Today, Tuesday, 25th January, over 15,000 people demonstrated for political and social reforms in the Egyptian capital Cairo. The Tunisian experience over the past few weeks seems very much alive.

Rallies were also reported throughout the country, particularly in Alexandria in the north, the second largest town in Egypt, Aswan and Asyut in the south, and in several cities in the Nile Delta such as Ismailiya (on the Suez Canal) or Northern Sinai.

In Cairo, the events began near the buildings of the Supreme Court and then expanded other areas, notably in the west of the capital where 2-3,000 people gathered. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the Supreme Court and managed to force a police roadblock. The protesters chanted slogans such as “Tunisia is the solution”, and “Down Mubarak”. Many videos posted on YouTube show dozens of protesters chanting in the streets against the regime.

Police used water cannons and tear gas to try to disperse the demonstrators. Several witnesses said on Twitter that the demonstrators were surrounded by the police on the Tahrir Square, in downtown Cairo. The Twitter service was also partly rendered inaccessible by the authorities by the afternoon.

Several movements called on the people in Cairo and in the provinces to protest Tuesday for a “day of revolt against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment.” This day coincided with the “Police Day”, a holiday intended to honor the police institution.

The interior minister, Habib al-Adli told the government newspaper Al-Ahram that the protest organizers were “unconscious” and assured that their calls would have “no impact”.

Some 20-30,000 policemen were mobilised in the downtown district and the Ministry of Interior was protected as well. Their numbers were reinforced at several major intersections in Cairo where the protesters planned to gather at several locations. Cairo University was also under high surveillance by the police.

In Ismailiya on the Suez Canal, some 200 people gathered in downtown facing a strong police presence. The protesters chanted “After Ben Ali, who’s next?” in reference to the Tunisian president expelled in mid-January by a popular revolt after 23 years in power.

In the northern Sinai Peninsula, hundreds of people have cut a road between Al-Arish and Rafah, near the border with the Gaza Strip, setting fire to tires.

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world with a population of around 80 million. Over 40 percent of its population lives below the poverty line, in other words with less than two dollars per day per person. Several cases of self-immolation have taken place in Egypt in recent days, following the same act of a young Tunisian street vendor in mid-December, which triggered the revolt in Tunisia.

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