This warden message is being issued to alert U.S. citizens in Egypt of the potential for continued demonstrations in Cairo over the next few days. The Embassy reminds all U.S. citizens to avoid areas with heavy police presence or crowds assembling and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings and demonstrations.
As a result of events at Tahrir Square during the previous days and nights, indications are that sporadic or planned demonstrations will continue in the immediate future.
Tahrir Square Metro Station is closed as of mid-afternoon June 29. U.S. citizens who do not live or work near Tahrir Square should avoid the area during the afternoon and night of June 29. U.S. citizens resident in Egypt should monitor local news broadcasts for updated information about locations of demonstrations. U.S. citizens visiting Cairo should seek information from their hotel or tour guide in planning their activities in the next week. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. If caught unexpectedly near a demonstration, U.S. citizens should seek to depart the area as quickly as possible and should follow the instructions of Egyptian police and military personnel.
On Wednesday June 29, 2011, a soccer game is scheduled between the Al Ahly and Zamalek teams at approximately 6:00 p.m. The game will take place at the Cairo Stadium in Nasr City on Salah Salem Road. Attendance is expected to be as high as 70,000 fans and will begin to negatively impact traffic as early as 2:00 PM in the surrounding areas. The sheer volume of people travelling to the game may lead to some road closures and traffic disruption in the general vicinity of these areas. Police preparations might cause similar traffic disruptions. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the area of Nasr City and the Cairo Stadium during the immediate time leading up to and in the hours after the match. Those who must go to Nasr City, Heliopolis and the Cairo Airport should plan to arrive at their intended destinations on time.
In addition, several groups have called for demonstrations at the Embassy over the next few days. At this time the Embassy has no specific information on the size of the protests or indication of violent intent. There is likely to be an increased police and military presence in the area of the Embassy. The Embassy plans to be open for normal consular services on Thursday June 30. Consular clients should be prepared to show their consular appointment letters and identification at security checkpoints near Tahrir Square and the Embassy. Should the Embassy need to close on short notice because of security concerns, instructions for consular clients will be posted on the Embassy website at http://egypt.usembassy.gov. The Embassy will be closed on Monday July 4 in celebration of U.S. Independence Day.
The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times in Egypt. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information for Egypt, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts, including the current Travel Alert for Egypt, can be found. You can also follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and on Facebook. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
U.S. citizens are advised to maintain valid travel documents and enroll with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy Cairo through the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. For further information, U.S. citizens may call the Embassy’s American Citizen Services Unit at 2797-2301 during business hours, Sunday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. For emergencies after business hours and on weekends and holidays, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy Duty Officer via the Embassy switchboard on 2797-3300. The Embassy is located at 5 Tawfik Diab Street (formerly known as Latin America Street), Garden City, Cairo.
The United States has decided to resume formal contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, in a step that reflects the Islamist group’s growing political weight but that is almost certain to upset Israel and its U.S. backers.
“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.”
The official sought to portray the shift as a subtle evolution rather than a dramatic change in Washington’s stance toward the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society.
Under the previous policy, U.S. diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents — a diplomatic fiction that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.
Where U.S. diplomats previously dealt only with group members in their role as parliamentarians, a policy the official said had been in place since 2006, they will now deal directly with low-level Brotherhood party officials.
There is no U.S. legal prohibition against dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which long ago renounced violence as a means to achieve political change in Egypt and which is not regarded by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization.
But other sympathetic groups, such as Hamas, which identifies the Brotherhood as its spiritual guide, have not disavowed violence against the state of Israel.
The result has been a dilemma for the Obama administration. Former officials and analysts said it has little choice but to engage the Brotherhood directly, given its political prominence after the February 11 downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak.
STIRRING UP DEMONS
U.S. President Barack Obama will surely face criticism for engaging with the Brotherhood, even tentatively.
Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, made clear the pro-Israel group’s deep skepticism about the group in a speech last month.
“While we all hope that Egypt emerges from its current political transition with a functioning, Western-oriented democracy, the fact is the best-organized political force in Egypt today is the Muslim Brotherhood — which does not recognize Israel,” Kohr said.
Former U.S. diplomats said the United States had to engage with the Brotherhood given its influence in Egypt.
“We cannot have a free and fair election and democracy unless we are going to be willing to talk to all the people that are a part of that democracy,” said Edward Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel who now teaches at Hamilton College.
