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The International Writers Magazine: Eygpt in Revolution

Game over Mubarak
Marwan Asmar
It’s a social phantasmal, spectral war, not between the people vis-à-vis the police or army, but between the street on the one hand  and the one-party regime. Since 25 January, 2011 mass demonstrations have been taking place all over Egypt engulfing the country, calling for Husni Mubarak to step down after his 30-year-rule.


It’s a social phantasmal, spectral war, not between the people vis-à-vis the police or army, but between the street on  the one hand  and the one-party regime. Since 25 January, 2011 mass demonstrations have been taking place all over Egypt engulfing the country, calling for Husni Mubarak to step down after his 30-year-rule.

The scale of the popular movement is being described as revolutionary popular surprise as nothing like this ever happened before. What is being witnessed on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in the country is no less than a revolutionary deluge expressed by the people who are saying "no more, and Mubark must go".

It is no longer being described in terms of scattered demonstrations but a sustained mass popular movement that wants the Egyptian President out, along with his government and his National Democratic Party graphically expressed in Arabic by one banner which simply says "Game Over Mubarak'.

In many ways, this revolution is being aptly described as an internet one, initially started by frustrated young people whose only arm is Facebook, Twitter, chat-rooms, websites and the love for the Internet.  Essentially it is they who first got the people out on the streets in an unprecedented move, that crystallized a big popular movement where men, women, young, old conservatives, Muslims, Christians, yuppies, the poor and the unemployed.

Despite civil society institutions and political parties, despite the banned Muslim Brotherhoods which yields much popular muscle in Egypt, this popular crystallization is expressed by ordinary people over-riding and over-passing social strata's and social classes glaringly expressed by women wearing flowing abayas and the veil next to the hip and chic women with jeans and shirts, their expensive hair styles, and name-brand glasses.

After 30 years of reported suppression and mouth-muzzling by the authorities, the people are out in full throttle, leashing all their frustrations out and unafraid to call for the departure of Husni Mubarak. In fact, this it seems, is their only slogan. It is a wonder they have taken such a long time to express their anger for regime removal, judging from the popular and open ferocity expressed on the street.

Everyone agrees, experts, specialists, academics and international watchers say these demonstrations are unprecedented, and Egypt has never witnessed anything like this in its modern political history. The Egyptian street may have taken their cue from the popular one-month long demonstrations in Tunisia that resulted in the end of the Zine Al Abidine's Ben Ali regime there. It was on 14 January that he cryptically left the country, and 12 days later, on 25 of January, mass demonstrations for regime change erupted in Egypt.

The revolutionary fervor experienced in that country quickly become total, sustained, and imminent. Today it's foretelling, as demonstrations and outcries in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Ismaelia, Sheikh Zweid in north Sinai, Mansora, Asiyut and Al Mina, with people openly calling for the downfall of the regime.

These are no ordinary demonstrations, not ones that can be controlled easily with much blood being spilled. They are being described in terms of human mass, streams upon streams of people, human waves, deluges springing from everywhere, in every corner and neighborhood, in towns and cities. 

Despite curfews that are being announced be the authorities nobody seems is paying care or heed to. It's as if the people are acquiring new strengths, breaking new psychological barriers, points of no return, nothing to be afraid from and nothing to be afraid for because of the pittance wages and depressed economic conditions and lack of freedom of thought. 

In Cairo's Tahrir Square more than 50,000 people assemble there on daily basis, in Alexandria up to 40,000 people are being reported and the same is being suggested for Al Mansoura.  And this is happening daily. Like the Tunisian social revolution, what is taking place in Egypt is being described as "historical" and "history in the making before our very eyes". Everyone is feeling there will be change and that the end is near for the regime of Husni Mubarak and his National Democratic Party.

While many in Egypt, region and internationally, politicians like U.S. president Barak Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron are calling for a peaceful solution and the establishment of democratic structures, the regime is not willing to call it a day, Mubarak continues to play for time and with tactics that is angering people more.

He is not willing to throw the towel in despite the fact that many are saying it is time for him to retire and let others do the job. Respected and Nobel Prize laureate Dr Mohammad Al Baradei who is also former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is calling for political change. Tipped  as possible next president in a post-Mubarak regime, he has called on Mubarak to "leave today before tomorrow". This is while Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has been more diplomatic in his approach stressing the need for change in policies.

But the pharaoh or the sphinx is not budging, not heading the calls of anyone, and certainly does not want to learn the humiliating lessons of Ben Ali who is presently in effective  exile in Saudi Arabia while a warrant for his arrest by Interpol has been issued to be caught and sent to his former country while other states have frozen his assets and properties.

