Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, February 2011
Mubarak Launches Counter-Attack to Stay in Power, Supporters Clash with Opposition Protesters in Tahrir Square
Editor of Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 2, 2011
Following Arabic media, particularly TV stations, indicates that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has launched a counter attack against the opposition protesters in the Tahrir Square today, Wednesday, February 2, 2011. He wants to stay in power until elections are held under his supervision, in defiance to the demands of the Egyptian people for him to leave power before holding the elections.
Pro-Mubarak demonstrators entered the the Tahrir Square and clashed with the opposition protesters. Opposition protesters in the Square said in TV interviews that the pro-Mubarak demonstrators are composed of members of the secret police in civilian clothes, members of the ruling party, and the beneficiaries of the Mubarak regime. Protesters said that they arrested some of these members of secret police, saw their IDs, and gave them to the army.
Pro-Mubarak demonstrators are armed, some of them are riding horses and camels, and have been able to inflict casualties on the anti-Mubarak demonstrators.
Anti-Mubarak protesters are in a weaker position and have been attacked from all directions by the armed pro-Mubarak forces.
The Egyptian army is taking a neutral position in these confrontations so far.
Injuries reported as pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators clash
CAIRO, Feb. 2, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Clashes erupted between supporters of President Hosni Mubarak and those against him in Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square Wednesday morning, local media reported.
"Where is the army, why don't they interfere," one protester shouted.
Supporters of embattled Mubarak rallied early morning, who later clashed with protestors against the president, while marching towards the Tahrir Square.
Thousands of people from both sides are now gathered in the square, and clashes have turned violent, according to local media.
Thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators clashed with each other in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday, causing several injuries.
Demonstrators from the two sides threw rocks and sticks at each other at the Tahrir square, with the army did nothing to intervene, the CNN network reported. There is no police presence on the site, it added.
This was the first time that supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak gathered on streets in large numbers. They raised banners expressing their support for the veteran leader, and strong desire for stability to be restored.
The anti-government protests have entered the ninth day, with the demonstrators demanding Mubarak leave immediately.
Mubarak announced on Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in September but will not leave Egypt. He also promised to implement a series of reforms in the next eight months.
Earlier Wednesday, The Egyptian Defense ministry called for maintaining normal life after the massive anti-government protests entered its ninth day, the state TV reported.
"We urge youth for more cooperation to continue building our country, we are looking for prosperous future altogether, now we know your demands and will keep on satisfying them," the speaker of the Defense ministry Ibrahim Etman said.
"With support of Egyptian citizens who endured all the hardships, we can resume our civil life, go to work, open institutions and shops, and walk in the streets and go to the clubs in peace with our children," Etman said.
Internet service resumed in Egypt at noon Wednesday, after being cut off for eight days since Jan. 28.
Editor: Wang Guanqun
Feb 2, 9:09 AM EST
Chaos in Cairo as Mubarak backers, opponents clash
By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and SARAH EL DEEB
CAIRO (AP) --
Several thousand supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, attacked anti-government protesters Wednesday as Egypt's upheaval took a dangerous new turn. In chaotic scenes, the two sides pelted each other with stones, and protesters dragged attackers off their horses.
The hours of turmoil were the first significant violence between supporters of the two camps in more than a week of anti-government protests. It erupted after Mubarak went on national television the night before and rejected demands he step down immediately and said he would serve out the remaining seven months of his term.
Wednesday morning, a military spokesman appeared on state TV Wednesday and asked the protesters to disperse so life in Egypt could get back to normal. The announcement could mark a major turn in the attitude of the army, which for the past two days has allowed protests to swell, reaching their largest size yet on Tuesday when a quarter-million peacefully packed into Cairo's central Tahrir Square.
Nearly 10,000 protesters massed again in Tahrir on Wednesday morning, rejecting Mubarak's speech as too little too late and renewed their demands he leave immediately.
In the early afternoon Wednesday, an Associated Press reporter saw around 3,000 Mubarak supporters break through a human chain of anti-government protesters trying to defend thousands gathered in Tahrir.
Chaos erupted as they tore down banners denouncing the president. Fistfights broke out as they advanced across the massive square in the heart of the capital. The anti-government protesters grabbed Mubarak posters from the hands of the supporters and ripped them.
The two sides began hurling stones and bottles and sticks at each other, chasing each other as the protesters' human chains moved back to try to shield the larger mass of demonstrators at the plaza's center.
