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Walk like an Egyptian: Special Report

January 30, 2011

Turmoil continues in Cairo, the most populated city in the Arab world today, as President Hosni Mubarak resists calls from thousands of protesters to stand down.

 

Now in their sixth day, these protests mirror those taking place not just throughout the Arab world such as Tunisia, but around the world.

 

Over the last few months, people in England, France and Jordan – among others – have taken to the streets to indicate their anger at economic problems and spending cuts, seen to be imposed by a Government that is going against the people’s best interests. While poverty is undoubtedly an issue on the streets of Egypt’s largest cities, Egypt and Tunisia in fact reported economic growth over the last few months, with Tunisian GDP growing by 5% and Egypt not far behind.  The problems inherent in the country are seen to be linked to the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian President for the last 30 years.

 

An ex-military man, today has seen Mubarak ordering the military to fly fighter jets over Tahrir Square, where protesters stand alongside army tanks that have so far failed to directly intervene in the trouble.  While US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has urged restraint, this show of military strength is no surprise to commentators who fear that Mubarak will call on his men to intervene in protests.  Mubarak continued today to swear in a new Cabinet in a last-ditch attempt to maintain his position.  His opponents however, feel that the President’s resignation is now only days away at best.Egyptian demonstrators

 

Mohamed El Baradei, who once worked at the International Atomic Agency and now leading member of the opposition movement in Egypt, told CNN that Mubarak’s position is no longer tenable.  He said: “This is a hopeless, desperate attempt to stay in power.  Mubarak has to leave today and this is non negotiable for every Egyptian.  If he has an iota of patriotism, I advise him to leave today.”

 

It is hoped that upon Mubarak’s seemingly inevitable departure, a free and fair election can be held and democracy restored to a country that has seen over 100 killed since these protests began.  El Baradei told CNN that he would do “whatever is necessary” following Mubarak’s departure to help his country, a suggestion then that perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of Tunisia’s parliamentary speaker Foued Mebazaa, who has been sworn in as an interim president since the toppling of the Tunisian Government.

This is a pivotal moment for the world, as the US and its allies have previously ignored problems in a country that is at the heart of peace talks regarding the fight against extremism.  This unrest has highlighted the inability of the Obama administration and Bush before them to address obvious repression here.  One protester told CNN today: “The bullets and tear gas that are being thrown at us today are made in the USA.” As El Baradei explained: “That’s what you get after 30 years of brutal dictatorship, supported by everybody in the name of ‘social stability’”.

 

 

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