Mijn hersenspinsels en gedachtekronkels

Een democratische omwenteling in de Arabische Wereld? Deel 2 – 2 ثورة ديمقراطية في العالم العربي؟ جزء

Vervolg van het nieuws en artikelenoverzicht over de actuele gebeurtenissen in de Arabische wereld (zie ook deel 1)


January 14 Tunis protest, left, and midnight January 26 Cairo protest, right, saying “Mubarak GAME OVER” [Reuters] 

(bron http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/01/2011126102959606257.html)

Chronologisch overizcht van dag tot dag (op de site van de NOS): http://nos.nl/artikel/215322-chronologie-onrust-arabische-wereld.html

Voor de nieuwste ontwikkelingen, bekijk hieronder: 

Al-Jazeera English live


Palestinian Authority closes Al-Jazeera office

klik op bovenstaand logo


Inmiddels geruchtmakende documentaire van al-Jazeera uit 2007, over de rol van blogs en sociale media bij democratiseringsprocessen in de Arabische wereld en het Midden Oosten


‘The Arab World Is on Fire’

By Noam Chomsky

A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. That formulation is misleading.

“The Arab world is on fire,” al-Jazeera reported on January 27, while throughout the region, Western allies “are quickly losing their influence.”

The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a Western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator’s brutal police.

Observers compared the events to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but there are important differences.

Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather, Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless it is properly tamed.

One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the East European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased.

That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo Hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure that a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path.

The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist Gen. Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt’s vice president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.

A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. In the Arab world, the United States and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.

A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological center of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistan’s dictators and President Reagan’s favorite, who carried out a program of radical Islamization (with Saudi funding).

“The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control,” says Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian official and now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment. “With this line of thinking, entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground.”

Therefore the public can be dismissed. The doctrine traces far back and generalizes worldwide, to U.S. home territory as well. In the event of unrest, tactical shifts may be necessary, but always with an eye to reasserting control.

The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against “a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems,” ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for their venality. This was the assessment by U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.

Therefore to some observers the WikiLeaks “documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren’t asleep at the switch”—indeed, that the cables are so supportive of U.S. policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)

“America should give Assange a medal,” says a headline in the Financial Times. Chief foreign-policy analyst Gideon Rachman writes that “America’s foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic—the public position taken by the U.S. on any given issue is usually the private position as well.”

In this view, WikiLeaks undermines the “conspiracy theorists” who question the noble motives that Washington regularly proclaims.

Godec’s cable supports these judgments—at least if we look no further. If we do, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godec’s information in hand, Washington provided $12 million in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most U.S. military aid in the hemisphere.

Heilbrunn’s Exhibit A is Arab support for U.S. policies targeting Iran, revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the educated culture.

Unmentioned is what the population thinks—easily discovered. According to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs agree with Washington and Western commentators that Iran is a threat: 10 percent. In contrast, they regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats (77 percent; 88 percent).

Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington’s policies that a majority (57 percent) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control” (as Marwan Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored—unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.

Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments about Washington’s nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of “legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28 forced removal of President Manuel `Mel’ Zelaya.”

The embassy concluded that “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch.” Very admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and dismissing subsequent atrocities.

Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.

The cables reveal that the U.S. embassy is well aware that Washington’s war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant anti-Americanism but also “risks destabilizing the Pakistani state” and even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

Again, the revelations “should create a comforting feeling—that officials are not asleep at the switch” (Heilbrunn’s words)—while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.

© The New York Times Syndicate



Robert Fisk: ‘Mubarak will go tomorrow,’ they cried as rocks and firebombs flew


In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, our writer hears protesters’ hopes of forcing rapid change

 Robert Fisk, The Independent, 4 Febr. 2011

From the House on the Corner, you could watch the arrogance and folly yesterday of those Egyptians who would rid themselves of their “President”. It was painful – it always is when the “good guys” play into the hands of their enemies – but the young pro-democracy demonstrators on the Tahrir Square barricades carefully organised their Cairo battle, brought up their lorryloads of rocks in advance, telephoned for reinforcements and then drove the young men of Hosni Mubarak back from the flyovers behind the Egyptian Museum. Maybe it was the anticipation that the old man will go at last today. Maybe it was revenge for the fire-bombing and sniper attacks of the previous night. But as far as the “heroes” of Egypt are concerned, it was not their finest hour

The House on the Corner was a referee’s touchline, a house of late 18th century stucco with outer decorations of stone grapes and wreaths and, in the dank and derelict interior, a broken marble staircase, reeking cloth wallpaper and wooden floors, groaning under bag after bag of stones, all neatly broken into rectangles to hurl at the accursed Mubarakites. It was somehow typical that no one knew the history of this elegant, sad old house on the corner of Mahmoud Basounee Street and Martyr Abdul Menem Riad Square. It even had a missing step on the gloomy second floor with a 30ft drop that immediately brought to mind the staircase in Stevenson’s Kidnapped, and its vertiginous drop illuminated by lightning. But from its crumbling balconies, I could watch the battle of stones yesterday and the brave, pathetic attempts of the Egyptian army to contain this miniature civil war, preceding, as it does, another Sabbath day of prayers and anger and – so the protesters happily believe yet again – the very final hours of their accursed dictator. The soldiers manoeuvred through the field of rocks on the highway below, trying to position two Abrams tanks between the armies of stone throwers, four soldiers waving their hands above their heads – the Egyptian street sign for “cease fire”.

Related articles

It was pathetic. The army needed 4,000 troops here to stop this battle. They had only two tank crews, one officer and four soldiers. And the forces of democracy – yes, we have to introduce a little cynicism here – cared nothing for the forbearance of the soldiers they have been trying to woo. They formed in phalanxes across the road outside the Egyptian Museum, each holding a shield of corrugated iron, many of them shouting “God is Great”, a mockery of every Hollywood Roman legion, T-shirts instead of breastplates, clubs and the police night-sticks of Mubarak’s hated cops instead of swords. Outside the House on the Corner – cheerfully telling me it belonged to anyone – stood a man holding (believe me, reader) a 7ft steel trident. “I am the devil,” he cheerfully roared at me. This was almost as bad as the horse and camel attack by the Mubarakites on Wednesday.

Five soldiers from another unit seized a tray of Molotov cocktails from the house next door – Pepsi bottles are clearly the container of choice – but that constituted the entire military operation to disarm this little freedom militia. “Mubarak will go tomorrow,” they screeched; and then, between the two tanks, at their enemies 40ft away, “Your old man is leaving tomorrow.” They had been encouraged by all the usual stories; that Barack Obama had at last called time on Mubarak, that the Egyptian army – recipients of an annual $1.3bn aid – was tired of being humiliated by the President, infuriated by the catastrophe that Mubarak had unleashed on his country for a mere nine more months of power.

This may be true. Egyptian friends with relatives among the officer corps tell me that they are desperate for Mubarak to leave, if only to prevent him issuing more orders to the military to open fire on the demonstrators.

But yesterday, it was Mubarak’s opponents who opened “fire”, and they did so with a now-familiar shock of stones and iron hub-caps. They crashed on to the Mubarak men (and a few women) on the flyover, ricocheted off the top of the tanks. I watched their enemies walk – just a few of them – into the road, the rocks crashing around them, waving their arms above their heads in a sign of peace. It was no use.

By the time I climbed down that dangerous staircase, a lone Muslim imam in a white turban and long red robe and an absolutely incredible – distinguished may be the correct word – neatly combed white beard appeared amid the stones. He held a kind of whip and used it to beat back the demonstrators. He, too, stood his ground as the stones of both sides broke around him. He was from those who would rid themselves of their meddlesome President but he, too, wanted to end the attack. A young protester was hit on the head and collapsed to the ground.

So I scampered over to the two tanks, hiding behind one of them as it traversed its massive gun-barrel 350 degrees, an interesting – if pointless – attempt to show both sides that the army was neutral. The great engines blasted sand and muck into the eyes of the stone throwers, the whining of the electrical turbine controlling the turret adding a state-of-the-art addition to the medieval crack of rocks. And then an officer did jump from the turret of one behemoth and stood with the imam and the lead Mubarakites and also waved his arms above his head. The stones still clanged off the highway signs on the flyover (turn left for Giza) but several middle-aged men held out their arms and touched each other’s hands and offered each other cigarettes.

Not for long, of course. Behind them, in the square called Tahrir, men slept beneath the disused concrete Metro vents or on the mouldy grass or in the stairwells of shuttered shops. Many wore bandages round their heads and arms. These wounds would be their badges of heroism in the years to come, proof they fought in the “resistance”, that they struggled against dictatorship. Yet not one could I find who knew why this square was so precious to them.

The truth is as symbolic as it is important. It was Haussmann, brought to Egypt by Ismail under notional Ottoman rule, who built the square as an Etoile modelled on its French equivalent, laid over the swamps of the regularly flooded Nile plain. Each road radiated like a star (much to the chagrin, of course, of the present-day Egyptian army). And it was on the Nile side of “Ismailia” square – where the old Hilton is currently under repair – that the British later built their vast military Qasr el-Nil barracks. Across the road still stands the pseudo-Baroque pile in which King Farouk maintained his foreign ministry – an institution which faithfully followed British orders.

And the entire square in front of them, from the garden of the Egyptian Museum to the Nile-side residence of the British ambassador, was banned to all Egyptians. This great space – the area of Tahrir Square today – constituted the forbidden zone, the land of the occupier, the centre of Cairo upon which its people could never set foot. And thus after independence, it became “Freedom” – “Tahrir” – Square; and that is why Mubarak tried to preserve it and that is why those who want to overthrow him must stay there – even if they do not know the reason.

I walked back last night, the people around me hopeful they could endure the next night of fire-bombs, that today will bring the elusive victory. I met a guy called Rami (yes, his real name) who brightly announced that “I think we need a general to take over!” He may get his wish.

As for the House on the Corner, well, Mahmoud Basounee Street is named after an Egyptian poet. And the stone-battered sign for the Martyr Abdul Menem Riad attached to the House on the Corner honours a man whose ghost must surely be watching those two tanks under the flyover. Riad commanded the Jordanian army in the 1967 Six Day War and was killed in an Israeli mortar attack two years later. He was chief of staff of the Egyptian Army.





One Tahrir Square in every city

World Wide Tahrir

Every city in the world will have its Tahrir Square!

We won’t free the embassies till Mubarak leaves!

Join us in a world wide sit-in on your nearest egyptian embassy and show Egyptians that the whole world is supporting them.


From Friday 4th Feb at 20:00 local time in your city(!!!), till Mubarak leaves



Live blog Feb 4 – Egypt protests

By Al Jazeera Staff in
  • on February 3rd, 2011.
    Photo by EPA

    From our headquarters in Doha, we keep you updated on all things Egypt, with reporting from Al Jazeera staff in Cairo and Alexandria.  Live Blog: Jan28Jan29Jan30Jan31Feb1 – Feb2Feb3 – Feb4

    The Battle for EgyptAJE Live StreamTimelinePhoto GalleryAJE Tweets – AJE Audio Blogs 

    (All times are local in Egypt, GMT+2)

    6:05pm Al Jazeera continues to bring you the latest from Cairo and Alexandria. Crowds continue to defy the curfew.

    File 5121

    6:01pm Media in Montenegro is reporting that Hosni Mubarak may find exile in their country, and that his son and close personal friends are preparing things for him to arrive there. Montenegro is where deposed Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, sought refuge.

    5:47pm Al Masry Al Youm, the largest independent newspaper in Egypt, says that security forces have broken into the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood website and arrested 12 journalists working on the site.

    5:38pm Latest audio report from Al Jazeera’s web producer in Cairo.

    5:31pm Crowds halt the chanting and pray together in Tahrir Square.

    5:22pm Video on Youtube showing a young boy in Alexandria leading a large group of pro-democracy protesters. Al Jazeera cannot verify the authenticity of the video.

    5:17pm Hundreds of thousands of people still protesting in Cairo and many other cities across the country, all defying the curfew that is still in place.

    5:13pm First gunshots for the day just heard and pro-democracy protesters cheer as army arrests suspected Mubarak loyalists near Tahrir Square.

    4:37pm Inside Tahrir Square there are tens of thousands of people – same diverse crowd as the Tuesday demonstration, many women and children, old and young, Muslims and Copts. Many more people crossing over via Qasr al-Nile bridge.

    4:30pm Al Jazeera reporter in Alexandria says that under-cover police officer was captured after the afternoon prayers – some pro-democracy protesters have made sure that he was not injured by anyone.

    File 5081

    4:28pm Robert Fisk’s latest ‘Mubarak will go tomorrow,’ they cried as rocks and firebombs flew”.

    4:23pm Senior military officer in limosine being driven around military positions near #Tahrir Square, talking to soldiers.

    4:10pm Reports that group of Mubarak loyalists has grown to over 500 now. However, the situation remains largely peaceful and somewhat joyous since Friday prayers. A reader sent in this pic:

    File 5061

    3:51pm Al Jazeera issues a statement condeming the “gangs of thugs” that stormed their office in Cairo. The office has been burned along with the equipment inside it. 

    It appears to be the latest attempt by the Egyptian regime or its supporters to hinder Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the country…

    It appears to be the latest attempt by the Egyptian regime or its supporters to hinder Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the country.

    In the last week its bureau was forcibly closed, all its journalists had press credentials revoked, and nine journalists were detained at various stages. Al Jazeera has also faced unprecedented levels of interference in its broadcast signal as well as persistent and repeated attempts to bring down its websites.

    We are grateful for the support we have received from across the world for our coverage in Egypt and can assure everyone that we will continue our work undeterred.

    3:45pm International attention remains hooked on the uprisings in Tunisia and now Egypt, but Nic Dawes, Editor of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian says there “has been little focus on the African dimension of these uprisings”.

    There are certainly countries – not least among those close to Egypt – that could do with broad-based civil movements against authoritarianism. Chad is perhaps the most benighted, but the depth of its isolation and tyranny are such that it is difficult to imagine a people-power movement succeeding.

    and its increasingly authoritarian president, Meles Zenawi? Or Uganda, where Yoweri Museveni is consolidating his grip on power? Or Angola, where oil revenues fatten the ruling elite and human development stalls? Or Zimbabwe? Or any of the pseudo-democracies that dot the continent”
    What about Ethiopia


    Elsewhere in the Mail & Guardian, online Editor Chris Roper asks if Twitter will save Africa, while blogger Khadija Patel warns that South Africans are failing “to give voice to that facet of the South African experience that strongly resonates with the Egyptians and Tunisians”.

    A demonstration was held today at the Egyption embassy in Pretoria. (Source)

    3:43pm Al Jazeera reporters say that numbers of Mubarak-loyalists on the 6th of October bridge has increased to over 300 now. An army tank has moved position to confront them.

    3:25pm Mondoweiss, a news website focused on American foreign policy in the Middle East, shows this interesting graph comparing Al Jazeera traffic to The New York Times.

    3:12pm At least 200 pro-Mubarak loyalists are on the 6th of October bridge just outside Tahrir Square in Cairo.

    3:10pm Al Jazeera’s reporter in Alexandria sent through this picture from the protests there. Thousands of men and women are still streaming in to join the already large crowds.

    2:35pm Reports coming in that Al Jazeera’s Arabic office in Cairo has been stormed and thrashed by unknown men. More information to follow.

    1.45pm: Amr Moussa, the Arab league chief, is attending the rally in Tahrir Square.
    1:30pm: About 3,000 people demonstrate in support of President Mubarak in the Mohandiseen district in Giza, adjacent to Cairo.
    1:14pm: Our correspondent in Cairo says pro-Mubarak gangs are not visible at all in the streets and that the army has taken extensive measures to secure the demonstration. She says imams, speaking in mosques today, have called for calm and praised the role of the army as it is working to prevent violence. 
      We are showing live pictures from both Alexandria and Cairo – click here
    12:53pm: Prayers are over and the masses, hundred thousands of people, are chanting “We won’t go until he leaves”.
    Yesterday, NevineZaki posted this picture on Twitter, saying it shows Christians protecting those praying in Tahrir Square amid violence between protesters and Mubarak supporters. She wrote “Bear in mind that this pic was taken a month after z Alexandria bombing where many Christians died in vain. Yet we all stood by each other”
    Tahrir Square, Thursday
    12:35pm: Our correspondent in Alexandria says tens of thousands of people have gathered in the centre of Alexandria. He says Christians and others not performing Friday prayers have formed a “human chain” around those praying to protect them from any potential disruptions.
    12:26pm: Friday prayers at Tahrir Square now. The sermon preceding it called for release of political prisoners and constitutional amendments.
    12:22pm: Our correspondent in Cairo says people away from the main protest area are stying inside, fearing violence. She quotes one person as saying “I can’t even trust my neighbour anymore, nowadays you never know who is supporting who.”
    12:08pm: Reports say supporters of President Mubarak are still gathering around Tahrir Square.

    Tanks and soldiers guard the entrance to the US embassy near Tahrir Square [EPA]

    11:36am: An AFP photographer says Defence Minister Tantawi has addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square, surrounded by soldiers, who called on the protesters to sit down.

    “The man [Mubarak] told you he won’t stand again,” Tantawi said, referring to the president’s announcement that he will not seek re-election in polls to be held this autumn. Tantawi also repeated a call from the Egyptian government for the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s biggest opposition group, to join a dialogue with the government.

