A land cannot be protected from its own people; any government that tries to do so is not a democracy. No wonder then that Egyptians chose Police Day: January 25, 2011, to express intolerance towards a police state. The current scenario – rampant with corruption, youth unemployment, and increasing poverty – is not one citizens would have chosen for their future generations. Now it calls upon the 83-year old Hosni Mubarak to step down from power after three decades of presidency.
January 25 marks a tipping point in Egyptian history. These are the first nationwide demonstrations of their kind since Egypt’s resistance against Israel in 1973. Now, Egypt exercises the power of assembly, a democratic right that was denied it under the Emergency Law. This law, which allows censorship, extends police rights to ‘maintain order’, and suspends constitutional rights (such as those of freedom of expression and assembly) has been in effect in the entirety in Mubarak’s rule. The law also prevents street demonstrations and the formation of political organisations. Violators are sent to imprisonment and sometimes torture.
http://egyprotest-defense.blogspot.com aggregates information on protests in Egypt. http://egyprotest-defense.blogspot.com/search/label/Jan25 focuses specifically on the January 25 protest.
Social media and networks have been used by activists in Egypt to assemble. The 6 April strike in 2008, called the “Egyptian Intifada,” started with workers in the industrial city of El Mahalla el-Kubra calling for an increase of minimum wages. Activists used Facebook, blogs, and text messages to rally support for the strike against the regime. Police was forewarned of the strike, and was quick to stall it. The April 6 Youth Movement that started as a Facebook page in support of workers in 2008 gathered support form 70,000 members in 2009. The follow-up strike on 6 April that year however was also stalled. Access to information on strikes was freely available through Facebook and Twitter making protests easier to contain and quell.
Intimidation of political bloggers, journalists, and activists is not uncommon in Egypt. Cases of torture and police brutality are also not unheard of. However, when 28-year-old Khaled Said from Alexandria was brutally beaten to death at the hands of police, civilians were inflamed. Images of Khaled Said’s disfigured face spread quickly, and the popular slogan “I too am Khaled Said” spread. In an extraordinary show of non-violent protest, people wearing black assembled in various places marking July 23, 2010 as a day of silent protest.
Following cases of self-immolation in Tunisia that led to the toppling of the leader Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, many cases of self-immolation followed in the region. Copycat self-immolation protests in Egypt were perhaps the most powerful spark in the region, and served a warning sign to the government: http://thedailynewsegypt.com/people/analysts-say-self-immolation-warning-sign-for-govt-as-6th-incident-reported.html.
(The post is a compilation of eyewitness accounts sent to Canary Trap from Egypt. The identities of eyewitnesses have been withheld keeping in mind the security implications to their lives.)