What’s Happening in Egypt
Needless to say, quite a lot. Here’s a rundown of events from over the weekend, and some of the issues the protests in Egypt have given rise to:
On Sunday, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate who had been under house arrest, led a defied a government curfew and joined thousands of protesters in Liberation Square. Tens of thousands of protesters continue to gather in the Square today; the army, it’s reported, has said that it will not fire on them. Tomorrow, Tuesday the 1st of February—which will be the eighth day of the demonstrations—protesters are planning a ‘March of Million,’ today’s New York Times reports.
President Hosni Mubarak is struggling to stay in power. He has reportedly closed down not only the internet but banks, schools, universities, courts, and trains. While police have withdrawn from the major cities on Saturday, the word is that they are returning to the streets.
As ThinkProgress’s Zaid Jilani writes, former US officials and foreign policy scholars are calling on President Obama to withdrawn aid from Egypt. He writes that today
the Egypt Working Group — “A bipartisan group of former U.S. officials and foreign policy scholars” that includes CAP’s Brian Katulis — released a statement calling on President Obama to suspend military and economic aid to Egypt until the government endorses free and fair elections and ends its crackdown on civil liberties and civil rights.
Care2′s David Shorr writes about the ‘tricky dilemmas’ the protests in Egypt carry for Obama:
Not only does this year mark the 30th anniversary of Hosni Mubarak assuming power, but for slightly longer than that, Egypt has been the most significant Arab country to have a peace agreement with Israel. The $2 billion aid package America gives Egypt each year is, in essence, compensation for being a key ally in the region. That makes it hard for the United States to unceremoniously chuck Mubarak overboard.
In that context, the Obama administration’s stern calls for Mubarak to make good on his promises of reform is hardly the warm embrace of a friend.
The Obama administration is saying, David writes, that ‘it’s time for the process of finding his successor to begin.’
A government crackdown on the media continues: On Sunday, the government shut down satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian bureau. Al-Jazeera’s reports had been reporting in Arabic and English, from Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, around the clock. Audiences across the Arab world had been ‘riveted by the unfolding drama on the satellite channel, popular precisely because it is so different from the normal run of self-censoring state media.’ Today, Egyptian authorities arrested six Al-Jazeera journalists. All were released after being detained for one hour but their cameras and other equipment remains in the possession of the police. Protesters have set up two huge screens in Tahrir Square in Cairo, so they can continue to watch Al-Jazeera.
The US has begun to evacuate Americans out of Cairo, where some 90,000 Americans works and live. The State Department has authorized the ‘voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees.’
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Photo by Al Jazeera English