Thousands Fill the Streets in Egypt Protests

Jan.28 recent updates:

Nation wide curfew in Egypt has been put in effect; protestors still in the streets, demanding ousting of Hosni Mubarak. 12:30 PM.

Egyptian army was ordered to the streets by Hosni Mubarak. 12:50 PM.

Hosni Mubarak was said to give speech over an hour ago, still hasn't showed up on any TV stations. 12:50 PM

Protests all over the U.S. are being planned for today and tomorrow, in solidarity with the Egyptian people.

Jan.27 recent updates:

Internet services have been down in Egypt, according to several reports. There have also been several reports of land lines and cell phones not not going through. Internet was shut down minutes after a video was posted of an Egyptian protestor being shot by a police officer.  11:00 PM ET

National anti-government protests, dubbed Friday Anger in Egypt are being planned for Jan. 28, following two days of thousands of furious Egyptians demanding their rights.
The event page, written in Arabic was created on Facebook on Jan.26 with 84,035 people attending so far.
Anger Friday for the revolution against corruption, injustice, unemployment and torture,
calls on Egyptians of all faiths to fight for their rights and show up. 8:30 PM ET

Blackberry Messenger, SMS via cell phones, Facebook and twitter are all blocked in Egypt. 6:00 PM ET

Jan. 26 most recent updates:

Protests continue today, as police continue clashes with protesters. Four have died. 11:00 AM Facebook has been banned in Egypt from several ISP's including TeData,LinkDSL and Vodafone. 11:00 AM

Jan. 25 Developing updates (U.S. EST Time Zone): (Scroll down for the most recent updates)

Egyptians and activtists post updates on Twitter and Facebook, Cairo claimed to have 50,000 protesters. 1:40 PM

Egyptian youth are optimistic about Egypt’s future and ready for change following recent revolutionary events in Tunisia. As they organize and mobilize the anti-Mubarak government protests on Jan. 25 through social network and education of their rights, some believe the protests will be futile. 1:40 PM

Thousands of protesters stand their grounds in downtown Cairo. Twitter: Sandmonkey On our way to tahrir with water, snacks, ciggies and other supplies. This day aint over. @VodafoneEgypt: We didn't block twitter - it's a problem all over Egypt and we are waiting for a solution. 1:40 PM

Activist Mohamed Abdelfattah has tweeted he has been beat up and being arrested at protest sights. 1:50 PM

Egyptian Interior Ministry blames Egyptian Brotherhood for starting anti-government Jan. 25 protest. However, We Are Khaled Said group started the event. 1:50 PM

Egyptians' main chant, Down with Mubarak at protests 2:00 PM

Egyptians and Arabs express optimistic on Twitter after thousands protest on Jan. 25: 2:15 PM

I admit that I didn't expect this at al..proud
njarrar: Yesterday we were all Tunisian. Today we are all Egyptian. Tomorrow we'll all be free

zaynabon : Overnight sit-in protest in Tahrir Square!!! Protestors aren't going anywhere tonight! start your plane!

What are Egyptians protesting today? Activist Gigi Ibrahim says: 20,00 Egyptians are striking in Tahrir Square demanding 1) Impeachment of Mubarak immediately 2) Resignation of Nazif's government 3) Dissolving the fraudlent People's Assembly 4) Formation of a provisional government now! They are calling for all Egyptians all over Egypt to join strike and call for the same demands for the dignity of all Egyptians. 2:10 PM

Medical student Reem el Sharif shares her experience at the Jan. 25 protest:

I went out alone [because] I couldn't find anyone to go with me, and wasn't planning on going far. I saw a huuge crowd at Batal Ahmed. We wanted to reach Tahrir Square, they blocked off Midan El Galaa so we went to 6th October Bridge which they also tried to block, then we reached Tahrir Square. We were at least 10,000 people there, protesting, it was brilliant. They tried to cordon off Kasr Al Ainy Street and threw tear gas bombs and beat some of the protesters who tried to go through, then eventually we were in the square, just chanting and protesting ... It might not lead to anything, although I hope thats not the case, but all I can say is that today, I saw hope. The men were courteous to the women, all walks of life were out, all religions, ages, social levels. It was amazing. 2:30 PM.
There are reports from different Twitter users that two protesters have been killed in the Jan. 25 protests in Suez, Egypt. Stay tuned for updates. 3:00 PM.