“It’s going to stir up demons,” he added. “You have got an awful lot of people who are not very happy with what the roots of the Brotherhood have spawned … There will be people who will not accept that the Brotherhood is of a new or different character today.”
Egypt’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for September and its military rulers have promised to hold a presidential vote by the end of the year.
DIPLOMATIC FIG LEAF
U.S. dealings with the Brotherhood have evolved over time and officials have found ways to keep lines open under the cover of one diplomatic fig leaf or another.
“We have not had contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood,” then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in response to a question at the American University in Cairo in June 2005. “We have not engaged the Muslim Brotherhood and … we won’t.”
The reality is more complex.
In the 1980s, U.S. diplomats had open dealings, visiting the group’s Cairo headquarters to call on members, including the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, according to the text of a May 2008 speech by Francis Ricciardone, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt who is now the U.S. ambassador to Turkey.
By 1994, when Walker became U.S. ambassador in Cairo, he said the policy was to avoid direct contacts and to deal with trade unionists or other prominent figures who happened to be members of the group.
This gave Washington a way to keep tabs on the Brotherhood’s thinking without antagonizing those who opposed such contacts or the Mubarak regime, which maintained its status as a banned political organization and imprisoned many members — but also allowed it to run social welfare programs.
Despite his animus toward the group, Mubarak himself indirectly facilitated U.S. contacts by allowing its sympathizers to win seats in parliament as long as they ran as independents, handing Washington a justification for contacts.
Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs under former President George W. Bush, said he favored dropping the ban on formal contacts — but approaching any actual dealings with great caution.
Abrams said positions espoused by some Brotherhood members — such as favoring religious tests for public office, questioning the rights of women and limiting freedom of religion or speech — were “anathema” to the United States.
The group says it wants a civil state based on Islamic principles, but talk by some members of an “Islamic state” or “Islamic government” have raised concerns that their goal is a state where full Islamic sharia law is implemented. The group says such comments have been taken out of context.
“It’s critical … that we make it very, very clear to Egyptians, if we are going to do a meeting, that we are no less opposed to the ideas they represent,” Abrams said, noting that there are splits among Brotherhood members.
“We have to think about whether we can use meetings to deepen those splits and to help, quietly, those who are trying to moderate the positions of the Brotherhood,” he added, saying the United States should choose its interlocutors with care and that the talks need not be conducted by the U.S. ambassador.
The U.S. official who declined to be identified said U.S. diplomats “will continue to emphasize the importance of support for democratic principles and a commitment to nonviolence, and respect for minority and women’s rights in conversations with all groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
A senior official has said more than 1,000 people have been hurt in two days of clashes between police and protesters over demands that the country’s military rulers speed up the prosecution of police officers accused of killing protesters early this year.
The official Middle East News Agency on Wednesday quoted Assistant Health Minister Abdul-Hameed Abazah as saying that of the injured, some 900 were treated on the spot and more than 120 admitted to hospital.
The violence began on Tuesday night in Cairo and was continuing on Wednesday with riot police firing in the air and using tear gas to disperse the protesters, who pelted them with rocks and firebombs.
The violence was reminiscent of the January 25-February 11 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Two days of street battles between security forces and protesters in Cairo show just how volatile Egypt remains nearly five months after the popular uprising that ousted authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
More than 1,000 people were hurt in the unrest Tuesday and Wednesday, driven by discontent over the slow pace of justice for old regime figures accused of corruption and killing protesters.
The clashes in Tahrir Square— the worst since the 18-day uprising — add a new layer to an already painful and chaotic transition from Mubarak’s regime to democratic rule under the supervision of the military.
The violence will likely set back efforts to empower the discredited police to fully take back the city’s crime-ridden streets after they melted away during the early days of the Jan. 25 to Feb. 11 uprising.
Additionally, it will almost certainly deepen the distrust felt by many Egyptians toward the 500,000-strong security forces blamed for the worst human rights abuses during Mubarak’s 29-year rule.
Gigi Ibrahim, one of the protesters, said security forces rained tear gas on demonstrators this week.
“It was like January 25 again,” she said. “The protesters have enough anger, either because change has not come or because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces hasn’t done enough” to meet their demands.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the latest unrest “underscores the fact that this is a very difficult period for Egypt.”
“It’s a period of transition and we remain committed to assisting the people of Egypt as they make their way through this period of democratic transition,” Toner said. “Transparency and rule of law are absolutely crucial and violence by any party will not help achieve the goals of the January 25 revolution.”
