Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak swore in a new Cabinet on Monday, replacing one dissolved as a concession to unprecedented anti-government protests.
In the most significant change, the interior minister — who heads internal security forces — was replaced. A retired police general, Mahmoud Wagdi, was named to replace Habib el-Adly, who is widely despised by protesters for brutality shown by security forces.
Still, the new Cabinet is unlikely to satisfy the tens of thousands of protests who have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt the past week demanding nothing short of the ouster of Mubarak and his entire regime. As news of the appointments broke, thousands massed in the protest’s epicenter, Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, broke into chants of “we want the fall of the regime.”
“We dont recognize any decisions Mubarak has taken since Jan. 25,” Mostafa el-Naggar, a supporter of prominent reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, referring to the first day of the protests. “This is a failed attempt — he is done with.”
Mubarak announced the dissolving of the previous government late Friday, naming his intelligence chief and close aide Omar Suleiman as vice president and former Air Force general Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister. But protesters immediately rejected the move as an attempt by Mubarak, Egypt’s authoritarian ruler of nearly 30 years, to cling to power.
The new line-up of Cabinet ministers announced on state television included stalwarts of Mubarak’s regime but purged several of the prominent businessmen who held economic posts and have engineered the country’s economic liberalization policies the past decades. Many Egyptians resented to influence of millionaire politician-moguls, who were close allies of Mubarak’s son, Gamal, long thought to be the heir apparent for the presidency.
In the new Cabinet, Mubarak retained his long-serving defense minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi — and gave him an additional title of deputy prime minister — and also kept Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
But for some posts, Mubarak brought in new blood by naming figures who hold widespread respect in their fields. For example, Gaber Asfour, a prominent literary figure, was named culture minister. He replaced the longest-serving Cabinet member, Farouq Hosni, who had held the post for more than 25 years. Also, Egypt’s most famous archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, was named state minister for antiquities, a new post.
State newspapers on Monday published a sternly worded letter from Mubarak to his new prime minister, Shafiq, ordering him to move swiftly to introduce political, legislative and constitutional reforms.
He also appeared to distance himself from the economic policies directed by his son Gamal, widely blamed for causing a wide gap between the rich and poor, for whom economic hardships have deepened. In the letter, Mubarak urged “new economic policies that give maximum care to an economic performance which pays heed to the suffering of the citizens, and lightening their burden.”
Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Sunday closed the Rafah border crossing after guards on the Egyptian side fled their posts amid the spiralling unrest gripping the country.
As the angry revolt against President Hosni Mubarak entered its sixth day, Hamas officials announced the Rafah crossing would be closed for “several days,” preventing hundreds of Palestinians from crossing into Egypt.
The move came after Egyptian troops stationed on their side of the crossing fled during the border’s normal closure at the weekend, as angry protesters rampaged across the country.
Every day between 400 and 500 people cross from Gaza into Egypt.
The closure was likely to keep thousands of people trapped inside the Gaza Strip, while the lack of personnel on the Egyptian side of the divided border town of Rafah would also prevent hundreds of Gazans from returning home.
With the crossing closed, Hamas bolstered its forces along the border, deploying hundreds of troops compared with the usual number of around 50.
The Islamist movement has so far given no official reaction to the crisis in Egypt, where more than 125 people have been killed in the biggest demonstrations to sweep the country in more than 30 years.
But the closed border did not prevent at least two Hamas security prisoners from returning to the Strip after escaping from a jail near Cairo as Egyptian authorities struggled to maintain a grip on law and order.
The two, who entered Gaza through cross-border smuggling tunnels, were part of a group of eight escaped Hamas convicts trying to return home, a senior official with the movement said on condition of anonymity.
The prisoners made their escape when thousands broke out of jails across Egypt amid an absence of police and chaos sparked by nationwide riots demanding the end of Mubarak’s regime.
Among those who returned on Sunday was Mohammed al-Shaer, a big name on the cross-border smuggling scene, arrested six months ago, and Hassan Wishah, who served three years of a 10-year term for unspecified security offences.
