Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26 - Second Day of Rage & Street Protests

In a number of Egyptian cities, tens of thousands are reported to have protested against the Mubarak regime for the second consecutive day. In Cairo several thousand took to the streets in marches and protest stands were they demanded the resignation and exile of Dictator Mubarak, along with his family and government.

Throughout the day, protests and clashes with police took place in numerous locations across the city. Hundreds of arrests were reported as police struggled to crush these street protests. Police tactics on this second day were clearly more intolerant, oppressive, violent and brutal.

At night in Downtown Cairo nearly 1,000 protested outside and within the Lawyers' Syndicate. Bystanders were shoved-off and threatened with arrest.

Just across the corner around 200 conducted a protest stand outside the Journalists' Syndicate. Teargas filled the air, while countless protesters and passersby were pushed and beaten away.

On Qasr el-Nil Bridge plain-clothed policemen arrested scores of youth protesters who were beaten, insulted and cursed before being shoved into police vans and driven-away.

On Suleiman Pasha street protesters set tires on fire and hurled rocks at riot police. Riot police attacked with their batons, hurled rocks back and fired teargas at the protesters.

In the neighborhoods of Bulaq Abul-Ela and Wekalet al-Balah, protesters bravely fought against riot police and their armored vehicles. Two were reported killed in these clashes, while nearly 100 were injured and/or arrested - including tens of journalists and photographers.

Larger protests against are planned for Friday and Saturday.

Massive Protest March Against Mubarak in Alexandria

On January 25th - Egyptian Police Day - hundreds of thousands participated in street protests across the country. In Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria an estimated 20,000 are reported to have protested against the Egyptian police and the Mubarak dictatorship - along with poverty, unemployment, corruption, systematic human rights violations, and torture.

One of Alexandria's many protest marches began in the Sidi Bishr neighborhood at 2pm - with around 300 activists chanting and marching through its streets and alleys - a couple of hours later this march grew to around 800 when local residents joined-in.

Around three hours later, this protest march merged into another and thus approximately 2,000 people (including youth, men. women, children, the elderly, Muslims and Christians) began marching beyond Sidi Bishr. Emboldened by their numerical strength, a handful of youth activists began tearing down congratulatory banners for Egyptian Police Day. Then banners with messages supporting Dictator Hosni Mubarak were torn down along with the march. Numerous photos, banners and portraits of the Egyptian dictator, and his son Gamal, were ripped apart or smashed to pieces.

However, the protesters were overwhelmingly non-violent. The majority of these marchers chanted "We want it peaceful! Peaceful!" when anybody hurled rocks at police officers or police stations along the way. In the Mohamed Naguib neighborhood, tens of youth activists hurled rocks at a firetruck which had been deployed along the marchers' route. Without having the opportunity to use its water-cannons, the firetruck quickly backed-up and sped-off, away from the protesters and out of the neighborhood.

The police forces/pigs were unusually restrained during the course of this March. That is until approximately 7:45pm (at which time the march had grown to include some 5,000 Alexandrians) when the marchers arrived at the Sidi Gaber neighborhood. Armored vehicles deployed in Sidi Gaber rapidly began firing teargas canisters amongst the protesters.

Protesters responded by hurling rocks at the riot police forces and their officers. Slogans and chants immediately turned in curses directed against the police, Minister of Interior Habib "el-Butcher" Adly, and Dictator Mubarak. Plain-clothed police began arresting protesters, while riot police hurled rocks back and fired more teargas canisters. Dozens of protesters were injured and many more suffered from teargas inhalation.

The police managed to turn an overwhelmingly non-violent march into a series of running street battles. A police pick-up truck parked nearby was smashed and flipped over on its side. Angry youth then used it as a barricade, from behind which they hurled rocks at the police. These street battles raged-on for nearly an hour.

Other peaceful protest stands and marches were similarly crushed. The police began with the aggression on this day. Yet Egyptian protesters have proven willing and able to resist these aggressors. Egyptians have apparently discovered that the best way to celebrate Egyptian Police Day is to confront these brutal oppressors and torturers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three dead in Egypt protests

Al Jazeera
Three dead in Egypt protests
25 Jan 2011

Tear gas used to disperse thousands of demonstrators in central Cairo after a day of protests against the government.

Two civilians and a police officer have died after a wave of unusually large anti-government demonstrations swept across Egypt, calling for the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

In central Cairo, crowds numbering in the thousands protested and clashed with police throughout the day. Shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, security forces violently dispersed those who remained in Tahrir Square, the heart of the city, Al Jazeera's Adam Makary reported.

Security officers fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to drive the protesters from the square, where they had chosen to remain throughout the night in protest. An Al Jazeera cameraman was shot with rubber bullets several times, including once in the face, Makary said.

Telephone communication with people in central Cairo was nearly impossible, but Makary reported that the crowds, which had been peaceful, had been forced to escape the police, who fired dozens of tear gas canisters.

Deadly protests

The protests in Cairo were reportedly the largest in the country on Tuesday, a date chosen by activists to emulate the recent uprising in nearby Tunisia.

But demonstrations occurred throughout Egypt.

Two civilians died in the eastern city of Suez, according to an interior ministry official. One, who had respiratory problems, died after inhaling tear gas; the other died after being hit with a rock thrown during a protest, the official said.

In Cairo, a police officer died after being hit in the head with a rock during earlier protests in Tahrir Square, the official said.

The demonstrations were reportedly the largest in years, rivaling those held against the Iraq War in 2003 and in favor of free elections and civil society reforms in 2005.

On Tuesday night, hours after the countrywide protests began, the interior ministry issued a statement blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's technically banned but largest opposition party, for fomenting the unrest.

But the Brotherhood denied the accusation and had earlier stated its intention to stay out of the protest; indeed, some observers noted the lack of Brotherhood mobilization on Tuesday.

Inspired by events in Tunisia, thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo and elsewhere, calling for reforms and demanding an end to Mubarak's presidency, which has now lasted for nearly three decades.

The scale of the demonstrations prompted US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to assert during a press conference that "Egypt's government is stable."

