Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: Phases 4 and 5

Developments in Egypt are heating up. Some of the loudest and largest crowds have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is about to go on television, and he is expected to announce that he is stepping down. (Al Jazeera English remains essential viewing to be on top of the story, and I'm watching/listening to it right now.) This may all be rumor, but the tension is growing in Cairo.

I've been busy over the last week (although I still have a lot of papers to grade), and I've been unable to track the Egypt story as closely as I'd like. But it's clear that the struggle there has gone through two more phases.

First, early this week, the regime started a dialogue with some of the opposition forces, hoping that they could appease most of the the protesters. The young (20-30 year old) people who organized and drove the protests refused the dialogue and kept up their protests.

Second, in the past few days, it became clearer how organized and persistent these demonstrators were. They forced the regime's hand and didn't give up. They were also helped by some general strikes across Egypt yesterday. After more than two weeks of occupying Tahrir Square, it looks like they may have succeeded in their immediate demands for Mubarak to leave before they left. The release of Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who had helped organize the protests, seemed to catalyze the movement. Ghonim gave an emotional TV interview that showed the peaceful side of the younger protestors and the thuggishness of a corrupt regime. This may have been the final blow for the regime's credibility.

If and when Mubarak leaves, it will interesting to see what happens next.

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