Wednesday, February 09, 2011

From Protests To Strikes; Egyptian Opposition Takes New Tact

After more than two weeks of protests and riots, opponents of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak have decided to try another tact to dislodge Mubarak from power.

They're going on strike.
In the most potentially significant action, about 6,000 workers at five service companies owned by the Suez Canal Authority — a major component of the Egyptian economy — began a sit-in on Tuesday night. There was no immediate suggestion of disruptions to shipping in the canal, a vital international waterway leading from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

More than 2,000 textile workers and others in Suez demonstrated as well, Al Ahram reported, while in Luxor thousands hurt by the collapse of the tourist industry marched to demand government benefits. There was no immediate independent corroboration of the reports. Al Ahram’s coverage was a departure from its usual practice of avoiding reporting that might embarrass the government.

At one factory in the textile town of Mahalla, more than striking 1,500 workers blocked roads, continuing a long-running dispute with the owner. And more than 2,000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in the city of Quesna went on strike while some 5,000 unemployed youth stormed a government building in Aswan, demanding the dismissal of the governor.

For many foreign visitors to Egypt, Aswan is known as a starting point or destination for luxury cruises to and from Luxor on the Nile River.

In Cairo, sanitation workers demonstrated around their headquarters in Dokki.

The Egyptian economy is already teetering because of the ongoing protests, which have scared off tourists, who comprise one of the largest segments of Egyptian revenues. Strikes would further cripple the economy.

But that doesn't mean that protests and riots haven't continued in Tahrir Square. Several more people were killed and dozens injured in and around Tahrir Square as skirmishes between the opposition and pro-Mubarak thugs continued.

Mubarak's newly promoted Vice President Omar Suleiman isn't exactly a paragon of virtue, and he's keeping his security forces quite busy with their makeshift torture chambers across Cairo. It's wishful thinking to believe that Suleiman is part of a better future for Egyptians as he's wedded to the existing regime and stands to lose his power should Mubarak be swept away. The concessions made thus far aren't sufficient to placate Egyptians who have seen decades of autocratic and kleptocratic rule. Suleiman has done nothing to end the emergency law that has been in place since Mubarak assumed power 30 years ago, which essentially treats Egypt as being under martial law and gives Mubarak nearly unlimited power.

Egyptian security is continuing to clash with anti-Mubarak protesters while the Tahrir Square protests continue unabated and they're settling in for the long run:

Then, there's the impact of Google executive Wael Ghomin, who was detained by the government and later released to the relief of the anti-Mubarak crowds. Ghomin was behind an effort to memorialize the death of another Egyptian blogger at the hands of Egyptian authorities, and that launched his role as an opposition leader.
He also admitted that he was the anonymous administrator of the Facebook group “We Are All Khaled Said” – one of the most influential rallying points on the Web for Egypt’s raging anti-government protesters.

By turning Khaled Said --an internet blogger who was beaten to death by police in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in June 2010 - into a symbol of Egyptian resistance, Ghonim inadvertently set himself up to become the icon of the revolt.

No longer behind the keyboard

“Long live Egypt!” Ghonim yelled out to the thousands of protesters in Tahrir who rejoiced in his first public appearance the day after his release. “We will not abandon our demand, and that is the departure of the regime,” he told the crowd.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, someone in a crowd reminded Wael that 100,000 people on Facebook were asking him to be the spokesman for the uprising.

“Will you do it?" the man wanted to know."I don't know," said a teary and still reluctant hero.
It would appear that he's got more support than ElBaradei.

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