Tensions Simmer in Egypt as Activists Plan Protest
Cartoon by Brazilian Cartoonist Carlos Latuff.
On the heels of the uprising in Tunisia, Egyptians are planning large-scale protests in cities around the country tomorrow to speak out against the repressive regime and to call for social justice.
A call for peaceful protests first went out early in the new year. January 25 is known as “Police Day” in Egypt, a national holiday remembering how in 1952 the Egyptian police stood beside the people and resisted the British occupation. Given the alleged abuses on the police's behalf against a number of Egyptian citizens in the past few months, the holiday was chosen as an opportunity for Egyptians to express their anger toward the government and security forces.
The We Are All Khaled Said English and Arabic administrators have been helping to coordinate demonstrations inside Egypt and abroad, with additional assistance coming from the April 6 Movement and a number of other political parties and movements. A series of silent stands have been held across Egypt since last summer to speak out against police brutality, but this is the first instance of a very large-scale, global protest being planned.
While the We Are All Khaled Said group has previously focused its efforts on ending police abuse, the demands of protesters participating tomorrow are more political in nature and address broader social issues, including:
- An increase to the minimum wage and better financial assistance for those who are unemployed
- An end to the state of emergency that has been in effect for more than 30 years
- Dismissal of Interior Minister Habib el-Adli
- An end to presidential terms that exceed two consecutive terms
According to April 6 Movement organizers, “The protest is an effort to denounce Interior Ministry abuses and shortcomings, from torture that occurs in police stations—as happened to Khaled Saeed and El-Sayed Bilal—to the failure to protect citizens, as in the Alexandria church bombing.”
On Sunday, January 23, a number of solidarity demonstrations were held outside Egyptian embassies around the world. A gathering was also held outside the United Nations in New York City. Tomorrow’s demonstrations will take place in front of the Interior Ministry in Cairo. Gatherings will also be held in a number of other cities including Alexandria, Ismailia, Mansoura, and Fayoum. Internationally, rallies have been announced in Toronto, Kuwait, Sydney, and London. In an open Google document being used to share details about tomorrow’s plans, organizers expressly state that demonstrations will be peaceful and ask participants to exercise restraint and not be reckless.
The organizers have been leaning heavily on social media tools to coordinate tomorrow’s events.
- On the Facebook event page, 86,000 users have affirmed that they will be attending the protest.
- The aforementioned Google Doc, in Arabic, is being used to share contact information, detailed plans, and logistical information.
- The Twitter hashtag #Jan25 is being used to share news and information about the protests. The majority of Tweets are in Arabic, but some are in English.
- Updates are being provided on the We Are All Khaled Said English and Arabic Facebook pages.
Following events in Tunisia, the Egyptian government is already on high alert. Three organizers for the April 6 Movement were arrested last week for distributing flyers about the protests. The head of security in Cairo said police “will deal firmly and decisively with anyone attempting to take part in unauthorised protests based on the directives of Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly.”
How can international observers support protesters in Egypt? How quickly will authorities crackdown on protesters? Do you think demonstrators will be emboldened by the recent succesful uprising in Tunisia? Let us know.