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Posted by on Jan 25, 2011 in International | 0 comments

Has Tunisia Inspired Egypt’s Protests?

Has Tunisia inspired big protests going on in Egypt? It sounds that way.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

The scope of Egypt’s protests today, calling for greater freedom and downfall of strongman President Hosni Mubarak, is unprecedented.

Though tens of thousands took to the streets of Cairo in 2005 calling for democratic reform, today’s protests are far beyond the action in the capital. Reporters and activists on the scene in Cairo say there was a spirit of anger and defiance in the crowds and there were protests of varying sizes in at least a half-dozen Egyptian cities.

By late afternoon, thousands of protesters converged in Tahrir Square, not far from the US embassy, the Interior Ministry and the five-star hotels looming over the Nile. Police water cannons and tear gas barrages did little to deter them.

For now, it’s hard to imagine the aging Mr. Mubarak and the apparatus of the state being swept from power in the same way that President Ben Ali was chased from Tunis. Egyptian mIlitary spending is much higher than in Tunisia and the circle of people who have everything to lose if the system is upended much wider.

But the riveting images beamed into millions of Egyptian homes of the Tunisian uprising appear to have led to a shift in the public consciousness, at least for today. A small group of leftists and democracy activists have been trying to organize protests like today’s for years, but have generally failed to get large numbers out on the streets. Average Egyptians, mired in poverty and afraid of the consequences of participating in protests they suspect are doomed to failure, have stayed away.

Playing a communications role: Twitter. Or it was:

That clearly changed today. Activists were reporting on their twitter feeds (until twitter service was shut down in Egypt at about 3:30 pm local time) that thousands from working class neighborhoods like Shubra, a warren-like neighborhood with millions of mostly poor residents, joined the protest marchers as they passed, and joined in shouts for Mubarak, his son and presumed heir Gamal, and Interior Minister Habib el-Adly to be driven from power.

The Telegraph:

Barriers have been set up in areas where protests are expected on Tuesday, vehicles with water cannons were parked by the roadside and police formed a cordon outside the Interior Ministry. Security was also tightened in Alexandria and other areas of Egypt.
Online activists have become some of the most vigorous critics of President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades in office.

The demonstrations will test whether they can translate their online message into street action.

Facebook groups and political activists have called for demonstrators to gather from around midday at several points in central Cairo, including outside the Interior Ministry, a court complex and near one of the presidential palaces.

The Interior Ministry has warned protesters they could face arrest if they go ahead with demonstrations.

“I will go to the streets on the 25th of January because this country is my country and I vow an oath that I am ready and willing to die for its sake,” wrote Mohamed M on a Facebook group which has 87,000 supporters.

The protests that toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s president, sent shock waves through the Arab world.

Many Arabs face the same issues that provoked Tunisians to rise up: soaring food prices, unemployment and authoritarian rule.

But protests in Egypt, the biggest Arab state and a keystone Western ally in the Middle East, tend to be poorly attended and are often quashed swiftly by the police.

“In my book, if you get a tenth of the 80,000 people or so who support the initiative online, it will be a success,” wrote Issandr el-Amrani on his blog

Habib el-Adli, the interior minister, told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper “youth street action has no impact and security is capable of deterring any acts outside the law.”

Egypt’s registered opposition political parties are weak and fragmented. The banned Muslim Brotherhood, seen as having Egypt’s biggest grassroots network, has not called on members to take part but said some would join in a personal capacity.

Here are some Egypt-related Tweets:

deena_adel Just left Tahrir Sq. Never been prouder of my fellow Egyptians. This is real. It’s happening. #Jan25 #Egypt
half a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

gachi_33 RT @Alshaheeed: Police in Alexandria Egypt open fire on protesters. Live ammunition. Our correspondent has been hit with a bullet
less than a minute ago via Azurea

bahebakyagaza RT @Cer: Thousands of protesters are staging a sit-in in front of governorate HQ in Mansoura demanding #Mubarak leave #Egypt #Jan25
less than a minute ago via Dabr

citizenlab RT @NickKristof: Rubber bullets reportedly fired on protesters in Alexandria, Egypt.
less than a minute ago via web

justamira Egypt: Twitter Blocked as Demonstrations Continue via @globalvoices #Jan25
less than a minute ago via Tweet Button

loganme RT @Jinjirrie: RT @Tharwacolamus: Number of protesters in Cairo could be around 100,000 now, still spread out in different neighborhoods #jan25 #egypt
less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

SmithSofia RT @Dima_Khatib: 20 thousand protesters in Alexandria shout slogans against corruption, calling for economic reform #JAN25 #egypt #sidibouzid
less than a minute ago via web

nighatdad @faisaljamkhan why not pakistanis? A will of one man could stop an iron van! (video #Tunsia #Egypt #Pakistan
less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

alibomaye RT @mskayyali: Post Arabic tweets, links, updates on #jan25 protests in Egypt for translation into English (via @meedan)
less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

RapadooObserver BlogPost – Egypt protests turn violent: Follow along on our Twitter translator (Video):
less than a minute ago via

Sound1618 RT @alshaheeed: Police in Alexandria Egypt open fire on protesters. Live ammunition. Our correspondent has been hit with a bullet in his head. #Jan25 #Egypt
less than a minute ago via web

wikiwaiti RT @AlOraibi: Developments in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and throughout Middle East all point to ‘new realities’ in the Middle East. Leaders must be listening
less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

ummhajarforpal @witnessorg @worldpeace2day Public proxy servers: Keep Tweeps & Bloggers from #Egypt #Jan25 #Lebanon Online!
less than a minute ago via web