28 January 2011

The situation in Egypt

This topic isn't a "TYWK", but I thought I'd add two sources.  At Reddit someone asked for a basic explanation of what's happening, stating "I still feel like I started watching a very complicated movie right in the middle."  Here is the top-rated response, from "Sagron":
I'll do my best, but you should really click the links K0ilar and robotl suggested as they'll do a much better job of explaining than I'm about to.

The Catalyst: Tunisia a country in Northern Africa was ruled by a repressive and dictatorial regime led by President Ben Ali. At the end of 2010, a series of riots broke out throughout Tunisia, collectively termed the "Jasmine Revolution." The root causes are considered to be mass unemployment, widespread corruption, appalling living conditions and the governments propensity to squash free speech. This resulted in President Ben Ali dissolving the government, a victory for the revolutionaries.

Regional results: In the region, the success of the Tunisian revolution led to widespread instability. It had previously been considered axiomatic that regional dictatorships were too stable to fall. The Tunisian revolution proved otherwise and soon protests began all over the region, most strongly in Algeria, Yemen and Egypt.

Egypt: The Egyptian youth were mobilized by the example set by the Tunisian revolution. Many suggested that the upcoming 25th of January 'National Police Day' be instead used as a massive nation wide protest against corruption. Other causes for the unrest have been the widespread brutality of the Egyptian police and military (Egypt is basically a dictatorship because the country is under 'Emergency law' and has been since 1967), the crippling poverty in the country and President Mubarak himself.

The Egyptian Response: The Egyptian police and military have been very heavy handed in responding to the protests. A huge number of protestors have been beaten by police and plain clothes secret police officers. Three have been confirmed killed at the time of this writing. In an effort to stop the protestors utilizing Facebook and Twitter to organize and get their message out, Egypt shut down access to those two sites and now, basically unplugged the country from the internet entirely.

Friday: This Friday will see a pivotal moment in the Egyptian revolution as a mass protest has been called after traditional Friday prayers. The Egyptians have called for a "Million Man March" but the chaos in the country and the unpredictability of what's going on makes it difficult to even guess at what will actually transpire.

Predictions: Analysts are split as to what will happen in Egypt. There seems to be a concensus that unlike Tunisia, whose military was underpaid, had terrible morale and had little stake in the Police State, the Egyptian army is far more likely to support the Mubarak regime. If the support of the armed forces wavers (as the police support already has, on occasion) then a very real revolution is on the cards.

The U.S in the Region: If you're American and wondering, the U.S has a lot of skin in the game. Mubarak has received a huge amount of aid from the United States. Egypt is one of the only Middle Eastern countries to have something approaching a lasting peace treaty with Israel, and Mubarak is generally considered to be a 'friend of the West' by the standards of his fellow leaders in the region. Many of the protesters see the U.S as propping up Mubarak's regime. If the revolution succeeds, any popular democracy in Egypt is almost certainly going produce leaders with anti-American platforms. Further, one of the largest opposition groups in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization and a supporter of terrorism by the Russian Federation and is typically anti-west in its rhetoric.

Hope that helps and I really hope I didn't get too much wrong.
But by far the best coverage I've found today is the live-streaming coverage by Al Jazeera English.  I've had it open on a separate tab for a couple hours while surfing and blogging; there hasn't been a commercial yet, and they are offering a mix of interviews with analysts and live video from the streets and commentary from reporters down in the streets and up in buildings.

I don't know how to embed this live video.  You can watch it/listen to it at this link.


  1. Per Egypt, the ongoing suppression of the Islamic Brotherhood (political opposition) is another huge issue directly tied to Mubarak's despotism and corruption. The basic absence of anything resembling actual democracy is the real problem; which totally galvanizes extremism of all sorts.

  2. I found it interesting that when the army arrived with its armored vehicles, the rioters began cheering and welcoming them. Apparently the public loves the army but hates the police

  3. Thank you very much for the helping summary!


  4. And to think, Wikileaks started it all.

  5. One thing to remember about Egypt is that the Army is not usually used for internal security, AND it is filled with conscripts. That then means that the Army is looked on with favor by the people, as opposed to the hated police. Which way Egypt goes depends largely upon which way the Army goes. If the Army supports Mubarak, then he'll stay; if they don't, then he'll go.

  6. @Paul: I dunno, I kind of think any political party with a name like the Islamic Brotherhood should probably be repressed.

  7. Your description of Tunisia and the causes that led to the quasi-revolution are a bit false. The living conditions in Tunisia were actually fairly good - especially when compared it its neighbors. In fact, the country's economy has grown 5% every year since Ben Ali came to power.

    Of course your other points are true. I believe that most of the evidence points to corruption in the presidential family and a lack of employment for college graduates was the cause for this revolt.


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