    Photo by AFP

    11:28am: Protester Aida El-Kashes, on the phone from Tahrir Square, describes the situation there as calm and safe. She says all entrances to the square except the one near the Egyptian museum are open and people are getting in. The thousands of protesters who have been through the past days violence together now have bounds to each other “as a big family”, she says..

    11:08am: Our reporter in Tahrir Square says protesters are checking the ID’s of people entering the area to make sure no members of the police or other security services are getting in (Egyptian IDs mention the person’s profession). She says the protesters are very welcoming to journalists.

    11:02am: Our correspondent says tens of thousands of people have gathered in Tahrir Square, and many more are expected after Friday prayers.

    10:50am: Egypt’s defence minister is visiting Tahrir Square today, a ministry source tells Reuters. “Field Marshal [Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi and leaders of the armed forces are currently in Tahrir Square,” the source is quoted as saying.

    10:35am: A number of European leaders are meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, discussing the situation in Egypt. Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, covering the summit, says what happens in the EU with regards to Egypt mirrors what happened in the United States: “They were quite lukewarm to begin with … but now just like the Obama administration, they are saying that there needs to be immediate transition to democracy in Egypt in a smooth manner.”

    10:09am: Our correspondent at Tahrir Square says soldiers are preventing people from getting into Tahrir Square from at least one of the entry points. 

    10:01am: More from our web producer in Cairo: “About 65 soldiers stationed around 6th of October bridge and the museum, wearing riot gear. Limiting access to Corniche, etc.”

    9:55am: The website World Wide Tahrir calls for sit-ins to be held at Egyptian embassies “from Friday 4th Feb at 20:00 local time in your city(!!!), till Mubarak leaves”

    9:50am: Our web producer in Cairo writes on Twitter: “Egyptian state TV reporting that one of its crews was attacked in Tahrir Square. Amusing thought, but is it true? Could be propaganda.”

    9:45am: The editor-in-chief of Ikhwan online, the official website for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, says police and “thugs” have attacked Cairo International Media Center.

    9:03am: One of our correspondent just wrote on Twitter: “Festive and Celebratory atmosphere that marked the days of the protest b4 Pro-mubarak peeps attacked is back in #tahrir”

    And, about 20 minutes ago, another of our reporters wrote: “Dozens of police trucks in side streets around Pres Palace.Yes thats right police!Haven’t seen them in a while.”

    8:59am: Mohammed al-Beltagi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, tells Al Jazeera that his movement has no ambitions to run for the Egyptian presidency.

    8:29am: Our correspondent writes on Twitter: “by 7am friday: chants of ‘get out’ ‘invalid’ ‘leave’ resonating louder than ever this time of day”

    8:21am: Salma El Tarzi, a protester in Tahrir Square, tells Al Jazeera over the phone that the moral in the square is high and the atmosphere cheerful, “like a festival”,  with thousands of people arriving.


    8:01am: The curfew has now been lifted and protests are due to start at noon, after Friday prayers.

    7:53am: Mona Seif, an Egyptian activist, just posted this picture from Tharir Square this morning.

    7:45am: The Guardian has great pictures of protesters putting on makeshift helmets during yesterday’s clashes. Cardboard, buckets and plastic soda bottles were used to deflect the stones.

    7:03am: Our producer says there appears to be a security build-up at Tahrir Square, with troops in riot gear standing next to tanks at the outskirts of the square.  

    6:55am: Watch our video wrapping up yesterday’s events

    6:15am: Our reporter in Tahrir Square says there is an “easy calm” in Tahrir Square, as protesters prepare for renewed protests on what they call “the day of departure” for President Mubarak.

    6.02am: The New York Times reports that the US administration is in talks with Egyptian officials over a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice- President Omar Suleiman. The White House has not confirmed the report.

    3:23am Anti-Mubarak protester Nadine Shams tells Al Jazeera that protesters are trying to gear up for Friday’s protests while securing Tahrir Square and keeping themselves safe. She tells us that protesters fear being attacked by armed men again.

    2:49am Here’s another video from Egypt’s “Day of Rage” on January 28 shows a vehicle ploughing over protesters. The person who posted the cilp claims it is a diplomatic vehicle that “ran over more than 20 people” but we can’t verify these details at this time.

    2:14am  One of our Web producers notes that loudspeakers inside Tahrir Square are playing loud, old-school patriotic Egyptian songs. People are clapping along.
    2:08am Anti-Mubarak activist Mona Souief tells Al Jazeera that people feel that they are “past the worst.” and that if protesters could make it past the violence of the past 24 hours, than they could persevere.
    2:01am  Egyptian state television claims that some anti-Mubarak protesters are asking to be able to pass the barricades and leave Tahrir Square, and that that the Egyptian army has indicated that it’s ready to help protesters leave the square. 


    But Al Jazeera Arabic contacted some protesters, who have have denied the reports carried on Egyptian television. 

    1:26am Aida Seif El Dowla, founder of the El Nadim Center tells Al Jazeera how a sister organisation, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a prominent legal aid group providing help to anti-government protesters , was raided on Thursday, with its staff of five, along with 25 volunteers, being detained.

    Since early in the morning, the area … was full of thugs, who randomly rounded up people from the streets and them people in microbuses and just took them away, God knows where. And then we heard that the army had surrounded the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, and then we heard that thugs were surrounding the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, and they’re not allowing people to enter or to leave the building. And then we heard that the army – the military police – they went up into the centre, broke into it, took the equpment, took the computers, took some of the files, removed some of the sim cards from the mobile phones …

    When asked if she knew where her colleagues were being kept, al Dowla said,

    We don’t know. We don’t know. The fact that they have been taken by the military police means that probably being kept in some military place, not the normal police stations, depending on where they have been detained from, and so we have no access to those people, we have no knowledge of whether or not they are safe. … we have absolutely no idea where they are.

    She said among those detained are representatives of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with several bloggers.

    1:02am AJE correspondent reports that live shots will resume as soon as it is safe to do so, as journalists with cameras are being targeted.

    12:20am Charter evacuation flights are landing all around the world as foreigners, fearing for their safety, leave Egypt.

    12:16am Our live blog on the Battle for Egypt begins now and will continue for the rest of the day.


    The Arab world’s 1989 revolution?


    As protests sweep Arab nations and reach fever pitch in Egypt, are we seeing a revolution of Soviet bloc proportions?


    Jacqueline Head Last Modified: 02 Feb 2011 09:04 GMT
    The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolised the end of oppressive communist regimes across eastern Europe [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Days of mass protests in Egypt have escalated dramatically with estimates of one million people descending on Tahrir square in central Cairo, in a bid to oust the country’s long-term president.

    Opposition groups are hoping that the numbers out on the streets will persuade Hosni Mubarak to realise that he no longer holds popular support in Egypt.

    But the action in Egypt is being seen as part of a wider movement, a so-called “Arab revolution”, following a wave of protests in Tunisia, Lebanon and Yemen.

    In Jordan on Tuesday King Abdullah sacked his government in the wake of demonstrations there.

    The ripple effect, described by one commentator as the “wave of democracy finally crashing on the North African shore”, has led to comparisons with the protest movement across Eastern Europe in 1989 that spelt the demise of communism and eventually the Soviet Union.

    Demand for reform
    When Polish people voted in their first free elections more than two decades ago and formed the Soviet bloc’s first non-communist government, it helped spark a chain of events across the region.
    Hungary also played an early role, abolishing the people’s republic and cutting down its fortified border with Austria, allowing hundreds of East Germans to cross through.
    Two revolutions swiftly followed in Czechoslovakia and Romania. The “Velvet Revolution” in November 1989 saw hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters take to the streets in Prague until the Communist party was dissolved to make way for democracy.
    Opposition movements in Romania saw a more bloody end, with the president Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena shot by firing squad following 10 days of violent protest.


      In pictures: ‘Day of Anger’
      Update: Egypt protests
      Unrest in social media
      Debate: First Tunisia, now Egypt?
      Can Egyptians revolt?
      Egypt’s protests on Twitter
      Pictures: Anger in Egypt

    The year’s events were epitomised by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression to many, and over the next two years, communist regimes fell in the Balkans and the Soviet Union.

    While the situation in Egypt and other Arab nations is far from over, experts and commentators have drawn some parallels between the two eras.

    “The way they started – the demand for reform, democracy and the mass protests in terms of sweeping movements – are similar characteristics,” Tony Saunois, secretary of the Committee for Workers International based in London, told Al Jazeera.

    A number of other factors, including the failure of government to keep spirits up amid economic hardship, can also be compared with what happened in eastern Europe when people realised the new system was not working, Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War and international editor of The Economist, said.

    “The regimes lost their soft power – it’s not more fun, or prosperous, under their rule,” he told Al Jazeera.

    Another parallel is that “the climate of fear has ebbed and people no longer believe that the regime is willing to kill”.

    Lack of a superpower

    But while some point to the domino effect that spread across eastern Europe as being similar to the way protests and uprising are moving across the Arab world, there are also some distinct differences.

    “In 1989 there was an implosion of a social system that was based on a centralised system. The Arab world doesn’t have that,” Saunois says.

    “They do have state control in terms of political oppression, but … the social basis they rest on, capitalism, is different.

    “The international consequences of 1989 were also different. One of them was the pushing back of Socialism – that’s not going to be replicated by the movement in the Arab world when you’ve got a world economic recession.”

    The lack of backing by a major superpower also indicates a clear divide between the two, while the US strongly supported pro-democracy movements in Europe it has been more ambivalent about the protesters in Egypt.

    ‘More Turkey than Iran’

    With the situation still open in Egypt, there are also questions as to what political movement will emerge as the strongest once, if and when, Mubarak bows out as leader.

    George Joffe, lecturer at the Centre for International Studies at Cambridge University, says no one yet knows what the future holds for Arab states.

    “In the Arab world there’s an underlay of commonality about what’s happening, but it’s a sociological one rather than a political one,” he told Al Jazeera. 

    “The real demand of the people is simple – to be free of oppression. But what’s not clear is if they can agree on what the future can be”George JoffeUniversity of Cambridge

    “We are not seeing any ideology destroyed, and in the Arab world there’s not one ideology, there’s many.”

    He said many former Soviet states were quick to install democractic adminstrations partly because some had previously held them, such as Czechoslovakia, but also because they were part of the wider “European experience”.

    “But it’s interesting to note that when you moved further east, to Belarus, to Russia, then there wasn’t such enthusiam for the democratic model.”

    Joffe adds a word of caution when comparing the situation of 1989 to the present Arab revolt, because “each country is separate”, with different relations between the military, the government and opposition groups.

    “The real demand of the people is simple – to be free of oppression. But what’s not clear is if clear is if they can agree on what the future can be.

    “We’re standing at a very uncertain moment. There’s going to be change. No regime is going to be able to engage in the kind of oppression that we’ve seen before. But it doesn’t mean we won’t still see more autocratic regimes in the future.”

    Some media outlets have highlighted concern that the uprising in Egypt could pave the way for an Iranian-style Islamic movement to seize power, but it is a suggestion quickly squashed by academics.

    Omar Ashour, a lecturer in Arab politics at the University of Exeter in Britain, told Al Jazeera “the main group of persons in Egypt are young men who are disenchanted, who are pushing for a democratic society”.

    “Most of the ones leading the Islamic groups are less well organised but they don’t want to confront the government and they did not support this revolution in the beginning.

    “So even if they took power, we might more or less see something that is similar to Turkey rather than Iran.”

    ‘End to tyranny’

    Despite the differences, there are some lessons from history the Egyptian people may be willing to take home with them.

    Lucas says protesters fighting for democracy across the Arab world should beware the “shape-shifting of clever people in the regime”.

    “A lot of old communists came back in old guises – if you look around eastern Europe now many people in power had careers that flourished in the communist era,” he said, adding that the old KGB used their connections and influence to regain power under the new regime.

    Another lesson to be learnt from history, he said, is that “revolution doesn’t always mean democracy”, as illustrated by uprisings in Central Asia and Azerbaijan.

    But Ashour is more optimistic.

    “We are seeing already Al Jazeera has been cut from the Arab world that shows how fragile the situation is.

    “I think this will be the beginning of the Arab spring and the end of an ugly era of brutality and tyranny,” he said.


    Via de site van Stan van Houcke stuitte ik op dit artikel uit Le Monde Diplomatique dat wel heel raak de situatie samenvat (http://mondediplo.com/2011/02/01impossible ):

    The Arab wall begins to fall

    The impossible happened

    <!–Friday 4 February 2011[, by –>

    by Serge Halimi

    Political leaders often claim a situation is so complex that any attempt to change it would be disastrous. This is not always the case. After 9/11, President George Bush offered a clear choice: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” According to President Sarkozy, the choice in Tunisia was between a friendly dictator and “a Taliban-type regime in North Africa” (1). This suits both sides: a dictator can claim to be the last bastion against militant Islam, and the Islamists can claim that they alone oppose the dictator.

    But if there is a social or democratic movement, and new players, the scenario suddenly changes. The embattled authorities look out for subversive activity among the protesters. If they find it, they exploit it. If not, they invent it.

    In an interview with the Tunisian ambassador to Unesco, Mezri Haddad, on 13 January (the day before Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled), the opposition leader Nejib Chebbi criticised “development in which low pay provided the only comparative advantage in international competition” and “provocative displays of illicit wealth in the cities”, and claimed that “the people are all against the regime” (2). Haddad responded: “The people will ransack your fine house in La Marsa, that is what people do in societies where there is no fear of the police … Ben Ali saved Tunisia from the fanatics and fundamentalists in 1987… He must remain in power, come what may, because the country is under threat from the fanatics and their neo-Bolshevik allies.”

    A few hours later, Haddad called on the man who “saved Tunisia” to stand down. On 16 January, Chebbi became the new minister for regional and local development. Revolution in Arab nations is rare but rapid. Less than a month after Mohamed Bouazizi’s suicide drew attention to the grievances of unemployed graduates, the Trabelsi family houses in Carthage had been seized, political prisoners had been released and Tunis was full of peasants demanding the abolition of privileges.

    The historic events in Tunis had a familiar, French Revolutionary feel. A spontaneous movement spreads, widely diverse social strata are brought together, absolutism is vanquished. At which point, there are two alternatives left: take your winnings and leave, or double your stakes. Generally, one section of society (the liberal bourgeoisie) tries to stem the flood; another (peasants, employees in dead-end jobs, unemployed workers, poor students) backs the tide of protest, in the hope that the ageing autocracy and the monopolists will be swept away. Some of the protestors, especially the young, do not want to have risked their lives so that others, less daring but better placed, can use the protests to their own advantage. The social system survives, minus the police and the mafia.

    Extending opposition to dictatorship in the person of the Ben Ali family to opposition to economic domination by an oligarchy would not suit the tourists, the money markets or the International Monetary Fund. The only freedom they want is for tourists, trade and movement of capital. Moody’s rating agency naturally downgraded Tunisia’s bond ratings on 19 January, citing “political instability and uncertainties caused by the collapse of the previous political regime”.

    France’s outstretched hand

    Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli, Beijing and western chanceries were equally unenthusiastic. As mainly Muslim crowds called for liberty and equality, France had its own interpretation of the compatibility of democracy with Islam, offering Ben Ali’s failing regime “the expert assistance of our security forces”. Ruling oligarchies, Muslim, secular and Christian, always close ranks at any public unrest. The former Tunisian president claimed to support secularism and women’s rights against fundamentalism, his party was a member of the Socialist International, yet he fled. To Saudi Arabia of all places.

    Imagine the outcry if police had opened fire on demonstrators in Tehran or Caracas, leaving a hundred dead. Such comparisons were rejected in principle over 30 years ago in an article by the US academic, Jeane Kirkpatrick (3), in which she claimed that pro-western “authoritarian” regimes were always preferable and more susceptible to reform than the “totalitarian” regimes that might succeed them.

    President Ronald Reagan was so impressed that he appointed her ambassador to the UN. Her article, published in November 1979, examines major blows the US had suffered that year, the revolutions in Iran and Nicaragua. She maintained that the Carter administration, in its efforts to promote democracy, had in both cases “actively collaborated in the replacement of moderate autocrats friendly to American interests [the shah of Iran and Augusto Somoza] with less friendly autocrats of extremist persuasion.” These friendly regimes had their faults. Both were “led by men who had not been selected by free elections, … who sometimes invoked martial law to arrest, imprison, exile, and occasionally, it was alleged [sic], torture their opponents.” But “they were positively friendly to the US, sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost. The embassies of both governments were… frequented by powerful Americans. And the shah and Somoza themselves were both welcome in Washington, and had many American friends.”

    Then, “viewing international developments in terms of… a contemporary version of the same idea of progress that has traumatised western imaginations since the Enlightenment”, the Carter administration made a fatal mistake: it encouraged regime change. “Washington overestimated the political diversity of the opposition (especially the strength of ‘moderates’ and ‘democrats’), … underestimated the strength and intransigence of radicals in the movement, and misestimated the nature and extent of American influence on both the government and the opposition”, preparing the way for the ayatollahs and the Sandinistas.

    There is nothing new about the idea of a “dictatorship of the lesser evil”, which is pro-western and may mend its ways given endless time, or the fear of finding fundamentalists (or communists) masquerading as democratic demonstrators. But the spirit of Jeane Kirkpatrick seems to have influenced Paris more than Washington. The US was reassured by the relatively minor role of Islamists in the Tunisian uprising, enabling a broad social and political front against Ben Ali. WikiLeaks had revealed the State Department’s feelings about the “mafia-esque elite” and the “sclerotic regime” of the ruling family. The White House left them to their fate, trusting that the liberal bourgeoisie would provide a replacement friendly to western interests.