At one point, a small contingent of pro-Mubarak forces on horseback and camels rushed into the anti-Mubarak crowds, swinging whips and sticks to beat people. Protesters retaliated, dragging some from their mounts, throwing them to the ground and beating their faces bloody. The horses and camels likely were the ones used by touts giving rides for tourists.
Protesters were seen running with their shirts or faces bloodied, some men and women in the crowd were weeping. A scent of tear gas wafted over the area, but it was not clear who had fired it.
The army troops who have been guarding the square had been keeping the two sides apart earlier in the day, but when the clashes erupted they did not intervene. Most took shelter behind or inside the armored vehicles and tanks stationed at the entrances to Tahrir.
Many protesters - who for days have showered the military with love for its neutral stance - now accused the troops had intentionally allowed the attackers into the square. "Hosni has opened the door for these thugs to attack us," one man with a loudspeaker shouted to the crowds during the fighting.
"These are paid thugs," another protester, 52-year-old Emad Nafa, said of the attackers. "The army is neglectful. They let them in."
The new tensions began to emerge immediately following Mubarak's speech Tuesday night. Later in the night, clashes erupted between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, while in Cairo groups of Mubarak supporters took to the streets, some carrying knives and sticks.
Gatherings of Mubarak supporters have also taken a harsher tone against journalists and foreigners. Two Associated Press correspondents and several other journalists were roughed up during various such gatherings. State TV reported Tuesday night that foreigners were caught distributing anti-Mubarak leaflets, apparently trying to depict the movement as foreign-fueled.
The violence could represent a dangerous new chapter in the nearly 10 days of upheaval that has shaken Egypt, which has already taken a series of dramatic and unpredictable twists.
After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by unrest in Tunisia took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of demonstrations across this nation of 80 million. Initially, police cracked down hard with brutal and deadly clashes on the demonstrators. Then police withdrew completely from the streets for the day, opening a wave of looting, armed robberies and arson - largely separate from the protests themselves - that stunned Egyptians.
But since Sunday, the army moved in to take control and the situation became more peaceful. The military announced it would not stop protests. As a result, the demonstrations swelled dramatically, protesters gained momentum and enthusiasm and many believed Mubarak's immediate fall was at hand. The United States put intense pressure on Mubarak to bring his rule to an end while ensuring a stable handover.
Wednesday's events could mean the regime has had enough, and that it and the military aim to ensure the end of the unrest after the 82-year-old Mubarak made the concession of announcing he would not run for a new six-year term in September elections.
As if to show the crisis was ending, the government began to reinstate Internet service after days of an unprecedented cutoff, and state TV announced the easing of a nighttime curfew, which now runs from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. instead of 3 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Mubarak supporters were on the street in significant numbers for the first time on Wednesday. Across the Nile River from the chaos in Tahrir Square, around 20,000 pro-government demonstrators held a rally in front of Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque in the upper-class neighborhood of Mohandiseen.
They waved Egyptian flags, their faces painted with the black-white-and-red national colors, and carried a large printed banner with Mubarak's face as police officers surrounded the area and directed traffic. They cheered as a military helicopter swooped overhead.
Many said they came after seeing a notice on state television to attend the protest. Some appeared to be the sort of young toughs that the opposition accuses the regime of paying to be its fist in the streets.
But the large majority were middle-class families, some of whom said Mubarak's concessions were enough and that they feared continued instability and shortages of food and other supplies if protests continue.
"I want the people in Tahrir Square to understand that Mubarak gave his word that he will give them the country to them through elections, peacefully, now they have no reason for demonstrations," said Ali Mahmoud, 52, who identified himself as middle-class worker from Menoufia, a Nile Delta province north of Cairo.
The movement against Mubarak, meanwhile, was working to prevent any slipping in its ranks after the speech and resist any sentiment that the concession may have been enough.
"We recognize deceit when we see it," said protester Nasser Saad Abdel-Latif. "No one will lose their energy ... We won't go until he goes."
One protest organizer said the regime was going all out to pressure people to stop protesting.
"Starting with the emotional speech of Mubarak, to the closure of banks, the shortage of food and commodities and deployment of thugs to intimidate people, these are all means to put pressure on the people," said Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, a representative of the Revolutionary Committee, one of several youth groups that organized the protests.
The movement is fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant. Tuesday's massive rally in Tahrir showed a large cross-section of Egyptian society.