Water cannons and tear gas

Some protesters in Cairo hurled rocks and climbed atop an armoured police truck.

Police responded to the demonstrators with blasts from a water cannon and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas.

Amateur video posted on YouTube showed crowds of Egyptians pushing against and breaking through police cordons.

Police have also used rubber bullets against protesters, resulting in some injuries, reported Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Cairo.

Clinton urged all sides in Egypt to exercise restraint following the street protests, saying she believed the government was looking for ways to respond to its populations concerns.

But at least 30 people are already reported to have been arrested in Cairo, official sources said.

Online campaigning

Protests also broke out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura and Tanta, and in the southern cities of Aswan and Assiut, witnesses reported.

The rallies had been promoted online by groups saying they speak for young Egyptians frustrated by the kind of poverty and oppression which triggered the overthrow of Tunisia's president. More than 80,000 people signed a Facebook group saying they would participate in the protests.

Egyptian blogger Hossam El Hamalawy told Al Jazeera that new media had been important in facilitating "the domino effect" needed for demonstrations like this one to progress, but he noted that it was the people in the street making the difference.

"We want a functioning government, we want Mubarak to step down, we don't want emergency law, we don't want to live under this kind of oppression anymore," Mamdouh Khayrat, a 23-year-old man who travelled from the governorate of Qalubiya to attend the protests, told Al Jazeera's Makary in Cairo.

"Enough is enough, things have to change and if Tunisia can do it, why can't we?"

El Hamalawy told Al Jazeera the protests were necessary "to send a message to the Egyptian regime that Mubarak is no different than Ben Ali and we want him to leave too."

Black-clad riot police, backed by armoured vehicles and fire engines, were deployed in a massive security operation in Cairo. They were said to concentrate on a few likely flashpoints, including the Cairo University campus, Tahrir Square, and a main courthouse.

Coinciding with a national holiday in honour of the police, a key force in keeping president Mubarak in power for 30 years, the outcome in Egypt on Tuesday was seen as a test of whether vibrant web activism can translate into street action.

"Activists said they wanted to use this particular day to highlight the irony of celebrating Egypt's police at a time when police brutality is making headlines," Al Jazeera's Rageh reported.

'Beginning of the end'

The Egyptian government had earlier warned potential protesters.

"The security apparatus will deal firmly and decisively with any attempt to break the law," the government's director for security in Cairo said in a statement released ahead of the protests.

Since Egypt bans demonstrations without prior permission, and opposition groups say they have been denied such permits, any protesters may be detained.

Habib el-Adli, the interior minister, had earlier issued orders to "arrest any persons expressing their views illegally."

Activists have been relying heavily on social networks to organise the protests.

"Our protest on the 25th is the beginning of the end," the organisers of the Facebook protest group wrote.

"People are fed up of Mubarak and of his dictatorship and of his torture chambers and of his failed economic policies. If Mubarak is not overthrown tomorrow then it will be the day after. If its not the day after its going to be next week," El Hamalawy told Al Jazeera.

Protests in Egypt, the biggest Arab state and a keystone Western ally in the Middle East, tend to be poorly attended and are often quashed swiftly by the police, who prevent marching.

*Al Jazeera and agencies

Egypt: Opposition hopes for Tunisia-style revolution

Agence France-Presse
Egypt opposition hopes for Tunisia-style protests

January 24, 2011

By Mona Salem (AFP)

CAIRO — Egyptian opposition groups have launched a nationwide call for protests on Tuesday, in the hope that Tunisia's popular uprising will embolden crowds to take to the streets in support of economic and political reforms.

Inspired by a wave of street protests that ended the rule of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, organisers have urged Egyptians to join the protest dubbed "the day of revolt against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment."

At least 87,000 people have said they will participate on a specially created page on the social networking site Facebook, despite interior ministry warnings that it will deal "firmly" if people behave illegally.

The call was first launched by pro-democracy youth group the April 6 Movement, and received the backing of others.

Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has expressed support for the protest, saying recently that opponents of Egypt's long-running regime should be able to follow the lead set by Tunisia.

"If the Tunisians have done it, Egyptians should get there too," the former UN nuclear watchdog chief told Germany's Der Spiegel in an interview.

A statement by ElBaradei's National Association for Change said that several of its members had been summoned by security services in the run-up to Tuesday's demonstrations.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most organised opposition movement, and the liberal Wafd -- Egypt's oldest opposition party -- have not formally endorsed the demonstrations, but have said many of their members will take part.

Amnesty International in a statement urged the authorities not to crack down on Tuesday's planned protests.

"Egypt needs to allow peaceful protests, and stop arresting and intimidating peaceful opposition activists," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for its Middle East and North Africa programme.

"The country's security forces have a worrying record when dealing with demonstrators, and we urge them to refrain from excessive and disproportionate force tomorrow."

In December, the self-immolation of 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi unleashed a wave of street riots across the North African country that culminated in the dramatic ouster of Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

Bouazizi's attempt to draw attention to economic hardship and repression sparked a series of copycat public torchings in Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Tunisian grievances have been echoed throughout the Arab world, whose mainly autocratic leaders were left unnerved by events in Tunisia.

Egyptians have long complained of economic difficulties, and Cairo has come under repeated criticism for failing to lift an emergency law in place for three decades.

The controversial law, which gives police wide powers of arrest, suspends constitutional rights and curbs non-governmental political activity, was renewed in 2010 for a further two years.

The opposition has repeatedly called for clean and democratic elections and rejected perceived plans for Gamal Mubarak, the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to take power after his father.

Mubarak, 82, has been in power since 1981 and has yet to announce whether he will run for a fifth six-year term in elections scheduled for September.

The authorities have rejected the idea that the Tunisian scenario could spill over into Egypt.

But in a sign of anxiety over public discontent, authorities have recently tried to reassure the public that subsidies on basic commodities will remain in place.

Around 40 percent of Egypt's 80-million population live on around two dollars per day, and a large part of the population relies on subsidised goods.