    But the Tunisian uprising has had wider repercussions, notably in Egypt. For the conditions that caused it are to be found elsewhere: unequal growth, high unemployment, protest crushed by grossly overblown police forces, well-educated young people with no prospects, bourgeois parasites living like tourists in their own country. Tunisians will not solve all these problems at a stroke but they have made a start. Like the rest of us, they were told there was no alternative. Yet they have shown us that “the impossible happens” (4).

    1) Tunis, 28 April 2008.(2) “L’invité de Bourdin & Co”, RMC Radio France, 13 January 2011.

    (2) “L’invité de Bourdin & Co”, RMC Radio France, 13 January 2011

    (3) Jeane Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships & Double Standards”, Commentary, New York, November 1979.

    (4) See Slavoj Zizek, “A permanent state of emergency”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, November 2010.


    Egypt holds ‘Day of Departure’


    Hundreds of thousands flood Tahrir Square for largely peaceful ‘Day of Departure’ protest against President Mubarak.

    Last Modified: 04 Feb 2011 22:58 GMT
    Hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in what has been a largely peaceful protest, calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to stand down.The square, which has been the focal point of protests in Egypt, saw demonstrators observe what they have termed a “Day of Departure” for the man who has been the country’s leader for the last 30 years.As the country entered its eleventh day of unrest, mass demonstrations commenced after Friday prayers.Protests were also seen in the cities of Alexandria, Mahalla and Giza.Protests continued into the night, in defiance of a curfew that has not been observed since it was first enforced last week. The newly relaxed curfew now runs from 7pm to 6am local time.One protester in Cairo told Al Jazeera that demonstrators would continue protesting until Mubarak steps down.”It’s either death, or freedom,” he said.Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s new prime minister, however, said on Friday that Mubarak would not be handing over powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, before the September elections. In statements carried by the official MENA news agency, Shafiq “ruled out” an early exit for Mubarak.”We need President Mubarak to stay for legislative reasons,” he said.Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defence minister, visited Tahrir Square earlier on Friday, making him the first member of the government to do so. He talked with the protesters and military commanders.Speaking on Friday in Washington, Barack Obama, the US president, said it was “clear that there must be a transition process that begins now … and leads to free and fair elections”.Obama said that a “successful and orderly transition must be meaningful and … must address the legitimate greivances of those who seek a better future”.He said that in this “time of tumult and transformation”, the US would remain a “strong friend and partner” to the Egyptian people. Standoff in CairoAl Jazeera’s online producer in Cairo reported that a gunshot was heard in the centre of the capital on Friday afternoon, but no further violence was reported.

    Our online producer describes the standoff at Talaat Harb Square

    Earlier, about 200 Mubarak loyalists gathered on the 6th of October Bridge, near the square, with another 200 below the bridge.

    Our correspondent reported that there was a short standoff between about 300 Mubarak loyalists and pro-democracy protesters in the Talaat Harb square, which is located on a street leading to the main protest centre.

    People were throwing rocks at one another, and the Mubarak loyalists were eventually driven from the square.

    Our correspondents said that there were up to five layers of checkpoints at some entrances, with makeshift barricades being put up by pro-democracy protesters.

    At one point, a huge cheer went up amongst protesters when a false rumour went around saying that the president had stepped down.

    Our correspondents have said that pro-democracy protesters have also “overpowered” several people who were suspected of wanting to engage in violence, and delivered them to the army, who are detaining them.

    Our online producer termed Tahrir Square a “fully functioning encampment, with medical camps and pharmacies”.

    Army separating protesters

    Soldiers on foot are very visible, and army armoured personnel carriers and tanks have taken up positions to control the 6th of October bridge entrance to the square, our correspondent said.

    Another correspondent added that the army appeared to be placing itself so as to separate Mubarak loyalists from pro-democracy prosters, and another correspondent indicated that the army was detaining some Mubarak supporters in order to prevent them from reaching the main square.

    “The atmosphere is not quite as triumphal as Tuesday’s rally; people then said Mubarak would be out in a matter of hours, but now most of them think it’ll be a long time,” reported Al Jazeera’s online producer from the square.

    Tahrir Square echoes with ‘Go Mubarak!’ chants

    He added that protesters, a diverse array of men, women and children from various economic and religious backgrounds, fear an outbreak of violence and the atmosphere remains tense.

    “The feel here is that today is the final day for Mubarak, it’s time for him to go,” Gigi Ibrahim, a political activist told Al Jazeera from the square.

    Some protesters have called for the crowd to begin marching towards the presidential palace.<!–IMAGEPATH,DESC,URL–>

    Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former foreign minister and current secretary-general of the Arab League, also spoke to demonstrators.

    Earlier, prime minister Shafiq said the interior minister should not obstruct Friday’s peaceful marches.

    Al Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were attacked on Friday by “gangs of thugs”, according to a statement from the network. The office was burned, along with the equipment inside it.

    Later, Egyptian security forces arrested Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau chief and another Al Jazeera journalist in the capital.

    Security forcers also broke into the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s website and arrested 12 journalists there, Al Masry Al Youm, the country’s largest independent newspaper, and the Associated Press reported on Friday.

    Egyptian state television has been reporting that the situation in Cairo is currently quiet and calm.

    They have not shown footage of the angry protesters, though they have said that they will try to bring some protesters into their studios for interviews.

    Meanwhile, Egypt’s prosecutor-general has barred Rashid Mohammed Rashid, the former trade and industry minister, from leaving the country, and has frozen his bank accounts, the state news agency MENA said on Friday.

    The same measures had earlier been ordered against Habib al-Adly, the former interior minister, and Ahmed Ezz, a businessman.

    State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said on Friday that an Egyptian reporter shot during clashes earlier this week had died of his wounds.

    The fatality is the first reported death of a journalist during the wave of anti-government protests.

    Mubarak fears ‘chaos’

    On Thursday, Mubarak said he wanted to leave office, but feared there will be chaos if he did.

    Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage. 

    Speaking to America’s ABC television he said: “I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go.”

    But he added: “If I resign today, there will be chaos.”

    Mubarak’s government has struggled to regain control of a nation angry about poverty, recession and political repression, inviting the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s most organised opposition movement – to talks and apologising for Wednesday’s bloodshed in Cairo.

    In a bid to calm the situation, Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, said on Thursday that Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups had been invited to meet the new government as part of a national dialogue.

    The Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition actors, including Mohamed ElBaradei, have refused the offer for talks until Mubarak leaves office.

    “We demand that this regime is overthrown, and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions,” the Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera.

    Mohammed Al-Beltagi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera on Friday that his organisation has no ambitions to run for the presidency, while ElBaradei said that he would run “if he people ask”.

    The developments come as the New York Times reports, quoting US officials and Arab diplomats, that the US administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for Mubarak to resign immediately and hand over power to a transitional government headed by Omar Suleiman.

    This report, though unconfirmed by the White House, comes after Mubarak’s statements on Tuesday where he agreed to give up power in September at the end of his current term.

    Bloody clashes

    At least 13 people have died and scores were injured over the last two days when Mubarak loyalists launched a counter-attack on pro-democracy protesters.

    The Egyptian health ministry put the number of wounded at up to 5,000 since the start of the protests.

    Protesters chanted ‘He must go!’ 

    The army took little action on Wednesday while the fighting raged in Tahrir Square over the past two days.

    The interior ministry has denied it ordered its agents or officers to attack prior pro-democracy demonstrations.

    Suleiman said that the government would not forcefully remove protesters. “We will ask them to go home, but we will not push them to go home,” he said.

    Ahead of Friday’s mass protests, eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera that thugs, with the assistance of security vehicles, were readying to attack the square. They said protesters were preparing to confront them.

    Protesters also reported finding petrol bombs on security personnel dressed in civilian clothes.

    Al Jazeera and agencies


    Weer demonstratie Egypte op de Dam

    De bijeenkomst ‘Democratie en vrijheid in Egypte, nu!’ vindt aanstaande zaterdag 5 februari op de Dam plaats.De manifestatie uit solidariteit met de Egyptische volksopstand werd georganiseerd door de Nederlandse tak van de Egyptische ‘6 april beweging’ en de Socialistische Partij. Tweede kamerlid Harry van Bommel gaat spreken op de manifestatie.

    Van de website van Karin Spaink (http://www.spaink.net/2011/02/05/demo-dam/ ):

    Demo dam

    Vandaag, zaterdag 5 februari, van 16:00 tot 17:00, is er op de Dam in Amsterdam een demonstratie voor Egypte. De organisatie is in handen van de Nederlandse tak van de Egyptische 6 Aprilbeweging en de SP. De 6 aprilbeweging, begonen in 2008, pleit voor beëindiging van de jarenlange noodtoestand in Egypte; voor persvrijheid; voor onafhankelijke rechters, voor vrije verkiezingen, met buitenlandse waarnemers en voor een nieuwe grondwet. Mohamed El Baradei is een van de meest vooraanstaande leden van de 6 Aprilbeweging.

    Kom ook! Want hoewel ik niet geloof dat het in the grand scheme of things ook maar ene zak uitmaakt of wij daar nu staat of niet, is het voor het moraal van de demonstranten in Egypte buitengewoon goed om te weten dat overal ter wereld mensen hun moed prijzen en hun doelen ondersteunen – dat we met hen meeleven, al is het van ver.

    Tot zover de oproep van de site van Karin Spaink. Hier nog een link naar een blogspot van de 6 april beweging: http://6aprilmove.blogspot.com/

    Hieronder een kleine impressie van de Demonstratie op de Dam (5-2-2011)

     Foto’s Floris Schreve:















    Toespraak van Karin Spaink:

    Dit is geen islamitische revolutie. Ja, de Muslim Brotherhood doet ook mee, maar niet georganiseerd. Ze zijn er gewoon als individu, net als honderdduizenden andere Egyptenaren die hun buik vol hebben van dertig jaar dictatorschap en van dertig jaar leven onder de noodtoestand: zonder persvrijheid, zonder vrije verkiezingen, zonder vrijheid van demonstratie en zonder vrije communicatie.

    Dit is geen islamitische revolutie. Ik kijk al zeven dagen onafgebroken naar Al Jazeera, en nog geen enkele keer heb ik iemand Allahuh akhbar horen roepen. Wel zie ik christenen die een kring vormen rond moslims om hen tijdens hun gebed te beschermen, net als eerder moslims de Koptische kerken in Egypte beschermden nadat er een door een aanslag was getroffen. Gisteren liepen op Tahrir twee religieuze hoogwaardigheidsbekleders rond, een moslim en een katholiek: hand in hand, beiden in vol ornaat. En ze zeiden dat er meer was dat hen onderling bond dan hen scheidde.

    Dit is geen instant opstand, ontstaan in het kielzog van Tunesië. In Egypte broeit het al jaren: de 6 aprilbeweging uit 2008 is daarvan een voorbeeld. Alleen heeft niemand eerder het cordon van angst dat een dictatuur over haar onderdanen legt, lang genoeg weten te doorbreken. Dat is wat Tunesië heeft gedaan: moed geven, hoop bieden.

    Dit is geen Facebook- of Twitterrevolutie. Moderne media zijn weliswaar een uitstekend medium om het nieuws naar buiten te brengen, maar Egyptische jongeren zijn al jarenlang aan het bloggen over wat ze doen, wat zij vinden en wat hen daardoor is overkomen: arrestatie, intimidatie en mishandeling. Dit is een opstand van mensen die eindelijk de middelen, de moed en de massa hebben gevonden om te zeggen: dit niet. Kefaya. Erhal!

    Wat het wel is, is dit: een opstand van mensen die nu eindelijk gehoord willen worden. Een opstand van mensen die consequent vreedzaam willen blijven, ook al werden ze geconfronteerd met de harafeesh – huurlingen van het regime die met kamelen, paarden, messen en molotovcocktails de aanval openden.

    Dit is een opstand van mensen die uitsluitend democratische eisen stellen: weg met de dictator, weg met de angst. Geen marteling meer, geen staat van beleg meer. We willen persvrijheid, we willen een echte grondwet, we willen vrije verkiezingen en een politie die niet corrupt is. We willen werk, we willen een vrij leven, en we willen kunnen zeggen wat we willen.

    Het is ook een opstand die onze westerse stereotypen verscheurt. Egypte is geen ‘achterlijk’ land, geen land vol analfabeten, geen land dat achter de mullahs wil aanhobbelen. Egypte is een land dat vrijheid boven religie stelt, een natie wier burgers met gevaar voor eigen leven streven naar een volkomen vreedzame revolutie.

    Dit is helaas ook een opstand die Amerika in haar hemd heeft gezet. Amerika zegt de democratie te willen exporteren, maar blijkt daarin plotseling akelig selectief te zijn. Revoltes in landen met regimes die haar niet bevallen, werden gretig ondersteund (denk aan de groene revolutie van 2009 in Iran), maar nu het om een Amerikaanse bondgenoot ging, drong Amerika aan op ‘stabiliteit’. Natuurlijk geeft een land dat zich van haar regime wil bevrijden, haar stabiliteit op – dat is de crux van een revolutie. Mubarak gaat immers uit zichzelf niet weg, dat bewijst hij ook nu. Het is zijn eindeloze aanblijven, zijn zucht naar behoud van de macht die de chaos veroorzaakt – zijn harafeesh, zijn jacht op journalisten, zijn blokkades van banken en benzinestations, zijn verzet om zijn volk ruimte te geven en hun rechten te honoreren.

    Nee, er is geen structuur voor wat er hierna moet komen. Hoe kan dat ook? Dat is immers waar elke dictator uit alle macht voor zorgt: dat niemand anders draagvlak krijgt, dat niemand anders zich kan organiseren, dat er geen enkel alternatief voorhanden lijkt. Een dictator wil alle beschikbare ruimte innemen en plooit alles – werkelijk alles – naar zijn heerschappij. Dat er geen helder alternatief is, is nu juist het gevolg van Mubaraks regime. Verlangen dat de oppositie een kant en klare oplossing weet te bieden, is eisen dat zij in een week tijd herstellen wat hen dertig jaar lang met geweld uit handen is geslagen.

    Intussen verbaas ik hoe vasthoudend en ontroerend die eindelijk losgebarsten vrijheidsdrang is. Mensen die grappen maken, die poëtisch politiek zijn. Mensen die een plein waarop dag in, dag uit honderdduizenden mensen demonstreren, weten te organiseren en schoon te houden. Die elkaar voeden, steunen en verzorgen. Die aanvallers insluiten en niet keihard terugmeppen. Die musea en bibliotheken beschermen.

    El Masr – jullie verdienen alles wat je nastreeft. Dat hebben jullie ten overstaan van de hele wereld prachtig en overtuigend bewezen.

    El Masr – ya habibi.



    Mubarak’s phantom presidency


    As the world watches Egyptian society transform, various interest groups jockey for position in the new political order.

    Paul Amar

    Last Modified: 03 Feb 2011 15:17 GMT

    Anti-government protesters say they are more determined than ever to topple President Hosni Mubarak [Reuters] 

    The “March of Millions” in Cairo marks the spectacular emergence of a new political society in Egypt. This uprising brings together a new coalition of forces, uniting reconfigured elements of the security state with prominent business people, internationalist leaders, and relatively new (or newly reconfigured) mass movements of youth, labour, women’s and religious groups. President Hosni Mubarak lost his political power on Friday, January 28.

    On that night the Egyptian military let Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters burn down and ordered the police brigades attacking protesters to return to their barracks. When the evening call to prayer rang out and no one heeded Mubarak’s curfew order, it was clear that the old president been reduced to a phantom authority. In order to understand where Egypt is going, and what shape democracy might take there, we need to set the extraordinarily successful popular mobilisations into their military, economic and social context. What other forces were behind this sudden fall of Mubarak from power? And how will this transitional military-centred government get along with this millions-strong protest movement?

    Many international media commentators – and some academic and political analysts – are having a hard time understanding the complexity of forces driving and responding to these momentous events. This confusion is driven by the binary “good guys versus bad guys” lenses most used to view this uprising. Such perspectives obscure more than they illuminate.

    There are three prominent binary models out there and each one carries its own baggage: (1) People versus Dictatorship, a perspective that leads to liberal naïveté and confusion about the active role of military and elites in this uprising; (2) Seculars versus Islamists, a model that leads to a 1980s-style call for “stability” and Islamophobic fears about the containment of the supposedly extremist “Arab street”; or, (3) Old Guard versus Frustrated Youth, a lens which imposes a 1960s-style romance on the protests but cannot begin to explain the structural and institutional dynamics driving the uprising, nor account for the key roles played by many 70-year-old Nasser-era figures.

    To map out a more comprehensive view, it may be helpful to identify the moving parts within the military and police institutions of the security state and how clashes within and between these coercive institutions relate to shifting class hierarchies and capital formations. I will also weigh these factors in relation to the breadth of new non-religious social movements and the internationalist or humanitarian identity of certain figures emerging at the centre of the new opposition coalition.

    Picking a paradigm

    Western commentators, whether liberal, left or conservative, tend to see all forces of coercion in non-democratic states as the hammers of “dictatorship” or as expressions of the will of an authoritarian leader. But each police, military and security institution has its own history, culture, class-allegiances, and, often its own autonomous sources of revenue and support as well. It would take many books to lay this all out in detail; but let me make a brief attempt here. In Egypt, the police forces (al-shurta) are run by the Interior Ministry, which was very close to Mubarak and the Presidency and had become politically co-dependent on him.

