Khalil Habash looks at the growing protest movement in Egypt and the political upheaval that continues to sweep across the region.

An interview with Faculty Members of Cairo University who marched down to Tahrir Square Tuesday 8th Feb. | Video by Zidaly

In Egypt, the regime has tried different means to put an end to the protest movement since last Friday, which saw millions gathering throughout the country. Mubarak is alternating between concessions and repression to end the popular movement, but without using violence openly. The army tried to clear Tahrir Square on Sunday but was stopped by the demonstrators.

The army staff has tried to convince the protesters to leave Tahrir Square, but they were unsuccessful faced by the determination of the protesters – with some of them lying in front of the tanks to block them. On Saturday the army also limited access to Tahrir Square.

According to some protesters, security forces have been more present around Tahrir Square these past few days, checking and registering identity cards of the protesters. Cases of police harassment have increased in recent days. Some protesters have been detained for curfew violations and for taking photographs of protests. They were also often interrogated by security forces.

On Saturday, the leadership of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) resigned en masse. Hossam Badrawi has been appointed the new secretary-general of the party, replacing Safwat El-Sherif. Badrawi will also replace Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak’s son, as head of the party’s policies bureau. This decision is a clear attempt to appease the demonstrators.

On Monday, the government announced it was raising all public-sector salaries and pensions by 15 per cent. Samir Radwan, Egypt’s new finance minister declared that increasing pensions would cost the government 6.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($940m), while a five billion pound ($840m) fund has also been created to compensate those affected by looting or vandalism during the protests. The curfew was again reduced in the capital, Alexandria and Suez.

On Monday as well, Wael Ghoneim, a senior executive of the US internet search company Google and cyberactivist, who was responsible for setting up the Facebook page that mobilised the start of the protests, was released after more than 10 days in jail.

On Tuesday morning, Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak would set up a committee that would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power.
The most important event nevertheless since Friday was the beginning of the dialogue between Omar Suleiman and six opposition groups on Sunday including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wafd and Tagamou.
The decision of some opposition parties to talk to the regime before any major concessions and the resignation of Mubarak was criticized and not supported by the protesters and the majority of the popular movements. This move was seen as a free concession made by the opposition.

On Tuesday 8th of February, the “coalition of the youth revolutionary” reminded the political parties of the slogan of no negotiation before the resignation of Mubarak. This coalition includes the Movement of April 6, Free Front for the Pacific Change, Freedom and Justice, Crowd, Campaign for the support of Baradei.

They reiterated their demands to the regime as well: overthrow the Mubarak regime, hold accountable those responsible for the killing of the martyrs, exclude the military from politics, end the state of emergency, dissolve the House of Representatives and the Shura Council, freedom to form political parties and the abolition of all restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression.
This coalition is part of the popular movement and has taken control back from the opposition political parties who want to bargain for more power with the regime. They represent and express the real demands of the people. A significant, if not the far majority of protesters, do not trust the political parties and do not represent them in any way. This is a revolution made by the people and not the political parties who have followed the movement and not initiated it.

The popular movement is still determined to continue the revolution and to achieve its democratic and social rights. Popular mobilization is still important 15 days since the beginning of the protests. Tens thousands of demonstrators are still in Tahrir Square and refuse to leave until their demands are met. The protesters held a symbolic funeral procession on Monday for a journalist killed by a sniper during the unrest. The same day 2,000 protesters also marched in the port city of Alexandria.

On Tuesday 8th of February, Thousands of protesters in Ramses street called for the suspension of parliament and demanded Mubarak step down from office immediately. Groups of lawyers also marched towards the presidential palace whilst tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square again. In other Egyptian cities, nearly 20,000 people demonstrated against the regime, including 5,000 in Alexandria and 5,000 Minya. Protests also took place in Assiut and Sohag. About 20 lawyers have petitioned the country’s prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud to try Mubarak and his family for allegedly stealing state wealth.

The so called “Islamic threat” as presented by the western media only exists in their own imagination and shows their lack of understanding of events on the ground. The only threat that is not put forward, which is the biggest one, is the return to the status quo – another authoritarian Egyptian regime assisted by western imperialism. The United States and Europe have actually increased contact with Egypt’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, and are backing his attempt to defuse a popular uprising without immediately removing President Hosni Mubarak from power. Mr. Suleiman would lead an “orderly transition” that would include some minor constitutional reforms and outreach to some opposition groups, but without changing the system at all. Israel has considers Omar Suleiman as the best choice to succeed President Mubarak, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable revealed by Wikileaks.

The real and true threat in the eyes of the Western powers is the threat that the Egyptian people will decide their own future – a future without foreign intervention. This is the real threat for the imperialists, to not be able to steal the resources of the country and exploit its people, or use Egypt to implement their imperial policies in complete opposition with the feelings of the people. The Egyptian popular movement has decided to end this status quo and achieve completely its revolution.


The popular movement in Tunisia is still struggling against symbols of former regimes. The Front of the 14th of January, composed of 10 leftist organizations close to the popular movements, has been formed as a political platform to achieve the objectives of the Tunisian revolution and to unite against the counter revolutionary forces.
The representatives of the Front have emphasized the different manipulations of the current government to break the unity of the people and their struggle. They denounced the role of the Militias linked to the Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDR) and the political police who trying to create a climate of fear. They hope to force the end of the struggle of the popular movement in exchange of a return to security and stability. They insist on the dissolution of these two institutions linked to the former regime as well as the dissolution of the current government.
The Front condemned the interference of U.S. imperialism and particularly of U.S. emissary Jeffrey Feltman in the composition of the last government. This latter gave its approval for the participation of technocrats trained and committed to neoliberal policies.

