Egypt’s Days of Revolution (Jan 24 – 26)

First news I saw about the Egyptian revolution came from this article in the Guardian, published on the 24th of January:

Demonstrators are calling for the sacking of the country’s interior minister, the cancelling of Egypt’s perpetual emergency law, which suspends basic civil liberties, and a new term limit on the presidency that would bring to an end the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak, one of the Middle East‘s most entrenched dictators.

State security officials have branded the protests illegal, and said that those taking part will be dealt with “strictly”.

“I’m answering a call that began online, a call to stand up against police brutality on the day the regime wants us to celebrate their so-called achievements,” said Salma Said, a 25-year-old activist and blogger who plans to protest in Cairo.

“Of course demonstrating against police brutality means demonstrating against Mubarak himself and his whole regime, because they are the ones who created this system. Momentum is gathering really, really fast; friends I haven’t spoken to in years have been ringing me up, promising to come down.”

By the time I could finish reading, there was lots more news. Rome’s Adnkronos reported that Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal Mubarak,  fled Egypt for the safety of London sometime on the 25th. Even with the threat of arrest, violence, armored cars, and tear gas , the Egyptian protesters were said to number between 200,000 and 300,000 people:

“Police used tear gas and water canon to break up our protest and they arrested 40 of us, but we don’t have official figures on the numbers of arrests across Egypt,” said Adel. Supporters of the ‘6 April’ movement, the opposition al-Ghad party, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the al-Wafd party and supporters of former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed El Baradei took part in the protest.

The protesters want Egypt to end its 30-year state of emergency and pass a law preventing a president from serving more than two terms, and want the interior minister Habib al-Adly, to resign. Al-Wafd daily said police arrested 600 people during Tuesday’s protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Tantan, al-Mahala, Asiut, al-Bahira and al-Quium.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 people took part in protests in these cities on Tuesday, according to the Rasad al-Ikhbari observatory, which is staffed by journalists and opposition activists. Police set dogs on protesters in Port Said and charged protesters in Suez and al-Mahala, an unnamed activist from Rasad al-Ikhbari told AKI.

Protests are rare in Egypt, where Mubarak tolerates little dissent.

Hillary Clinton, as Adnkronos and several other sources reported, showed her support for the Egyptian government by claiming that it was “stable.” Twitter posts all day long asked the same question I did: “how in the world could she possibly say that?”

As the 25th wound down in America, AlJazeera reported causalities among protesters and police and numerous blogs attempted a summary of the day’s events, including this one at EAWorldView, which includes numerous photos and a minute-by-minute report of events throughout Cairo.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Feltman, America’s top-ranking envoy to the Middle East, looked at the events as a positive change for the United States. Suspicion shot through me after reading that and I couldn’t help but think Egypt should keep America out of its revolution. Intuition tells me Feltman and other American politicians are not at all concerned with the people or Egypt, or with democracy in that region.

All day on the 25th, rumors circulated that Twitter had been blocked by the government in order to stymie continued protests. On the 26th, AlJazeera and Twitter confirmed it:

Also like the Tunisian protests, the calls to rally in Egypt went out on social network sites Facebook and Twitter.

Throughout Tuesday, organisers used Twitter to give minute-by-minute instructions about where to gather in an attempt to outmanoeuvre the police, until the government blocked it in the late afternoon.

Twitter announced that its service had been blocked in Egypt at about 6pm local time on Tuesday (1600 GMT), and said that Twitter and its applications had been affected.

AlJazeera originally titled that article “Uneasy calm prevails in Egypt,” but by the middle of the day it had been changed to “Fresh anti-govt protests in Egypt.” AlJazeera also produced a video later that day, which summed up much of the information they had published up until the night of the 26th.

The Guardian’s Jack Shenker recorded audio when he was arrested and attacked by police in Cairo while interviewing protesters. He published an article today recounting that experience:

My captors were burly and wore leather jackets – up close I could see they were amin dowla, plainclothes officers from Egypt‘s notorious state security service. All attempts I made to tell them in Arabic and English that I was an international journalist were met with more punches and slaps; around me I could make out other isolated protesters receiving the same brutal treatment and choking from the teargas.

We were hustled towards a security office on the edge of the square. As I approached the doorway of the building other plainclothes security officers milling around took flying kicks and punches at me, pushing me to the floor on several occasions only to drag me back up and hit me again. I spotted a high-ranking uniformed officer, and shouted at him that I was a British journalist. He responded by walking over and punching me twice. “Fuck you and fuck Britain,” he yelled in Arabic.

“As I was being dragged in, a police general said to me: ‘Do you think you can change the world? You can’t! Do you think you are a hero? You are not’,” confided Mamdouh.

“What you see here – this brutality and torture – this is why we were protesting today,” added another voice close by in the gloom.

Speculation was rife about where we were heading. The truck veered wildly round corners, sending us flying to one side, and regularly came to an emergency stop, throwing everyone forwards. “They treat us like we’re not Egyptians, like we are their enemy, just because we are fighting for jobs,” said Mamdouh. I asked him what it felt like to be considered an enemy by your own government. “I feel like they are my enemies too,” he replied.

After several meandering circles which seemed to take us out further and further into the desert fringes of the city, the truck finally came to a halt. We had been trapped inside for so long that the heat was unbearable; more people had fainted, and one man had collapsed on the floor, struggling for breath.

By the light of the few mobile phones, protesters tore his shirt open and tried to steady his breathing; one demonstrator had medical experience and warned that the man was entering a diabetic coma. A huge cry went up in the truck as protesters thumped the sides and bellowed through the grates: “Help, a man is dying.” There was no response.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that at least 9 other journalists were beaten during the riots and that multiple websites and newspapers had been blocked by the government:

Egyptian authorities have blocked access to at least two websites of local online newspapers: Al-Dustour and El-Badil, local journalists told CPJ. The government has also blocked domestic access to social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, as well as Bambuser, a video-streaming website, according to multiple news reports, although sources on the ground tell CPJ that access to Facebook is intermittent. “It is an attempt to black out information and to stop the use of social media and communication to block those who are demanding democracy,” Gamal Eid, executive director of the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told CPJ.

Local and international journalists have been widely targeted during the demonstrations. At least six journalists working for Al-Masry al-Youm were assaulted by security forces: Ahmad al-Howari, Mustafa al-Mursafawi, Nashwa al-Houfi, Hisham Omar Abdel Halim, and Maha al-Bahnasawi, the independent daily reported. Lina Attalah, the managing editor ofAl-Masry al-Youm‘s English edition was also attacked. Attalah was covering the demonstrations in downtown Cairo when police blasted water cannons and tear gas. “I started running but four policemen pulled me by my hair and kicked me in my face and back,” Attalah told CPJ via phone. “I tried telling them that I’m a journalist but they were too busy kicking me.” Her glasses were broken and police confiscated two cell phones.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Mustafa Kafafi was also beaten. “I fell on the street and I started screaming ‘Let me go, I’m a journalist,’ but they didn’t care,” Kafafi told CPJ today. “Only after they found out that I’m with Al-Jazeera did they leave me alone.” Two journalists, Mohamed Abdel Qudous and Yahya Qalash, both members of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, were also attacked and arrested today, according to local news reports.

Twitter helped spread a number of photographs and videos from Cairo, including this one, which some people are referring to as the “Egyptian Tiananmen Square:”

and this one, which shows a solitary man charging a group of armored police. Other sources claimed live ammunition was being used by the police. You’ll need to use Chrome’s translate service for that page unless you read Danish.

I’ll be updating with news archives like this one every couple of days.

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