Cairo Update: The Empire Strikes Back

Our friend in Cairo just sent us this update detailing the violent turn taken in the protests. We all pray for a peaceful outcome and a new government in Egypt, and that our friends and family there stay safe. If you have accounts of what is happening in Cairo, please feel free to share them here.

Feb 2, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back

Last night Mubarak promised that the current parliament would study the two constitutional articles that limit the rights of people to run for elected offices including the presidency for which he promised not to run again. The military told people to go home. Today, Mubarak and his regime mobilized a counter-revolution and sent hundreds of ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstrators (There is clear evidence in the form of ID cards that these are the regime’s police accompanied by armed bands of their notorious thugs) to attack the thousands of anti-Mubarak protestors in Tahrir Square. Having defined the issue as stability (a matter very close to the Egyptian heart) and chaotic violence (of which people are terrified), they proceeded to create the conditions with which they threatened the country. Anti-government supporters held their ground, calling for Army protection.

Two and a half hours of clashes, many injured, but yet the military stood aside. Although it had plenty of tanks and armored vehicles in place, it let hundreds of people mounted on roughly 60 horses and camels which definitely posed a safety risk enter the square. They were accompanied by police officers from state security and “escaped” criminals (reportedly released by the regime) carrying signs “Daddy Mubarak and Mommy Suzanne, we apologize for the past days’ demonstrations.” Pelting them with rocks and cracking heavy whips, he riders rammed the protesters. There was nothing spontaneous about this attack. Organized groups joined them, a hundred at a time. These people were well coordinated; their signs and placards preprinted. They blocked every entrance to the square so that people could not join the anti-Mubarak demonstrations. No one could leave, so they dug up paving stones. Fears of a blood-bath to follow. They are praying in the square. If the military is not going to protect the people I hope international pressure will work.

The regime propaganda machine, especially government television, has been in full swing mostly frightening the populace while calling for calm. Meanwhile there’s no attempt to contain the violent confrontations. Unfortunately, the combination of unprecedented concessions, the campaign of disinformation, and the staged confrontations have had their effect. Those less sophisticated—and this applies to many of the poor and uneducated—are switching from opposition to Mubarak to supporting him, and the stability and personal safety he promised.

P.S. Rumors that Ahmed Ezz, parliamentarian and Gamal Mubarak’s friend, has been prevented from leaving Egypt. Habib Adli, minister of Interior has been held for investigation by army (which hates him).

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