In his 10-minute speech Tuesday night, Mubarak hit on one of the themes that has been his evocative for some Egyptians in justifying his rule throughout his nearly three decades in power - that he can keep stability. Now he was promising to do so as he heads out the door.
The president, who almost never admits to reversing himself under pressure, insisted that even if the protests demanding his ouster had not broken out, he would not have sought a sixth term in September.
Somber but firm - without an air of defeat - he said he would serve out the rest of his term working "to accomplish the necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power." He said he will carry out amendments to rules on presidential elections.
He vowed he would not flee the country. "This is my dear homeland," he said. "I have lived in it, I fought for it and defended its soil, sovereignty and interests. On its soil I will die. History will judge me and all of us."
The step came after heavy pressure from his top ally, the United States. Soon after Mubarak's address, President Barack Obama said at the White House that he had spoken with Mubarak and "he recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and a change must take place." Obama said he told Mubarak that an orderly transition must be meaningful and peaceful, must begin now and must include opposition parties.
Earlier, a visiting Obama envoy - former ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner, who is a friend of the Egyptian president - met with Mubarak and made clear to him that it is the U.S. "view that his tenure as president is coming to a close," according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy.
AP correspondents Diaa Hadid, Lee Keath, Michael Weissenstein and Maggie Michael contributed to this report.
Unappeased by president's speech, Tahrir Square protesters vow to fight on Egyptians flocked to central Cairo on Tuesday to protest against embattled President Hosni Mubarak, with demonstrations at Tahrir Square lasting into the night.
February 2, 2011,
FRANCE 24’s special correspondent reports from the scene.
By Marc DAOU , special correspondent in Cairo (text)
Just hours after the end of a massive anti-government protest that drew nearly one million Egyptians out onto the streets, roughly 10,000 demonstrators remained at Tahrir Square in central Cairo into the night.
Equipped with tents and sleeping bags, several hundred of them – including women and young children – prepared to sleep outdoors. “I’ve been coming to the square every day for a week,” Hamdy, an unemployed 49-year-old, said. “Tonight I’ll sleep here, amid my compatriots, because it has been a memorable day.” Hamdy thinks that the movement could take a violent turn on Friday after morning prayers if the government does not heed the will of the people.
There is a strong smell of smoke in the vast square, as people lit fires to stay warm. But the nighttime cold was quickly forgotten when protesters heard the news that President Hosni Mubarak would soon make an announcement. Mubarak’s voice resounds across the square
At around 11 pm, Mubarak’s voice resounded from loudspeakers and radios brought by the protesters. His announcement that he would not seek re-election but would remain in the presidency until his term expires in September drew reactions of fury and anguish from the crowd. Some people dropped to their knees and held their heads in their hands. Others hid their faces behind flags. “He doesn’t want to leave, but he will leave. We’re staying!” several protesters shouted. Another group, led by Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers, chanted demands that Mubarak be “sentenced to death”. Foreign journalists, cameras on their shoulders, ran throughout the square, eager to capture the crowd's reactions.
‘He doesn't listen to the people’
Rawan, an international business student from Alexandria, came to Cairo to experience “a historic day”, as he put it. Now he is disappointed. “Millions of us were in the street today throughout Egypt to demand that he leave, but Mubarak doesn’t understand, he doesn’t listen to the people,” Rawan said.
Omar, a philosophy student, expressed similar frustration and said that he feared the repercussions of maintaining the status quo. “If Mubarak persists, the protests will continue. Our economy and our future will be threatened,” he said, adding that the president should step down and let an interim government modify the constitution and organise a new presidential election. ‘Even more of us will come tomorrow’
Others were already talking about the protests planned for Wednesday. “We’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll stay a week if we have to, or a year,” Karim, a 21-year-old hairdresser, said. “Mubarak has been in power for 30 years, after all.”
Karim was beaten with a wooden baton by a police officer during the January 28 protest, and his forehead still bears the marks. “We’re suffering,” he said, “and we will not be able to make it as long as this corrupt regime is in place.”
Karim, who has been selling cigarettes in the square over the past few days, told his customers that he would see them tomorrow. “You’ll see, even more of us will come tomorrow,” he said, before disappearing into the crowd.
At 3 am, the voices of protesters could still be heard across Tahrir Square – also known as the “Square of Liberation”.
