Face Book message that started it all
A 26-year-old woman worried about the state of her country wrote on Facebook: “People, I am going to Tahrir Square”. The message was soon to snowball into a movement to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The Facebook appeal by Asmaa Mahfouz led to popular protests that saw tens of thousands congregating at Tahrir Square to demand an end to Mubarak’s unbridled 30-year rule. Mubarak has said he is ready to step down at the end of his term in September, but has refused to quit immediately now.
Violent clashes during the protests have left six dead and over 800 injured. Asmaa Mahfouz told Al-Mihwar TV the first activity was on Facebook. “Yes. I was angry that everybody was saying that we had to take action, but nobody was doing anything. So I wrote on Facebook: ‘People, I am going to Tahrir Square today’. This was a week before January 25.”
“I wrote that I was going to demand the…rights of my country. I wrote that I was 26 years old…,” the Middle East Media Research Institute quoted her as saying.
Asmaa said she wrote on Facebook that whoever is worried about Egypt should accompany her to Tahrir Square. “There were lots of messages saying: Wait until January 25. I said: There is no reason to wait for the 25th. I went to Tahrir Square and raised a sign,” she recounted. That snowballed into the unrest which has rocked Egypt for the past 10 days.
Egypt braces for Mubarak’s ‘day of departure’ rallies
Egyptians fighting to oust President Hosni Mubarak hoped to rally a million people on Friday as the United States worked to convince the 82-year-old leader to begin handing over power. A senior US official, who declined to be named, said on Thursday Washington was discussing with Egyptians different scenarios, including one in which Mubarak resigned immediately. Mubarak, however, speaking in an interview with ABC on Thursday, said he believed his country still needed him.
“If I resign today, there will be chaos,” Mubarak, who has promised to step down in September, said. Asked to comment on calls for him to resign, he said: “I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country.”
In Cairo’s Tahrir Square — the hub of protests now into their 11th day — thousands who had defied a curfew and attacks on Wednesday by pro-Mubarak supporters — were preparing for a rally they had dubbed the “Friday of Departure”.
Organisers called on people to march from wherever they were towards the square, the state television building and the parliament building — all within around a mile of one another. By daybreak, shouts of “Let Mubarak fall … Let Mubarak fall … Let Mubarak fall” pulsed across the square. With the unprecedented challenge to Mubarak’s 30-year-rule turning increasingly violent, Washington has been urging Egypt to begin the transition of power and move towards elections. US in talks over possible Mubarak exit A senior official in the administration of President Barack Obama said various options were being discussed with Egyptian officials, including one in which Mubarak resigned immediately.
“That’s one scenario,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There are a number of scenarios, but (it is) wrong to suggest we have discussed only one with the Egyptians.” The New York Times cited US officials and Arab diplomats as saying Washington was discussing a plan for Mubarak to hand over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military.
“They should mind their own business” However, it also quoted a senior Egyptian official as saying the constitution did not allow this. “That’s my technical answer,” he added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.” Suleiman also hinted at irritation with US interference in a television interview on Thursday.
“There are some abnormal ways by which foreign countries have intervened through press declarations and statements. This was very strange, given the friendly relations between us and them,” he said. Obama and his top aides have carefully avoided calling for Mubarak’s resignation, instead insisting that an orderly transition “must begin now”. An estimated 150 people have died in the unrest which was inspired in part by protests in Tunisia which forced Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee last month and which have since spread to other parts of the Middle East. In the most dramatic spike in violence, pro-Mubarak supporters attacked protesters in Tahrir Square on Wednesday and pitched battles broke out between the two sides. The government denied accusations by the protesters and international activists that they had instigated the attack.
The government has offered talks on reforms, but that has failed to satisfy protesters who want Mubarak to leave now. The opposition — which includes the liberal figurehead Mohamed ElBaradei and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood — has rejected talks until Mubarak resigns. They say they want democracy rather than Mubarak’s replacement by another leader drawn from the army, which has dominated Egypt since it toppled the monarchy in 1952.
The United States supplies the Egyptian army with about $1.3 billion in aid annually. Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has been a key US ally in the Middle East. Mubarak had also justified his use of emergency rule as needed to curb Islamist militancy in a country where al-Qaida had its ideological roots. Mubarak described Obama as a very good man, but when asked by ABC if he felt that the United States had betrayed him, he said he told the US president: “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”
Khamenei Calls it:Arab uprisings & sign of ‘Islamic awakening
A wave of uprisings in Arab countries is a sign of an “Islamic awakening” which was envisaged when the 1979 Iranian revolution took place, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday.
“Today’s events in North Africa, Egypt and Tunisia and some other countries have different meanings for us,” Khamenei, the commander-in-chief and spiritual guide of Iran, said in a sermon at Tehran university during the Muslim weekly prayers.
“This is what was always talked about as the occurrence of Islamic awakening at the time of the Islamic revolution of the great Iranian nation and is showing itself today.”
Khamenei’s remarks were received by cheering crowds of worshippers who, raising their hands, chanted “Death to America! Death to Israel!”
The sermon marked the first time in seven months that Khamenei has addressed the weekly Friday prayers and came as protesters were massing in Egypt for sweeping “departure day” demonstrations to force President Hosni Mubarak to quit.
Top Iranian officials have backed the revolt in Egypt and have warned Tehran’s arch-foe Washington against “interfering” in the what they say is a movement of the people.
Always Yours — As Usual—- Saurabh Singh
Source URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Egypt-braces-for-Mubaraks-day-of-departure-rallies/articleshow/7423241.cms