However, analysts have expressed doubt that Tunisia's uprising will have a short-term impact on Egypt, saying that unlike Tunisia, the Egyptian regime had managed to give the opposition a margin of freedom.

The Egyptian army, from whose ranks all presidents have emerged, is also deemed loyal to the regime, they say.

Sudanese dies after setting himself on fire

Agence France-Presse
Sudanese man dies after setting himself on fire
Jan. 25, 2011

KHARTOUM — A 25-year-old Sudanese man who was hospitalised at the weekend after setting himself on fire in a suburb of Khartoum died from his wounds on Tuesday, medical sources said.

Al-Amin Musa Al-Amin, a labourer from Darfur, poured petrol over himself shortly after Friday prayers and lit it as he stood in Suq al-Shaabi, a market in Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city, witnesses said.

The young man was rushed to Omdurman hospital's intensive care unit, where he was treated for second-degree burns. He died at around 2:00 am (2300 GMT Monday), the medical sources told AFP.

The self-immolation in December of a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor in protest at economic hardship and repression triggered a month of street protests that toppled veteran strongman Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

It also sparked a series of copycat public torchings this month in Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Saudi Arabia as well as Sudan.

Widespread economic and political discontent in north Sudan, where the security forces exert tight control, has led to sporadic protests in recent weeks.

Police and students clashed for two days in Gezira, an irrigated farming area south of Khartoum, in protests against tough austerity measures the government pushed through on January 5 in response to escalating import costs.

Last week, armed police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of Sudanese activists demonstrating for the release of Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, who was detained 48 hours earlier after calling for a Tunisia-style uprising.

Saudi Man Dies After Setting Himself on Fire

Saudi Man Dies After Setting Himself on Fire
22 January 2011

Saudi Arabian officials say a man who doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire this week has died from his injuries. The incident could be the first case of self-immolation in the kingdom since a similar incident in Tunisia sparked an anti-government uprising.

Government officials said Saturday the unidentified man was in his 60s and lived in the southwestern town of Samta, near the border with Yemen. News reports say he died Friday in a hospital.

A string of self immolations have been reported in countries including Egypt, Algeria and Morocco since an unemployed university graduate in Tunisia set himself on fire in December.

The Tunisia incident triggered widespread protests over unemployment, high food prices and government policies and eventually led to the ouster of Tunisia's president. There have been other recent protests in the region, in countries including Yemen, Jordan and Algeria.

*With AP, AFP and Reuters

Brief History of Self-Immolation

A Brief History of Self-Immolation
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011

Josh Sanburn

When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight on Dec. 17, he sparked flames far greater than the ones that would ultimately kill him. The Tunisian man, an unemployed college graduate with children to feed, had tried finding work hawking vegetables, but was thwarted by police, who confiscated his cart. So in a grisly act of protest and anguish, Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze.

The act of self-immolation not only triggered the current political crisis in Tunisia, which ousted the president Jan. 14 and has led to a complicated political impasse. It also inspired copycat self-immolations across North Africa, who attempted this very sensational form of suicide as statements of their own desperation and frustration with the authoritarian regimes in their countries. The latest count of protesters who have set themselves on fire in North Africa is up to eight, with four in Algeria, two in Egypt and one in Mauritania, as well as Bouazizi's act in Tunisia.

Legends of people of committing the act of self-immolation date back centuries. The first instance is said to come from Sati, one of the wives of the Hindu god Shiva. According to myths, she married against her father's wishes and then burned herself to death after her father insulted her husband. This story is often linked to the practice of sati, which was a custom in some parts of India where a widow would burn herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband. The practice was outlawed in India in 1829. History through the ages in various parts of the world is lined with tales of female spouses, consorts and concubines being consigned to the flames, often against their will, to join some deceased warrior king or chieftain.

The first and most famous moment of self-immolation as agitprop was that of Thich Quang Duc in 1963. Under the rule of Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam largely advanced the agenda of the country's Catholic minority and discriminated against Buddhist monks. In one of the most dramatic instances of individual protest, Quang Duc doused himself in gasoline in the middle of a Saigon street and lit himself ablaze.

Journalist David Halberstam, who witnessed the monk's self-immolation and won a Pultizer Prize for his war stories, remembered the moment in one of his books, The Making of a Quagmire: "Flames were coming form a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh. ... Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think."

Afterward, four more monks and a nun set themselves ablaze protesting Diem before his regime finally fell in 1963. Rather suddenly, setting oneself on fire became a political act. As the American presence increased in Vietnam in the mid- to late 1960s, more and more monks committed self-immolation, including thirteen in one week. It even took place in the U.S., right outside the Pentagon, when Norman Morrison, an American Quaker burned himself to death while clinging onto his child as a mark of his rejection of the Vietnam War. (His child survived, and Morrison was revered in Vietnam for his purported martyrdom.)

The grim tactic has spread across the globe: Czechoslovaks did it to protest the Soviet invasion in 1968; five Indian students did it to protest job quotas in 1990; a Tibetan monk did it to protest the Indian police stopping an anti-Chinese hunger strike in 1998; Kurds did it to protest Turkey in 1999; outlawed Falun Gong practitioners did it in Tiananmen Square in 2009, at least according to authorities in Beijing.

Only within the last few weeks have such acts of self-immolation caught on in North Africa. They seem to all come out of moments of urgency and helplessness. And sometimes they light fires in the minds of countless others in their midst.

Unemployed Egyptian dies after setting himself on fire

LA Times
EGYPT: Unemployed man dies after setting himself on fire
January 18, 2011

Amro Hassan

A string of suicide attempts in North African nations continued Tuesday as an unemployed Egyptian laborer set himself on fire in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Alexandria's public health office confirmed that Ahmed Hashem Al Sayed, 25, died in a hospital as a result of third-degree burns suffered after he set himself ablaze using fuel on the roof of his house. Officials said an investigation was underway.