Egypt's Mubarak says will not seek next term as protests upgrade
An image grab taken from Egyptian state television Al-Masriya shows Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak speaking to the nation in Cairo, on February 1, 2011. Mubarak said will not seek re-election. (Xinhua/AFP)
CAIRO, Feb. 1, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak pledged Tuesday that he would not run for the presidency again in his speech to the nation which fell into chaos after eight days of anti-government demonstrations demanding an end of the president's 30-year rule.
In his speech on Tuesday night, Mubarak said that he does not intend to run for another term after massive anti-government protests shook the country for the past eight days.
Mubarak said that he will work in the last months of his term to ensure a smooth transfer of power.
"My main responsibility is to ensure stability, and in the next few months I will work on the country's stability," he added.
The president announced that he would seek constitutional change, which controls the criteria of the candidacy of the next president.
"I am a military man who served this country during war and peace and I will die on the soil of Egypt," Mubarak said.
Egyptian dissident and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei said Tuesday via Al Arabia channel that Mubarak's speech did not meet people's demand, and he urged the immediate resignation of Mubarak.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded downtown Cairo since Tuesday morning for a "march of one million," while other groups of smaller scales were calling for resumption of social order under leadership of the embattled president.
Demonstrators shouting slogans "Oust Mubarak" gathered in Tahrir Square, the center of protests, as the opposition parties called for a general strike and a one-million-people march to the presidential palace after a week of unrest in the country, as the army stood still to protect the people.
But Xinhua reporters said protesters remained in the Tahrir Square, while the presidential palace area was tightly protected by the army and remained calm.
Mubarak reshuffled his government on Monday in an attempt to defuse the week-long protest against his regime, but protesters rejected the changes and said he must surrender power.
Despite opposition parties' called for an indefinite strike and a one-million-people march to the presidential palace, some Egyptian intellectuals distributed leaflets among protestors, urging people to stay away from "violence" and "chaos."
"The continuation of chaos will only deepen people's suffering and provide chances for looting and other crimes," one of the leaflets read. "This is our Egypt. We must safeguard the country and people."
While a sea of protestors were carpeting the Tahrir Square, about 1,000 people gathered near the foreign ministry to support Mubarak, saying he is the only man who is capable of keeping the society stable amid the turmoil.
Supporters shouted "Yes, Mubarak," played music and raised a police officer when marching along the Nile.
"The opposition parties do not want our life back to normal unless Mubarak leaves, but what will happen after that? Obviously chaos," said a tourist guide who gave his name Muhamed. "I have to arm with knifes at night, for the first time in my life, to protect my family and neighbors. Definitely we need reforms, but we do not want changes that deprive us of peaceful life."
For the past few days, Egyptians have not agreed on Mubarak's future fate. Hundreds of thousands are protesting, but many others believe Mubarak shouldn't depart unless he restores the country's stability.
"Those people are just giving the opportunity to people like ElBaradei to make use of us. Mubarak should leave after his period is over," said a 23-year-old protester.
Conflicts among people of different interests occurred at some check points. "We want to go to work. Can't you people understand? " shouted a man to anti-government crowds.
Unlike last Friday's protests, there has been little police presence in streets Tuesday, giving protesters a wider freedom to express their opinions without tear gas or water canons. To prevent disturbance of social order, local groups took over the streets, checking luggage and people's IDs.
UNREST HITS ECONOMY
Egypt endured another day of halt to normal life as the protest entered the second week. Trains stopped running Monday. The internet remained shutdown on its fifth day. Banks, stock markets and most businesses were closed.
Storage racks for bread, milk, edible oil and local fruits were almost empty in Cairo's supermarkets as people tried to replenish their stores for fear that the chaos could continue and prices could rise.
Tourism, a crucial source of Egypt's revenue, was hit hard by the protest. Many tour agencies have suspended services and the EgyptAir has cancelled flights during the government-imposed curfew which has been extended from 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) to 8 a.m. ( 0600 GMT).
Some foreign firms suspended their activities due to paralyzed internet and lack of workers in the unrest.
"I have closed the factory. I don't know when the social order can be back to normal," said Zhou Jianguo, a Chinese owner of a motorbike manufacturing factory in Cairo's Nasr City. "It is so shocking that a peaceful country can suddenly fall to chaos. I'm really worried about the investment environment of Egypt."
Responding to fears of economic difficulties, newly-appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Tuesday the new government is committed to meeting all people's demands despite existing conflict of interests.
Banks will be open once security and stability are restored in the country, he said, adding that measures have been taken to protect banks against looting.
Editor: Mu Xuequan
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