In addition to discontent over serving justice to Mubarak and stalwarts of his regime, the country is plagued by a dramatic surge in crime and divided by a debate on whether a new constitution should be drafted before or after parliamentary elections due later this year.
Many Egyptians also fear that Islamists are poised to dominate the country, taking advantage of the weakness of liberal and leftist groups born out of the uprising. Others are worried that remnants of Mubarak’s regime are undermining the nation.
The ruling military issued a statement on its Facebook page asserting the clashes were designed to “destabilize the country” and drive a wedge between the opposition and security forces. It called on Egyptians not to join the protests.
Security officials said at least 30 protesters were arrested and were being questioned by military interrogators. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The clashes had an immediate impact on the country’s stock market, whose benchmark index tumbled 2 percent Wednesday.
Riot police fanned out around the Interior Ministry building in Cairo’s downtown area and fired in the air or used tear gas as demonstrators threw rocks and firebombs. The fighting left streets littered with rocks and debris. A heavy, white cloud of tear gas hung over the area.
By late afternoon, army troops backed by armored vehicles took over from riot police, closing all roads leading to the Interior Ministry complex, the official Middle East News Agency, MENA, reported.
Ihab el-Manharawi, a 27-year-old protester injured in the January protests, said this week’s violence reminded him of the deadly clashes with security forces earlier this year.
“When I saw that, I didn’t care. … I joined the protesters,” he said. “The same old tactics … People have changed, but they haven’t. We wanted to believe it for a while, but the mindset (of Egypt’s current leaders) is still the same. These people must leave.”
More than 1,000 people were injured, MENA quoted Assistant Health Minister Abdul-Hameed Abazah as saying. About 900 were treated at the scene and more than 120 went to hospitals. Most of the injured suffered from gas inhalation, cuts, bruises and concussions, he said. At least 18 cars and 11 stores were damaged.
Ambulances, cars and motorbikes ferried the wounded to hospitals, while volunteer doctors and nurses treated others on the sidewalks.
Some protesters used scarves to shield their faces from tear gas. They pelted police cars with rocks and advanced when the riot police lines retreated. The main chant back in January and February — “the people want to oust the regime!” — was replaced by screams of “the people want to oust the field-marshal,” a reference to Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s longtime defense minister and chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that has taken over.
Some of the youth groups behind the uprising see Tantawi as tainted because he was a key member of the Mubarak regime. Critics also charge that Tantawi’s policies are designed to keep the old order, and accuse him of deliberately stalling the process of purging Mubarak loyalists and failing to reform the Interior Ministry and its security agencies.
Mubarak’s security chief, former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, is on trial along with several of his top aides for ordering the use of deadly force against protesters. This week, his trial was adjourned until July 25, a decision that touched off clashes between relatives and police outside the courthouse. Some of the victims’ relatives want Mubarak to be included in the case against el-Adly.
Mubarak has been under arrest at a hospital in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh and has been charged with ordering the killing of protesters. Both men face the death penalty if convicted. Mubarak and his two sons go on trial Aug. 3.
The clashes began Tuesday evening after security forces refused to allow about 100 people to attend a ceremony at a Nile-side theater to honor the memory of people killed in the uprising. Many in the crowd said they were relatives of victims and fought with police to gain entry, pelting the theater with rocks.
The crowd then headed across the river to the state television building, where they persuaded relatives of victims staging a sit-in there to join the protest. Together, they marched to the Interior Ministry, where they clashed with police and later headed to nearby Tahrir Square.
They battled the police again until authorities ordered the police to pull back.
There were an estimated 6,000 protesters at the peak of the riots late Tuesday.
Wednesday’s clashes centered on streets leading to the Interior Ministry close to the downtown campus of the American University in Cairo.
Tahrir Square was closed to traffic for most of the day and about 1,500 protesters remained out on the streets.
An Egyptian Christian telecom mogul has angered Islamic hard-liners by posting an online cartoon of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil. Read more
As many of you will have seen from the media there were violent clashes between protestors and police in and around Tahrir Square last night. The Square remains closed off this morning (as at 9am) and we understand police are trying to disperse the demonstration now using tear gas. Please avoid the area.
We have received credible reports of 2 recent car-jacking incidents on the Alex desert road. The victims were relieved of their possessions by armed men but were unharmed.
Such incidents are rare occurrences and these would appear to be economic crimes with no particular targeting of expatriates. We also understand that the Egyptian authorities have established police and military patrols on the Alex Desert Road, roads in South Sinai and on the North Coast road between Alex and Marsa Matrouh.
The traffic department have advertised the following emergency number 012 1110000, to be used in case of emergency for all roads in Egypt. We are checking if this is an Arabic only service and will advise you.
We are also hearing increased reports of bag snatching across the city and in other cities such as Luxor. Again expats are not particularly targeted. Our advice is not to resist, as this can result in being dragged to the ground and therefore serious injury, or worse.
Yasser Elkady survived Egypt’s revolution to remain CEO of the country’s IT development arm. He is now in the U.S. traveling city to city to meet with IT companies to assure them that Egypt remains a good place to do business.
One message Elkady is delivering is a commitment from Egypt’s provisional government that a decision to kill the Internet “will never happen again.”
As the protest rallies early this year grew ever larger in Cairo, the government sought to keep people from posting news on Facebook and Twitter. Reports of an Internet shutdown began Jan. 27, and on Feb. 2 the shutdown was reversed.
It was a stunning move for a country of 80 million people that has worked to develop its IT sector, attracting firms such as Microsoft, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, which built offices in Cairo’s high-tech office park, Smart Village.
Elkady says the government is rewriting its telecommunications law in response to the former government’s decision to kill Internet access. The law won’t necessarily preempt the government’s ability from shutting down the Internet but will likely set many reviews and approval processes to ensure that a similar action does not happen again, he said.
The government in Egypt remains unsettled. It is being run by military rulers under a caretaking arrangement until elections are held later this year.
But Elkady, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), says his job to promote IT investment in Egypt is critical to ensuring that democracy takes root.
To achieve democratic transformation, the country needs to have a strong economy and good jobs, said Elkady, and IT multinational firms employ about 150,000 people alone.
“We don’t have any other option but to achieve our goals and objectives,” said Elkady.
If anything, Egypt’s revolution raised the visibility of IT in Egypt. Egypt had just over 7.4 million Facebook users by June, a growth rate of 105% over the past 12 months, according to Inside Facebook. Over that same period, Brazil was the leader, with a 300% increase and 19 million users.
“We are proud that our sector was looked at like a tool for igniting the revolution, and a tool for communication during the revolution time and after,” said Elkady.
Elkady knows the IT industry. He was trained as a network engineer and worked as an executive at Cisco for 11 years until recruited by the Egyptian government about a year and a half ago. Last November he became head of ITIDA.
Despite the efforts of Egypt’s IT sector, analysis firm Ovum’s lead analyst, Peter Ryan, says, “The number of questions that remain unanswered are significant.
“The Egyptian government still needs to clarify the direction they are going to with regard to regular elections and economic policy,” Ryan said.
The country’s fundamentals remain the same. It has a talented workforce with good language skills, he said. “These are some of the best [workers] that you are going to find anywhere in the world,” Ryan noted.
But there is going to be a lot of wariness on the part of investors, Ryan said. Egypt could come back very quickly, “as long as enterprises realize that they are not working with a service provider that is not going to shut the Internet off arbitrarily for a week,” he said.
But he added that the government will have to make the right rules and do so quickly.
U.S. officials are trying to boost economic development in Egypt. While Elkady was in the U.S., U.S. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) were in Egypt, where they rang the bell to open Cairo’s stock exchange on Sunday.
An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the dissolution of municipal councils nationwide, taking a major step toward dismantling one of the last political institutions of the former president, Hosni Mubarak.
The decision, if implemented, would satisfy another demand of the democracy demonstrators whose protests forced Mr. Mubarak from power and ultimately led to his arrest. The military council now ruling the nation can appeal the decision, though it has indicated support for the order, Egyptian news media reported.
Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger, called the councils “the arteries of the corruption machine that ran the country.” He said they allowed Mr. Mubarak’s party to control “the daily affairs of the Egyptian people: decisions on water, electricity, garbage collection — the minute details of the Egyptian lives.”
The councils, which oversee administration of local governments, were elected in 2008 in a vote that was widely seen as rigged in favor of Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Of 52,000 open seats, 99.13 percent went to Mr. Mubarak’s allies, including 43,600 that were uncontested because of administrative or security decisions. Only 8,400 seats were contested, and of those 6,900 with to Mr. Mubarak’s party, 400 to independents and 1,100 from registered opposition parties.