Al Sayed's mother told Egyptian media that it was the second time her son tried to commit suicide after becoming distraught over a lack of job opportunities. "My son worked as a builder for 10 Egyptian pounds [less than $2] a day, but he wasn't able to find steady work. He got depressed after realizing that he is 25 and is yet to afford getting married," she told independent news website Al Youm Al Sabee.

"He tried looking for a better job, but no one would hire him because he didn't continue education beyond preschool, which led to his first suicide attempt when he cut his wrist veins with a razor," she said.

On Monday, a 50-year-old man set himself on fire outside the Egyptian parliament's headquarters in Cairo, reportedly after growing frustrated with tough living conditions.

Abdou Abdul Monem was said to have tried to kill himself following a dispute with authorities in the city of Ismailia concerning his monthly coupons for subsidized bread. He remains in a hospital as he is treated for first-degree burns.

Both incidents coincide with recent suicide attempts in Algeria and Mauritania.

Self-immolation attempts have spread across North African countries after the suicide attempt of an unemployed man in Tunisia led to angry demonstrations against unemployment and poverty and ended with the ousting of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Protest Stand in Solidarity with Tunisian Revolution

A protest stand in solidarity with the Tunisian people and their 'Jasmine Revolution' was held outside the Journalists' Syndicate, in downtown Cairo on the evening of January 15th. Around 300 Egyptian activists chanted slogans congratulating the Tunisian people on their successful removal of Dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power.

Several hundred riot police troops and officers, far more than usual, were deployed in front of the Journalists' Syndicate as protesters chanted: "They are terrified of the coming revolution" and "Down with Mubarak!"

Protesters' slogans also called on Mubarak to get ready for his plane-flight to exile in Saudi Arabia. Other slogans called on the Egyptian dictator to take his son Gamal, and his thieves along with him into exile.

Chants mocking the former Tunisian dictator included "Ben Ali where are you? Your mother's looking for you." Protesters promised Dictator Mubarak a revolution which would sweep him and his corrupt regime outside the country.

Numerous Egyptian activists had held a jubilant solidarity stand outside the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo last night upon hearing the news of Ben Ali's overthrow.

Another protest stand in solidarity with the Tunisian Revolution is scheduled for January 25th - outside the Ministry of Interior, in downtown Cairo. This upcoming protest stand will also raise demands for the impeachment of Egypt's Interior Minister, Habib el-Adly.

Arab activists hope Tunisian revolution inspires change

The Associated Press
Arab activists hope Tunisia events inspire change
January 15, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Celebrations over the Tunisian president's ouster spread Saturday as the popular uprising raised hopes throughout the Arab world that it could inspire pressures for reforms across a region dominated by authoritative regimes.

But while Middle East leaders may face bolder calls for change — such as chants against Egypt's Hosni Mubarak — the chances for other ruling systems to crumble quickly in domino-style fashion appear slim.

Many states with deep political rifts, such as Egypt and Iran, maintain vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo and have shown no signs of breaking ranks to join protesters. Still, the stunning rebellion in Tunisia against the 23-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sent an unmistakable message to other leaders that no hold on power is guaranteed.

"Now the bell is ringing and it should be a reminder to other leaders that people are fed up," said political analyst Labib Kamhawi in Jordan, where more than 5,000 people joined rallies on Friday to protest rising prices and demand the prime minister's ouster.

"They need political freedoms and serious economic reforms, that there must be an end to corruption and nepotism," he added.

Dozens of demonstrators rallied outside the Tunisian embassies Saturday in Cairo and Amman, Jordan.

Meanwhile, thousands of messages congratulating the Tunisian people flooded the Internet on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and many people replaced their profile pictures with red Tunisian flags.

Egyptian activists opposed to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade regime danced outside the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo as the news broke on Friday, chanting "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him too!"

Mubarak, 82, faces mounting dissatisfaction over the lack of democratic reform and frequent protests over economic woes in the country, a key U.S. ally.

Egyptian human rights activist Hossam Bahgat said he was glued to the news watching the fall of the Tunisian government and hoped that his countrymen could do the same someday.

"I feel like we are a giant step closer to our own liberation," he told The Associated Press. "What's significant about Tunisia is that literally days ago the regime seemed unshakable, and then eventually democracy prevailed without a single Western state lifting a finger."

Bahgat said the events in Tunisia would boost the confidence of opposition members in a region where leaders often rule for life.

"What happened in Tunisia ... will give unimaginable momentum to the cause for change in Egypt," he said.

News of Ben Ali's flight to Saudi Arabia was splashed on the front pages of all Cairo dailies on Saturday without editorial comment, while the mass-circulation Akhbar al-Youm tried to promote the government's performance on the economy with a dose of patriotism.

"Egypt is on the ascent," declared the paper's banner headline of a new story praising the government's policies on servicing foreign debt and the growth of money held in social insurance and pension funds.

The Arab League appealed for calm in Tunisia as mass chaos broke out following Ben Ali's ouster.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa urged Tunisians Saturday to look to the future and resolve the crisis by national consensus "in a way that guarantees respect for the will of the Tunisian people."

He called the events "dangerous and historic," saying they mark "the beginning of one era and the end of another."

In a statement released Saturday, the African Union condemned the use of violence against demonstrators and expressed its solidarity with the people of Tunisia. It also appealed to Tunisians to remain calm and work together.

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Conference echoed that call.

In Iran, government-run media reported the Tunisian uprising without any analysis or references to the massive protests there after disputed elections last year.

Sudanese opposition leader Mariam al-Sadek said she had mixed feelings about the Tunisian riots: excitement the president was overthrown but sadness that her people haven't done the same.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on an international indictment for war crimes in the western region of Darfur, faces the division of his country after a vote for southern independence, a rebellion in the west and east, and internal opposition.

"What caused this in Tunisia is so little compared to what we are going through," al-Sadek said. "Our country is being divided; our sovereignty is lost and we are humiliated, and this is happening in Tunisia ... I feel ashamed."

Jordanians also held separate protests Friday in several cities over rising prices for fuel and foodstuffs, although King Abdullah II slashed some prices and taxes earlier this week to try to stanch the public anger and ease the burden on the poor.