The remaining six prisoners were said to have reached Egypt’s port city of El-Arish and were expected to reach Gaza later, official sources said.
Although the prisoners managed to enter the enclave by tunnel, most other movement of goods through the underground network ground to a halt on Sunday, sparking fears of a fuel shortage in the Israeli-blockaded territory.
Abu Abed Alwahab, a Hamas border guard carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle, said, however, that tunnel workers were being allowed into the frontier zone.
“Our mission is to protect the border,” he said. “We prevent anyone from coming near, except for some workers in the tunnels.”
A man who identified himself only as Samih, aged 30, was carrying earth from the entrance to a tunnel which he said had been put out of operation by a partial collapse caused by rainwater.
“I am working to repair it,” he said, adding that he heard shots from the Egyptian side, “but there was more yesterday than today.”
Nineteen-year-old Samir was working in another tunnel nearby.
“If the tunnels are closed it means no fuel, no cement, no goods to Gaza,” he said.
Long queues formed at outlets selling fuel as Gazans began to stockpile petrol and diesel over fears that supplies from Egypt could be cut back, witnesses said.
Although most of Gaza’s fuel supplies are brought in through the tunnels, the Hamas-run economy ministry insisted there was no shortage and called for an end to panic-buying.
“There is enough fuel in the stores and enough food. We urge people not to worry about fuel or other goods,” it said in a statement.
After 30 years of mostly unchallenged rule, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak opened the door Sunday to talks with rival political parties while calling out those who, he claimed, used religion to “spread fear” through rampant hooliganism.
According to a transcript of his comments to leaders of his new government read on state-run Nile TV, Mubarak acknowledged what he called “peaceful demonstrations” as well as grievances about the economy. Thousands of protesters have hit the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and beyond calling for the president’s ouster as well as substantial reforms.
“The current stage requires us to reorganize the country’s priorities in a way that acknowledges the legitimate demands of the people,” he said.
The president, again recognizing the depth of the unrest, urged those charged with shaping the new Cabinet — specifically, his newly appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq — to pursue “a wide range of dialogue with all the (political) parties.”
Such discussions, he said, “will achieve the democratic process.”
Mubarak called on new government leaders to “stand against anyone committing any forms of corruption” and stressed “the necessity to continue with fair, serious and effective new steps for more political, constitutional and legislative reforms.”
As he did in a nationally televised early Saturday, Mubarak referenced the unsettled security situation across the country, in part due to a void created after police largely abandoned their posts.
He called on new government leaders to “stop all the violence by whoever commits it,” while appearing to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition party.
“The citizens and the young people of Egypt have gone out to the streets in peaceful demonstration asking for their right for the freedom of speech,” Mubarak said. “However, their demonstrations have been infiltrated by a group of people who use the name of religion who don’t take into consideration the constitution rights and citizenship values.”
The president claimed that such people of “giving the chance for criminal groups to loot and confiscate public and private property, spread fires and spread fear.”
Mubarak commanded the new leaders “to take care of the people,” so that they again felt safe from looters and other criminal elements. Mubarak expressed hope that the military could succeed in protecting Egypt and its institutions and soon go back to its original goal, “which is to defend the country and its sovereignty.”
The military itself addressed the public Sunday through a statement read on state-run Nile TV.
An unnamed man dressed in a military uniform urged people to respect the government-ordered curfew so that authorities can more easily capture those accused of looting and destruction in recent days.
In the comments, described as the third statement by Egypt’s armed forces since the unrest began, the soldier also asked citizens to help detain outlaws as well as the hundreds who have recently escaped from prisons.
Whereas Mubarak’s earlier speech dwelled mostly on security, his comments Sunday touched relatively more on substantive political and economic reforms.
The president offered few specific ideas, besides ordering that government subsidies not be touched. Yet he did charge the new government to “regain the trust in our economy.” He mentioned the need to “control unemployment,” keep inflation low and keep prices of key commodities in check.
“I trust in your ability to realize new economic achievements (and) to relieve the suffering of the people,” Mubarak said.
Countries around the globe warned against visiting Egypt and some began evacuating their citizens as bloody anti-government protests raged into a seventh day.
The United States and Iraq said they were starting to organize evacuations of their nationals, while Turkey, India, Greece, Canada and Saudi Arabia either planned to or had already sent planes to begin taking out their citizens.
Britain, France, China, Australia, Argentina and Nordic countries warned their citizens not to travel to the country but had no plans yet for full-scale evacuations.
“US citizens in Egypt should consider leaving as soon as they can do so,” Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs told reporters in a conference call.
The United States plans to begin evacuating Americans on Monday aboard government-arranged chartered planes. Athens, Istanbul and Nicosia have been identified as possible “safe havens.” She did not know the number of Americans in Egypt.
Iraq said it would lay on special flights to evacuate its citizens from Egypt and Turkey said it sent five planes to evacuate its approximately 750 citizens registered in the country.
Saudi Arabia said it organized 33 flights between Saturday and Monday to take its nationals home.
India sent a passenger plane to Cairo to evacuate Indian citizens, as did the small ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, which said one of its embassy staff had been killed from a gunshot wound in the unrest.
The Canadian government “is recommending that Canadians leave,” Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Sunday. Ottawa planned to charter planes to get Canadians to evacuation points in Europe, possibly beginning Monday.
Britain was advising its nationals to leave flashpoint Egyptian cities, but tour operators stressed there was no need to pull tourists out of popular Red Sea resorts.
The British Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Luxor.
“We do want people to take the opportunity if they are able to leave… but as yet the situation has not reached the stage where we would necessarily be considering chartering planes and getting larger numbers out,” Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the BBC.
The Foreign Office said some 30,000 Britons were in the country.
France has also warned against unnecessary travel to Egypt, but foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Paris was not yet considering evacuating its roughly 10,000 citizens in the country.
“We have the capacity to react” if need be, Valero told AFP, adding that France was “permanently monitoring” the situation in Egypt and “completely mobilized” to assist French citizens.
In Australia, the Foreign Office upgraded its travel warning from “reconsider your need to travel” to “do not travel”, counseling Australians against journeying to Egypt and advising those currently there to get out if possible.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said there were 870 Australians registered in Egypt but the real number was “likely to be in the thousands” and told anyone who could safely exit to strongly consider doing so.
China’s embassy in Cairo said on its website that the foreign ministry in Beijing had issued a “red” warning on Sunday, “requiring all Chinese citizens not to travel to Egypt.”
It urged Chinese nationals in Egypt to be careful of their safety and not to go outside unless necessary, adding that 300 Chinese nationals had been stranded due to cancelled flights.
Russia said it had no plans to immediately evacuate its about 40,000 citizens in Egypt.
“There is no reason to evacuate Russian tourists from Egypt for the moment,” a spokesman for the country’s tourism agency, Oleg Moseyev, told the Ria Novosti news agency.
“People are continuing to leave for the country’s seaside resorts, while signing a note saying they are aware of the situation,” he said, adding that only three tourists had asked their tour operators to cut short their trip.
A Belgian tour operator, Jetair, announced it was evacuating all its clients from Egypt but the country’s government said it would not organize a full-scale evacuation.
“For the moment, we don’t envisage urging Belgians living in Egypt to leave the country or organize evacuations,” a foreign ministry spokesman said, though a warning against traveling to Egypt was still in place.
Argentina urged its citizens Sunday to avoid travel to Egypt “until the situation returns to normal,” according to a statement.
Egypt’s decision on Sunday to close the offices of Al Jazeera illustrates the leading role the Arabic broadcaster has taken in reporting unprecedented popular revolts against Arab rulers.
Egypt has often harassed the Qatar-based channel since it began in 1996, setting off a revolution in Arab media in the face of state-controlled information, but it had never before tried to shut down its operations completely.
