Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt -- a people's protest

This is so incredible--I am watching live coverage of what's going on in Egypt. Seventeen police stations were looted and all the weapons were stolen. So the police, who were attacking the demonstrators, are gone. The army arrived and was cheered by the protesters. What is amazing to me is that at this point the army has not attacked the protestors or the looters in the wealthy areas. The protestors are sitting on the tanks. Soldiers are talking and mingling with the protesters.

Two days ago, digital media and TV were cut off by Mubarek, but the protest goes on. A reporter said there are hundreds of thousands people in and around the main square. Some of them are camping out.

Mubarek refuses to leave and has appointed two of his old guard as Vice Presidents, which is to the protesters simply a reshuffling of the deck, so no one is leaving. And since the army has not attacked, there is a peaceful protest. In the sixties and seventies, I always said that when the police arrived, we knew there would be trouble. This seems to prove that.

The people want freedom of speech and free elections.

We have seen these relatively peaceful (48 people have been killed) protests succeed. The whole world is watching and several governments have publicly supported peaceful protests and more freedom and free elections in Egypt. They have not said directly that Mubarek must leave--and politically they can't. The biggest unknown is who would replace Mubarek and would his government support the peace agreement with Israel.

Israel is appropriately silent. They have the most to lose if the peace agreement is not upheld by a new government. If the muslim brotherhood takes power--they are the largest organized political party in Egypt--the peace agreement probably goes. The other question is what would happen to access to the Suez Canal, through which 35,000 ships passed last year.

Despite those unknowns, I am so heartened by this. I thought the army would brutally repress the people, and they still might, but they haven't yet and that is so amazing.

Power to the people takes on meaning in this protest. All of it resonates so fully with the protests we had in the sixties. The issues are not the same. We wanted to stop a war. But we were also fighting for the right to peacefully protest. We were repressed by the police and the national guard, but we kept on. Yemen and Jordan also have protests, which no one is reporting in any depth. Tunisia has already succeeded in getting rid of their president. I hope these protests produce more freedom for people in all of the Middle East countries. As a woman, I identify fully with women's struggle for equal rights in the Middle East. Women fought for 100 years in our country to get where we are now. They deserve the same rights we have.

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