In Paris, about 200 people, some wearing Tunisian flags as capes, huddled together on the Place des Invalides after being directed away from the nearby Tunisian Embassy.

French police closed off the street where the embassy was located to foot and car traffic.

Haitham Nasri, a 21-year-old university student from the southern city of Sfax in Tunisia who has lived in Paris for two years, said Friday was a day of celebration but warned the mobilization could continue.

"It's like halftime in an important football match, when the home team is up 1-0. We're happy with our performance so far but are regrouping for the second half. We've won the battle but not the war yet," said Nasri, who was wrapped in the red-and-white Tunisian flag.

Mohammed Abdel-Qudous, a veteran Egyptian opposition activist, predicted the ripples from Tunisia to be felt soon in Egypt.

"Egypt is a candidate to be the next Tunisia because conditions in the two countries are very similar," he said. "It is a question of time, nothing more."

*Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Khartoum, Sudan; Jenny Barchfield in Paris; Dale Gavlak and Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan; Hamza Hendawi in Cairo and Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

Ousted Tunisian dictator flees to Saudi Arabia

Financial Times
Exiled Tunisian leader greeted by backlash from Saudi bloggers
January 15 2011

Abeer Allam in Riyadh

As reports surfaced on Friday night that the toppled Tunisian president and his family had arrived in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, Saudi people’s excitement about his downfall quickly turned to frustration with their government’s decision to grant him sanctuary.

Saudi Arabia confirmed on Saturday that former Tunisian president Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family had arrived in the kingdom.

“Due to the current extraordinary circumstances and in support of any measure that would help our brothers in Tunisia, the kingdom welcomes the arrival of the President Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family,’’ a royal court statement on the official Saudi Press Agency read. “The government, however, completely stands by the Tunisian people, hoping that they would unite to overcome such hard times.’’

Using the instant messaging website Twitter and the hashtag #sidibouzid – the town at the heart of the Tunisian revolution – Saudi bloggers and activists have played a key role in spreading news, pictures and videos of the violent protests in Tunisia through.

Saudis have spent nights glued to their computer and television screens watching in awe, as protests rippled across Tunisia. When the autocratic president and his family were forced to leave, they celebrated, online, the success of the first “Arab street revolution’’ which proved that “Arabs have dignity and can revolt.’’

But just as they were speculating about whether Syria or Egypt would be next, their joy turned to anger as they learnt that Ben Ali would living in the kingdom.

“I am ashamed and dishonoured that my country is hosting and protecting a criminal, a dictator and a human rights violator,’’ Bandar al- Nogaithan, a Riyadh-based lawyer told FT. “Why do we have to be a safe haven for dictators? How would Tunisians feel about us now? Even the West refused to receive him.’’

Mr al-Nogaithan’s frustration was echoed by scores of Saudis in Twitter under the hashtag #BenAliInKsa and a Facebook group called: In solidarity with the Tunisians, Saudis against hosting Ben Ali. Hassan Almustafa, a blogger, criticised the move as damaging to Saudi Arabia’s international reputation. Several people pointed out that former dictators like Uganda’s Idi Amin and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif have secretly moved in Saudi Arabia after being ousted, though now it is harder for the government to hide such news.

Internet forums and social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter play a key role in gauging Saudi public opinion because protests and public gathering are banned. The internet is about the only outlet where Saudis can debate and express their opinion freely.

Jeddah residents were particularly upset that Ben Ali had landed in the city, noting that it has been plagued by torrential rain, overflowing sewage, insects and now the Tunisian ex-president.

Saad al-Dorasi, 30, an engineer from Jeddah, told FT that there was a general sense of discomfort among people in the port city.

“We are very upset because the uprising in Tunisia had a very symbolic meaning and we should not be associated with saving him,’’ Mr al-Dosari said. ``This is the first time in the Arab world that a dictator was uprooted by his people. Even if the government is trying to help, it just does not feel right. ’’

Meanwhile, Saudi Islamists pointed to Mr Ben Ali’s secular policies which they said marginalised islam, claiming that `Muslims has’ revolted to restore respect for Islam. One said on his Twitter feed that the harshest punishment against Ben Ali, who banned `the call for prayer, Koran, and the veil is to be surrounded by veiled and munaqabat [face-covered] women and the sound of recital of Koran. ‘’

Many Saudis however, disagree, and called on Tunisia to safeguard its secular state, personal freedoms and progressive family laws.

“The revolution was possible in Tunisia because it is secular state,’’ Mr al-Nogaithan said. ``They do not have clerics ready to mesmerise people and preach obedience to the rulers.

Tunisian Protesters Challenge President's Grip on Power
Tunisian Protesters Challenge President's Grip on Power
14 January 2011

Kate Woodsome

A political drama continues to unfold in Tunisia, where thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital, Tunis, Friday demanding President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's resignation. The street protests come a day after the president sought to tamp-down the political unrest by pledging not to seek another term in office and to push through political and media reforms.

President Ben Ali's concessions appear to be a dramatic reversal of a long-standing policy of repression.

Protesters marching down the main boulevard in central Tunis shouted slogans against the president, calling him an assassin and demanding his removal. Friday's demonstrations were the first test of President Ben Ali's pledge to loosen restrictions on the media, slash food prices and stop security forces from using firearms on demonstrators in a country where freedom of speech has long been suppressed.

"As for your political requests, I understood them," Mr. Ben Ali said in a televised address Thursday evening. "Yes, I understood them and I decided to give press freedom on all levels and will not block access to the Internet, and there will be no more scrutiny over the media. However, we have to respect our principles and behavior."

The president appeared shaken during his speech, hastily called to try to stop deadly riots over food prices and high unemployment.

The unrest has at times turned deadly, with hospital officials reporting 13 new killings late Thursday. The latest deaths, not officially confirmed, add to the 23 people already reported by the government to have died since the turmoil erupted in December. Rights groups and the opposition say that number is far higher.

Mr. Ben Ali's conciliatory tone in his national address initially sparked celebrations, with one-time critics blessing the president for recognizing his mistakes. Thousands of people poured into the streets to praise Ben Ali’s name.

