On the 17th day of the uprising in Egypt, protesters in Tahrir Square continue to call for President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, bus drivers, and factory workers, have gone on strike in Cairo, with other strikes and protests held throughout the country. In the New York Times, Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, criticized the US for calling on Egypt to lift its emergency law—which has been in place for four decades—and was quoted as saying that the army “would intervene to control the country” if needed.
And, according to a senior member of Egypt’s ruling party, President Hosni Mubarak could step down as early as today. Today’s New York Times quotes British Channel 4′s correspondent Lindsey Hilsum:
[She has] reported via Twitter that Hossam Badrawy, the new secretary-general of the Mubarak regime’s National Democratic Party, “just told me he expects President Mubarak to pass his powers to his vice president tonight,” in a televised address. She added that Dr. Badrawi “told me in three meetings yesterday and phone call today he convinced President Mubarak to pass powers to” Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief he appointed vice president days into the protests.
Politico also reports that Mubarak is expected to cede power to Suleiman and that he will make a statement from the Presidential Palace this evening.
The BBC reports on the scene in Tahrir Square:
In the centre of Cairo, medics streamed out of the Qasr al-Aini teaching hospital heading towards Tahrir Square.
“This is not about our wages, this is about holding those in power accountable and about getting our freedoms,” Soha Mohammed, who works at the hospital, told the AFP news agency.
The Guardian reported that, since the protests began, the Egyptian government has ‘secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents,’ and that at least some of the detainees have been tortured by soldiers who ‘accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.’
23-year-old Ashref was detained last Friday on the edge of Tahrir Square while carrying a box of medical supplies intended for one of the makeshift clinics that have arisen to tend to the protesters. His account:
“I was on a sidestreet and a soldier stopped me and asked me where I was going. I told him and he accused me of working for foreign enemies and other soldiers rushed over and they all started hitting me with their guns,” he said.
Ashraf was hauled off to a makeshift army post where his hands were bound behind his back and he was beaten some more before being moved to an area under military control at the back of the museum.
“They put me in a room. An officer came and asked me who was paying me to be against the government. When I said I wanted a better government he hit me across the head and I fell to the floor. Then soldiers started kicking me. One of them kept kicking me between my legs,” he said.
“They got a bayonet and threatened to rape me with it. Then they waved it between my legs. They said I could die there or I could disappear into prison and no one would ever know. The torture was painful but the idea of disappearing in a military prison was really frightening.”
Ashraf said the beatings continued on and off for several hours until he was put in a room with about a dozen other men, all of whom had been severely tortured. He was let go after about 18 hours with a warning not to return to Tahrir Square.
Some of the detainees—including lawyers, journalists, and others like Ashref—have been held in no other place than the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on the edge of Tahrir Square.
Cairo is not exactly known as the cleanest of cities, with pigs consuming garbage in the streets and a place called ‘Garbage City‘ outside of its borders. But in Tahrir Square, there are places to deposit organic vs. inorganic trash, the New York Times reports:
On Wednesday evening, as protesters settled in for another night outside the gates of the country’s Parliament and in its central square, Evan Hill, a Web journalist for Al Jazeera, reported with amazement on Twitter:
Tahrir Square, so far beyond modern Egyptian infrastructure. They have organic and non-organic trash bins. Put these people in government!
A video of the Tahrir Square recycling station is below: A small sign of progress that says a lot.
To see more about the developments in Egypt, click here.
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Photo by RamyRaoof.
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