    But police stations gained relative autonomy during the past decades. In certain police stations this autonomy took the form of the adoption of a militant ideology or moral mission; or some Vice Police stations have taken up drug running; or some ran protection rackets that squeezed local small businesses. The political dependability of the police, from a bottom-up perspective, is not high. Police grew to be quite self-interested and entrepreneurial on a station-by-station level.

    In the 1980s, the police faced the growth of “gangs”, referred to in Egyptian Arabic as baltagiya. These street organisations had asserted self-rule over Cairo’s many informal settlements and slums. Foreigners and the Egyptian bourgeoisie assumed the baltagiya to be Islamists but they were mostly utterly unideological. In the early 1990s the Interior Ministry decided “if you can’t beat them, hire them”.

    So the Interior Ministry and the Central Security Services started outsourcing coercion to these baltagiya, paying them well and training them to use sexualised brutality (from groping to rape) in order to punish and deter female protesters and male detainees alike. During this period, the Interior Ministry also turned the State Security Investigations (SSI – mabahith amn al-dawla) into a monstrous threat, detaining and torturing masses of domestic political dissidents.

    Autonomous from the Interior Ministry we have the Central Security Services (Amn al-Markazi). These are the black uniformed, helmeted men that the media refer to as “the police”. Central Security was supposed to act as the private army of Mubarak. These are not revolutionary guards or morality brigades like the basiji who repressed the Green Movement protesters in Iran. By contrast, the Amn al-Markazi are low paid and non-ideological. Moreover, at crucial times, these Central Security brigades have risen up en masse against Mubarak himself to demand better wages and working conditions.

    Perhaps if it weren’t for the sinister assistance of the brutal baltagiya, they would not be a very intimidating force. The look of unenthusiastic resignation in the eyes of Amn al-Markazi soldiers as they were kissed and lovingly disarmed by protesters has become one of the most iconic images, so far, of this revolution. The dispelling of Mubarak’s authority could be marked to precisely that moment when protesters kissed the cheeks of Markazi officers who promptly vanished into puffs of tear gas, never to return.

    Evolving military power

    The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt are quite unrelated to the Markazi or police and see themselves as a distinct kind of state altogether. One could say that Egypt is still a “military dictatorship” (if one must use that term) since this is still the same regime that the Free Officers’ Revolution installed in the 1950s. But the military has been marginalised since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords with Israel and the United States. Since 1977, the military has not been allowed to fight anyone. Instead, the generals have been given huge aid payoffs by the US. They have been granted concessions to run shopping malls in Egypt, develop gated cities in the desert and beach resorts on the coasts. And they are encouraged to sit around in cheap social clubs.

    These buy-offs have shaped them into an incredibly organised interest group of nationalist businessmen. They are attracted to foreign investment, but their loyalties are economically and symbolically embedded in national territory. As we can see when examining any other case in the region (Pakistan, Iraq, the Gulf), US military-aid money does not buy loyalty to America; it just buys resentment. In recent years, the Egyptian military has felt collectively a growing sense of national duty, and has developed a sense of embittered shame for what it considers its “neutered masculinity”: its sense that it was not standing up for the nation’s people. 

    The nationalistic Armed Forces want to restore their honour and they are disgusted by police corruption and baltagiya brutality. And it seems that the military, now as “national capitalists”, have seen themselves as the blood rivals of the neoliberal “crony capitalists” associated with Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal who have privatised anything they can get their hands on and sold the country’s assets off to China, the US, and Persian Gulf capital.

    Thus we can see why in the first stage of this revolution, on Friday January 28, we saw a very quick “coup” of the military against the police and Central Security, and disappearance of Gamal Mubarak (the son) and of the detested Interior Minister, Habib el-Adly. However, the military is also split by some internal contradictions. Within the Armed Forces there are two elite sub-branches, the Presidential Guard and the Air Force. These remained closer to Mubarak while the broader military turned against him.

    This explains why you can had the contradictory display of the General Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammad Tantawi, wading in among the protesters to show support on January 30, while at the same time, the chief of the Air Force was named Mubarak’s new Prime Minister and sent planes to strafe the same protesters. This also explains why the Presidential Guard protected the Radio/Television Building and fought against protesters on January 28 rather than siding with them. 

    The Vice President, Omar Soleiman, named on January 29, was formerly the head of the Intelligence Services (al-mukhabarat). This is also a branch of the military (not of the police). Intelligence is in charge of externally-oriented secret operations, detentions and interrogations (and, thus, torture and renditions of non-Egyptians). Although since Soleiman’s mukhabarat did not detain and torture as many Egyptian dissidents in the domestic context, they are less hated than the mubahith.

    The Intelligence Services (mukhabarat) are in a particularly decisive position as a “swing vote”. As I understand it, the Intelligence Services loathed Gamal Mubarak and the “crony capitalist” faction, but are obsessed with stability and have long, intimate relationships with the CIA and the American military. The rise of the military, and within it, the Intelligence Services, explains why all of Gamal Mubarak’s business cronies were thrown out of the cabinet on Friday, January 28, and why Soleiman was made interim VP (and functions in fact as Acting President).

    Cementing a new order
    This revolution or regime change would be complete at the moment when anti-Mubarak tendencies in the military consolidate their position and reassure the Intelligence Services and the Air Force that they can confidently open up to the new popular movements and those parties coalesced around opposition leader ElBaradei. This is what an optimistic reader might judge to be what Obama and Clinton describe as an “orderly transition”.
    On Monday, January 31, we saw Naguib Sawiris, perhaps Egypt’s richest businessman and the iconic leader of the developmentalist “nationalist capital” faction in Egypt, joining the protesters and demanding the exit of Mubarak. During the past decade, Sawiris and his allies had become threatened by Mubarak-and-son’s extreme neoliberalism and their favoring of Western, European and Chinese investors over national businessmen. Because their investments overlap with those of the military, these prominent Egyptian businessmen have interests literally embedded in the land, resources and development projects of the nation. They have become exasperated by the corruption of Mubarak’s inner circle.
    Paralleling the return of organized national(ist) capital associated with the military and ranged against the police (a process that also occurred during the struggle with British colonialism in the 1930s-50s) there has been a return of very powerful and vastly organized labor movements, principally among youth. 2009 and 2010 were marked by mass national strikes, nationwide sit-ins, and visible labor protests often in the same locations that spawned this 2011 uprising. And the rural areas have been rising up against the government’s efforts to evict small farmers from their lands, opposing the regime’s attempts to re-create the vast landowner fiefdoms that defined the countryside during the Ottoman and British Colonial periods.
    In 2008 we saw the 100,000 strong April 6 Youth Movement emerge, leading a national general strike. And in 2008 and just in December 2010 we saw the first independent public sector unions emerge. Then just on January 30, 2011, clusters of unions from most major industrial towns gathered to form an Independent Trade Union Federation. These movements are organized by new leftist political parties that have no relation to the Muslim Brotherhood, nor are they connected to the past generation of Nasserism.
    They do not identify against Islam, of course, and do not make an issue of policing the secular-religious divide. Their interest in protecting national manufacturing and agricultural smallholdings, and in demanding public investment in national economic development dovetails with some of the interests of the new nationalist capital alliance.
    Thus behind the scenes of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Facebook-driven protest waves, there are huge structural and economic forces and institutional realignments at work. Egypt’s population is officially recorded at 81 million but in reality goes well beyond 100 million since some parents do not register all their children to shield them from serving in the Amn Al-Markazi or army. With the burgeoning youth population now becoming well-organized, these social and internet-coordinated movements are becoming very important.
    They can be grouped into three trends. One group of new movements are organized by and around international norms and organizations, and so may tend toward a secular, globalizing set of perspectives and discourses. 
    A second group is organized through the very active and assertive legal culture and independent judicial institutions in Egypt. This strong legal culture is certainly not a “Western human rights” import. Lawyers, judges and millions of litigants – men and women, working-class, farmers, and elite – have kept alive the judicial system and have a long unbroken history of resisting authoritarianism and staking rights claims of all sorts. 
    A third group of new social movements represents the intersection of internationalist NGOs, judicial-rights groups and the new leftist, feminist, rural and worker social movements. The latter group critiques the universalism of UN and NGO secular discourses, and draws upon the power of Egypt’s legal and labor activism, but also has its own innovative strategies and solutions – many of which have been on prominent display on the streets this week.
    Eygptian internationalism              

    One final element to examine here is the critical, and often overlooked role that Egypt has played in United Nations and humanitarian organizations, and how this history is coming back to enliven domestic politics and offer legitimacy and leadership at this time. Muhammad ElBaradei, the former director of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, has emerged as the consensus choice of the United Democratic Front in Egypt, which is asking him to serve as interim president, and to preside over a national process of consensus building and constitution drafting. In the 2000s, ElBaradei bravely led the IAEA and was credited with confirming that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Iran was not developing a nuclear weapons program.

    He won the Nobel Prize for upholding international law against a new wave of wars of aggression and for essentially stopping the momentum for war against Iran. He is no radical and not Egypt’s Gandhi; but he is no pushover or puppet of the US, either. For much of the week, standing at his side at the protests has been Egyptian actor Khaled Abou Naga, who has appeared in several Egyptian and American films, and who serves as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. This may be much more a UN-humanitarian led revolution than a Muslim Brotherhood uprising. This is a very twenty-first century regime change – simultaneously local and international.

    It is a good time to remind ourselves that the first-ever United Nations military-humanitarian peacekeeping intervention, the UN Emergency Force, was created with the joint support of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower (both military men, of course) in 1960 to keep the peace in Gaza and to stop the former colonial powers and Israel from invading Egypt in order to retake the Suez Canal and resubordinate Egypt.

    Then in the 1990s, Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Boutros-Ghali articulated new UN doctrines of state-building and militarized humanitarian intervention. But he got fired for making the mistake of insisting that international human rights and humanitarian law needed to be applied neutrally and universally, rather than only at the convenience of the Security Council powers.

    Yet Egypt’s relationship to the UN continues. Notably, ‘Aida Seif Ad-Dawla, one of the most articulate, brave and creative leaders of the new generation of Egyptian social movements and feminist NGOs, is a candidate for the high office of UN Rapporteur on Torture. Egyptians have a long history for investing in and supporting international law, humanitarian norms and human rights.

    Egyptian internationalism insists on the equal application of human rights principles and humanitarian laws of war even in the face of superpower pressure. In this context, ElBaradei’s emergence as a leader makes perfect sense. Although this internationalist dimension of Egypt’s “local” uprising is utterly ignored by most self-conscious liberal commentators who assume that international means “the West” and that Egypt’s protesters are driven by the politics of the belly rather than matters of principle.

    Mubarak is already out of power. The new cabinet is composed of chiefs of Intelligence, Air Force and the prison authority, as well as one International Labor Organization official. This group embodies a hard-core “stability coalition” that will work to bring together the interests of new military, national capital and labor, all the while reassuring the United States.

    Yes, this is a reshuffling of the cabinet, but one which reflects a very significant change in political direction. But none of it will count as a democratic transition until the vast new coalition of local social movements and internationalist Egyptians break into this circle and insist on setting the terms and agenda for transition.

    I would bet that even the hard-line leaders of the new cabinet will be unable to resist plugging into the willpower of these popular uprisings, one hundred million Egyptians strong.

    Paul Amar is Associate Professor of Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include: Cairo Cosmopolitan; The New Racial Missions of Policing; Global South to the Rescue; and the forthcoming Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics and the End of Neoliberalism.

    This article first appeared in Jadaliyya Ezine.

     The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy


    Cairo protesters hold firm


    Tens of thousands in Tahrir Square demand that President Mubarak quit, as the ruling party’s top leadership resigns.

    Last Modified: 05 Feb 2011 19:54 GMT
    Demonstrators are standing their ground in Cairo a day after hundreds of thousands of people gathered to call for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to quit.The protests entered their twelfth day on Saturday, after the city’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Egypt, saw demonstrators observe a “Day of Departure” on Friday.About 10,000 pro-democracy protesters also gathered outside the main train station in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, Al Jazeera’s correspondent there reported.The leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) resigned en masse on Saturday, according to state television.Hossam Badrawi has been appointed the new secretary-general of the party, replacing Safwat El-Sherif, a Mubarak loyalist, in that post. Badrawi, seen by many as a liberal voice in the NDP, will also replace Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak’s son, as head of the party’s policies bureau.Frank Wisner, who has acted as an envoy for Barack Obama, the US president, by carrying a message to Mubarak, has said the Egyptian president “must stay in office to steer” a process of gathering “national consensus around the preconditions” for the way forward.PJ Crowley, the US state department’s spokesman, has said, however, that Wisner was speaking as a private citizen, and that his views did not represent those of the US government.”The views he expressed today are his own. He did not coordinate his comments with the US government,” Crowley said.Obama administration officials welcomed the resignation of Gamal Mubarak, terming it a “positive” move.Despite the continuing demonstrations and the resignations, Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister, said stability was returning to the country and that he was confident a deal could be reached on constitutional reforms. At a news conference aired on state television, Shafiq suggested that the government was seeking to enter into talks with enough opposition representatives to isolate street protesters.

    Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage 

    Saturday’s protests in Cairo were calm, and protesters were seen lighting campfires across the square as night drew in.

    With the exception of a standoff between two groups who were chanting slogans, there was no violence reported on Saturday.

    One of Al Jazeera’s correspondents in Cairo said there were about 10,000 people in Tahrir Square and queues of people trying to get in. About 500 people joined the protesters from the port city of Suez.

    Our correspondent reported that the army was “behaving as if it’s back to business as usual tomorrow [Sunday]”. He said that the military had removed checkpoints on the 6th of October bridge, allowing traffic to resume normally.

    “The army is still securing the square, but their agenda appears to be isolating the protesters – keeping them safe, yes, but also minimising their impact on the surrounding areas,” our correspondent said.

    General rejected 

    At one point, General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army’s central command, entered the square and appealed to protesters to leave.

    They responded with chants of “We are not leaving, he [Mubarak] is leaving!”

    Protesters tell army commander “We won’t go!”

    Protest organisers have now called for a “Day of the Martyred” to be observed in honour of those who have died in the protests so far, while Copts in Egypt have called for Sunday prayers this week to be observed in Tahrir Square.

    Security in the square remains tight, with the military engaging in negotiations with protesters to dismantle some of the barricades that they had put up.

    “There is very tight security today [Saturday] because there have been all sorts of unconfirmed rumours of bombs being planted in different areas, which has caused a bit of panic,” she said.

    Another of our correspondents reported that soldiers had formed a line inside the square, around 100 metres beyond the museum barricade, and are separating the protesters inside the square from those manning the barricade.

    “If I had to guess, I’d say the plan is to limit the number of protesters who can get to the museum barricade and then disassemble it, so that the army can regain control of that entrance,” he said.

    “It looked like there might’ve been some altercation there; protesters were hopping over the barricades to the outside.

    “They’ve now formed their own human chain, facing outward, along the exterior of the barricade.”

    Cabinet meeting

    Meanwhile, state media reported that Mubarak met ministers responsible for the main economic portfolios in his new government on Saturday.

    The meeting included the prime minister, finance minister, oil minister and the trade and industry minister. The central bank governor also attended.

    On Friday, Egypt’s prosecutor-general had barred Rashid Mohammed Rashid, the former trade and industry minister, from leaving the country, and had frozen his bank accounts.

    The same measures was also taken against Habib al-Adly, the former interior minister, and Ahmed Ezz, a businessman.

    ‘Death or freedom’

    Friday’s “Day of Departure” commenced after afternoon prayers, and saw huge numbers also gather in the cities of Alexandria, Mahalla and Giza.

    Opposition Demands
     Hosni Mubarak must go Dissolve parliament Lift state of emergency Transitional unity cabinet Constitutional amendments Fair and transparent trials

    Protests continued into the night, in defiance of a curfew that has not been observed since it was first announced last week.

    The newly relaxed curfew now runs from 7pm to 6am local time, according to state television.

    One protester in Cairo told Al Jazeera that demonstrations will continue until Mubarak steps down.

    “It’s either death, or freedom,” he said.

    Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s new prime minister, however, said on Friday that Mubarak would not be handing over powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, before the September elections. In statements carried by the official MENA news agency, Shafiq “ruled out” an early exit for Mubarak.

    “We need President Mubarak to stay for legislative reasons,” he said.

    One of our correspondents said some people outside Tahrir Square are beginning to become angry because they are not going to work, they do not have money and shops are running out of food.

    “Who is going to represent [the protesters]? Who is going to lead negotiations with the government? Whoever you speak to has a different idea of what is to come because the demonstrators are a very diverse group,” she said.

    Speaking on Friday in Washington, Barack Obama, the US president, said it was “clear that there must be a transition process that begins now … and leads to free and fair elections”.

    On Saturday, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority, warned that anti-regime uprisings are “chaotic acts” aimed at “tearing .. apart” the Muslim world.  

    Journalists detained

    On Saturday, authorities arrested an Al Jazeera journalist who was returning from leave in Cairo to Doha at Cairo’s international airport. He was released later in the day, along with Al Jazeera’ bureau chief in Cairo, who was detained on Friday and another journalist who was arrested three days ago.

    People continue to throng to the square,despite the cold and rain [GALLO/GETTY]           


    One other Al Jazeera journalist remained in custody.

    On Friday, Al Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were attacked by “gangs of thugs”, according to a statement from the network. The office was burned, along with the equipment inside it.

    Security forces also earlier broke into the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s website and arrested 12 journalists there, Al Masry Al Youm, the country’s largest independent newspaper, and the Associated Press reported on Friday.

