Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Egypt in Crisis: Day 15

There is a both a plethora of information and extreme difficulty in comprehending events on the ground, even as they are blogged, as it is still more like peering at an entirely different world through a pin hole in a fifteen foot wall. The best information is still coming from twitter and blogs.

[update 11:45 AM CST; 1945 Egypt] Twitter posts that army is moving away from parliament building, People's Assembly. Waiting for confirmation as there are multiple people filming with their phone cameras and posting on website.

[update 11:29 am CST; 1929 Egypt] Strike at Suez confirmed, but clarified as not yet affecting traffic. Reports that newspapers and tv networks have thrown out regime "editors". Seems to be accurate as state TV just reported that the protesters have legitimate concerns and are patriots (as opposed to traitors or foreign spies creating unrest). New newspaper inside Tahrir square. Printed and given out for free because the owner says "they have shed their blood for freedom of the press". Qaadaffi in neighboring Libya on the other hand says that it is all Jews trying to dislodge Mubarek.

Odd listening to Al Jazeera. Mainly because it has the best reporting on the situation of any of the channels. Many of which are simply doing live feeds of the square from rueters or AP.

[Update 10:32 AM CST; 1832 Egypt] Unconfirmed report that 6000 port and canal workers at the Suez have refused to leave and are having a sit (ahram news reporting it as a "strike", union like, re: healthcare and pay, seems more like in concert with the revolution). CNN trying to get reporters there but were turned back by gov. forces. (small prediction: if this turns out to be true, look for US to push Mubarek to go out the door faster).

[Update 10:00 AM CST; 1800 Egypt] Evening prayers. About one third are praying the rest continue to move about. Can't really tell number of people there. Crowd spreads out past the square, over bridges, etc. Picture from People's Assembly (parliament) shows protests gathered there. Hard to tell #. Est. thousands. Wael Ghonim appeared at square for appx. 10 mins. Did not give speech. Said it was people's revolution. He is not the leader. "We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime." Crowd became larger after 5pm. Work let out. Atmosphere seems very "jovial".

[Update 8:45 AM CST; 16:45 Egypt] New twitter posts saying thousands in front of Cabinet, Health and Parliament buildings. No pictures. Live feed still showing Tahrir Square full of people. Another says that Al Jazeera is confirming protests have moved to government buildings. However, another poster says that there are only a "few thousand" and urges others to join them.

[Update] Twitter post urging protesters to march to Egyptian Parliament. Stand by for info (and earthquake)

First, Wael Ghonim was released in the late afternoon or early evening hours of February 7, 2011. His first tweet from his blackberry (apparently returned by Bawdry):

Freedom is a bless[ing] that deserves fighting for it
He later gave an interview on Egyptian DreamTV. It was live tweeted and blogged around the internet. An embedded video of the interview can be found at Al Jazeera as well as with a transcript of the interview here (scroll down). Or, if you don't want to give AJ your business, go to youtube.

The most popular quotes seem to be:

I am not a hero. I only used the keyboard; the real heroes are the ones on the ground.

Now they want to have an agreement with me when they are in a position of weakness. I am not a hero, I am a normal person.(...) Badrawi told me we took all the bad people out from the NDP. I told him I don't want to see the logo of the NDP ever again.

I want to say to every mother and every father that lost his child, I am sorry, but this is not our fault. I swear to God, this is not our fault. It is the fault of everyone who was holding on to power greedily and would not let it go.

Ghonim politely asked people to not use his image as a logo for the protests. Particularly any logo with Google's name on it.

For all protestations of not being a hero, Wael Ghonim's release and statement have apparently re-energized the protesters. At least those on the internet who are asking people to go again into the streets. Indications that labor unions will now join the protest. Expect that the people are planning to meet in Tahir as early as 9AM GMT.

This one actually seems extremely important. The University of Cairo - faculty of law has issued a declaration, posted at Liberty for Egypt. It is the largest university in Egypt. Aside from aligning itself with the Jan 25 movement that it sees as a revolution of the "Egyptian Youth", it calls for the resignation of Mubarek, the immediate dissolution of parliament, the destruction of the current constitution and the institution of a committee from all representations to write a new constitution.

One of the most important statements is actually statement #2:

Withdrawing all legitimacy from the current regime

While this seems just another stream of thought added to the cacophony and coming from a faculty of a college that would be summarily dismissed in the US, this is tantamount to the Harvard Law School declaring the US congress and president "illegitimate". It might be looked at with skepticism, but people would be wondering why.

Egypt is chock full of lawyers. It is one of Egypt's prominent professions. Of course, Egyptian lawyers have been at odds with the current regime for a very long time. They believe that the laws and decrees made are contrary to the constitution and often arbitrary as well as secret courts and other courts established by the regime to prosecute or persecute "enemies of Egypt". This has been largely directed at Islamists, but has included anyone the regime felt threatening such as prominent businessmen, political activists, bloggers or any others the state security system has apprehended.

Financial and civil law has also been subject to serious corruption by judges who are bought off or pressured by the regime as well as police collusion into tampering with witnesses and evidence (as what led to the original protest). The lawyers have obviously determined that it is time to lend legal legitimacy to the movement.

Interesting though, later in the document they still refer to the current constitution for legal basis in demanding that Mubarek resign and delegation of his powers to the Vice President, Omar Suleiman. Although, this might not go over well with the protesters who believe that Suleiman is personally responsible for the torture and death of many Egyptians and civilians.

Al Jazeera live blog reports that the professors will be marching to Tahir after noon prayers. Expect to see whatever lawyers that haven't joined yet may be marching, too.

AP reports this morning that Mubarek will appoint a committee to reform the constitution. In the midst of accusations of ongoing detentions of protesters and political opposition, Mubarek also issued a statement:

"The youth of Egypt deserve national appreciation," he quoted the president as saying. "They should not be detained, harassed or denied their freedom of expression."

Appx 90,000 have joined a facebook community nominating Wael Ghonim as their spokesperson. Most of it is in Arabic.

Twitter also has a number of posts requesting contact with the media or denying it as well as actual lists of medicines and supplies needed at the "field clinics" in the square. Mainly antibiotics and basic dressings.

A quote from Jan25 Facebook:

A government that is scared from #Facebook and #Twitter should govern a city in Farmville but not a country like #Egypt

Many reports that internet and Blackberry services are back up and people are using them like mad to get on the internet as well as contact family and friends. Lots of posters discussing, as if for the first time, how to get to Tahir and best entrances.

Finally, Mahmoud Salem, Sand Monkey, gave an interview to MSNBC about the protest and the use of social media in its organization.

Mahmoud says that after he was attacked by the police, his car destroyed, he was arrested and his ID obtained, he decided that it was time to stand up and show his face. To face those who have attacked them because:

"If we don't stand up, there is no point to this whole revolution."

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