Mubarak could certainly face the same ordeal—today states seem to be quickly washing their hands off their former allies, especially ones deemed to be overtly authoritarian and dictatorial and corrupt despite relations with them in the past.

As days go by (at the time of writing this has been the sixth day), the street now wants to try Mubarak and his appointed ministers in a court of law. 

And as with the characteristics of authoritarian leaders, who prefer to hang on till the last minute, Mubarak today is still in the process of political machinations, taking a political role as if he is the man still in control but it appears to be slipping away.

At the end of the "day of rage", Friday 28 January, he finally came on television to announce that there would be a change of government, but not before he made it clear, that while demonstrations was a right of Egyptians, his government will act strongly against saboteurs who were involved in theft and destroying public and government property.

This has been increasingly happening, as more and more people have set upon looting places, including government buildings and the country's National Museum were valuable and rare pieces going back thousands of years have been willfully destroyed and smashed.

Amidst these Mubarak pointed a new government under Ahmad Shafeeq, former Civil Aviation Minister and he also appointed Chief of Intelligence Omar Sulieman as his vice-president, a first ever move since he took power in 1981. Regardless, Sulieman is on a visitor-friendly terms with Israel, a country which has a peace treaty with Egypt since 1978, but which Egyptians never accepted.

These appointments have infuriated the street with people  calling them ludicrous and laughable because they are one of the bedrocks of the regime.

The police during the uprisings were in curious positions to say the least for the most part they are seen as corrupt. They are regarded as part and parcel of the security system, involved in mass control. Initially, they used gas canisters runner bullets, live ammunition and water hoses to disperse the crowds but abysmally failing in the process with incidents of them receiving bloody noses in various parts of the country.

Today, they are nowhere to be found, leaving Cairo streets for demonstrators to vent their anger against the regime, while theories are rife about what happened to them, where did the go, an important question when the street itself was becoming chaotic.

One theory being put by some watchers is that police officers quietly disrobed their uniforms and are now working within the ranks of the people; it is being argued some of them are responsible for the looting, chaos and the mayhem that is being created.

The theory has it that so much chaos, disturbance and turmoil would be created that the street and those calling for political, social and economic change would be discredited. Today the situation has become so bad that by the 3rd day of the uprisings, "neighborhood committees, and vigilante groups were being set up to guard their neighborhoods  from the looters.

The "discrediting argument" might go as follows: To allow the situation to go down the slippery slope and become so bad it would lead to further chaos, insecurity and instability were people would no longer feel safe in their homes. In such a situation the people themselves would beseech the security apparatuses and the army to step in once again for protection and hence call back for the old order. 

There was for instance no security forces around the National Museum when it was looted. There young people were reported as encircling the museum to prevent looters; and many people are saying there is neither police nor soldiers in their neighborhoods for protection.

At present it is the army who are in Cairo, in Tahrir (Liberation) Square where day and night mass gatherings are taking place. Not expected by Mubarak who ordered them on the streets, they are not presently taking any sides in controlling and dispersing on the ground.

Soldiers are taking a back seat unwilling to intervene in the past 3 or 4 days while people set police vehicles on fire. Demonstrators have been torching police stations in different parts of the country leading police to run away in some cases whilst they also set the Cairo-based 15-story NDP headquarters—the so-called hated party—on fire as well as in Mansura where it took a battering.

What is being said is the army is leaving things till the last minute to "enter" the street and implement order because they are seen as a "people's army that is respected by the people and are part of the people because of the element of national military conscription and the fact that it is the pride of the 1974 October war in which it put up stiff resistance against Israel and nearly won if it hadn't been for the American airlift help.

So the 500,000-man army maybe the last card that could in theory be used by Husni Mubarak to try and save his regime, but as we are seeing foot soldiers are not happy about firing on their countryman who are kissing, shaking their hands  and showering them with flowers.

This is while people have been climbing tanks with the soldiers and offering them things like oranges. Incredulously tanks roaming the streets with writings on them in Arabic of "Mubarak falls" have been seen. 

Six days into what is termed as the "Egyptian revolution" the situation is as volatile as ever and nobody is seeing it stopping. Mubarak is refusing to step down holding on at the tether of his teeth while cracking down on different internet technologies and cellular phones—from the first day--and shutting down the Al Jazeera satellite Arabic television for daring to be so bold in its coverage.

We are yet to see how far this war of wills will go on, but everyone is expecting the fall of a very tough regime that has been holding Egypt hostage by the scruff of the neck and smothering its people. Today many are saying Egyptian have regained their pride of place in the Arab world regardless of what is the final outcome.     

© Marwan Asmar Jan 31st 2011

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