The 14 of January Front expresses the will of the popular movement to continue the Revolution in order to finally get rid of symbols of the former regime and bring real change to Tunisia.
Demonstrations and clashes between protesters and the police erupted in different areas of the country, such as Sidi Bouzid and Kef. The protests were against the appointment of some former regime members as head of police stations or administration offices. At least five people have been killed since Friday in these clashes, including two shot dead in the northern city of El Kef when police tried to disperse protesters.
The government in an attempt to appease the popular movement decided Sunday to suspend the activities of the CDR.
On Monday, hundreds of protesters tried to prevent the deputies to access to Parliament where they were to hold a plenary session to pass a bill allowing the interim president Fouad Mebazza, a member of the former regime, to govern by decree until presidential and legislative elections that should take place within six months.
The protesters believe that “the revolution of January 14,”which led to the fall of the regime of President Ben Ali, has terminated the legitimacy of the parliamentary institution and all other constitutional organs.
The protesters, human rights activists, academics, lawyers and ordinary people, demanded the election of a constituent assembly that will be responsible for drafting a new constitution and the adoption of laws necessary for the transition.
An overwhelming majority of Tunisian MPs have approved this law, allowing the interim President to rule by decree. The Senate will vote on the new law on Friday before it is ratified by the President.
In Tunis, about 300 employees of the foreign ministry staged a protest rally on Tuesday outside their workplace to demand that Foreign Affairs Minister, Ahmed Ounaiss, resign after he praised French foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie. It is well known she had a close relationship with the ex President Ben Ali.
The Tunisian government has asked military reservists to report for duty in a new drive to restore order. The current government fear that there is a conspiracy by officials close to the old administration to spread chaos and take back power. The underlying reasons for such a decision is still unclear.
The struggle of the Tunisian people continues and every day the popular movement reminds the government and its western allies that they will not abandon their revolution.

Jordan, Algeria and others

In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhoods have declined an offer made by the Prime Minister Bakhout to be part of the new government. They said that they would not participate in a government unless a national consensus was found after the parliamentary elections on the basis of a just and modern law.
Trade unions, which met the Prime Minister on Saturday, said that they emphasized the need for a “modern electoral law” to develop national unity. They also requested the cancellation of all laws that restrict freedom of expression and the revision of all economic policies currently being implemented and in progress.
In addition, thirty-six individuals belonging to the major tribes in Jordan, the backbone of the regime, criticized the “crisis of authority” and “deep corruption ” of the regime.
Demonstrations against the regime throughout the country are expected on Friday.

The authorities in Algiers announced on Monday that they had rejected a request from the opposition to march on February 12 in Algiers.
The National Coordination for Change and Democracy (NCCD), including the opposition and some members of the civil society, a movement born in the wake of riots against high prices in early January, has nevertheless maintained its call for a march on Saturday 12th of February in Algiers. The march calls for “a “change of the system” and the lifting of the state of emergency, in force since February 1992. The President reminded the opposition last Thursday that it was banned to demonstrate in Algiers, but that protests could be held elsewhere. The authorities justify the ban of marches in Algiers for “the sake of public order and security”.
An Algerian has attempted to set himself on fire Sunday during a small demonstration against unemployment before the Labour Ministry building in Algiers.

We saw as well these past few days support from Lebanon and in the Palestinian Occupied Territories for the Egyptian Revolution and movements of protests elsewhere in the region.

In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, addressed an Egypt solidarity meeting of the left, nationalists and islamists on Monday night. He said that the protesters in Egypt are changing the region with their battle for “Arab dignity”. He added that he would like to be in Cairo to join protesters demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak and he criticized Washington’s support to the “dictators” in the region. Several demonstrations in front the Egyptian embassy have taken place since the beginning of the revolt in Egypt.

In Palestine, last Saturday, thousands of people rallied in the occupied territories in solidarity with the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, calling for freedom, social justice, democracy and human rights. Previous rallies have been held by Palestinian activists in Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Gaza.

Tunisians and Egyptians teach the world

The revolutionary process in Egypt and elsewhere is subjected to severe attacks by their authoritarian regimes supported by Western imperialism. The popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia nevertheless are still very strong and are determined to achieve their revolution. They want to continue the revolution and make it permanent – maintaining power in their hands. The traditional political parties have not shown the ability to lead the revolution, just to follow it. They have also demonstrated that they are keen to negotiate with corrupt and authoritarian regimes without any significant concessions whilst the popular movements are clear on their demands and will not make any concessions until the regimes meet them. They have won the support of large masses of the society in building a vast and inclusive movement of opposition against the regimes. These popular movements are now shaking authoritarian regimes and western imperialism, and might be able to change the face of the region.
The popular movements throughout the region want to continue the Revolution and make it permanent. The ‘political reforms’ from authoritarian regimes are not enough, neither are the symbolic measures to raise salaries or try to adjust other socio economic issues. Negotiations called by the authoritarian regime are rejected by popular movements who are clear on their objective: the people want to overthrow the regime! No dialogue is possible before. Popular movements have imposed their agendas and demands on political parties, which are bonded to them if they want to stay a part of the movement of protests.

Revolutions can happen in the 21th century – Egyptians and Tunisians are showing us the way to it – a lesson for movements struggling against neo-liberalism and imperialism across the world.

Tagged under: