Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 24: January--February 11, 2011:

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on May 12,2014)

According to James Gelvin’s 2012 book The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know, in Egypt “youths between 15 and 29 make up…30 percent” of the population; and “youth unemployment in Egypt is 43 percent.” The same book also noted:
“The statistics on employment do not include those who have given up finding work (the `discouraged unemployed’) and those who work part-time…In Egypt…almost 60 percent of the youth between 18 to 29 are out of the labor force (in the case of women it is 83 percent)…In Egypt young people with college degrees rank highest among the unemployed of any sector of youth.”
Yet while large numbers of young people in Egypt were still impoverished, working long hours for low wages or unemployed—whether or not they possessed college degrees—by early 2011, a small group of wealthy Egyptian businessmen, “known as `whales of the Nile’” now lived “in gated communities on the edge of the desert, thus avoiding daily contact with the inhabitants of Cairo’s slums” in early 2011, according to The Arab Uprisings. In addition, by early 2011 Egyptian President Mubarak “had managed to accumulate $2-3 billion” in personal wealth and “Ahmad Ezz, who came to control 60 percent of the Egyptian steel industry was a close friend of Gamal Mubarak,” the son of Egyptian President Mubarak, according to the same book.
So, not surprisingly, after mass street protests in support of democratization and economic justice in Tunisia led to a change of leadership in that country, large numbers of unemployed Egyptian young people-- including many with college degrees-- joined mass street protests in Egypt for democratization and economic justice in Egyptian society near the end of January in 2011. As The Arab Uprisings observed:
“…Many of those who planned the Jan. 25 [2011] protests and mobilized others for them were young and technology-savvy…Like protesters in Tunisia, those in Egypt linked demands for political rights with economic justice and thus linked youths and labor activists in a common cause.”
After several groups of politically dissident activists called for street protests on Jan. 25, 2011, the same book recalled what happened in Cairo on Jan. 25, 2011:
“”In Cairo, the police stopped most…demonstrators before they could converge on Tahrir Square…But because the police were so scattered, they were unable to stop one group that had rallied in a working-class neighborhood. By the time that group had reached the square, its ranks had swelled to thousands. Others joined the protesters until they marched to Tahrir Square or at the square, until they numbered an estimated 10,000…Toward evening the police moved in and, after skirmishing with the protesters, fired tear gas and cleared most from the square.”
According to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline, the January 25th date had previously been the “national holiday to commemorate the police forces,” but Jan. 25, 2011 was announced as a “day of rage” by the demonstrators in downtown Cairo who, on that day, marched “towards the offices of the ruling National Democratic Party” of the Mubarak regime, “as well as the foreign ministry and the state television” offices of the Mubarak regime, while chanting “Down with Mubarak!”
On the Jan. 25, 2011 “day of rage” in Egypt , there were “demonstrations in 12 of Egypt ’s 27 provinces and in most of the principal cities of the country;” and in Alexandria “police reportedly killed 3 protesters” according to The Arab Uprisings.  In addition, in Alexandria “the residents of some of the poorest neighborhoods joined the protests” and “in Mahalla al-Kubra, the site of the Egypt Spinning and Weaving Plant—the largest manufacturing plant in the Middle East—workers dominated the protests,” according to the same book.
On the following day, Jan. 26, 2011, people continued to protest on the streets of Cairo and another protester was killed, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. In Suez--where there had also been some skirmishing between Egyptian police and protesters on Jan. 25, 2011—police and protesters clashed again and 55 protesters were injured, according to the Egyptian medical personnel cited by the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. And there were more street protests again in Cairo , Suez , Ismalia, Alexandria and Toukhs on Jan. 27, 2011, despite the disruption of Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry services by Mubarak regime authorities.
But, according to The Arab Uprisings, “the events of Jan. 28 [2011] might be seen as the beginning of the end for the Mubarak regime” in Egypt . As the same book recalled:
“Mubarak remained defiant: the government brought in goons on horseback and camelback in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the protesters from Tahrir Square, for example, and up until he announced his resignation Mubarak vowed to remain in office…The [Egyptian] army’s announcement soon after taking control of the streets that it would not fire on the protesters ultimately tipped the balance…Tens of thousands of Egyptian workers went on strike demanding wage increases and Mubarak’s resignation…”
Although no protesters were apparently killed in Cairo on Jan. 28, 2011 despite the goon attack on the Tahrir Square demonstration, 11 civilians were killed in Suez and 1,030 people were injured throughout Egypt on the same day; and despite the presence of Egyptian army troops on the streets in Cairo and Suez and Alexandria, street protests continued during the night of Jan. 28, 2011.
Then, on Jan. 29, 2011, “thousands of anti-government protesters in Cairo ’s Tahrir Square ” stood their ground “despite troops firing into the air in a bid to disperse them;” and “thousands of protesters” remained in Cairo ’s Tahrir Square on Jan. 30, 2011, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. The same timeline also noted that on Jan. 31, 2011 “250,000 people” gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, “hundreds” marched through Alexandria, anti-government political groups called for “a `million man march’ and a general strike on” Feb. 1, 2011 “to commemorate one week since the protests began,” the Egyptian military pledged not “to hurt protesters,” and “worldwide investors” continued “withdrawing significant capital from Egypt amid rising unrest.”
A million Egyptians then demonstrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Feb. 1, 2011, while thousands of Egyptian protesters marched in Alexandria and Suez on that same day; and on Feb. 2, 2011, 3 people were apparently killed and 1,500 people were apparently injured after the Egyptian “military allowed thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, armed with sticks and knives, to enter” Tahrir Square, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. And five more people were apparently killed and several more people apparently wounded on Feb. 3, 2011 from “bursts of heavy gunfire…aimed at anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir [Liberation] Square” which began “at around 4am local time (02:00GMT) and” continued “for more than an hour,” according to the same timeline.
But despite around 300 protesters having apparently been killed throughout Egypt between Jan. 25 and Feb. 3, 2011, and the previous day’s shooting of anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square, on Feb. 4, 2011 “hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters” still gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demonstrate, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline; and thousands of demonstrators continued to camp-out and occupy Tahrir Square between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, 2011.
Then, on Feb. 10, 2011 “tens of thousands of” Egyptian “workers from both the public and private sectors, including those from the petroleum, railroad, banking, retail, and heavy industry sectors, struck…and joined protesters on the streets of most major cities,” “in the textile industry, 18,000 workers left their jobs,” and “walkouts shut down the Cairo airport and stock exchange,” according to The Arab Uprisings. And on Feb. 11, 2011, “masses of protesters…descended on the state television building in Cairo and the presidential palace in Heliopolis , as well as in Tahrir Square ,” according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline.
So, as The Arab Uprisings recalled, “having decided that the army would not fire on the protesters, the [Egyptian] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] staged a coup d’etat,” “deposed Mubarak” and “took over the government” on the evening of Feb. 11, 2011. And the final total number of people in Egypt who lost their lives in street protests between Jan. 25, 2011 and the deposing of Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011 was estimated to be between 360 and 900 deaths.

(end of part 24)

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