Judge Kamal el-Lamei of the Supreme Administrative Court issued the decision in response to lawsuits that claimed the councils were corrupt and only served the interests of Mr. Mubarak’s party. (The party was dissolved by court order in April.)
Hamdi el-Fakharani, who filed the successful lawsuit, warned that the councils could provide a platform for members of Mr. Mubarak’s party to plot a comeback.
Local councils only be dissolved only by judicial order, and elections must take place within 60 days. Egypt’s interim government was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the ruling. Until new council election dates are set, Egypt’s municipalities will be managed by unelected local executives and provincial officials.
The military council has final say on all matters.
A group of Egyptians have launched a campaign over the internet calling to prevent famous Lebanese/Columbian singer Shakira from entering Egypt, and cancel her scheduled concert in Cairo in the month of November, in response to her recent visit to Israel a week ago.
Many people denounced Shakira’s visit to the Israel, and visiting Israeli children in a school in Jerusalem rather than visiting Palestinian children who are suffering from the Israeli occupation.
Shakira was also reprimanded for her visit due to the fact that she is half Lebanese, and there is strong hostility between Lebanon and Israel. The page that was created for the campaign stated that the attack is not on Shakira as a person, but its due to their strong rejection of normalization with Israel in any form or shape.
Members who created the page stated that a concert by Shakira will not add anything to Egypt, and her not holding a performance will mean so much more.
Organizers of the campaign resented Shakira’s acceptance of the invitation from President of Israel Shimon Peres, and her remarks of opening a new page with the Israelis, and expressed their shock at the actions of Shakira, demanding that she banned from entering Egypt permanently.
Shakira visited Israel with her boyfriend, Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique, and spent the night in a hotel in Jerusalem. During her visit, Shakira attended a Presidential Conference, after Israeli President had invited her to attend the opening of this conference.
One of the Egyptian telecommunications companies announced the purchase of Shakira’s concert; which is scheduled to take place in Egypt in November, for 2.5 million US dollars.
Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pellets early Wednesday to break up a demonstration by relatives of those killed in Egypt’s revolution.
But despite the efforts of police, demonstrators maintained their positions in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, growing their numbers to 2,000.
Clashes between protesters and authorities left at least 26 officers injured, according to Alla Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.
“Thugs carrying swords and weapons infiltrated the protesters and attacked the Ministry of Interior with Molotov cocktails and rocks,” Mahmoud said. “Nine people were arrested and we are dealing with the situation accordingly.”
The Ministry of Health also announced that 14 protesters had been seriously injured and admitted to hospitals.
A makeshift clinic was established in a nearby mosque where dozens of people were treated for minor wounds and fatigue from inhaling tear gas. Many people were seen bleeding from their heads and had suffered bullet wounds to the chest and face.
Several thousand protesters chanted against Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The council has been running the country since President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11.
Ambulances streamed out of the square in the aftermath, transporting protesters to hospitals, while others were treated on the scene. Noor Noor the son of presidential candidate Ayman Noor was seen bleeding with a serious injury on his upper eye and was later transferred to the hospital.
Police used tear gas on demonstrators well into Wednesday morning and fired on several men seen carrying swords and Molotov cocktails on side streets. A huge cloud of black smoke was seen smoldering close to the Ministry of Interior where protesters burned dozens of tires.
The protesters blocked the entrances to the square as calls were made on the internet for more people to join the cause.
The Imam of the nearby Omar Makram Mosque called via loud speaker for police to stop attacking the protesters, saying Tahrir Square belonged to “the revolutionaries.” He also urged the demonstrators to go home.
The human rights group Amnesty Amnesty International has estimated at least 840 people were killed and more than 6,000 wounded during the 18-day revolution that began in late January. The military-led government that took over when Mubarak resigned has been prosecuting several former officials accused of ordering security forces to fire on protesters.
A police officer accused of killing 20 protesters during a January 28 demonstration has been sentenced to death. Former Interior Minister Habib El Adly has been sentenced to 12 years for corruption charges but still awaits the verdict for the charge of killing protesters.
Mubarak is scheduled to face the Cairo Criminal Court in August on charges of corruption and deaths of protestors.
Egypt’s military rulers have set parliamentary elections for September. Protests have continued in the months since Mubarak’s ouster as Egyptians have demanded speedier reforms and economic improvements.