'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Egypt Erupts: Endgame? 

UPDATE 3: Hossam el-Hamalawy of 3arabawy describes the positive impact of the spreading strikes:

UPDATE 2: Hundreds of thousands of workers have gone on strike across Egypt today, and more are threatening to join the action tomorrow. Please consider reading this post from Global Voices in its entirety.

UPDATE 1: More on the the violent confrontations in Wadi al-Jadid, linked in the initial post, as well as Ismailiya, from Al Jazeera:

7:18pm The situation seems to have heated up in Ismailiya, where protesters stormed a government building and set fire to the governor's car. AFP reports that the protesters, angry that their requests for better housing had been ignored, came from a nearby slum where they'd lived in makeshift huts for 15 years. Police, notes the agency, have largely disappeared from the town since the protests started more than two weeks ago.

6:47pm There are reports of continuing crackdowns in Wadi al-Jadid.

Attributing the information to Egyptian security officials, Reuters reports that several protesters suffered gunshot wounds and one was killed when 3,000 protesters took to the streets.

AFP news agency reportes three dead and 100 are wounded in the clashes that have been going on for two days. The protesters, said the report, retaliated:

The furious mob responded by burning seven official buildings, including two police stations and a police barracks, a court house and the local headquarters of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

Social conflict in cities near the Suez Canal appears to be particularly intense given the violence in Ismailiya and nearby Port Said. In the first days of protest, there were particularly violent protests in Suez, another city near the canal.

INITIAL POST: Reports during the course of the day suggest that this phase of the political struggle in Egypt is approaching a conclusion:

There's a growing sense tonight that – with new cabinet appointees resigning, strikes multiplying, state media employees walking out and street protests maintaining their momentum – Egypt's government is fragmenting fast, particularly as their 'negotiations' strategy is rapidly unravelling.

As Wael Ghoneim said on CNN today:

This is no longer the time to negotiate, unfortunately. We went on the streets on the 25th and we wanted to negotiate, we wanted to talk to our government, we were knocking on the door. They decided to negotiate with us at night, with rubber bullets, with police sticks, with water hoses, with tear gas, and with arresting about 500 people. Thanks, we got the message. Now, when we escalated this and it became really big, they started listening to us.

Long time readers of this blog will find it humorous that Ghoneim cited the film V for Vendetta as a source of inspiration.

As you have probably guessed, negotiations between the regime and opposition figures are on the verge of collapse. Threatening the opposition with increased repression in order to avert a coup hasn't been received very well. Meanwhile, strikes are breaking out all over, so much so that neither the Guardian nor Hossam el-Hamalawy can keep up with them. By now, this New York Times report is surely outdated. And, there's also the fact there are still violent confrontations between the regime and the populace in cities away from Cairo, such as here and here.

Finally, this is this disturbing information about the response of the Egyptian military to the protests:

The Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began, and at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.

The military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners say this is clearly no longer the case, accusing the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture – abuses Egyptians have for years associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army.

The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.

Keep that in the back of your mind next time you hear about how the Pentagon is staying in close communication with its contacts in the Egyptian military. As with the attacks last week, this is just another manifestation of the process by which the US hopes that its allies in Egypt can sufficiently discipline Egyptians so as to induce them to accept a orderly transition administered by the people who have brutalized them for 30 years.

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