But the channel led the coverage of a Tunisian uprising when it began in late December and toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14, even though it was already banned from the North African country.
Then, sensing that Tunisia’s example would set off copycat movements elsewhere, the channel charted mobilisation in Egypt that led to huge protests in the past week demanding the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
“Al Jazeera saw the gravity of the situation,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institute in Doha, referring to the two revolts. “They saw it was going to be big before other people did and that it would stand as one of the historic moments in Arab history.”
Arab governments have often closed the offices of the channel, which helped put tiny Gulf state Qatar on the map and boosted its status as a leader of regional diplomacy.
A major oil and gas power, Qatar employs vast resources to back the channel. This month it began a stack of secret documents revealing embarrassing Palestinian Authority concessions to Israel in peace talks. Emad Gad of the Al Ahram Strategic and Political Studies Centre said the effort to smother Al Jazeera was the last effort of a dying authoritarian system to control events in the traditional heavy-handed manner.
He cited the government’s move to completely shut off the Internet and mobile phone lines on Friday in an effort to stop people gathering.
“Is cutting the Internet or the mobile network in 2011 a solution? This is equivalent to that. It’s the behaviour of a dictatorial state breathing its last,” Gad said.
Social media and mobile phone technology have also been cited as playing a major role in the street mobilisations of the past month, which touched Yemen and Jordan too.
STATE TV TRIES TO HIT BACK
Having ignored the protests for five days, Egyptian state TV has now focussed on the disorder that erupted after state security forces withdrew from the streets on Friday rather than ongoing protests against Mubarak. On Sunday state TV — which like other Arab official outlets has tried to modernise to keep up with the Qatari trend-setter — sniped against the station saying only a handful of protesters were in central Cairo, “in contrast to the tens of thousands Al Jazeera talked about”.
But Al Jazeera carried images from a still camera of crowds gathering throughout the day at Tahrir Square. The station also has a live channel whose transmission Egypt tried to block on its Nilesat satellite last week.
“We should have taken steps before with this channel since it has caused more destruction than Israel for Egypt,” governor of Minya province, Ahmed Diaeddin, raged on state TV. “I call for the trial of Al Jazeera correspondents as traitors.” Salah Issa, editor the state-owned weekly al-Qahira, said Islamists often said to dominate Al Jazeera’s editorial line were driven by a vendetta against Mubarak.
“It’s managers think they are creating a revolution, first in Tunisia, now in Egypt,” he said.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya has been more conservative in covering the Arab uprisings — less proactive in covering the protests in the early stage and quicker to promote a return to stability once concessions are offered.
As’ad AbuKhalil, a politics professor in the United States, wrote on his popular blogsite Egyptian and Saudi media were both trying discredit the protest movement.
“House of Saud’s propaganda is on over-drive. They are really trying hard to discredit the protests in Egypt,” he said, citing a headline in Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat “Egypt mutilates itself”.
The President last night named intelligence chiefand his close confidante Omar Suleiman as Vice President forthe first time in his 30-year rule.
He also chose aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq as new primeminister, hours after sacking the Cabinet and promisingdemocratic and economic reforms. Shafiq, a former chief of AirStaff, has often been mooted as a potential successor toMubarak.
Numerous jailbreaks were reported overnight fromAlexandria, Aswan and other places. An estimated 5,000 inmatesbroke free from a jail in El Fayoum, south of Cairo, killing asenior police officer, media reports said.
The violent protests against Mubarak autocratic regime,which began on Tuesday, have so far left at least 102 peopledead, including 33 who were killed yesterday, the reportssaid.
In the deadliest day of protests on Friday, 62 peoplewere killed, including 35 in Cairo. Seven people were killedon Tuesday and Wednesday in Cairo and the canal city of Suez.
Several thousand people had also been injured, amidreports that more and more armymen were joining the protestsagainst Mubarak.
Breaking into malls along the Nile, looters last nightpicked up TV sets, furniture, electronic items and clothesdefying curfew and and heavy presence of security personnel inthe capital.
