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Old 01-27-2011, 06:30 PM   #1
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Default Egypt: Internet down, police counterterror unit up

AP - Egypt's government has disrupted Internet service and deployed an elite special operations counterterrorism force hours before anti-government protesters expect a new wave of mass rallies to begin.

Egypt: Internet down, police counterterror unit up
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Old 02-04-2011, 11:02 PM   #2
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Protesters comin' into their own...

Stronger sense of Egyptian identity emerges among protesters
February 4, 2011 - Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooded Egypt's Tahrir Square today to press for the departure of President Mubarak. 'I'm here for Egypt,' said one middle-aged man.
For the second Friday in a row, tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the establishment of democracy here gathered in Tahrir Square in a largely peaceful and joyous scene. Today's event was branded as a "day of departure" for Mubarak by overoptimistic organizers. That wasn't forthcoming, but the effort, which appeared to be the largest antigovernment gathering so far, remains a stunning success nonetheless.

This past Tuesday, bowing to demonstrators, Mubarak promised not to run in a presidential election scheduled for September. The next day, pro-regime thugs were unleashed on demonstrators in Tahrir Square, leaving at least eight people dead and hundreds injured. On Thursday, there was a coordinated crackdown on the foreign press particularly against satellite TV stations like Al Jazeera, which has been streaming live footage of the protests into millions of Arab and Egyptian homes. Meanwhile, state television was broadcasting reports suggesting that protests were part of a foreign plot.

The increasingly presidential-looking Vice President Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who stepped out of the shadows for the first time last night with a national address, complained that the democracy protesters appeared to be serving a "foreign agenda." He also urged protesters to immediately go home. All of this appeared to point to another crackdown today, and protesters were prepared for the worst.

"We had 200 casualties coming through here every half-hour on Wednesday. I'm frightened that this afternoon [Friday] could dwarf that," says Mohamed Riad, a doctor volunteering at the makeshift hospital protesters have set up in an alley close to the American University in Cairo. "I think they're going to come down and try to crush this." His dire prediction wasn't realized, but this morning there were fewer women and children among the protesters than on Wednesday, a testament to the fear sowed by this week's violence. As the afternoon wore on and violence did not materialize, thousands of new protesters poured in to the square, more women and children among them.

The international condemnation of the pro-regime violence this week and the intimidation of the press probably contributed to the peaceful protests today. In Tunisia, a violent crackdown against demonstrators spurred on the opposition, so regime figures may be hoping protests will eventually dwindle on their own before fundamental democratic change is made, particularly after the concessions of this week.

What's next for Cairo?
See also:

How the Egyptian revolt will recast the Middle East
February 4, 2011 - Three scenarios for the way the uprising might end and what it all means for the US, Israel, and Iran.
Iman Mosharafa points at the loose curls spilling over her red sweater. The gesture emphasizes that she isn't wearing an Islamic head scarf. "Look, I'm not from the Muslim Brotherhood," she says in an interview in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Ms. Mosharafa a teacher, a member of the burgeoning Egyptian middle class says it is secular young people such as herself who are the engine powering protests that have shaken the regime of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's modern pharaoh. "We are the silent majority that has been silent for so long, but not anymore," she says.

Magda Abdel Hamid, in contrast, isn't middle class. She works as a cleaner in a hospital, and her head scarf and clothes indicate she may come from a farming family. She is tired of rising food prices and water and housing shortages. She stumbled on the protests on her way home from work and decided to join, even though she had done nothing like that before in her life. "We left our children at home and came to fight for their future here," she says.

Business owner Abu Bakr Makhlouf is a member of Egypt's elite. He wears a stylish overcoat to ward off the chill of Tahrir Square. He wasn't politically active in the past he used to worry about what might happen to his children. Now he's been through the tear gas and the rattling batons and thinks it's better for his family if he fights. "I will stay here I told my wife not to wait for me. There's no way back for us," he says.

Still they rise. In Egypt a population has lost its fear of authority and taken to the streets in protests likely to change their nation and the Arab world forever. The only question is how. Is this democracy's moment? That's what many of the protesters say they want. Egyptians across the spectrum young, old, poor, comfortable, religious, secular are talking the language of elections and freedom. After 30 years of Mr. Mubarak, they don't want to be ruled by another authoritarian ex-general in a suit.

But in this case the protesters have outrun the politicians. The secular political opposition to Mubarak is weak, due to decades of oppression. There are few figures of stature for the protesters to rally around. True, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei has won kudos by racing home to demand change, getting sprayed by water cannon in the process. But the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is a professional bureaucrat who's lived abroad for years. "Have you seen him out there with his leather jacket and bullhorn?" asks one US-based expert. "He looks a little uneasy."

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic opposition group, remains a substantial force with unknown intentions. In open elections, Islamic parties might get about one-third of the Egyptian vote, according to many estimates. Behind the scenes the military still controls the nation's infrastructure of power, through wide business interests and close ties with government officials. Top generals see themselves as descendents of the Free Officers, the junior Army leaders who toppled the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 and installed Col. Gamal Abdul Nasser in power. They're unlikely to cede power-broker status willingly. For now, the waiting begins. If history is any guide, this is only the early stage of a process that might someday earn the name "Egyptian Revolution," says Stephen Walt, an international relations professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

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