Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's Happening in Egypt - Updated 1/30 | #Jan25

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Last night, I started to write up a post on the situation in Egypt, only to realize 2 things:
  1. The MoJo blog on this is unbeatable. Check it out. This would only be a sad, cheap imitation that wouldn't do anyone any justice. Also, if you want video coverage, there is no better source right now than BBC One and Al Jazeera (English).
  2. MSM coverage is starting to sicken me again. I don't think we need to spend 20 minutes talking to the American guy who's bragging about how it's his first time smelling tear gas, or the whiny tourists who are visibly upset because they couldn't see the pyramid museum today. Sorry I'm not more sympathetic to your plight, Mrs. Crabapple, but people are literally being beaten to death outside by the police as they attempt to free themselves from an oppressive regime (that had also completely shut down communication to the rest of the world), and all you care about are cheap souvenirs? I understand that you were looking forward to an awesome vacation in Cairo, and you couldn't have necessarily foreseen this, but priorities, people! Safety before capitalism!
    1. I just wanted to add, as I finished typing this, AJE also started talking about the role of MSM in this. Twitter & Youtube good, American tv news bad. [nods]

Very long story short - Egypt has had the same "president" for the past 30 years, but citizens would like a real democracy. Mubarak keeps promising democratic changes but hasn't delivered (and wanted his son to succeed him). There is a lot of corruption in their government. And while the nation is actually financially "ok," or at least comparatively ok, most of the workers aren't seeing any of that money reach them and are living in poverty. So instead of waiting for change, they're trying to force it. (O_o ok, maybe I need to change what I just wrote. It's kind of creeping me out...Oh, irony... Let's just hope it never, ever, ever comes to this kind of situation in our own country.)

There are also protests going on in San Francisco and Washington D.C. in solidarity with the people of Egypt. Yesterday there was a White House press briefing. Video and transcript can be found here. Later, President Obama also spoke about the situation, asking the Egyptian authorities to refrain from violence against the protesters and reverse blockage of the internet. Protesters should also remain peaceful: "Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek." He also urged the Egyptian government to follow through on its promises of reform and change. "But we've always been clear that there must be reform: political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people." (Transcript can be found here. Video is here.)

Regarding police violence - it seems that the military is choosing to stand with the protesters, who have remained mostly peaceful until provoked by police. Some chose peace to convince the police and military to join their side:
Protester Kisses Egyptian Police officer.
via TheAtlantic

However, not all of the protests were non-violent. In other regions of the country, protesters torched government offices, ransacked buildings, including stores and homes, and threw Molotov cocktails at police and military.

Videos and images have shown that the Egyptian police, using water cannons and tear gas, were the first to attack protesters as they prayed.

The other day I posted the video of a protester who was shot. Not even 10 minutes after that video was released, the internet in Egypt was shut down (by the Egyptian government) to prevent the spread of information and to keep more protesters from organizing. We have also learned that American companies have played a role in spying on Egyptian citizens via the internet (petition!). So consider this your call to action - we will not let them be silenced. Educate as many as you can, especially via social media sites. And if you can, set up TOR relays and bridges to help some censored users regain internet access. Check out Access Now for more ways to help.

Mubarak, in his remarks Friday, has stated that he has no plans to resign, but would fire everyone else in his regime and start over. Today he announced his new vice president, deputy, and prime minister. Mubarak is struggling to hold on to his power, despite the fact that the Egyptian protesters will not give up until he too has left office.

I'm still trying to find out more information about the ongoing, concurrent protests/attacks in Yemen (where activists are calling for the president to step down), Jordan, and Somalia, and continuing unrest in Tunisia. I will be following this topic for some time, so be sure to check out my Twitter feed on the side (or see and Mother Jones for the latest. Let's all hope for an end to oppression in the world, and for peaceful resolution in the Middle East.


There are reports of new protests in Sudan. Like in Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan, protesters are demanding the resignation of their president. Citizens all over the Middle East and Africa are demanding a transition to democracy.

We also have new information about the American companies helping to oppress and restrict the people of Egypt. Combined Systems, Inc, based in PA, has been supplying the tear gas and smoke grenades that have been used to injure and kill protesters and reporters all over the Middle East. Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing, has been supplying Mubarak's regime with mass surveillance equipment that allowed the government to track, record, and reconstruct all information shared via the internet and mobile phone connections. This information includes emails and attachments, VoIP calls (like Skype), viewed web pages, etc. And this technology also allowed the government to completely shut down internet access in the country.

More to follow.

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