But a day later, the president's history of alleged corruption caught up with him, sparking new protests. Mr. Ben Ali has ruled Tunisia for 23 years, and he and his family are accused of stealing the country's wealth for their own gain.

One protester, Dilou Thoraya, says a promise to reform is not enough.

"He has done that under the pressure of the people," she noted. "It is too late, there are 70 dead people. While he was doing his speech, there were people dying in Kairouan. We don't have any trust anymore. The police are in charge here, the Ministry of Interior is in charge."

The unrest began in December when an unemployed university graduate set himself on fire after police confiscated his produce stand. Authorities say he was selling the goods without a permit. But the graduate’s suicide struck a chord among Tunisians frustrated by their lack of influence in the country’s long-running political leadership.

*Photo by Reuters

Egypt: Policeman shoots dead Coptic man, injures 5 others

Daily News Egypt
Policeman shoots one Copt dead, injures 5 on Minya train
January 12, 2011

Essam Fadl

CAIRO: An off-duty, low-ranking policeman shot one Christian dead on Tuesday, injuring five of his family members in a shooting inside a train in Samalout city, Minya.

The shooter was arrested at his residence, according to the Ministry of Interior. He was remanded in custody for 15 days pending investigations. The prosecution is accusing Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher of premeditated murder and attempted murder among other charges.

In a statement issued after the accident, the Ministry of Interior said that Abdel-Zaher boarded train number 979 from Assiut to Cairo, and shot the Christian family during the train stop in Samalout using his gun.

The shooting left Fathy Saed Abeid, 71, dead, injured his wife Emily Hanna Takla, 61, Sabah Senot Soliman, 57, Marian Nabil Zaki, 23, Magy Nabil Zaki, 26, and Ihab Ashraf Kamal, 26.

Egyptian authorities played down a sectarian motive for the attack. But conflicting accounts and explanations were provided by officials and eyewitnesses.

A security official said the suspect, who was arrested after the shooting, said in questioning that he had felt "irritated and frustrated" because he was short on money. He did not say he specifically targeted Christians.

Minya governor Ahmed Diaa Al-Din denied that the attacker was religiously motivated.

"It has to do with his personal mental state. It had nothing to do with the religion of his victims," he told AFP. "He boarded the train suddenly and emptied his pistol."
He said that the man tried to shoot two Muslims who wrestled with him but he had run out of ammunition.

While reasons of the attack are not yet revealed, Coptic witnesses told Daily News Egypt that the shooter boarded the train, listened to the Coptic family chatting, took out his gun and started shooting and shouted "Allahu Akbar."

Deputy of Samalout Archbishopric Bishop Moussa told Daily News Egypt that he does not know the reason behind the attack. "It is very strange that the victims are members of one Christian family that have no prior relationship with the shooter.”

The shooting is likely to stoke tensions in the Muslim majority country, where Christians protested for several days after the Jan. 1 bombing of a church in Alexandria that killed up to 23 people — the deadliest attack on Christians in years.

Christians make up a tenth of Egypt's 80 million people and have long complained of unfair treatment. They have accused the government of not doing enough to protect them.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Abdel-Rahman Shahin said that the injured were first sent to Samalout Hospital and then to the Good Shepard Hospital at their families' requests. The body of the dead was sent to Samalout Hospital.

Minya and Abo-Kurkas Archbishoprics issued a statement saying that Takla underwent a surgery to remove her left kidney and the spleen and a doubled tube installation. Sabah Senot Soliman was injured in the liver and underwent a surgery to install a tube in the chest. The rest sustained light injuries.

Soliman and Takla were airlifted to a Cairo hospital.

Tens of Copts protested on Tuesday night in front of Samalout Hospital, chanting slogans condemning the shooting. Protestors clashed with security forces who used teargas canisters to disperse the crowds.

Hospital manager Dr. Mariam Salah told Daily News Egypt five teargas canisters were fired inside the hospital. The staff also found seven bullet shells inside. Daily News Egypt reporters at the scene said they experienced irritation in the eyes in some of the hospital rooms on Wednesday morning.

Pope Shenouda, who traveled to Cleveland Hospital in US for a medical check up, is following up with the latest developments of the attacks. Sources inside the church said that the Pope requested reports from his assistants.

Additional reporting by Jon Jensen and Mohamed Effat for Daily News Egypt and agencies.
*Photo by AFP

Dozens reported killed as Tunisian uprising escalates

Agence France-Presse
Dozens reported killed as Tunisia unrest escalates
(AFP) January 12, 2011

TUNIS — Authorities struggled to contain escalating unrest in Tunisia on Tuesday as labour and human-rights activists said as many as 50 people had been killed in protests against unemployment.

The government said only 21 people had died in the three days of violence however and challenged critics to prove the higher toll.

As the United States said it was "deeply concerned" by reports that authorities had used excessive force against protesters, police broke up fresh demonstrations by Tunisian intellectuals aimed at condemning the crackdown.

"Our numbers say there are 21 dead," Communications Minister Samir Laabidi told a news conference, denying the reports of a higher death toll.

"Those who have spoken of 40 or 50 dead should produce a list of names," he said.

Officials had previously given a toll of 18 dead.

"We regret the deaths and sympathise with the families," Laabidi said.

"All peaceful demonstrations are tolerated, logical and understandable," he said, adding however that "violence threatening security and stability" crossed a "red line".

"Police never fired on protesters, these deaths occurred during attacks and acts of vandalism against public buildings, police stations or schools," he said, accusing "Islamic and left-wing extremists" of manipulating protesters.

Meanwhile fresh clashes between protesters and security forces broke out Tuesday night in Ettadhamoun, a suburb of the capital Tunis, residents told AFP.

Groups of young protesters burned a bus and looted businesses and a bank, shouting "We are not afraid!", one witness said.

Witnesses said police could be seen firing tear gas at the protesters and shots could be heard.

Violence had earlier erupted overnight in the central town of Kasserine where locals alleged gunmen on rooftops shot at protesters but authorities accused rioters of attacking police.

