Deadly Protests Rock Egypt
Inspired by Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution,” tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets yesterday to demonstrate their anger and disgust toward president Hosni Mubarak, a close US ally who has ruled Egypt as a dictator for nearly 30 years. Four people, including one policeman, have been killed. The Interior Ministry has announced that it would not tolerate any more protests, and state security forces have clamped down hard on protesters. Some 860 people have been arrested.
The demonstrations continued today, with The Guardian reporting a “violent game of cat and mouse” between protesters and police on the streets of Cairo. Riot police with bamboo canes, staves and bars attacked demonstrators outside the Ramses Hilton, one of the city’s largest tourist hotels. Protests took place throughout Egypt despite the crackdown and the presence of armored vehicles on Nile bridges and at major intersections, squares and government buildings.
As in Tunisia, protesters organized using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to rally people to action. The April 6th Youth Movement, which organizes protests via Facebook, said it was undeterred by the crackdown and is planning a large demonstration following Friday prayers.
Millions of Egyptians are fed up with Mubarak and his authoritarian regime. As in Tunisia, economic hardship and repressive government have boiled over into unprecedented public displays of anger. Mubarak, age 82, may seek reelection to a sixth term this year despite his plummeting popularity. Egyptian elections are farcical, rigged affairs, and opponents of the regime are often imprisoned and tortured, sometimes even killed. Some observers believe Mubarak will try to hand over power to his son Gamal.
Many world leaders called on Egyptian security forces to exercise restraint and for the Egyptian government to respect its citizens’ human and civil rights. But the United States refused to criticize its important ally. “We believe strongly that the Egypt government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms that respond to legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented. Despite its repressive ways, the Mubarak regime is the second largest recipient of American military aid after Israel.
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