    An Egyptian journalist wounded in earlier anti-government protests has died of his injuries, his wife told Al Jazeera on Friday.

    Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, who worked with state-owned daily al-Ahram, was wounded on January 29 during anti-government protests. He is the first journalist known to have died in the unrest.

    Human Rights Watch, an international rights organisation, said in a statement on Friday that of more than 30 people arrested on Thursday, international activists had been released, but that Egyptian nationals remained in custody.

    Amnesty International, the international human rights group, meanwhile, has said that two of its employees have been missing since last Thursday.

    Al Jazeera and agencies



    Egypt and the Palestinian question


    The Mubarak regime has been a tool with which Israel and the US have pressured Palestinians.

    Abdullah Al-Arian Last Modified: 05 Feb 2011 13:50 GMT

    There is a widespread view in Egypt that the Mubarak regime has served the interests of the West [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Along with the laundry list of domestic grievances expressed by Egyptian protesters calling for an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak, the popular perception of Egypt’s foreign policy has also been a focal point of the demonstrations.

    Signs and chants have called on Mubarak to seek refuge in Tel Aviv, while his hastily appointed vice-president, Omar Suleiman, has been disparaged as a puppet of the US. Egypt’s widely publicised sale of natural gas to Israel at rock bottom prices has featured in many refrains emanating from the crowds.

    The widespread view among Egyptians that the regime has served the interests of the West has not been helped by Israel’s call for world leaders to support Mubarak, or the apparent unwillingness by American officials to give the protests their full backing.

    Plummeting status

    In the shadow of the current cries to topple the Egyptian regime, the Mubarak government has had a tough time keeping its role in international affairs out of public view.

    In the area where Egypt’s foreign policy apparatus has served US interests most directly, Israel’s security, the Mubarak regime’s complicity in the failure to establish a Palestinian state has become widely publicised in recent years. Its role in placing the stranglehold on the people of Gaza, in conjunction with Israel, has seen Egypt’s status in the region plummet to a level it has not reached in decades.

    The Palestine Papers, the leaked internal documents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that were recently exposed by Al Jazeera, provide further confirmation of Egypt’s role in the impasse between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

    While much of the coverage of the Palestine Papers has focused on the unprecedented concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, and how swiftly they were spurned by Israeli and American representatives, Egypt’s role as an instrument for added pressure stands out from the internal records.

    As the peace process broke down over the past decade, Egypt was a party to many of the discussions and central to the security arrangements made between the PA and Israel.

    Egyptian duplicity

    Throughout the documents, Suleiman in particular is singled out as the point person whom Israeli and American officials could count on to execute their agenda of dividing the Palestinian factions or pressing the PA for greater concessions.

    Barely a few months after the January 2006 Palestinian elections that resulted in a Hamas victory, PA leaders were already appealing for assistance in fending off their political opponents. At a meeting between leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and US General Keith Dayton, the latter assured the Palestinians that the American administration is committed to reinforcing the PA’s Presidential Guard to maintain Mahmoud Abbas’ authority in the face of the newly elected Hamas government.

    In support of his pledge, Dayton referred to discussions with Suleiman, who committed Egypt, along with Jordan, to providing training and equipment, “even at their own expense”.

    Later in the year, as the Palestinian factions were engaged in negotiations over the formation of a unity government, a European diplomat told Erekat that the American position on unifying the Palestinians was “prematurely negative”. Erekat agreed, adding that Suleiman had also been discouraging of those efforts, saying that they would not work.

    In early 2007, as the siege on Gaza had crippling consequences on the lives of Palestinians, negotiators complained that Egyptian leaders were duplicitous, speaking publicly in support of allowing goods into Gaza, but in reality, “it remains blocked on the ground …. This is a general problem with the Egyptians”.

    An internal report from April 2007 confirms these suspicions. The Agreement on Movement and Access states: “Although there has been political agreement by Omar Suleiman and President Mubarak on allowing exports through, this agreement has never been translated into operational reality.”

    Conditions in Gaza only worsened in the months ahead, thanks in large part to the stranglehold imposed by Israel and Egypt. As Hamas assumed sole control of Gaza by preventing a coup attempt by US-backed PA forces, Egypt determined to seal off the border.

    In a February 2008 meeting between Ahmed Qurei, a high-ranking PA official, and Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister, Qurei relayed the Egyptian position conveyed to him by their leader. “President Mubarak said they’ll close down the borders after Sunday and whoever is caught on Egyptian territories will be considered illegal.”

    The situation came to a stalemate in the months leading up to Israel’s December 2008 assault on Gaza that resulted in the deaths of 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians. As tensions were heightened, Erekat lamented to his Israeli counterpart that Suleiman was forced to cancel a meeting in the occupied territories. Amos Gilad, the director of Israeli military intelligence, speculated: “Regarding Omar Suleiman, maybe he delayed because he is afraid we will attack while he is here. It will hurt him. He will look like a collaborator.”

    A tool to pressure Palestinians

    The image of Egyptian officials as tools to pressure the Palestinians also emerges out of conversations between US and Palestinian officials. In late 2009, George Mitchell, Barack Obama’s envoy to the region, told Erekat that he had spoken with Suleiman and the two agreed that the PA could unilaterally declare new elections without any input from Hamas.

    Furthermore, Mitchell and Suleiman agreed that any agreement would have to permanently eradicate any Hamas presence in the West Bank, while at the same time allowing the PA to resume control of Gaza, terms Hamas was sure to reject. But as Egypt was preparing a document on how the PA should proceed, Erekat assured Mitchell that: “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] won’t say no to whatever the Egyptians present to him”.

    Even when it appeared that the Egyptians were attempting to display some degree of autonomy, it became more evident in the documents that external pressure was never too far behind. Only a few weeks later, Erekat complained to US negotiators that Egypt’s latest efforts to reconcile the Palestinian factions were straying from the official line. Daniel Rubenstein, the US consul general and chief of mission in Jerusalem, responded: “I can tell you, we did put pressure on the Egyptians. I read the document. It was a disaster.”

    As Erekat continued to grumble about the PA’s weakened position and Egypt’s lack of cooperation, General James Jones, the US special envoy for Middle East security, abruptly ended the meeting with his words: “It’s insulting. We’ll take care of this.”

    Jones appeared to have lived up to his promise. Only three months later, in January 2010, US negotiator David Hale assured Erekat that in recent talks with Suleiman: “The Egyptians brought ideas similar to our thinking.”

    In this instance, the US appeared to put pressure on the PA to accept the latest proposals by giving the impression that the US and its allies in the region were unified in their position. Hale further added of the Egyptians: “They talked with Netanyahu and think he is serious.”

    ‘Egypt’s number two’
    Given the critical role that Suleiman has played in advancing US and Israeli objectives, it was no surprise that Mubarak chose to appoint him as vice-president on January 29, a move rejected by protesters, but reassuring to Egypt’s Western patrons. In the leaked documents, Israeli officials were already referring to Suleiman as “Egypt’s Number Two” at a time when most observers believed that Mubarak was grooming his son to be succeed him.
    Among Western policymakers, it seems Suleiman remains a popular choice to replace Mubarak, as the candidate uniquely suited to maintaining Egypt’s current foreign policy, while also addressing domestic grievances expressed by protesters. That remains a distant prospect, given the unlikelihood that the Egyptian opposition would abandon its call to determine the nation’s role in regional affairs. But it also demonstrates that, unlike Tunisia, Egypt is far too critical to US objectives in the Middle East to be left to its own devices.
    Whatever the outcome in Egypt, it is clear that the recent revelations will have a dramatic impact on the settlement of the Palestinian question. Already weakened by the scandal of the Palestine Papers, Erekat may now have to do without the support of an Egyptian regime he termed, “our ally, our backbone”.
    In his first interview as vice-president, Suleiman decried as “unacceptable” what he called “foreign interference” in Egypt’s current turmoil. Coming from a regime whose ability to endure through the decades is owed largely to foreign interference, the irony of those words will not be lost on the Egyptian people.
    Abdullah Al-Arian is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Georgetown University.
    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


    http://nos.nl/artikel/216789-gezant-vs-mubarak-voorlopig-blijven.html :

    Gezant VS: Mubarak voorlopig blijven

    Een anti-Mubarakdemonstrant in Caïro» Een anti-Mubarakdemonstrant in Caïro EPA

    Toegevoegd: zaterdag 5 feb 2011, 17:07

    Update: zaterdag 5 feb 2011, 23:05

    Er is verwarring ontstaan over het standpunt van de Verenigde Staten over de positie van de Egyptische president Mubarak. Een gezant van de VS zegt dat Mubarak voorlopig moet aanblijven om leiding te geven aan de machtswisseling, maar de Amerikaanse regering zou daar anders over denken.

    Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Clinton heeft steeds gezegd dat Mubarak beter meteen kan vertrekken. Gezant Frank Wisner gaf tijdens de veiligheidsconferentie in München het advies om de president nog even aan te houden. Hij had afgelopen week een gesprek met Mubarak.

    Volgens Wisner, voormalig ambassadeur in Egypte, kan Mubarak zijn eigen nalatenschap bepalen. “Hij heeft zich zestig jaar van zijn leven in dienst gesteld van zijn land. Dit is het ideale moment voor hem om de weg voorwaarts te tonen”, aldus Wisner.

    Persoonlijke titel

    Een hoge medewerker van de Amerikaanse regering heeft tegen de New York Times gezegd dat de boodschap van Wisner niet van president Obama komt. Hij zou op persoonlijke titel hebben gesproken.

    Volgens NOS-correspondent Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal zijn velen het waarschijnlijk wel eens met Wisner, maar zal vanaf nu het officiële geluid weer zijn dat Mubarak meteen moet vertrekken.

    Bestuur vervangen

    Mubarak heeft inmiddels het bestuur van de Nationale Democratische Partij (NDP) vervangen. Zijn zoon Gamal, die lange tijd als zijn opvolger werd gezien, verdwijnt ook uit de partijtop.

    Aanvankelijk meldden verscheidene persbureaus dat Mubarak was afgetreden als partijleider, maar die berichten werden later weer ingetrokken.

    De nieuwe secretaris-generaal van de NDP is Hossam Badrawi. Hij wordt gerekend tot de gematigde vleugel van de partij.

    ‘Eervol compromis’

    Achter de schermen zou nu worden gesproken over wat wordt genoemd “een eervol compromis” om de crisis op te lossen. Dat zou erop neerkomen dat president Mubarak voor de vorm nog een aantal maanden aanblijft, maar intussen al zijn bevoegdheden overdraagt aan een overgangsregering.

    Op het Tahrirplein in Caïro is het vandaag relatief rustig gebleven. Het leger heeft een klein deel van het plein vrijgemaakt, zodat het verkeer er weer op gang kan komen.

    Voor morgen staan weer nieuwe demonstraties aangekondigd.

    http://nos.nl/artikel/216880-verwarring-over-standpunt-vs.html :

    Verwarring over standpunt VS

    Toegevoegd: zondag 6 feb 2011, 00:34

    Er is enige onduidelijkheid ontstaan over de positie van de VS ten aanzien van Egypte. Zaterdag zei VS-gezant Wisner dat president Mubarak voorlopig moet aanblijven om de hervormingen in gang te zetten. Buitenlandse Zaken zei dat Wisner op persoonlijke titel sprak.

    Vrijdag zei president Obama dat de machtsoverdracht nu moet beginnen. Hij riep Mubarak op de juiste beslissing te nemen, zonder daarbij expliciet te zeggen dat Mubarak nu moet aftreden.

    De Egyptische oppositieleider ElBaradei zegt dat het een grote tegenslag zou zijn als de VS Mubarak toestaat een overgangsregering te leiden.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-mubarak-is-going-he-is-on-the-cusp-of-final-departure-2205852.html :

    Robert Fisk: Mubarak is going. He is on the cusp of final departure


    Protesters in Tahrir Square are right to be sceptical despite the apparent shake-up in Egypt’s ruling party

    Sunday, 6 February 2011

    A demonstrator praying before soldiers yesterday


    A demonstrator praying before soldiers yesterday


    The old man is going. The resignation last night of the leadership of the ruling Egyptian National Democratic Party – including Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal – will not appease those who want to claw the President down. But they will get their blood. The whole vast edifice of power which the NDP represented in Egypt is now a mere shell, a propaganda poster with nothing behind it.

    The sight of Mubarak’s delusory new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq telling Egyptians yesterday that things were “returning to normal” was enough to prove to the protesters in Tahrir Square – 12 days into their mass demand for the exile of the man who has ruled the country for 30 years – that the regime was made of cardboard. When the head of the army’s central command personally pleaded with the tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in the square to go home, they simply howled him down.

    In his novel The Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel Garcia Marquez outlines the behaviour of a dictator under threat and his psychology of total denial. In his glory days, the autocrat believes he is a national hero. Faced with rebellion, he blames “foreign hands” and “hidden agendas” for this inexplicable revolt against his benevolent but absolute rule. Those fomenting the insurrection are “used and manipulated by foreign powers who hate our country”. Then – and here I use a precis of Marquez by the great Egyptian author Alaa Al-Aswany – “the dictator tries to test the limits of the engine, by doing everything except what he should do. He becomes dangerous. After that, he agrees to do anything they want him to do. Then he goes away”.

    Related articles

    Hosni Mubarak of Egypt appears to be on the cusp of stage four – the final departure. For 30 years he was the “national hero” – participant in the 1973 war, former head of the Egyptian air force, natural successor to Gamal Abdel Nasser as well as Anwar Sadat – and then, faced with his people’s increasing fury at his dictatorial rule, his police state and his torturers and the corruption of his regime, he blamed the dark shadow of the country’s fictional enemies (al-Qa’ida, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Jazeera, CNN, America). We may just have passed the dangerous phase.

    Twenty-two lawyers were arrested by Mubarak’s state security police on Thursday – for assisting yet more civil rights lawyers who were investigating the arrest and imprisonment of more than 600 Egyptian protesters. The vicious anti-riot cops who were mercifully driven off the streets of Cairo nine days ago and the drug-addled gangs paid by them are part of the wounded and dangerous dictator’s remaining weapons. These thugs – who work directly under ministry of interior orders – are the same men now shooting at night into Tahrir Square, killing three men and wounding another 40 early on Friday morning. Mubarak’s weepy interview with Christiane Amanpour last week – in which he claimed he didn’t want to be president but had to carry on for another seven months to save Egypt from “chaos” – was the first hint that stage four was on the way.

    Al-Aswany has taken to romanticising the revolution (if that is what it truly is). He has fallen into the habit of holding literary mornings before joining the insurrectionists, and last week he suggested that a revolution makes a man more honourable – just as falling in love makes a person more dignified. I suggested to him that a lot of people who fall in love spend an inordinate amount of time eliminating their rivals and that I couldn’t think of a revolution that hadn’t done the same. But his reply, that Egypt had been a liberal society since the days of Muhammad Ali Pasha and was the first Arab country (in the 19th century) to enjoy party politics, did carry conviction.

    If Mubarak goes today or later this week, Egyptians will debate why it took so long to rid themselves of this tin-pot dictator. The problem was that under the autocrats – Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak and whomever Washington blesses next – the Egyptian people skipped two generations of maturity. For the first essential task of a dictator is to “infantilise” his people, to transform them into political six-year-olds, obedient to a patriarchal headmaster. They will be given fake newspapers, fake elections, fake ministers and lots of false promises. If they obey, they might even become one of the fake ministers; if they disobey, they will be beaten up in the local police station, or imprisoned in the Tora jail complex or, if persistently violent, hanged.

    Only when the power of youth and technology forced this docile Egyptian population to grow up and stage its inevitable revolt did it become evident to all of these previously “infantilised” people that the government was itself composed of children, the eldest of them 83 years old. Yet, by a ghastly process of political osmosis, the dictator had for 30 years also “infantilised” his supposedly mature allies in the West. They bought the line that Mubarak alone remained the iron wall holding back the Islamic tide seeping across Egypt and the rest of the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood – with genuine historical roots in Egypt and every right to enter parliament in a fair election – remains the bogeyman on the lips of every news presenter, although they have not the slightest idea what it is or was.

    But now the infantilisation has gone further. Lord Blair of Isfahan popped up on CNN the other night, blustering badly when asked if he would compare Mubarak with Saddam Hussein. Absolutely not, he said. Saddam had impoverished a country that once had a higher standard of living than Belgium – while Mubarak had increased Egypt’s GDP by 50 per cent in 10 years.

    What Blair should have said was that Saddam killed tens of thousands of his own people while Mubarak has killed/hanged/tortured only a few thousand. But Blair’s shirt is now almost as blood-spattered as Saddam’s; so dictators, it seems, must now be judged only on their economic record. Obama went one further. Mubarak, he told us early yesterday, was “a proud man, but a great patriot”.

    This was extraordinary. To make such a claim, it was necessary to believe that the massive evidence of savagery by Egypt’s state security police over 30 years, the torture and the vicious treatment of demonstrators over the past 13 days, was unknown to the dictator. Mubarak, in his elderly innocence, may have been aware of corruption and perhaps the odd “excess” – a word we are beginning to hear again in Cairo – but not of the systematic abuse of human rights, the falsity of every election.

    This is the old Russian fairy tale. The tsar is a great father figure, a revered and perfect leader. It’s just that he does not know what his underlings are doing. He doesn’t realise how badly the serfs are treated. If only someone would tell him the truth, he would end injustice. The tsar’s servants, of course, connived at this.

