Since last Tuesday, January 25th, protests have swept across Egypt in a call for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who has led Egypt since 1981. Late Thursday evening, the Egyptian government disconnected internet and cell phone services for a majority of the country. Social media websites, including Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, were crucial in the initial organization of the national demonstration. On Friday, when more protesters were on the streets than any previous day, the government instituted a curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., but the overwhelming number of protesters have defied the curfew. Over 100 protesters have been killed across the country. An exact estimate of the amount of protesters is not available, but as the video below shows, the amount is likely in the hundreds of thousands.
Friday night, Mubarak appeared on state television for the first time since the demonstration began to announce the resignation of his entire executive cabinet. Despite this concession, protesters are not calling for a new executive cabinet, but instead for Mubarak to step down. With Sunday marking the sixth consecutive day of protests, it appears the cabinet move was too little, too late. Mubarak must concede more before protesters stand down.
Shortly after Mubarak’s speech Friday night, President Obama met with the media for his first remarks regarding the demonstration. Obama not only called for Mubarak to restart internet and cell phone services, but also for Mubarak to take “concrete steps” toward an expansion of rights and to refrain from violent methods against protesters. As of Sunday, internet and cell phone services are still unavailable, nor has Mubarak announced any expansion of rights.
The Egyptian government does not tolerate political dissent, according to the 2011 Human Rights Watch report regarding Egypt released prior to the demonstration. Torture of political dissenters regularly occurs at police stations, detention centers, and at points of arrest. A diplomatic cable published at WikiLeaks even says torture is a daily occurrence in Egypt. While the Egyptian government will not disclose how many individuals are in custody for political dissent, human rights organizations estimate the amount to be about 5,000.
Egyptians suffer from a deprivation of several other basic rights including: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, fair courts, labor rights, and rights for women. These deficiencies certainly contribute to the motivation for the demonstration, but there are also two other recent developments that likely encourage the Egyptian protesters.
First, the recent overthrow of the President in nearby Tunisia contributes to the inspiration for the massive revolt in Egypt. In other words, the Tunisian revolution has had a ricochet effect. A second recent development that encourages Egyptian protesters is the disclosure of previously classified information regarding corruption in Egypt from WikiLeaks. Diplomatic cables exemplify endemic brutality throughout Egypt, violations of religious freedoms, and a practical state of emergency since 1967. Without doubt, these recent developments encourage the motivations of Egyptian protesters.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian government ordered Al Jazeera, the leading news network in Egypt and information source for the Egyptian demonstration, to close its offices on Sunday. Additionally, the US announced it planned to fly American citizens out of Egypt on Monday. With these developments on Sunday, as well as a growing death toll already surpassing 100, the implications of the Egyptian demonstration are becoming more serious each day.