Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt, Uprisings, Demonstrations, Chaos, Political Change and Legitimate Grievances

It seemed somehow right that the origins of these North African uprisings should have begun in the area formerly known as Carthage - the ancient civilisation of Tunisia.

It's even more appropriate that the uprisings have moved on to Egypt. The people of Egypt are demanding the restoration of their human rights and the restoration of a civilised society. It's also the country where Barack Obama chose to make his major speech about Middle East peace, justice and civilisation.


I've been very impressed by the reportage on the AlJazeera website, including its live TV that's been on the air continuously with video feeds from Egypt -

"The ruling class of Egypt don't want to see major change because then their privileges would come under attack."


Snippets from the Guardian's 'Live Blog' yesterday:

Time magazine talks to "a minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," and reports that Israel appears to be backing the Mubarak regime:

With a deep investment in the status quo, Israel is watching what a senior official calls "an earthquake in the Middle East" with growing concern. The official says the Jewish state has faith in the security apparatus of its most formidable Arab neighbor, Egypt, to suppress the street demonstrations that threaten the dictatorial rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The harder question is what comes next.

But this was the most eye-catching quote from the unidentified minister:

    "I'm not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process."

So that's confirmation then, as if it were needed, that in the view of Israel, the whole of the 'Arab region' ought to remain undemocratic and run by dictatorial cliques who are supported, propped up and funded by Israel and the USA. Egypt gets 1.3 BILLION dollars a year from the USA in "military aid".

An interesting new word  -  "Tunisianisation"

"A huge population that has been crushed by the Mubarak regimefor many years has said, 'We've had enough!'"

"The legitimate grievances that have festered for quite some time in Egypt have to be addressed by the Egyptian government immediately," says White House spokesman Gibbs.

What can the president do? Gibbs is asked. "First and foremost, this is a situation that will be solved by the people in Egypt," says Gibbs. "We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events in the coming days" – that's a reference to the US's $1.5bn in aid to Egypt, as mentioned earlier.

"The situation should be addressed through concrete reforms, that is what the people of Egypt demand, that's what they deserve," he says.
Asked if the government had condemned the house arrest of Mohamed ElBaradei, Gibbs will only say: "Obviously, this goes into into our concern about expression, association and assembly."

CAMERON - "I think what we want to see is reform in Egypt. It's in all interests that there's democracy."

He thinks? Reform?

"It's a new era in the Middle East! And Egypt is the key!"

Reuters are reporting that "Egyptian medical sources" estimate there have been 1,030 people wounded today in today's protests.

Live blog: Twitter

9.09pm.  If you're not following CNN's Ben Wedeman @bencnn on Twitter then you should. Here are three tweets he has posted in the last 10 minutes:

Teenager showed me teargas canister "made in USA". Saw the same thing in Tunisia. Time to reconsider US exports?

One man said he graduated from college 4 years ago, hasn't worked a day since. Has been in streets since Tuesday protesting.

Saw boys with massive seal of the republic looted from State TV. If this isn't the end, it certainly looks and smells like it.

Robert Gibbs's White House briefing has wrapped up after an hour.

The most noteworthy points to come out:

• Gibbs pointedly refused to take up an offer to say the administration stood by Mubarak

• Gibbs also repeated that the "people of Egypt" would decide events – suggesting that the White House has cut the Mubarak regime loose, calling their grievances "legitimate"

• The White House confirmed that it was prepared to withhold aid from Egypt's government

But the tone of the administration suggests the White House has been left stranded by the swift pace of events on the ground.

It's possible, of course, that the party headquarters were deliberately set on fire by the party itself - to destroy any incriminating documents.

The rulers of Kuwait have decided to give wads of money to its citizens - to buy off any dissent? A novel solution? But not for a country like Egypt with a population of 80 million.

7.56pm GMT: CNN's Ben Wedeman – who has been doing an excellent job all day – is asked why things have calmed down in Cairo. "Jim, things have calmed down because there is no government here," saying that police and army had disappeared.


More on Ed Miliband


OU on the BBC: Justice Season


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