    But Mubarak was not ignorant of the injustice of his regime. He survived by repression and threats and false elections. He always had. Like Sadat. Like Nasser who – according to the testimony of one of his victims who was a friend of mine – permitted his torturers to dangle prisoners over vats of boiling faeces and gently dunk them in it. Over 30 years, successive US ambassadors have informed Mubarak of the cruelties perpetrated in his name. Occasionally, Mubarak would express surprise and once promised to end police brutality, but nothing ever changed. The tsar fully approved of what his secret policemen were doing.

    Thus, when David Cameron announced that “if” the authorities were behind the violence in Egypt, it would be “absolutely unacceptable” – a threat that naturally had them shaking in their shoes – the word “if” was a lie. Cameron, unless he doesn’t bother to read the Foreign Office briefings on Mubarak, is well aware that the old man was a third-rate dictator who employed violence to stay in power.

    The demonstrators in Cairo and Alexandria and Port Said, of course, are nonetheless entering a period of great fear. Their “Day of Departure” on Friday – predicated on the idea that if they really believed Mubarak would leave last week, he would somehow follow the will of the people – turned yesterday into the “Day of Disillusion”. They are now constructing a committee of economists, intellectuals, “honest” politicians to negotiate with Vice-President Omar Suleiman – without apparently realising that Suleiman is the next safe-pair-of-hands general to be approved by the Americans, that Suleiman is a ruthless man who will not hesitate to use the same state security police as Mubarak relied upon to eliminate the state’s enemies in Tahrir Square.

    Betrayal always follows a successful revolution. And this may yet come to pass. The dark cynicism of the regime remains. Many pro-democracy demonstrators have noticed a strange phenomenon. In the months before the protests broke out on 25 January, a series of attacks on Coptic Christians and their churches spread across Egypt. The Pope called for the protection of Egypt’s 10 per cent Christians. The West was appalled. Mubarak blamed it all on the familiar “foreign hand”. But then after 25 January, not a hair of a Coptic head has been harmed. Why? Because the perpetrators had other violent missions to perform?

    When Mubarak goes, terrible truths will be revealed. The world, as they say, waits. But none wait more attentively, more bravely, more fearfully than the young men and women in Tahrir Square. If they are truly on the edge of victory, they are safe. If they are not, there will come the midnight knock on many a door.

    The key players

    Hosni Mubarak

    A former Egyptian air force commander who was thrust into power after Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1982, Mubarak has proved to be a ruthless and resilient President. By combining political repression at home with close relations with the US, and relatively cordial relations with Israel, he has been able to retain Egypt’s place as a pivotal voice in the Arab world. His handling of the Egyptian economy has been less successful, however. 

    Ahmed Shafik

    Like President Mubarak, Prime Minister Shafik’s background is in the Egyptian air force, which he at one point commanded; he has also served as aviation minister. Both his military background and his reputation for efficiency as a government minister made him an obvious choice during the reshuffle forced by the protests. 

    Omar Suleiman

    As the head of the Mukhabarat, Egypt’s secret service, Suleiman was one of the most powerful and feared men in Egypt. He also cultivated a close relationship with the US: Mukhabarat cells became one of the destinations for terror suspects who had been “renditioned” by the CIA. As Egypt’s new Vice-President, however, he hardly represents a new face for the Mubarak regime. Reports of an assassination attempt against him last week have been denied by the Egyptian authorities. 

    Mohamed Elbaradei

    Winner of the Nobel Peace prize, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has the highest international profile of Mubarak’s potential successors. However, he still lacks a strong domestic support base in Egypt, and among the Tahrir Square protesters. It remains to be seen whether he has time to build that kind of support before Mubarak leaves.


    “We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The President must stay in office to steer those changes.”Frank Wisner, US special envoy for Egypt

    “There are forces at work in any society, and particularly one that is facing these kinds of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own specific agenda…. [That is] why I think it is important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by now Vice-President Omar Suleiman.” Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

    “We need a transition of power within a constitutional framework. At this stage, we have two possible directions: either constitutional reforms or a coup d’état by the army. I don’t see another way out.”Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, secretary general of the liberal Wafd Party

    “I don’t believe that we solve the world’s problems by flicking a switch and holding an election…. Egypt is a classic case in point.”David Cameron, speaking at security conference in Munich

    “I think a very quick election at the start of a process of democratisation would be wrong…. If there is an election first, new structures of political dialogue and decision-making don’t have a chance to develop.”Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

    van Closer, de website van Martijn de Koning:

    Verandering komt eraan? – De ‘Arabische revolte’ in Jordanië

    5 February 2011 6 views No Comment

    Gastauteur: Egbert Harmsen

    Wat vele jaren lang voor onmogelijk werd gehouden lijkt nu toch bewaarheid te worden: al decennialang heersende regimes in de Arabische wereld, allen gedomineerd paternalistische en autoritaire leidersfiguren die met hun eeuwige zitvlees op de stoel van de macht blijven en die het vaak zelfs presteren om hun zoon klaar te stomen voor hun opvolging, schudden op hun grondvesten. Ook de bevolking van Jordanië is aangestoken door deze protestkoorts, die daar zoals ook elders in de Arabische wereld het geval is, wordt aangejaagd door toenemende armoede, werkloosheid en gebrek aan vrijheid en burgerrechten. Maar hoever reikt dat Jordaanse protest nu eigenlijk en wat zijn de specifieke implicaties ervan?

    Het tweeledige Jordaanse protest

    Het begon op 7 januari jongstleden. In het stadje Tseiban, 60 km ten zuiden van de hoofdstad Amman, gingen dagloners de straat op om te protesteren. Tegen de prijsstijgingen. Tegen de privatiseringen die in het kader van een neoliberale regeringspolitiek zijn doorgevoerd. Tegen de overheidscorruptie. Binnen een week tijd sloegen deze protesten over naar andere kleine en middelgrote steden, zoals Karak in het zuiden en Irbid in het noorden. Sociaaleconomische eisen domineerden: er moest een nieuwe regering komen die er werkelijk toe bereid was om de massawerkloosheid, de hoge prijzen en de corruptie aan te pakken. Let wel: een nieuwe regering, in de zin van een ander kabinet. Met had het niet over regime change. Aan de top van de Jordaanse machtspiramide staat immers de koning. Deze heeft over alles het laatste woord, zou boven alle partijen staan en ook boven alle misstappen en wanbeleid van overheidsfunctionarissen, tot de minister-president aan toe.

    De traditionele Jordaanse oppositie wordt gedomineerd door de uit de Moslim Broederschap voortgekomen Islamitisch Actie Front Partij (IAF), bestaat verder nog uit enkele kleine linkse en seculiere pan-Arabische partijen en daarnaast uit beroepsorganisaties. Deze groepen aarzelden aanvankelijk over zijn houding ten aanzien van de bovengenoemde protesten. Deze protesten werden immers geuit door leden van Jordaanse stammen die van oudsher zeer loyaal zijn aan het Hashemitische koningshuis en diens politiek. De traditionele Jordaanse oppositiepartijen werden door de Tunesische revolutie geïnspireerd om hun stem te verheffen, maar konden op eigen houtje relatief weinig demonstranten mobiliseren. Zij zochten daarom uiteindelijk toch aansluiting bij die nieuw ontstane Jordaanse protestbeweging met zijn sociaaleconomische eisen. Deze beweging, die dus begon in Tseiban, is bekend komen te staan onder de naam “Verandering komt eraan!”. Volgens politiek analist Muhammad Abu Ruman van het Center for Strategic Studies van Jordan University te Amman probeerden de traditionele oppositiepartijen daarmee ruimte te cre?eren voor hun eigen politieke eisen die vooral in de sfeer lagen van meer democratie en burgerrechten. Meer concreet willen zij, onder andere, een nieuwe kieswet die gebaseerd is op evenredige vertegenwoordiging (en de regimeloyale stammen niet langer bevoordeeld), vrijheid van vergadering en een gekozen premier.

    De beweging “Verandering komt eraan!” en de traditionele politieke oppositie konden elkaar vinden in de eis tot aftreden van het kabinet van premier Samir Rifai omwille van de zo hoognodige “verandering”. “Verandering komt eraan!” voelt er echter niet voor om de politieke eisen van de oppositiepartijen over te nemen. Volgens het hoofd van de beweging, Mohammad Sneid, hebben de armen in Jordani? hun eigen prioriteiten, zoals het zeker stellen van voedsel en onderdak. Het zijn zulke eisen, in de sfeer van bread and butter issues, die de beweging aan de overheid wil overbrengen. “Politieke hervormingen vullen de maag immers niet”, meent Sneid. Leiders van traditionele oppositiepartijen, zoals Saeed Thiab van de Wihdat Partij en Munir Hamarneh van de Communistische partij, staan er echter op dat politieke hervormingen, zoals de instelling van een sterk en onafhankelijk parlement die de regering werkelijk controleert en daarmee corruptie tegen gaat, noodzakelijk zijn om sociaaleconomische verbeteringen te bestendigen. De Islamisten sluiten zich bij deze zienswijze aan. In de woorden van IAF-prominent Hamza Mansour, zoals geciteerd in de Engelstalige krant Jordan Times: “we want a government chosen by the majority of the Jordanian people and we want a balance of powers; we will protest until our demands are taken seriously”.

    Nieuwe regering

    Het verschil in visie tussen de nieuwe protestbeweging “Verandering komt eraan!” en de traditionele oppositiepartijen brengt ook meningsverschillen omtrent de vorming van een nieuwe regering met zich mee. Eerstgenoemde beweging wenst een “regering van nationale eenheid” die afrekent met het vrije marktgeoriënteerde beleid van het kabinet van Rifai. Die nieuwe regering dient de belangen van de tribale en provinciale achterban van de beweging te behartigen in plaats van die van het grote bedrijfsleven. Eerste prioriteit daarbij is een politiek van prijsbeheersing. De islamistische en de linkse oppositiepartijen, die hun aanhang vooral in de grote steden en de Palestijnse vluchtelingenkampen hebben, staan in principe niet afwijzend tegenover deze sociaaleconomische eisen van “Verandering komt eraan!”. Ze geven er echter de voorkeur aan zelf een beslissende stem in een nieuwe regering te hebben en vinden bovendien dat het vormen van een nieuwe regering weinig zin heeft zolang het Jordaanse politieke bestel niet in structurele zin veranderd in de richting van meer democratie.

    Reactie van het regime

    Geschrokken door de protesten heeft het regime initiatieven ontplooid om de protesten in het land te kalmeren. Zo bracht koning Abdallah II in het diepste geheim bezoeken aan arme streken in het land. Tevens riep hij het Jordaanse parlement op om sociaaleconomische en politieke hervormingen versneld door te voeren. Dit parlement ging zich vervolgens bezinnen op maatregelen om brandstofprijzen te verlagen en de transparantie bij het vaststellen van prijzen te bevorderen. Tevens word er gesproken over het opzetten van een nationaal fonds ter ondersteuning van de armen en van industrie?n die veel werkgelegenheid creëren. Salarissen van werknemers en gepensioneerden zijn verhoogd. De politie kreeg de opdracht zich te onthouden van geweld tegen demonstranten, en deelde zelfs water en vruchtensappen aan de laatstgenoemden uit. Op 1 februari jongstleden ging de koning er uiteindelijk toe over om de regering Rifai te ontslaan, naar zijn zeggen omdat dit kabinet enkel bepaalde particuliere belangen had gediend en het naliet om essentiële hervormingen door te voeren. Marouf Bakhit is nu aangewezen om premier te worden van een nieuw kabinet. Bakhit heeft een militaire achtergrond, heeft tevens een leidende rol gespeeld in het Jordaanse veiligheidsapparaat en diende van 2005 tot 2007 ook al als premier. De oppositiepartijen, de islamisten voorop, hebben geen vertrouwen in hem. Hij zou in het verleden slechts lippendienst aan politieke hervormingen hebben bewezen en in werkelijkheid iedere poging tot verdere democratisering hebben gefrustreerd. Hij wordt door islamistische leiders zelfs verantwoordelijk gehouden voor grootschalige verkiezingsfraude tijdens de parlementsverkiezingen van 2007.

    “Verandering komt eraan!” is naar aanleiding van de vorming van deze nieuwe regering voorlopig gestopt met demonstraties. Het wil eerst het programma en het beleid van die regering afwachten alvorens het de protesten eventueel hervat. De traditionele oppositiepartijen, en in de eerste plaats de islamisten, willen echter doorgaan met de protesten en die nu richten tegen de nieuwe regering-Bakhit.

    Een oude tweedeling

    Het verschil in opvatting tussen “Verandering komt eraan!” en de traditionele oppositiepartijen weerspiegelt in hoge mate een al zeer oude tweedeling in de Jordaanse samenleving. Deze tweedeling valt in belangrijke mate samen met het onderscheid tussen de provincie en de grote stad en tot op zekere hoogte ook met die tussen autochtone Jordaanse bedoeïenenstammen en het Palestijnse bevolkingsdeel. Traditioneel worden het overheidsapparaat, de politiek en in het bijzonder het leger en het veiligheidsapparaat gedomineerd door mensen afkomstig uit bedoeïenenstammen. Onder hen bestaat er een sterk besef van loyaliteit aan het “Jordaanse vaderland” onder het gezag van het Hashemitische koningshuis. Onder de Palestijnen is er gemiddeld gesproken sprake van een veel sterkere afwijzende houding ten aanzien van de Jordaanse staat, die altijd weinig ruimte heeft geboden aan uitingen van Palestijns nationaal identiteitsbesef. De bevolking van de grotere steden van Jordani? wordt sterk door Palestijnen gedomineerd.

    Palestijnen, maar ook verstedelijkte en modern opgeleide autochtone Jordani?rs hebben altijd aan de basis gestaan van oppositiebewegingen tegen het regime en zijn conservatieve en pro-westerse politiek.

    In de jaren ’50 en ’60 ging het daarbij nog hoofdzakelijk om seculier pan-Arabisch nationalisme en om linkse stromingen. Lange tijd kon onvrede onder de bevolking worden afgekocht door een groeiende welvaart. Deze was in belangrijke mate het gevolg van economische steun aan Jordani? door de golfstaten en door westerse mogendheden, en van geldovermakingen naar het thuisland van Jordaanse migranten in de golfstaten. Vanaf het moment dat de olieprijzen in de jaren ’80 in een vrije val belandden was deze welvaartsgroei niet meer mogelijk en verarmden grote delen van de bevolking zelfs. Rellen die in 1989 uitbraken naar aanleiding van prijsstijgingen en bezuinigingsmaatregelen bracht de koning er uiteindelijk toe om de toenmalige regering naar huis te sturen, weer verkiezingen toe te staan en de bevolking de mogelijkheid te bieden om zijn onvrede langs democratische weg te uiten. Dit laatste mocht echter alleen gebeuren op voorwaarde dat men loyaal bleef aan Jordani? als staat en aan het gezag van het Hashemitische koningshuis. Onvrede met het regime en zijn beleid werd inmiddels vooral door de islamisten van met name de Moslim Broederschap vertolkt. Om deze islamistische invloed in te dammen werden in de loop van de jaren ‘90 burgerrechten weer in toenemende mate door het regime ingeperkt en werd het kiesstelsel aangepast. Het gevolg van die aanpassing was dat de gebieden waar de oppositie het sterkst was (de steden) ondervertegenwoordigd waren in het parlement ten gunste van de gebieden waar loyalisten woonden (rurale gebieden).

    De bewoners van deze landsdelen zijn echter zeer kwetsbaar voor neoliberale economische beleidsmaatregelen op het vlak van privatisering, bezuiniging en marktwerking, aangezien zij sterk afhankelijk zijn van (werk in) de overheidssector. Dit verklaart waarom de beweging “Verandering komt eraan!”, die deze bewoners in hoge mate vertegenwoordigd, in zijn protesten de nadruk wenst te leggen op het economische beleid en minder geïnteresseerd is in democratisering van het politieke bestel. Binnen dat bestel neemt de bevolking van tribale en rurale gebieden immers tot op de dag van vandaag een bevoorrechte positie in. De islamistische en de linkse oppositie, die zijn achterban hoofdzakelijk in de politiek benadeelde grote steden heeft, wil nu juist wel streven naar democratische hervormingen.


    De protesten in Jordani? wijken af van die in landen als Tunesi?, Egypte en Jemen aangezien men hier niet zo ver gaat om het vertrek van het staatshoofd (de koning) te eisen. De demonstranten houden zich aan de in Jordani? geldende politieke spelregel dat men hooguit op specifiek beleid van de regering kritiek zou kunnen uitoefenen, maar nooit op de monarchie zelf. In die zin lijkt er weinig nieuws onder de zon vergeleken met protesten en onlusten die zich eerder in het Hashemitische koninkrijk Jordani? hebben voorgedaan. De traditionele politieke en maatschappelijke verdeeldheid in het land, die zich weerspiegelt in enerzijds de nadruk op sociaaleconomisch protest van de beweging “Verandering komt eraan!” en anderzijds de nadruk op democratische hervormingen van de traditionele islamistische en linkse oppositie, zal de hegemonie van de Hashemitische monarchie enkel in stand helpen houden. Ondertussen blijft deze monarchie zichzelf het imago aanmeten dat het boven al deze partijen staat en de belangen en het welzijn van de gehele Jordaanse natie vertegenwoordigt. Dit imago stelt de monarchie in staat om desnoods een impopulair kabinet weg te sturen, de bevolking met wat beleidsaanpassingen te kalmeren en de eigen handen schoon te wassen. Mochten de huidige ontwikkelingen in Tunesi? en Egypte echter een structurele verandering in democratische zin gaan behelzen, dan is het niet uitgesloten dat ook Jordani? op een gegeven moment deze weg in zal slaan.

