By Emad Mekay
A few points from events on the ground in Cairo as protests continue here:
1 – Some government media figures appear to be joining ranks with the protestors. Mahmoud Saad, a talk show host in the Egyptian state-run TV, has announced that he will no longer appear on TV starting tonight after he came under pressure from top government officials to report “untruths” about the protests.
Mahmoud Saad, a popular TV host, has told other journalists that his disappearance from his daily show, Masr El-Naharda (Egypt Today), comes in protests against pressure to defame protestors as rioters “destroying the country.”
The state is clearly starting to launch a media campaign against the protests. My guess is that they will try to scare off the rest of Egyptians from joining the protests in the future by labeling protestors “saboteurs.”
2 – Police continued to arrest women in big numbers. This is noteworthy because young Egyptian women, many wearing the veils and many others without it, are taking part in the demonstrations despite the violent crackdown by the police. I expect this to be a major contentious point that could push more ordinary to protest against the government that is arresting “their daughters.” In this generally conservative society, women are often treated with more respect and are often shiled from dealing with the brutal and abuse police members. It shows how nervous the government is. They are starting to cross some extra red lines.
3 – The government has stepped up its security response across the country with dozens of armored vehicles visibly deployed around important buildings in Cairo including the TV and Radio building overlooking the River Nile and several ministerial offices. There will be more beatings, arrests and rubber bullets. More injuries and, worse, even deaths if that pace continues.
4 – The government has co-opted labor unions. Sources inside the labor unions say that they now have directions from the Interior Ministry to work to foil any activities by independent labor leaders.
5 – The Egyptian government hasn’t responded politically to any of the demands of the protestors. The government has cut or removed subsidies for many staple goods in a country where millions survive on less than two dollars a day. Just before the protests broke out on Tuesday, the government was preparing to cut energy subsidies, a move that would have hiked prices even further. The health ministry was also planning to cut its public health care coverage, limiting the hours at public hospitals were patients could be seen for reduced fees. No word on whether that will change or not. For now, they are ignoring all calls for change.
Everything depends on where the Egyptian Army comes down. These types of regimes sometimes collapse suddenly, as in Tunisia. But if the army stands by Mubarak, he (or someone like him) will be running the country a year from now. Certainly the U.S. isn’t going to do anything to destabilize the regime; the Iranian experience of 1978-79 remains fresh in U.S. policymakers’ minds.
Egypt has yet to demonstrate a facility for democracy. If the autocrat falls, I’m afraid the Islamists will inherit power.
@Jon Harrison You forgot to mention that the CIA toppled the democratically elected leader of Iran and installed their puppet dictator. The people of Iran revolted against the puppet government and they ended up with the shitty theocracy they have today. Without US meddling the middle east would be a much better of region.
Jon, I think you’re missing something, two actually. Egypt can’t afford its military. Egypt can’t afford the subsidies, nor could Tunisia. Algeria and Saudi Arabia can, Lybia has resources and a small population, Morocco likewise can’t afford these subsidies either.
As you’ve noted these price spikes are related to speculation, so oil costs these oil rich regimes no more than before and boosts income/revenue.
But, the Egyptian military serves at the pleasure of the American President. Of course, like the resource poor countries of the Middle East, we can’t afford to prop up these regimes. Our force multiplier, NATO is also in tatters–shown most glaringly by Putin in Georgia.
The EU is not just cool on NATO, they are engaging in austerity programs. Germany, the wealthiest country in the EU is more closely tied to Turkey than perhaps any other EU country. And, they certainly aren’t eager to send soldiers to NATO.
The US is the lynch pin that supports all these dictators, and a recent survey put foreign aid on the top of the list to cut.
Now, while the Muslim Brotherhood hasn’t been leading these demonstrations, they are indeed likely the most organized and best positioned to make a power play.
As to your penultimate point, let me turn it around; “Egypt has yet to demonstrate a facility for democracy.” could well be said about US.
Caravaggio, I mentioned the ’53 coup in another comment (see Eli Clifton’s “Iranium” post of Jan. 26), calling it America’s “original sin” in Iran. I regard the overthrow of Mossadegh as a tragedy for both Iran and America. It was a monstrous act, and I’ve said so in print many, many times.
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