Thousands of protesters defied the curfew for the secondnight and Cairo”s central Tahrir (Liberation) Square remainedfilled with protesters.
Troops and armoured vehicles had been deployed acrossthe city to guard key government buildings, and major touristand archaeological sites.
Despite heavy security presence, at least two lootersmanaged to get into Cairo”s museum of antiquities and damagedsome of the exhibits. Thieves also broke into the ArabInternational Bank and several cafes and eateries.
To protect their property from looters, residents ofthe city set up committees armed with guns, clubs and knives.
Protesters yesterday also tried to storm the InteriorMinistry in central Cairo. (More) PTI NSA KIM VMN
Protesters also besieged a police station yesterday in the Giza neighborhood of Cairo and looted and pulled downEgyptian flags before burning the building to the ground.
Pro-democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobellaureate and former IAEA chief, said Mubarak”s appointments ofVice President and Premier were insufficient.
“I tell President Mubarak and his regime to leave Egyptas soon as possible. It will be better for Egypt and for you,”he told Al-Jazeera television.
ElBaradei was put under house arrest after he joined thewave of protests against Mubarak following his return fromVienna, where he was based.
As Mubarak refused to quit, influential Arab cleric Yusufal-Qaradawi accused him of having turned “blind, deaf anddumb” and asked him to step down,
“President Mubarak … I advise you to depart fromEgypt … There is no other solution to this problem but forMubarak to go,” Qaradawi said.
The widely respected Sunni Muslim cleric asked Mubarakto quit for the good of the country, as his ouster was theonly solution to Egypt”s crisis.
Meanwhile, the official MENA news agency said that thepan-Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera has been banned inEgypt now.
Egypt”s outgoing information minister Anas al-Fikki has”ordered the closure of all activities by Al Jazeera in theArab republic of Egypt, and the annulment of its licences, aswell as withdrawing the press cards to all its employees as of(today),” MENA said.
The unrest in Egypt also affected stock markets acrossthe Middle East, which kept on tumbling.
Cairo stock exchange will remain closed today — despiteSunday being a full trading day in the Middle East — becauseof the turmoil in the city.
When Egypt’s police melted from the streets of Cairo this weekend, the people stepped in.
Civilians armed with knives, axes, golf clubs, firebombs, metal bars and makeshift spears watched over many neighborhoods in the sprawling capital of 18 million this weekend, defending their families and homes against widespread looting and lawlessness.
The thugs had exploited the chaos created by the largest anti-government protests in decades and the military failed to fill the vacuum left by police.
On Saturday, the army sent out an appeal for citizens to help.
“The military encourages neighborhood youth to defend their property and their honor,” it said in a statement.
On Sunday, joint teams of civilians and military were patrolling, some with guard dogs.
Mohammed Gafaar, a 34-year old salesman in the Nasr City area, said his neighborhood watch organized soon after the night curfew went into force at 4 p.m. They did it at the behest of residents, who appealed for protection of their property, sending out the call from the local mosque.
“I feel betrayed by the police,” said Gaafar, who had carried rocks, a stick and a firebomb in a soda bottle. “They have to be tried for the protesters they killed and for their treason. They left the country to be looted. I am angry at the regime.”
Akram al-Sharif, a 33-year old Cairo resident who lives in one of the affluent compounds in the city’s west at the edge of the desert, said locals hired twenty bedouins with guns, and organized into groups to protect the five gates of the compound.
“I am happy this is happening. There was solidarity,” he said. But he criticized the military for failing to protect private property.
The troubles began after days of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak reached a crescendo Friday, when tens of thousands poured into the streets after noon prayers in the city’s 3,000 mosques. The protests quickly spiraled into clashes with riot police, who fired countless canisters of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons and beat the demonstrators with sticks.
By Friday night, protesters had set fire to the ruling party headquarters along the Nile in central Cairo and the first reports of looting emerged — people making off with electric fans and televisions from the burning complex. Mubarak ordered the military into the streets for the first time to try to control the escalating turmoil.
On Saturday, the tens of thousands of police who normally patrol the streets vanished. Security officials, asked why they disappeared, said that remained unclear. But the police, who are hated by many, may have been seen as just fanning the flames.
Throughout the day, shops and malls were ransacked and burned, and residents of affluent neighborhoods began reporting burglaries by gangs of thugs roaming the streets with knives and guns. By mid-afternoon, shopowners and residents were boarding up their stores and houses.
Gangs of armed men attacked jails, sending thousands of inmates into the unpoliced streets.
As night fell, the neighborhood watches took up where the police left off.
In the affluent neighborhood of Zamalek, where many foreigners live and embassies are located, groups of young men, some as large as 40 people, set up barricades on every street entrance to the island in the middle of the Nile.
In other neighborhoods, residents wore arm bands to identify each other and prevent infiltrators from coming into their midst. In Zamalek, a handwritten announcement hanging on a street window asked people to register their names for neighborhood defense committees.
Watch groups armed themselves with a makeshift arsenal of shovels, baseball bats, whips, and the occasional shotgun. Young men organized themselves into shifts, and locals brought tea and other snacks.
“We have these firebombs, just in case,” said Amm Saleh, the doorman of a building in Zamalek. “Some of these thugs are armed with knives and guns, so we have to be able to defend ourselves,” he added, showing off a line of kerosene-filled bottles with paper wicks ready for action.
Neighborhood guardians set up metal barricades and stopped cars, questioning them about their destinations and street addresses and sometimes searching them. With many roads blocked, drivers went the wrong way on largely empty one-way streets to get around.
Long after midnight, gunshots rang out on a scenic street along the Nile, near the Indian embassy and the Algerian ambassador’s residence. One youth said the neighborhood watch confronted the passengers of a car, one with a firearm, and persuaded them to leave.
Residents said they were filled with pride to see Egyptians looking out for each other in a society where many, if not most, struggle just to subsist.
Gaafar, the salesman, had returned from Dubai to take part in the protests. He said he feels sad at how things turned out, but believes it won’t deter people from continuing to protest.
“This has brought out the best in people,” he said. “There were people who were much younger than me who have never come across gunfire before… They looked scared. But they were still standing. Everyone was so brave.”
As the curfew began at 4 p.m. Sunday, police were seen returning to some neighborhoods and working in tandem with the army to try to restore a sense of security.
The escalation of protests across Egypt on Sunday has prompted businesses and governments to evacuate their citizens and clients from the country.
The U.S. Embassy has been closed indefinitely, according to embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Coulton. PBS travel-show host Regina Fraser, currently in Egypt filming an episode of her show “Grannies on Safari,” has been frustrated by the lack of information.
“I’m going to tell you briefly that I contacted the embassy here two or three days ago, and no one answered. No one answered,” said Fraser, who has been traveling on a Nile River cruise. “The phone just kept ringing.”
Fraser said someone at the embassy picked up the phone on Sunday and transferred her call to a recording advising callers to visit the U.S. government website.
“There is no Internet here in Egypt,” Fraser said. “How could I find out information if the Internet is not working?”
Fraser said she wasn’t aware that flights to the U.S. would be available on Monday until informed by CNN.
“Many people just want to get out,” Fraser said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday that, “thankfully, we do not have any reports of any American citizens killed or injured” in Egypt’s anti-government demonstrations.
The U.S. government typically offers loans and, if necessary, charter flights to its citizens evacuating a foreign country. Those expenses, however must be reimbursed to the government.
According to senior State Department officials, there are 380 government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and 760 spouses and children living with them in Egypt. Officials anticipate helping transport 600 people out of the country.
Other nations were already evacuating citizens. Turkey’s semiofficial news agency Anadolu Ajansi stated that two planes were headed to Egypt Sunday to begin transporting Turkish citizens out of the country.