    Egbert Harmsen heeft een achtergrond in Midden-Oosten- en Islamstudies en is daarbij gespecialiseerd in de Palestijnse kwestie, het Isra?lisch-Arabische conflict, sociale en politieke islam en Jordani?. In 1995 studeerde hij af op een doctoraalscriptie over de opvang en integratie van Palestijnen in Jordani? die tijdens en na de Golfcrisis en -oorlog van 1990/91 Koeweit waren ontvlucht. In 2007 promoveerde hij op een dissertatie getiteld “Islam, Civil Society and Social Work, the Case of Muslim NGOs in Jordan”. Na zijn promotie verichtte hij onderzoek naar islam en moslims in Nederland. Momenteel is hij werkzaam als Universitair Docent Midden-Oosten Studies aan de Universiteit Leiden.



    Moslimbroederschap gaat gesprek aan

    Een groepje demonstranten op het Tahrirplein wil juist geen dialoog met de president» Een groepje demonstranten op het Tahrirplein wil juist geen dialoog met de president EPA

    Toegevoegd: zondag 6 feb 2011, 03:15

    Update: zondag 6 feb 2011, 04:37

    De Moslimbroederschap gaat toch het gesprek aan met de Egyptische regering, zo heeft de oppositiebeweging gezegd tegen persbureau Reuters.

    Tot nu toe heeft de Moslimbroederschap steeds gezegd pas te willen overleggen als president Mubarak is vertrokken.

    De fundamentalistische Moslimbroeders schuiven aan bij een overleg tussen vicepresident Suleiman, verschillende oppositiepartijen en intellectuelen. President Mubarak beschuldigde de Moslimbroederschap er eerder van achter de onrust te zitten in Egypte.


    De groep, officieel nog altijd verboden, wil peilen in hoeverre de regering tegemoet wil komen aan de eisen van de bevolking. Ook willen ze dat er een onderzoek komt naar het geweld tegen betogers.

    Achter de schermen zou er onder meer worden gesproken worden over een overgangsperiode. Vicepresident Suleiman zou dan presidentiële bevoegdheden krijgen tot aan nieuwe verkiezingen.

    Verenigde Staten

    Intussen is er verwarring ontstaan over de positie van de Verenigde Staten ten aanzien van Egypte. De Amerikaanse gezant Wisner zei zaterdagavond dat de Egyptische president Mubarak voorlopig aan de macht moet blijven om leiding te geven aan de machtswisseling.

    Enkele uren later verklaarde het Amerikaanse ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken dat Wisner niet het Amerikaanse standpunt verkondigde; Wisner sprak op persoonlijke titel, zei een woordvoerder van het Witte Huis.


    Een gesprek met twee Titanen: Tariq Ramadan & Slavoj Zizek


    The Muslim scholar and philosopher discuss the power of popular dissent and the limits of peaceful protest.

    The revolutionary chants on the streets of Egypt have resonated around the world, but with a popular uprising without a clear direction and an unpopular leader refusing to concede, Egypt’s future hangs in the balance.

    us your views and get your voice on the air

    On Thursday’s Riz Khan we speak with Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the power of popular dissent, the limits of peaceful protest and the future of Egyptian politics.

    This episode aired on Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Robert Kaplan in Buitenhof


    Robert Kaplan is een van Amerika’s meest vooraanstaande publicisten over ontwikkelingen in de wereldpolitiek. Hij is een veel geciteerd schrijver die de beleidsmakers in het Witte Huis en het Pentagon goed volgen en wiens ideeën en opvattingen ingang vinden bij diverse presidenten van de VS. Onlangs publiceerde hij een nieuw boek Moesson, over de politieke en economische opkomst van landen rond de Indische Oceaan. Kaplan woonde jaren in het Midden Oosten. Vanzelfsprekend staat hij ook stil bij de recente gebeurtenissen in Egypte.


    Afshin Ellian in Brandpunt

    Een gesprek met Afshin Ellian over zijn eigen herinneringen aan de Iraanse revolutie van 1979. Ellian is hier genuanceerder dan wat hij normaalgesproken in zijn columns en televisieoptredens is. De vrees van Ellian is wat mij betreft begrijpelijk, gezien wat er in Iran is gebeurd. Toch kun je je afvragen of de geschiedenis zich gaat herhalen. Dat gebeurt immers vrijwel nooit. Maar zeker interessant om te bekijken:


    Het onderstaande artikel van de site van Al-Jazeera English, gaat over dezelfde thematiek:



    The shaping of a New World Order


    If the revolutions of 2011 succeed, they will force the creation of a very different regional and world system.

    Mark LeVine Last Modified: 06 Feb 2011 15:07 GMT
    Armed women on guard at one of Tehran’s main squares at the start of the Iranian Revolution [Getty]  

    I remember the images well, even though I was too young to understand their political significance. But they were visceral, those photos in the New York Times from Tehran in the midst of its revolutionary moment in late 1978 and early 1979. Not merely exuberance jumped from the page, but also anger; anger fuelled by an intensity of religious fervour that seemed so alien as to emanate from another planet to a “normal” pre-teen American boy being shown the newspaper by his father over breakfast.

    Many commentators are comparing Egypt to Iran of 32 years ago, mostly to warn of the risks of the country descending into some sort of Islamist dictatorship that would tear up the peace treaty with Israel, engage in anti-American policies, and deprive women and minorities of their rights (as if they had so many rights under the Mubarak dictatorship).

    I write this on February 2, the precise anniversary of Khomeini’s return to Tehran from exile. It’s clear that, while religion is a crucial foundation of Egyptian identity and Mubarak’s level of corruption and brutality could give the Shah a run for his money, the situations are radically different on the ground.

    A most modern and insane revolt

    The following description, I believe, sums up what Egypt faces today as well as, if not better, than most:

    “It is not a revolution, not in the literal sense of the term, not a way of standing up and straightening things out. It is the insurrection of men with bare hands who want to lift the fearful weight, the weight of the entire world order that bears down on each of us – but more specifically on them, these … workers and peasants at the frontiers of empires. It is perhaps the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most modern and the most insane.

    One can understand the difficulties facing the politicians. They outline solutions, which are easier to find than people say … All of them are based on the elimination of the [president]. What is it that the people want? Do they really want nothing more? Everybody is quite aware that they want something completely different. This is why the politicians hesitate to offer them simply that, which is why the situation is at an impasse. Indeed, what place can be given, within the calculations of politics, to such a movement, to a movement through which blows the breath of a religion that speaks less of the hereafter than of the transfiguration of this world?”

    The thing is, it was offered not by some astute commentator of the current moment, but rather by the legendary French philosopher Michel Foucault, after his return from Iran, where he witnessed firsthand the intensity of the revolution which, in late 1978, before Khomeini’s return, really did seem to herald the dawn of a new era.

    Foucault was roundly criticised by many people after Khomeini hijacked the revolution for not seeing the writing on the wall. But the reality was that, in those heady days where the shackles of oppression were literally being shattered, the writing was not on the wall. Foucault understood that it was precisely a form of “insanity” that was necessary to risk everything for freedom, not just against one’s government, but against the global system that has nuzzled him in its bosom for so long.

    What was clear, however, was that the powers that most supported the Shah, including the US, dawdled on throwing their support behind the masses who were toppling him. While this is by no means the principal reason for Khomeini’s successful hijacking of the revolution, it certainly played an important role in the rise of a militantly anti-American government social force, with disastrous results.

    While Obama’s rhetoric moved more quickly towards the Egyptian people than did President Carter’s towards Iranians three decades ago, his refusal to call for Mubarak’s immediate resignation raises suspicion that, in the end, the US would be satisfied if Mubarak was able to ride out the protests and engineer a “democratic” transition that left American interests largely intact.

    The breath of religion

    Foucault was also right to assign such a powerful role to religion in the burgeoning revolutionary moment – and he experienced what he called a “political spirituality”, But, of course, religion can be defined in so many ways. The protestant theologian Paul Tillich wonderfully described it as encompassing whatever was of “ultimate concern” to a person or people. And today, clearly, most every Egyptian has gotten religion from this perspective.

    So many people, including Egypt’s leaders, have used the threat of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover to justify continued dictatorship, with Iran as the historical example to justify such arguments. But the comparison is plagued by historical differences. The Brotherhood has no leader of Khomeini’s stature  and foreswore violence decades ago. Nor is there a culture of violent martyrdom ready to be actualised by legions of young men, as occurred with the Islamic Revolution. Rather than trying to take over the movement, which clearly would never have been accepted – even if its leaders wanted to seize the moment, the Brotherhood is very much playing catch up with the evolving situation and has so far worked within the rather ad hoc leadership of the protests.

    But it is equally clear that religion is a crucial component of the unfolding dynamic. Indeed, perhaps the iconic photo of the revolution is one of throngs of people in Tahrir Square bowed in prayers, literally surrounding a group of tanks sent there to assert the government’s authority.

    This is a radically different image of Islam than most people – in the Muslim world as much as in the West – are used to seeing: Islam taking on state violence through militant peaceful protest; peaceful jihad (although it is one that has occurred innumerable times around the Muslim world, just at a smaller scale and without the world’s press there to capture it).

    Such imagery, and its significance, is a natural extension of the symbolism of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, an act of jihad that profoundly challenges the extroverted violence of the jihadis and militants who for decades, and especially since 9/11, have dominated the public perception of Islam as a form of political spirituality.

    Needless to say, the latest images – of civil war inside Tahrir Square – will immediately displace these other images. Moreover, if the violence continues and some Egyptian protesters lose their discipline and start engaging in their own premeditated violence against the regime and its many tentacles, there is little doubt their doing so will be offered as “proof” that the protests are both violent and organised by the Muslim Brotherhood or other “Islamists”.

    A greater threat than al-Qa’eda

    As this dynamic of nonviolent resistance against entrenched regime violence plays out, it is worth noting that so far, Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, have had little – if anything – of substance to say about the revolution in Egypt. What they’ve failed to ignite with an ideology of a return to a mythical and pure beginning – and a strategy of human bombs, IEDs, and planes turned into missiles – a disciplined, forward-thinking yet amorphous group of young activists and their more experienced comrades, “secular” and “religious” together (to the extent these terms are even relevant anymore), have succeeded in setting a fire with a universal discourse of freedom, democracy and human values – and a strategy of increasingly calibrated chaos aimed at uprooting one of the world’s longest serving dictators.

    As one chant in Egypt put it succinctly, playing on the longstanding chants of Islamists that “Islam is the solution”, with protesters shouting: “Tunisia is the solution.”

    For those who don’t understand why President Obama and his European allies are having such a hard time siding with Egypt’s forces of democracy, the reason is that the amalgam of social and political forces behind the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt today – and who knows where tomorrow – actually constitute a far greater threat to the “global system” al-Qa’eda has pledged to destroy than the jihadis roaming the badlands of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen.

    Mad as hell

    Whether Islamist or secularist, any government of “of the people” will turn against the neoliberal economic policies that have enriched regional elites while forcing half or more of the population to live below the $2 per day poverty line. They will refuse to follow the US or Europe’s lead in the war on terror if it means the continued large scale presence of foreign troops on the region’s soil. They will no longer turn a blind eye, or even support, Israel’s occupation and siege across the Occupied Palestinian territories. They will most likely shirk from spending a huge percentage of their national income on bloated militaries and weapons systems that serve to enrich western defence companies and prop up autocratic governments, rather than bringing stability and peace to their countries – and the region as a whole.

    They will seek, as China, India and other emerging powers have done, to move the centre of global economic gravity towards their region, whose educated and cheap work forces will further challenge the more expensive but equally stressed workforces of Europe and the United States.

    In short, if the revolutions of 2011 succeed, they will force the creation of a very different regional and world system than the one that has dominated the global political economy for decades, especially since the fall of communism.

    This system could bring the peace and relative equality that has so long been missing globally – but it will do so in good measure by further eroding the position of the United States and other “developed” or “mature” economies. If Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and their colleagues don’t figure out a way to live with this scenario, while supporting the political and human rights of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, they will wind up with an adversary far more cunning and powerful than al-Qa’eda could ever hope to be: more than 300 million newly empowered Arabs who are mad as hell and are not going to take it any more.

    Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.



    Egyptian voices reflect diversity


    Al Jazeera meets the vanguards of the pro-democracy protests that have flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square for 12 days.

    Al Jazeera Online Producer Last Modified: 06 Feb 2011 21:30 GMT
    More than a million people have filled the area in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square [AFP] 

    CAIRO, EGYPT – Behind a barricaded front door across the street from the famed Egyptian Museum, through a tight, fluorescent-lit hallway crammed with a makeshift kitchen, bed and debris meant to obstruct intruders, up a winding, outdoor metal staircase with a view over a darkened back street, we find Mohammed, a smiling, skinny 23-year-old with a buzzed head and a scarf around his neck.

    Mohammed and the group of mostly young men he commands on this 10th-floor rooftop exposed to the damp Cairo night are the vanguards of the pro-democracy protests that have flooded Tahrir Square for 12 days. They are the occupiers of this apartment building and its defenders against assault by supporters of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak.

    They’re a diverse crowd. Mohammed idolises Gamal Abdel Nasser, the socialist and nationalist hero of modern Egyptian politics, but elsewhere on the rooftop we find Sohail, the son of a wealthy businessman who professes no religious ideology but admires the Muslim Brotherhood’s organisational skills.

    Mohammed has admitted us to their rooftop ramparts not because he is particularly fond of our company, though we all get along well, but because he no longer trusts the Egyptian media to report fairly on the story of Tahrir Square and the hundreds of thousands of protesters there who are eager to change their country’s ossified political and social system.

    There on the roof, ducking behind a large satellite dish when the ever-present military helicopter circles nearby, Mohammed and Sohail offer us a nuanced look at who is protesting, what motivates them, and how a group of untrained 20-somethings came together to fend off a co-ordinated, determined attempt – likely backed by elements within the government – to crush them beneath a hail of rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire.

    Against the thugs

    The combat between anti-government protesters and Mubarak supporters around the museum on Wednesday night and Thursday morning was intense and bloody, involving thousands on either side. An Al Jazeera online producer at the barricades during the fighting witnessed two protesters being treated for critical gunshot wounds and several others who were hit by rocks or petrol bombs.

    Citizen video obtained by Al Jazeera has also shown anti-government protesters apparently being hit by live gunfire after being targeted by a green laser.

    After 12 hours of overnight combat, the protesters in the square managed to advance their wall of shields – metal barricades scavenged from a nearby construction site – around 200 metres from where the fighting began, and they eventually overwhelmed and defeated the outnumbered Mubarak supporters.

    Mohammed and his group of around 15 men, like others that night, fought their way hand-to-hand into the apartment building they now occupy. They did so in the face of a determined opponent that was resupplied throughout the night by cars that arrived bearing more petrol bombs.

    In the midst of battle, the protesters realised they needed someone to act as a leader. The nominees included those who had showed the most calm during tough situations and those who displayed the best tactical sense.

    “Battle naturally creates leaders,” Mohammed said.

    One man, curiously, nominated himself. Most of the others nominated Mohammed. After it was clear that Mohammed would win, the man grabbed a metal pipe and tried to attack, declaring that he was actually a member of the state security forces. The protesters quickly subdued him and dragged him off to a makeshift prison that had been established at a metro station in the centre of the square.

    Like other groups, Mohammed’s crew started wearing badges – handwritten pieces of tape – stating their role and unit. Realising these could be forged, they switched to a simple password system to grant entry to the building, one that changes every 12 hours.

    The rooftop leaders in the area, including Mohammed, communicate with ground-level leaders and others by mobile phone, tracking the movements of any approaching baltageya, or “thugs”.

    Dozens of soldiers armed with automatic assault rifles and wearing flak jackets and ballistic helmets stand outside, keeping watch over the square and guarding the museum, but they take no action against the parallel civilian authority right next door.

    The army did ask the man who owns the occupied building, as well as three others nearby, to boot the squatting protesters out, but the protesters refused, and the army has yet to act. The owner of the top-floor apartment, which Mohammed’s group found unlocked and have been using, told the young men they were free to make themselves at home as long as they didn’t ruin the place.

    On the rooftop, piles of rocks await any baltageya assault. Atop a nearby building we visited earlier, another squad of protesters has wrapped rocks in petrol-soaked rags that they will ignite and use to swing and hurl the projectiles a greater distance. A stockpile of the Molotov cocktails, as they are known, left behind by retreating Mubarak supporters lies nearby.

    A marriage of authority and money

    Mohammed and Sohail, his 20-year-old comrade, told us a refrain about the Mubarak supporters that we had heard repeated many times in the square: If they really cared, why aren’t they still here? Why aren’t they mounting continued protests in their own square?

    Indeed, aside from the police identification cards found on some of the captured Mubarak supporters, the one thing that most indicated government collusion in the violent attacks on Tahrir Square was the co-ordination with which the Mubarak crowd came and went. Often on Wednesday and Thursday, lines of male spectators would appear on the overpass above the museum barricades at odd hours – including after dark – and watch the museum barricades ominously until eventually other men behind them would begin launching rocks.

    Mohammed said he had seen people at the Sayyida Zeinab metro station, south of Tahrir Square, handing out 350 Egyptian pounds per person to encourage Mubarak supporters to mass near the square. These are the same “thugs,” Sohail said, who the government unleashes on election days to overrun polling stations, guarantee access for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and intimidate opposition voters.

