After thirty years of rule by President Mubarak, Egyptians want him out. Having seen the protests and their success in Tunisia, which forced the President to flee the country, the Egyptians started their own demonstrations. On the 25th January, Cairo erupted. The protests soon spread throughout the country to the main cities of Alexandria and Suez. The main focus of the world’s media, however, has remained on Liberation Square in Cairo, where demonstrators appear to have set up a permanent protest.
The protesters are mainly Egypt’s younger generations who are influenced by social sites such as Twitter, which fuel the anger in such situations by bringing news in to a country that the government has banned on television and in newspapers. These people, who have never experienced anything other than Mubarak’s regime, are facing high unemployment and spiralling food prices. They are demanding freedom of speech and justice; and – crucially – the end of Mubarak’s rule.
I found this cartoon whilst researching this article: it’s funny and also concisely explains what is
It has also been interesting to watch the peoples’ reactions to the protests. There has of course been some violence but, unlike in Tunisia, it has not been widespread. Ordinary men have taken up the jobs of the non-existent police force and are protecting their homes in a relatively disciplined manner.
I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of what has happened in the last two weeks because it would, quite frankly, make me sound much like BBC News 24, which is not really the aim of this blog. I would rather highlight the issues so that when you next see the news you will have a grasp of why these events are happening.
As it stands, Egypt seems to be in deadlock. President Mubarak has agreed to step down at elections in September, but the opposition want him gone now. They are not prepared to accept anything less and say they will stay in Liberation Square until their demands are met. Mubarak, on the other hand, is not budging. The new cabinet that he instated when the protests started, including his son, resigned yesterday. There is no one ruling Egypt. Liberation Square appears to have been very appropriately named.
All the power in the country rests on the army, which has a very obvious presence on the streets. However, although once loyal to the President, the army has publicly declared that it will not harm protesters; saying that their grievances are justified. This came as a huge blow to the regime and marked its official loss of control. The question now is: what will the army decide to do? The answer to that will determine the future of Egypt and ultimately the situation in the entire Middle East.
But the problem is even wider than that. The West is worried and is calling for an ‘orderly transition’. The fear is that, should the protesters get their way and Mubarak stands down, there will be a perfect opportunity for Islamic extremists to take power. The West have tolerated Mubarak’s regime because he has been open to the idea of Israel. Without this, terrorism and anti-Israeli fighting could increase dramatically.