CNN reports one protester dead and one officer dead. 3:10 PM

As of Jan. 25, the event page that started the call for protests in Egypt has 95,106 attending. 3:15 PM

According to Arabic website Akhbar Al-Arab, President Hosni Mubarak's son and family have fled to U.K 3:20 PM

Reports are saying three are dead from the protest today: two protesters and one soldier. 7:00 PM
Protests in Egypt continue as of 3:20 AM Cairo time. Police are chasing and beating protestors according to Twitter witnesses. 8:20 PM
Protests will continue tomorrow in Egypt according to Twitter updates and a new Facebook event page.8:41 PM


Jan. 24:
Social Media

After 29 days of protesting injustice, stagnation and corruption, Tunisia’s ruler of 23 years, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country on Jan. 14. Many believe that the social network world played a large part in the revolution and Tunisia’s revolt has been dubbed, as Iran’s once was, the “Twitter Revolution.” Tweets, posts on Facebook groups and pages, and YouTube videos are also playing a major role in this upcoming protest in Egypt.

The protest event page on Facebook has 84,667 people attending as of Jan. 23. The event claims that attendees will be protesting corruption, torture, poverty, and unemployment. While many who do not have Facebook or access to internet are also expected to join the protests, some believe that the number of people who show up will not be enough to spark a revolution for Egypt’s 80 million citizens.

Asmaa Mahfouz, 25, filmed a video and posted it on Facebook, encouraging all Egyptians to attend the protest, which she said received thousands of views and comments in just a few days.

“I want everyone to attend because we are 80 million; if only one million attend then we will not accomplish anything,” she said. “The government is depending on the negativity and silence of the people because [they think] silence is a sign of acceptance although this is not [always] true.”

Mahfouz, who works at a computer company, said that people are enthusiastic about this protest and she has received a plethora of messages supporting her call to action and activism especially amongst young people. Nine out of ten unemployed are under 30 and half of the population in Egypt is under 30 years old.

Egyptians must demand the dismissal of the corrupt regime, and change for Egypt must come from within, she said.

“That’s the only way. Otherwise the government will never change. We need to stop being afraid and stop being apathetic. We deserve better,” she said.

Tunisia vs. Egypt

President Hosni Mubarak, 82, has ruled Egypt for 29 years now. Although elections will take place in September, most expect his son, Gamal, to take control if Mubarak doesn’t seek reelection.

With all the rush of enthusiasm and energy from many young Egyptians over Jan. 25, some still believe that attending the protest will not lead to positive change.

Ali Ashraf*, an employee who works for the government in Cairo, believes there must be change in the Egyptian system but the upcoming protest on Jan. 25, which happens to be an Egyptian national holiday, Police Day, that celebrates the service of police officers, may be ineffective, he says.

“For protests to be successful, they must be in a working day, because in days off people normally tend to stay home and want to enjoy the exceptional break,” Ashraf, 28, said. “Let's not forget that those who [were] invited to protest in Jan. 25 want to resemble what happened in Tunisia this month, so it is impossible to gather large number of people in a day off.”

Linking the events that lead to the Tunisia uprising to the protest in Egypt is incomparable, he said.

“In Tunisia, the revolution was not planned and no one [was] invited to it, it just came like that, which abated the ability of the security forces in dealing with the matter,” Ashraf said. “But, when the security forces know the date of the protest, which is intended to turn into a revolution, before its time by 10 days for sure they will be well prepared for it-- actually much more prepared than the protesters themselves.”

Another difference he believes between the Tunisian and potential Egyptian uprising is education. He believes the Tunisians educated themselves well beforehand and were well aware of their full rights.

“I highly respect what happened in Tunisia. It shows how much the people there are aware,” Ashraf said. “[Tunisians] are a group of people who learned and got themselves educated; they decided all together to fight for their rights and not to give up until they get it all. They knew pretty well that their dignity comes before their bread, and that their bread is related directly to their country’s policies. When our people follow such footsteps we will get the change we want. I am really frustrated from the many suicide cases by fire in Egypt since the Tunisian revolution.”

At least nine Egyptians
have set themselves on fire from frustration of the government, following the suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, from Tunisia. It is believed Bouazizi’s self-immolation triggered the Tunisian uprising.  Seven Algerians have also committed suicide for the same reason.

Revolution is achievable in Egypt, Ashraf said, but education and voting registration are crucial at this stage.

“Non-educated ones here are not just the illiterate people -- they are much more. They are every single person who doesn’t know his right or even call for his right. Protests and revolution will come later on as a result of this process.

“We need to register to vote as much as we can, and we need much more people to participate in elections. There is no doubt that the peaceful change is much better than the non-peaceful one,” he said.  “Yeah, it will be hard to change through elections, but who said that change is easy anyway?”

Egyptians Abroad

Frustration with the Egyptian dictatorship regime is not only expressed by Egyptians who are living in Egypt. Egyptians living abroad are aggravated and also support protesting as a way of expression.

Nancy El-Gindy, an Egyptian living in Canada, believes protests are effective, even if it’s the minority.

“Historically protesting and causing instability within a country in general has made a difference, including in authoritarian countries,” El-Gindy, the 27-year-old historian, said. “They may take a while longer, but as long as the people continue to put serious pressure on the government and attract international attention, it is possible. This sort of thing needs real dedication to the cause and continued pressure - the smallest of changes will definitely not happen by saying that protesting won't work and instead staying at home.”

El-Gindy believes both education and protests are crucial in such situations.

They do go hand in hand, but some rights are innately understood, such as basic shelter and food. I think people already understand that there's widespread injustice, and that many of their rights are not met by the government.  [Protests are] the only thing people that are totally oppressed can do, as long as it's peaceful.

Voices heard through protests

Other Egyptian youth believe that although attending protests will have minimal effect, voicing their concern via major protests can be pertinent and serve as a crucial precedent to the next major step for change.

22-year-old Egyptian English instructor, Haggar Haggag, has attended protests in Egypt before but witnessed no change afterwards.

“The problem is people don't see any effect for what they do, nothing changed, and more people die every day and nothing they do can change the Minister of Interior or make the police respect our rights. It's like nothing you can do will make a difference,” she said. “So they'd rather stay safe at home.”

“We should show up at the protests to express ourselves and to let the government and everyone know that we are well aware of our rights and we are not giving up. If protests don't work, everyone should do their best at what they do and start giving hope to others that tomorrow can be better if they started speaking up,” she said.  “The greater the number of people who believe in a better Egypt, the stronger we are.”

Enough is enough

Attending protests, voicing concerns via social media, and educating others about the corruption and injustice in Egypt are all different ways of opposing the government. Although not all will take to the streets on Jan. 25, the majority of Egyptians generally agree on one thing.

Ahmed Azab, a 23 year old Egyptian who works in a contracting and trading company, shares the uniting view of Egyptians of all social classes, age and religion.

“Where’s the democracy? Why is Mubarak staying all of these years? And the most important thing is where is our human rights? … Mubarak is a great man and he did many things for us, but now he reached a level where he can’t do any correct and useful decisions for the Egyptians.”

Mahfouz still believes the protest will have a positive outcome and reiterates the importance of a large mass of attendance and advises the protesters who are attending to stand their grounds and be peaceful, and to arm themselves with their camera phones.

“We have to stay united and be hand-in-hand so that we become one united block. And the chants should be organized,” Mahfouz said. “If police officers try to obstruct anyone from joining the protests, then don’t leave – stay in your place, sit on the ground, and put your hand on your head as a way to show you are not going home and you are peaceful.”


*The person’s real name has been changed in this article under his/her request.

                                Aya Khalil

Aya A. Khalil is a freelance journalist and doing her M.A. in Education at College of Charleston.