The US media and political establishment – increasingly a redundancy – told me that Omar Suleiman was managing the transition in Egypt very well, and talking to the opposition groups, and that progress was being made and life was returning to normal and we can all put this out of our heads presently. Somebody forgot to send the message to the people of Egypt:
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have poured into Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square as protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, entered their 15th day despite a slew of concessions announced by the government.
Tens of thousands of protesters have also come out on the streets in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city.
There were also reports of a protest outside the parliament building in the capital. A witness said at least a thousand people had gathered at the spot and more were coming in.
According to Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the Egyptian capital, the crowd at Tahrir Square grew rapidly on Tuesday afternoon, with many first-timers joining protesters seeking Mubarak’s immediate ouster.
The newcomers said they had been inspired in part by the release of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive, after what he said was two weeks of detention by state security authorities.
“I came here for the first time today because this cabinet is a failure, Mubarak is still meeting the same ugly faces … he can’t believe it is over. He is a very stubborn man,” Afaf Naged, a former member of the board of directors of the state-owned National Bank of Egypt, said.
Yes, you read that right, the former board member of the national bank is out in the square.
I was on Virtually Speaking with Professor Juan Cole last night, despairing that the US has thrown in its lot with the torture chief Suleiman and undertaken this concerted effort to avert the eyes of the world away from Tahrir Square. This could pave the way for government repression, the rounding up of the activists, and an end to any hope of a better future. But Cole was oddly confident, saying that the Iranian Green movement didn’t have as clear a goal as the protesters in Egypt, who clearly want nothing less than the removal of Hosni Mubarak from office. And they have the desire to bear witness to the brutality that the regime has already employed. A video of a protester being shot by secret police in Alexandria bounced around the country yesterday. Wael Ghonim’s detention has become another symbol.
The Mubarak regime continues to scramble, forming a committee to review constitutional reforms, promising more talks with protesters and an investigation into the violence. Suleiman and Mubarak promised that protesters would not be prosecuted for their actions. At the same time they are playing on the fears of the great masses of the public, intimating that the protests are hurting them economically. But the protesters have no trust in the regime to make good on their promises.
I feel more hopeful for the protesters today because of their resolve than I did when it appeared that the US was successfully stage-managing.