The United Nations and Europe called for restraint and State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington "is deeply concerned by reports of the use of excessive force by the government of Tunisia."

Groups of artists, actors, lawyers and journalists tried to demonstrate Tuesday against the harsh crackdown but were prevented by security forces, they said.

"We wanted to peacefully express our anger and our indignation," theatre employee Fadhel Jaibi said after police broke up a gathering outside the municipal theatre against "violence and excessive use of force".

"We wanted to demonstrate to say stop killing people, to condemn obstacles preventing journalists from reporting freely on the unrest in the country," said Neji Bghouri, former president of the National Union of Journalists.

Staff at the regional hospital in Kasserine, 290 kilometres (180 miles) south of Tunis, meanwhile halted work for an hour to condemn the high number of victims.

"It is chaos in Kasserine after a night of violence, of sniper firing and pillaging," said Sadok Mahmoudi from the regional branch of the Tunisian General Union of Labour (UGTT).

"The number killed has passed 50," he said, citing figures issued by medical staff in the town's hospital for the past three days.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said at least 35 people were killed on Saturday and Sunday in Kasserine and nearby Regueb and Thala -- remote, farming areas with high rates of youth unemployment.

"The total figure is higher. It's somewhere around 50, but that's an estimate," its president Souhayr Belhassen told AFP, adding there were so many wounded that "they can't be counted".

The rare wave of protests was unleashed by the December 17 suicide of a 26-year-old graduate who set himself on fire after police prevented him from selling fruit and vegetables to make a living.

Another suicide was reported Tuesday in the same area, central Sidi Bouzid, with relatives of a 23-year-old unemployed university student saying he had electrocuted himself. It was the fifth suicide linked to the protests.

Tunisia's unemployment rate is officially 14 percent, but the percentage of graduates without work is about double that.

In a bid to address the concerns, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali announced in a televised address Monday the creation of 300,000 jobs on top of 50,000 already pledged for the regions, but branded the protesters "gangs of thugs".

Egypt: Police to be probed after 4th fatal beating

IOL News
Egyptian cops to be probed after fourth fatal beating

January 9 2011

Alexandria - The police force of the Egyptian city of Alexandria was facing accusations on Sunday that one of their prisoners was beaten to death while in custody.

It is the fourth such charge levelled against Egyptian law enforcement agencies within seven months.

The newest case revolves around a man named Sayed Bilal, 31, who reportedly died of a heart attack at a private hospital Thursday, a day after his arrest.

His lawyer, Khalaf Ahmed Bayoumi, Sunday accused the city police of violence leading to Bilal's death

“He was arrested without any legal warrants,” Bayoumi, who is also head of the Shehab Centre for Human Rights, told the German Press Agency dpa in a phone interview.

Security sources cited by the al-Masry al-Youm newspaper say Bilal was not subjected to any acts of torture during his detention.

But Bayoumi told dpa that police offered Bilal's family 100,000

Egyptian pounds , an apartment and employment for his brother if they do not testify against police. The lawyer said that his clients were threatened with arrest if they refused the offer and pursued the case in court.

Bilal's family has not yet testified to the attorney general, but a call for a formal investigation has been filed by Bayoumi.

“If he wasn't tortured, why did the police make such an offer?” asked Bayoumi.

A shaky mobile phone video circulating on YouTube showed marks on Bilal's feet and wrists, indicating spots from where Bilal might have been hung, said Bayoumi.

Bayoumi also said there was bruising on his client's back and shoulders from what appears to be severe beating.

Bilal was pictured in Sunday's newspapers sporting the heavy beard common with conservative Muslims, playing with his toddler in a photo that appears to have been taken shortly before his arrest.

He was a follower of the strict Islamic Salafist doctrine. His arrest came less than a week after a bomb ripped through a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve, killing 23 people and injuring up to 100.

While the government has said the attack was masterminded by “foreign elements,” a number of Salafists were arrested in the wake of the attack.

This latest case comes just months after Mustafa Attia, 39, was allegedly attacked and beaten to death by two plainclothes police officers in Alexandria.

Just before Attia's death, Amnesty International called for an independent investigation into the death of another Alexandria resident, 19-year-old Ahmed Shaaban.

According to his family, Shaaban's body was found in a canal, with signs of torture after he was detained by police.

Meanwhile, two police are on trial in Alexandria for the case of Khaled Said, 28, who died at the hands of police in early June. The two police officers were charged with assault, but not murder.

The case sparked outrage and large demonstrations against what many Egyptians saw as a police cover-up, after pictures of Said's severely disfigured face appeared on a Facebook group.


Egypt blogger punitively sacked due to activism

Ahram Online
Blogger loses his job over activism, says rights watchdog
Rights group says there is a witch-hunt against political dissidents

Sunday 9 Jan 2011

Ekram Ibrahim

Mohamed Maree, a 22-year-old veterinarian and blogger, has been fired from a pharmaceutical company in Tanta because of his political activism and blogging, charged the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) today.

“My supervisor said to me that I was dismissed because I had been politically detained in the past and because I my blog is against the country,” Maree, told Ahram Online in a telephone interview.

Many business owners prefer to stay away from any conflict with the government. “It is becoming a trend to dismiss all political activists, in both private and public sectors,” Gamal Eid, the founder and executive director of ANHRI, told Ahram Online. “The government considers hiring them (political activists) as a hostile act towards it.”

When bloggers are fired they usually seek legal action. In most cases, the courts rule to award them with financial compensation, but the judges cannot force the company to rehire them. This, however, will not be the case with Maree because he was fired before the end of his three-month probation period, during which the company has the right to dismiss the employee without giving a reason.

Maree, who has been working as a medical representative for two-and-a-half months, is just one more name in a list of the many bloggers in Egypt and in the Arab world who have lost their jobs because of their political activism. ANHRI has already reported six other cases of political activists, bloggers or journalists who have lost their jobs because they declared their political opinions online.