The television news service Al Arabiya broadcast an unconfirmed report that eight commercial aircraft from Saudi Arabia were on their way to evacuate Saudis from Egypt.
January 27, 2011 by admin · Comments Off
Egypt has witnessed several networking problems, as several social media sites have been shut down during the first and second days of nationwide protests. Some website have been confirmed as blocked by the government while others are left – culprits unknown.
Twitter was first to be shut down on Tuesday after all of Egypt’s internet service providers prohibited user accessibility. Nevertheless, some techno-savy Egyptians were able to access Twitter through various proxies.
“Twitter was used by people on the ground to relay what was happening,” said Rasha Abdulla, head of the Mass Communication department at the American University in Cairo (AUC), to Ahram Online.
On Wednesday, Facebook users reported difficulty accessing their accounts for at least 30 minutes at around 3:00pm:shortly after which Facebook began working again, albeit at a low speed.
Commentators have concluded that social media was the key mobilising factor in Tuesday’s mass protests.
“The whole process of mobility was virtual, internet is what has brought people together in this protest” said Amr Hamzawy, a political writer, research director and senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, speaking to Ahram Online.
Social media wasn’t the only target though as some online newspapers were not accessible as well.
The Dostor ‘s opposition newspaper’s website was blocked yesterday and has not resurfaced since then.
The El-Badil and Youm7.com online newspapers were not accessed for a couple of ours on the first elections’ day.
“Many newspaper’s websites are not functioning; the security apparatus is hitting back,” Hamzawy told Ahram Online. “This security apparatus is going to escalate the situation.”
January 27, 2011 by admin · Comments Off
LAST NIGHT Egyptian demonstrators in the northeastern port of Suez set a government building on fire and tried to burn down a local office of the ruling party.
Earlier in the day thousands of demonstrators, demanding the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, the lifting of martial law and reform, returned to the streets despite a ban on protests by the interior ministry.
Last night’s fire spread through parts of the Suez provincial administration office but was put out before the flames engulfed the entire building, security forces and eye witnesses said.
Dozens of protesters also threw petrol bombs at the National Democratic Party office but failed to set it alight.
In Cairo earlier in the day, 2,000 people assembled at the journalists’ syndicate and lawyers’ association offices, chanting, “Bread, freedom, and social equality.” Police cordoned off Tahrir square at the centre of the capital to prevent protesters from regrouping there but they were not able to stop groups from rallying and marching.
In the northern Sinai town of Rafah, demonstrators called for the release of long-term prisoners and in Suez protesters joined the families of three men shot dead by police on Tuesday.
The relatives refused to accept the bodies for burial until seen by an independent medical examiner. Rallies in other cities were crushed by baton-wielding police deployed at strategic locations.
Alaa al-Aswany, author of the bestselling novel The Yacoubian Building, said protesters “broke the barrier of fear. These young people proved they can take their rights forcefully.”
Protesters brought blankets and food to camp in Tahrir Square but were dispersed by police using water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Four civilians and one policeman were killed and scores of people were wounded in clashes on Tuesday. Over the two days 850 were arrested and many beaten. The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information called for the resignation of interior minister Habib Adly, blamed for systematic torture as well as violence against the protesters. The government accused the outlawed but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, of organising the protests but the brotherhood denied the charge.
Sayyed al-Badawi, leader of the opposition Wafd party called for the dissolution of parliament, free and fair polls, and the formation of a government that would address the grievances of the populace. He observed that Egypt was suffering the consequences of three decades of one-party rule.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on the “Egyptian authorities to respect and to protect the right of Egyptian citizens to manifest their political aspirations” and to demand “political action to deal with the problems that are affecting their daily lives”.
The White House urged the Egyptian government, a long-standing US ally, to be “responsive to the aspirations of the people” and to enact economic reforms to benefit Egyptians.
The Twitter and Facebook social networking websites – used by organisers to direct protests – were blocked on all Egyptian internet providers. Mobile phone text messaging was also disrupted.