.
Among the newcomers were a number of Egyptian celebrities like  singer Shireen Abdel Wahab, who was surrounded by dozens of protesters and reporters. Some protesters accused her of hypocrisy, AlMasry Al-Youm reported, asking where she had been for the past two weeks. Another celebrity was football player (goalkeeper) Nader al-Sayed, who led the choir of anti-Mubarak slogans, hoisted on the shoulders of the protesters.
Wael Ghoneim also made an appearance, cheered by the crowd,  and held a short speech. 'We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime. My condolences to the fathers and mothers who lost sons and daughters who died for their dream, ' was his message. Ghoneim was the man who opened the Facebook page 'We are all Khaled Said' that became the spark that set the revolution alight. On Monday, after he was released from jail, a new Facebook page was opened, asking that he will be the spokesman for the uprising. On Tuesday evening some 150.000 people had signed in.

 Among the ones that joined the protests were many professors and personnel of the university, hwo marched towards Tahrir.(Al-Masry Al-Youm)
Tahrir has become a way of life in the past two weeks. Many live in tents, the square has seen Muslim prayers and Coptic masses, two weddings, there's graffitti on the pavement, electricity coming out of a wall of the Interior Ministry's Mugamma building to upload batteries of telephones and camera's, and there are makeshift hospitals and improvised washrooms in offices and a mosque. On Tuesday several thousand people marched from Tahrir to the parliament and demanded its immediate dissolution. Some are cmaping now also in front of this building.
Apart from the demonstration in Tahrir also huge crowds semonstrated in Alexandria, Suez and Mahalla, and Assiut and Minya in Upper-Egypt. In the oasis Kharga (governorate Wadi Gedid), clashes were reportd between the police and people who complained about poilice brutality. Three people were reported killed. According to Human Rights Watch the number of confirmed deaths in the past two weeks stands at 297. Al-Masry al-Youm reported that throughout the country many police stations have been burned down as a reaction to killings and mistreate,ments by members of the police forces.      

Labor unrest
In several places also labor protests erupted, with workers protesting against low salaries or mismanagement and with people demanding jobs. Strikes and demonstrations of workers took place in Cairo, where workers of the Health ministry, the state communications giant Egypt Telecom and printers at the state owned Al-Ahram newspaper among others staged demonstrations, while journalist staged protests at the building of the Journalists Syndicate demanding that Makram Mohammed Ahmed, a longtime ally of  Mubarak, step down as president of the Journalists Union, and at the magazine Rose alYoussef to demand that the editor and the manager of that publication will be fired. Strikes and protests against working conditions and (mis)management were also held in at several enterropises in places like Helwan, Luxor, Mahalla, Qena and Kom Ombo, while some 6000 workers at the Suez Canal Company in Suez, Ismailiyya and Port Said staged sit ins. Labor unrest was almost endemic in 2010 in Egypt, with many strikes thoughout the country for better working conditions and wages.
 Vice-president Omar Suleiman warned on Tuesday that the government 'can't put up with continued protests' much longer, during a meeting with the press. Suleiman told the editors of the newspapers that the regime wants dialogue and doesn't 'want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools', but that if dialogue with the opposition failed a coup could happen. When asked to clarify he said that he did not mean a military coup but 'a force that is unprepared for rule could overturn state institutions', which was 'very dangerous' for Egypt.
One notable change in Egypt is that the official press stopped to report the usual lies of the regime, and instead began to report openly about the protests. It still feels somewhat unfamiliar to see headlines in Al Ahram like 'Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt'.
Prayer in front of the Parliament. Picture right: Mubarak and his family are reported to have amassed btewen 40 -70 billion during his presidency. Protesters hung a sign at the gate of parliament announcing the trial of the man of 70 billion dollar. 

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