    It was the government’s blatant robbing of the most recent parliamentary election, held in November and December, that pushed everyone over the edge, he said. The NDP essentially won more than 90 per cent of parliament, wiping out all but one seat for the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but semi-tolerated movement that had previously held around a fifth of the People’s Assembly.

    Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage 

    “The president has managed to keep power through the marriage of money and authority,” Mohammed told us.

    Even before the call went out for mass protests to begin on January 25, “we could feel the effects of corruption that the country suffers from,” Mohammed said. “From unemployment to corruption to rigged elections. I can feel it myself, I am unemployed, I have a business degree, but I cannot find an appropriate job. We can feel it in our daily lives, in everyday dealings, nobody can get anything done in any government institution without paying, without bribery.”

    Sohail – whose father owns a business where he can find a job and who studies at a private university for the comparatively high cost of around 10,000 pounds ($1,700) per semester – told us his aim was to “bring down the president”.

    Both he and Mohammed said that a lack of dignity was the protesters’ essential grievance, and one that had succeeded in attracting people from all walks of life.

    “[The government] degrades us so badly, the police used to degrade the people so much, that’s why when people took to the streets on January 28” – the violent Friday following the major street protests –  “they just wanted revenge, nothing more,” he said.

    Mohammed said that the demands of the youth were not “classist,” and that corruption and repression weigh on all layers of society.

    “As I said, we are prepared to live on the bare minimum, as long as we feel like we have our dignity, that we are walking down the streets with our dignity,” Mohammed said. “Not like when a policeman sees me in the street and decides to make life difficult for me, asking me about my ID, and even if I have my ID and am obeying the law, I don’t have a weapon or hashish or drugs or anything, just for the sake of it he will stop me and make me pay to pass. And if you don’t pay, he will make up a charge and throw you in prison, this is how things work here.”

    The West’s fears

    In the first days of the Egyptian street protests, the Mubarak government quickly blamed the unrest on the Muslim Brotherhood, even though the group had stated in the days before January 25 that it would not participate.

    It wasn’t a new tactic: The Egyptian leadership is fond of invoking Western fears of an “Islamist takeover”, especially since September 11, to rally support for its repressive tactics, including the continued enforcement of emergency national security laws that have been in place since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, Mubarak’s predecessor.

    Though the government is now negotiating with the Brotherhood and other opposition groups to play out a transition as long as it can, it continues to smear the protesters in the hopes of limiting their popular support. On Friday, in a one-room shop near the northern barricades , an army officer chatting with the owner told Al Jazeera that some of the protesters were “terrorists” and that they had been infiltrated by agents from other countries, including Iran.

    Mohammed said that he and his comrades were well aware of the information campaign being waged against them.

    “People in their homes who are sympathetic with us will no longer be,” he said. “They will think we are agents of foreign countries who are trying to affect the stability of our nation.”

    If the disagreements on the rooftop are any indication, the protest movement does contain a diverse ideological array.

    While Sohail admires the Muslim Brotherhood’s organisation and discipline, Mohammed blames the group for plotting to assassinate Nasser and says they try to hide their aspirations for political power.

    The Brotherhood uses religious slogans to brainwash the youth, Mohammed told us. They’re fine allies now, but he doesn’t want to see them lead.

    Some protesters give the Brotherhood credit for being the square’s most stalwart defenders, the ones who rarely leave and show the most bravery on the front lines. At night, much of the debate around the campfires and many of the speeches over the loudspeakers concern religion.

    But Sohail wasn’t worried.

    “If the president leaves, I don’t care about my political party, everyone will unite,” he told us.

    Mohammed shared a similar view of the movement’s solidarity.

    “There are old men, there are people over 40, there are those younger than 20, there are women. The people who are here represent a state of monopolisation throughout the whole nation,” he said.

    “Everyone suffers, there isn’t one person who doesn’t suffer. Everyone down there is suffering, everyone at home is suffering, even the people who come to oppose us, those who support the president, they suffer as well, but they’ve been paid.”

    Down below, next to the museum, the army had formed a cordon to prevent most of the protesters from nearing the outermost layer of barricades, where the worst fighting took place. Only the sidewalk to the side was open for foot traffic.

    It was clear the government was attempting to return a sense of normalcy to the city; businesses and banks were set to open on Sunday, and the army was intent on clearing away all signs of discord but for the crowd in the square. Men in fluorescent vests even went about clearing debris and trash from the streets where protesters had died just nights before.

    But as high-ranking opposition figures negotiate a transition with Mubarak’s right-hand man, former intelligence chief and newly appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman, Mohammed, Sohail, and the men on the rooftops remain dug in, hoping for a complete overhaul.

    After the thugs’ attack on Wednesday, they won’t accept negotiation with Mubarak.

    “He’s hiding a dagger behind his back,” Mohammed said.



    Op-Ed Columnist

    Wallflowers at the Revolution

    Published: February 5, 2011

    A month ago most Americans could not have picked Hosni Mubarak out of a police lineup. American foreign policy, even in Afghanistan, was all but invisible throughout the 2010 election season. Foreign aid is the only federal budget line that a clear-cut majority of Americans says should be cut. And so now — as the world’s most unstable neighborhood explodes before our eyes — does anyone seriously believe that most Americans are up to speed? Our government may be scrambling, but that’s nothing compared to its constituents. After a near-decade of fighting wars in the Arab world, we can still barely distinguish Sunni from Shia.

    The live feed from Egypt is riveting. We can’t get enough of revolution video — even if, some nights, Middle West blizzards take precedence over Middle East battles on the networks’ evening news. But more often than not we have little or no context for what we’re watching. That’s the legacy of years of self-censored, superficial, provincial and at times Islamophobic coverage of the Arab world in a large swath of American news media. Even now we’re more likely to hear speculation about how many cents per gallon the day’s events might cost at the pump than to get an intimate look at the demonstrators’ lives.


    Perhaps the most revealing window into America’s media-fed isolation from this crisis — small an example as it may seem — is the default assumption that the Egyptian uprising, like every other paroxysm in the region since the Green Revolution in Iran 18 months ago, must be powered by the twin American-born phenomena of Twitter and Facebook. Television news — at once threatened by the power of the Internet and fearful of appearing unhip — can’t get enough of this cliché.

    Three days after riot police first used tear gas and water hoses to chase away crowds in Tahrir Square, CNN’s new prime-time headliner, Piers Morgan, declared that “the use of social media” was “the most fascinating aspect of this whole revolution.” On MSNBC that same night, Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed a teacher who had spent a year at the American school in Cairo. “They are all on Facebook,” she said of her former fifth-grade students. The fact that a sampling of fifth graders in the American school might be unrepresentative of, and wholly irrelevant to, the events unfolding in the streets of Cairo never entered the equation.

    The social networking hype eventually had to subside for a simple reason: The Egyptian government pulled the plug on its four main Internet providers and yet the revolution only got stronger. “Let’s get a reality check here,” said Jim Clancy, a CNN International anchor, who broke through the bloviation on Jan. 29 by noting that the biggest demonstrations to date occurred on a day when the Internet was down. “There wasn’t any Twitter. There wasn’t any Facebook,” he said. No less exasperated was another knowledgeable on-the-scene journalist, Richard Engel, who set the record straight on MSNBC in a satellite hook-up with Rachel Maddow. “This didn’t have anything to do with Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “This had to do with people’s dignity, people’s pride. People are not able to feed their families.”

    No one would deny that social media do play a role in organizing, publicizing and empowering participants in political movements in the Middle East and elsewhere. But as Malcolm Gladwell wrote on The New Yorker’s Web site last week, “surely the least interesting fact” about the Egyptian protesters is that some of them “may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another.” What’s important is “why they were driven to do it in the first place” — starting with the issues of human dignity and crushing poverty that Engel was trying to shove back to center stage.

    Among cyber-intellectuals in America, a fascinating debate has broken out about whether social media can do as much harm as good in totalitarian states like Egypt. In his fiercely argued new book, “The Net Delusion,” Evgeny Morozov, a young scholar who was born in Belarus, challenges the conventional wisdom of what he calls “cyber-utopianism.” Among other mischievous facts, he reports that there were only 19,235 registered Twitter accounts in Iran (0.027 percent of the population) on the eve of what many American pundits rebranded its “Twitter Revolution.” More damning, Morozov also demonstrates how the digital tools so useful to citizens in a free society can be co-opted by tech-savvy dictators, police states and garden-variety autocrats to spread propaganda and to track (and arrest) conveniently networked dissidents, from Iran to Venezuela. Hugo Chávez first vilified Twitter as a “conspiracy,” but now has 1.2 million followers imbibing his self-sanctifying Tweets.

    This provocative debate isn’t even being acknowledged in most American coverage of the Internet’s role in the current uprisings. The talking-head invocations of Twitter and Facebook instead take the form of implicit, simplistic Western chauvinism. How fabulous that two great American digital innovations can rescue the downtrodden, unwashed masses. That is indeed impressive if no one points out that, even in the case of the young and relatively wired populace of Egypt, only some 20 percent of those masses have Internet access.

    That we often don’t know as much about the people in these countries as we do about their Tweets is a testament to the cutbacks in foreign coverage at many news organizations — and perhaps also to our own desire to escape a war zone that has for so long sapped American energy, resources and patience. We see the Middle East on television only when it flares up and then generally in medium or long shot. But there actually is an English-language cable channel — Al Jazeera English — that blankets the region with bureaus and that could have been illuminating Arab life and politics for American audiences since 2006, when it was established as an editorially separate sister channel to its Qatar-based namesake.

    Al Jazeera English, run by a 35-year veteran of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, is routinely available in Israel and Canada. It provided coverage of the 2009 Gaza war and this year’s Tunisian revolt when no other television networks would or could. Yet in America, it can be found only in Washington, D.C., and on small cable systems in Ohio and Vermont. None of the biggest American cable and satellite companies — Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner — offer it.

    The noxious domestic political atmosphere fostering this near-blackout is obvious to all. It was made vivid last week when Bill O’Reilly of Fox News went on a tear about how Al Jazeera English is “anti-American.” This is the same “We report, you decide” Fox News that last week broke away from Cairo just as the confrontations turned violent so that viewers could watch Rupert Murdoch promote his new tablet news product at a publicity event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

    Unable to watch Al Jazeera English, and ravenous for comprehensive and sophisticated 24/7 television coverage of the Middle East otherwise unavailable on television, millions of Americans last week tracked down the network’s Internet stream on their computers. Such was the work-around required by the censorship practiced by America’s corporate gatekeepers. You’d almost think these news-starved Americans were Iron Curtain citizens clandestinely trying to pull in the jammed Voice of America signal in the 1950s — or Egyptians desperately seeking Al Jazeera after Mubarak disrupted its signal last week.

    The consequence of a decade’s worth of indiscriminate demonization of Arabs in America — and of the low quotient of comprehensive adult news coverage that might have helped counter it — is the steady rise in Islamophobia. The “Ground Zero” mosque melee has given way to battles over mosques as far removed from Lower Manhattan as California. Soon to come is a national witch hunt — Congressional hearings called by Representative Peter King of New York — into the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” Given the disconnect between America and the Arab world, it’s no wonder that Americans are invested in the fights for freedom in Egypt and its neighboring dictatorships only up to a point. We’ve been inculcated to assume that whoever comes out on top is ipso facto a jihadist.

    This week brings the release of Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir. The eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is to follow. As we took in last week’s fiery video from Cairo — mesmerizing and yet populated by mostly anonymous extras we don’t understand and don’t know — it was hard not to flash back to those glory days of “Shock and Awe.” Those bombardments too were spectacular to watch from a safe distance — no Iraqi faces, voices or bodies cluttered up the shots. We lulled ourselves into believing that democracy and other good things were soon to come. It took months, even years, for us to learn the hard way that in truth we really had no idea what was going on.

    A version of this op-ed appeared in print on February 6, 2011, on page WK8 of the New York edition.



    After Mubarak

    Adam Shatz

    London Review of Books 5 February 2011

    Popular uprisings are clarifying events, and so it is with the revolt in Egypt. The Mubarak regime – or some post-Mubarak continuation of it – may survive this challenge, but the illusions that have held it in place have crumbled. The protests in Tahrir Square are a message not only to Mubarak and the military regime that has ruled Egypt since the Free Officers coup of 1952; they are a message to all the region’s autocrats, particularly those supported by the West, and to Washington and Tel Aviv, which, after spending years lamenting the lack of democracy in the Muslim world, have responded with a mixture of trepidation, fear and hostility to the emergence of a pro-democracy movement in the Arab world’s largest country. If these are the ‘birth pangs of a new Middle East’, they are very different from those Condoleezza Rice claimed to discern during Israel’s war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

    The first illusion to crumble was the myth of Egyptian passivity, a myth that had exerted a powerful hold over Egyptians. ‘We’re all just waiting for someone to do the job for us,’ an Egyptian journalist said to me when I reported from Cairo last year (LRB, 27 May 2010); despite the proliferation of social movements since the 1970s, the notion of a mass revolt against the regime was inconceivable to her. When Galal Amin, a popular Egyptian sociologist, remarked that ‘Egyptians are not a revolutionary nation’ in a recent al-Jazeera documentary, few would have disagreed. And until the Day of Rage on 25 January many Egyptians – including a number of liberal reformers – would have resigned themselves to a caretaker regime led by the intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, if only to save themselves from the president’s son Gamal Mubarak. The first to be surprised by the uprising were the Egyptians themselves, who – in the lyrical early days of the revolt, culminating in the ‘million-man march’ on Tahrir Square on 1 February – discovered that they were capable of taking matters into their own hands, of overcoming their fear of the police and collectively organising against the regime. And as they acquired a thrilling sense of their own power, they would settle only for the regime’s removal.

    verder lezen op http://www.lrb.co.uk/2011/02/05/adam-shatz/after-mubarak


    “They Want to Abort This Revolution, But We Will Win”: Interview with Nawal El Saadawi
    by Amy Goodman

    Amy Goodman: Your feelings today in the midst of this popular rebellion against the Mubarak regime, calling on Mubarak to leave?  Do you agree?

    Nawal El Saadawi: We are in the streets every day, people, children, old people, including myself.  I am now 80 years of age, suffering of this regime for half a century.  And you remember, Mubarak is the continuation of Sadat.  And both Sadat and Mubarak, you know, their regime worked against the people, men and women.  And they created this gap between the poor and rich.  They brought the so-called business class to govern us.  Egypt became an American colony.  And we are dominated by the U.S. and Israel.  And 80 million people, men and women, have no say in the country.

    . . . [People] told Mubarak to go.  He should have gone, if he respects the will of the people.  That’s democracy.  Because what’s democracy?  It’s to respect the will of the people.  The people govern themselves.  So, really, we are happy.

    But what I would like to tell you: the U.S. government, with Israel and Saudi Arabia and some other powers outside the country and inside the country, they want to abort this revolution.  And they are creating rumors that, you know, Egypt is going to be ruined, to be robbed, and they are also preventing — we don’t have bread now, and the shops are using this to raise the price.  So they are trying to frighten us.  They have two strategies: to frighten the people, so we say, “Oh, we need security, we need Mubarak,” because people are living in fear.  When I go to the streets, there is no fear, you know, but when I stay at home and listen to the media, I feel, “What’s going to happen?”  But when I go to the streets, to Midan Tahrir, and see the people, the young people, the old people, the men, I feel secure, and I believe that the revolution succeeded.  So, they are trying to abort the power outside and inside.  But we will win.

    Amy Goodman: And Nawal El Saadawi, you often hear in the United States, “Is this going to be like the Iranian Revolution?” not talking about throwing out the dictator so much, but a fundamentalist revolution.  Your response?  Nawal? 

    Nawal El Saadawi: They are frightening us by the Ikhwan Muslimin . . . they tried for years to tell us that “Who protects us from the fundamentalists, like Khomeini and Iraq?  It’s Mubarak.”  You know, and this is not true.  This revolution, the young people who started the revolution and who are continuing to protect it, they are not political, ordinary young men and women.  They don’t belong to the right or the left, or Muslim.  There was not a single Islamic religious slogan in the streets.  Not one.  They were shouting for justice, equality, freedom, and that Mubarak and his regime should go, and we need to change the system and bring people who are honest.  Egypt is living in corruption, false elections, oppression of women, of young people, unemployment.  So the revolution came.  It was too late.  This revolution is too late, but anyway, it came.  So —

    Amy Goodman: Nawal El Saadawi, you have been arrested how many times under previous regimes?

    Nawal El Saadawi: Sadat.  Sadat put me in prison only.  But I came out from prison with bars to a prison with no bars.  I am living in Cairo in exile.  I am censored.  I cannot write in Al-Ahram or the big media.  I write only one article every Tuesday in Al-Masry Al-Youm.

    Amy Goodman: And we only have 30 seconds, but I wanted to ask you about the role of women in this rebellion, women and girls.

    Nawal El Saadawi: Women and girls are beside boys in the streets.  They are — and we are — calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system, to change the people who are governing us, the system and the people, and to have a real democracy.  That’s what women are saying and what men are saying.

    Geef een reactie

    Vul je gegevens in of klik op een icoon om in te loggen.

    WordPress.com logo

    Je reageert onder je WordPress.com account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )


    Je reageert onder je Twitter account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

    Facebook foto

    Je reageert onder je Facebook account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

    Verbinden met %s

    %d bloggers liken dit: