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Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

How to Crush a Revolution

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In common with journalists and human rights workers, Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey was beaten by regime thugs today, and his blog closed down. Fotunately his last post was reposted at War in Context. And here it is below, a depressing (I hope against hope he’s being overly pessimistic) account of the last days.

The End is near,” Sandmonkey writes. “I have no illusions about this regime or its leader, and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay “because he has to acquiesce to the voice of the people”. This is a losing battle and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we can’t.”

I don’t know how to start writing this. I have been battling fatigue for not sleeping properly for the past 10 days, moving from one’s friend house to another friend’s house, almost never spending a night in my home, facing a very well funded and well organized ruthless regime that views me as nothing but an annoying bug that its time to squash will come. The situation here is bleak to say the least.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Egypt

Tagged with

Bloodbath

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photo by AP

When the pro-Mubarak protestors appeared on the streets yesterday they were a comical sight. The small crowd near the Egyptian TV building (so obviously a propaganda set-up) were surrounded and outnumbered by police. It was as if they were trying to remind Egyptians what a traditional demonstration should look like. It was a vision from a previous age, but not quite authentic because the police didn’t break any heads.

Last night Mubarak announced he would step down at the next election. In his last months in power he would arrange an orderly transition of power. This is the ‘managed’ change that Tony Blair, Obama and Netanyahu want. In other words, the survival of the regime, under the torturer and sadist Omar Suleiman if not under Mubarak, co-existing with an impotent parliament which would emerge from slightly-less-rigged elections.

The enormous crowds in Maydan Tahreer, Alexandria, Suez, Mahalla al-Kubra and elsewhere met Mubarak’s speech with howls of derision. But by this morning it seems that the regime has succeeeded in splitting the democracy movement. The hardcore are entirely aware of the threat to the revolution, and will not retreat. Those who are less politically conscious, however, feel that they’ve won a victory and should now go home, lest chaos ensues.

This has been Mubarak’s argument: without me, chaos. It’s certainly true that Egypt needs a resolution soon. The already precarious economy has been on hold for over a week and basic food supplies are running low. Until this morning it seemed regime strategy was to exhaust the revolution.

But now the regime is speeding things up, by engineering chaos. Interior ministy goons masquerading as ‘pro-Mubarak protestors’ have poured into Maydan Tahreer, many on horse and camel back, armed with whips, machetes and sticks. Gunfire has been heard. The army is doing absolutely nothing to protect the people. Earlier today an army spokesman on state TV told the revolutionaries to go home. Old men, women and children are amongst the crowd in Maydan Tahreer. This is going to be very bloody indeed.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Egypt

IRNA

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I was interviewed on the revolutionary events by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency. Here’s the result in English, and in Farsi.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Arabism, Egypt

January 25th

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The day the revolution started. In the second film Waseem Wagdi, an Egyptian protesting outside the embassy in London, says it all, beautifully.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

January 31, 2011 at 1:39 am

Posted in Egypt

Tagged with

Sovereignty

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Photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/ Reuters

My past experience talking to Egyptians, in Egypt and around the world, is that 95% of them hate Husni Mubarak and the humiliation he’s brought upon their once great country. When I ask of their hopes for change, they answer with the bitter resignation common to all Arabs: “Nothing will change. His son will come after him. People are more interested in football, or their next meal.” Arabs from other countries also despair of escaping their state of stagnation. Some like to repeat the Arabic phrase al-‘arab jarab, or ‘the Arabs are scabies.’

But that was then. That was until the Tunisian revolution, which has now reached the centre of the Arab world. Egypt’s Friday of Rage was a beautiful revolutionary moment, when individuals, having witnessed the strength of their protesting compatriots over the previous days, suddenly realised they were not alone. After Friday prayers, a nation claimed sovereignty over its streets – young people, the unemployed, professionals, workers, students, families. The people who didn’t demonstrate provided food, drinks and tear gas remedies to those who did (which means that womens’ participation has been much greater than TV pictures show). On at least one occasion, Christians guarded a Muslim mass prayer under assault by police.

And in Suez, Luxor, Alexandria and Cairo they defeated the police. They torched police stations and police vehicles, as well as the headquarters of the ruling (and absurdly named) National Democratic Party. (The Israeli embassy, meanwhile, has helicoptered its entire staff out of Cairo. One slogan being chanted: ya mubarak ya ameel/ ba’at biladak l-isra’il, or ‘Mubarak you Foreign Agent, You Sold your Country to Israel.’ Tonight the only Israeli flag flying in the Arab world is in Amman.)

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

January 29, 2011 at 11:37 pm

A Crucial Moment

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Whose day will it be?

Today is crucial, and could go very badly. The Egyptian gangster regime and its backers have clearly decided to use maximum force to end the popular challenge. At 12.34 this morning, Egypt’s entire internet service was closed down – the largest shutdown in history. Mobile phone services have also been suspended, and al-Jazeera has been taken off the Egyptian air. An al-Jazeera journalist has been beaten up by regime thugs. There are reports that French and British journalists have also been beaten or detained. A CNN crew have had their cameras smashed. Obviously, news is harder to come by today.

Last night senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested (see Jonathan Wright’s reflection on the Brotherhood role). Now it seems Muhammad al-Baradei has been arrested after leading a protest in Giza. Protests have erupted in Cairo, in Sinai’s al-Arish, in Minya and Assiut in upper Egypt, in Ismailiya, in Alexandria. Roads leading to Suez, where regime forces have lost control, have been closed.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

January 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Egypt

Scenes from the Egyptian Intifada

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Al-Masry al-Yowm says of Egypt’s stock market crash today, “The crash, which brought year-to-date losses to almost 21 percent, hit at the core of some of the regime’s main accomplishments. The president has built his legacy continuing and expanding the open market policies launched by his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in the 1970s.” Meanwhile ex-UN nuclear inspector Muhammad al-Baradei is returning to Egypt to (perhaps presumpteously) lead the protests. And the Muslim Brotherhood has finally expressed support for the demonstrations. “We are not pushing this movement, but we are moving with it. We don’t wish to lead it but we want to be part of it,” said Mohammed Mursi, a senior Brotherhood leader.

In this highly recommended interview, Egyptian journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy contextualises Egypt’s intifada  against earlier mass protests on behalf of Palestine and Iraq. “The regional is local here,” he says. Here Asa’ad Abu Khalil provides a list of slogans heard in recent days. And here are three short films which capture some of the unfolding drama. In the first, journalists demanding police release their colleague Yahya Qlash turn to chanting Fall, Fall, Mubarak, and al-intifada mustamura (The Intifada Continues), and Go, Go, We Don’t Want You, and finally hurriya (Freedom). In the second, a crowd facing off the police chants (if I hear correctly) – One, Two, The Egyptian People Are Alive. The third shows chilling scenes as the police cleared Maydan Tahreer on the first night.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

January 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Egypt