Maree is now searching for a new job, but has no feelings of regret. “I would not give up either blogging or activism for a job, this is what I believe in,” he said.

Maree was detained for three months following the Mahalla protests against soaring prices in April 2008.

The political activist’s blog is

South Sudan's independence referendum

FACTBOX-South Sudan's independence referendum
January 9, 2011

Jan 9 (Reuters) - Millions of southern Sudanese begin voting on Sunday in a referendum on whether Africa's largest country will split in two. Here are some facts about the vote.


Sudan's north-south civil war was Africa's longest-running civil conflict, flaring in 1955. A 2005 peace deal ended the latest phase and promised southerners self-determination through a referendum on independence from the north.

Since then, the northern ruling National Congress Party and the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have bickered over implementing almost every detail of the 2005 accord and mutual distrust has deepened. Few believe a majority of southerners will vote for unity.

Many southerners believe they are ethnically or religiously distinct from the mostly Arab and Muslim north, and a history of war and slave trading has haunted north-south relations since before independence. Southerners say an economic boom and development has been concentrated in the hands of the northern tribes surrounding Khartoum, while they have been neglected.


According to the referendum commission, anyone who has a parent or ancestor from a southern tribe indigenous to the south can vote. Also anyone who has been permanently resident, or whose parents or grandparents have been in the south since independence on Jan. 1, 1956, can vote.

Southerners whose families left before independence must return south to register and vote. Southerners in the north of Sudan and in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Australia, Britain, the United States, Canada and Egypt can also vote. However, the vague guidelines and decades of inter-marriage and movement of tribes means it may be difficult to verify who is a southerner.

Almost 4 million southerners have registered to vote inside and outside Sudan, organisers said, about 75 percent of those eligible.


The referendum law states that of those registered, 60 percent need to turn out for the vote to be valid. About 10,800 staff will work in almost 3,000 referendum centres and more than 14,000 police will secure the process in the south. The north has deployed 17,500 police. Voting is due to begin on Jan. 9 and last one week. The 10,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan, separate from a much bigger U.N.-African Union force in the Darfur region, will also help to maintain security. Some 3,000 observers have been accredited to monitor the process in the north and south.


The referendum law should have been passed three years ago and the commission formed immediately after, but commission members took their oath in July 2010, giving them just six months to arrange the vote.

The commission, helped by the international community, has managed to arrange the vote on time in the face of mounting logistical obstacles. However, the schedule laid out by the Referendum Law has been forsaken, leaving the vote vulnerable to legal challenges. Parliament has yet to amend the law. The result should be announced by Feb. 15, 2011, although preliminary results for the south -- the majority of voters -- will be announced on Jan. 31.


The disputed oil-producing Abyei region is supposed to hold a simultaneous plebiscite on whether to join the south or the north. But deep north-south divisions over who will vote and who will plan it mean this referendum may not happen at all.

Most analysts believe Abyei, the site of north-south clashes since 2005, could provoke a more general war if left to fester.

Other areas could include oil fields close to the still disputed border such as Heglig and Unity. Border states Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile could also be flashpoints of violence and both north and south armies have traded accusations of troop build ups along the unmarked border.


Many African nations favour Sudan's unity because they fear the split could fuel secessionist tensions in their own countries. Sudan also marks the continent's Arab north-African and black sub-Saharan divide. Many will see a split as a wider failure to overcome those differences.

Some worry secession could lead to demands for autonomy in Sudan's other regions, including Darfur or the east which have also rebelled against Khartoum, and the country could disintegrate. Others fear if southerners are not given the chance to vote on whether to rule themselves, the north-south civil war, which destabilised much of east Africa, could reignite.

(Reporting by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Algeria: Riots over unemployment & rising food prices

Anger in Algeria sparks fresh riots
January 8, 2011

Two protesters killed and over 200 injured by police forces across the country.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Eight solidarity activists released pending court hearing

إخلاء سبيل 8 متهمين في مظاهرة شبرا
الخميس 6 يناير

هيثم رضوان

قررت محكمة جنح روض الفرج، اليوم الخميس، إخلاء سبيل 8 متهمين في مظاهرة بحي شبرا، وتأجيل محاكمتهم إلى 13 يناير الجاري للاطلاع.

وكانت نيابة روض الفرج قد أحالت المتهمين: مصطفى شوقي، ومصطفى محيي، ومحمد ناجي، ومحمدعاطف، وتامر الصادق، وأحمد رفعت، وضياء أحمد، وعمرو أحمد، إلى المحاكمة العاجلة، ووجهت إليهم تهم إثارة الشغب، والاعتداء على ضباط الشرطة، وإتلاف الممتلكات العامة، وإثارة الفتن والاعتداء على سيارات الشرطة.

يذكر أن نشطاء سياسيين قد نظموا مظاهرة للتنديد بالاعتداء على كنيسة القديسين بالإسكندرية في حي شبرا بالقاهرة .


Al-Masry Al-Youm
Court adjourns trial of activists who protested in Coptic solidarity
Thu, 06/01/2011


An Egyptian court on Thursday adjourned the trial of eight leftist activists who were protesting in Cairo in solidarity with Coptic Christians following an Alexandria church attack on New Year’s Eve which left 23 killed, a judicial source said.

The activists belong to the Socialist Renewal Current, a small leftist group which was established last year.

They were arrested on Sunday while they were demonstrating in Cairo’s Christian-dominated Shubra neighborhood to call for equal treatment of the Christian minority.

The Rawd al-Farag Misdemeanor Court adjourned on Thursday the activists’ trial until 13 January, a security source said.

The defendants were charged with rioting, disturbing the peace, and vandalizing public property.

North Cairo District Attorney Mohamed al-Daba told the court that the activists also injured four policemen.

Earlier, investigators said that the accused shattered the glass of 21 police vehicles, four microbuses, and ten private cars.

*Photograph courtesy of Reuters

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Free Mostafa Mohie!

Demand the release of the eight activists arrested in Shubra while protesting in solidarity with Coptic Christian protesters. These eight have been in police detention and jail since January 3.

Mubarak's police have leveled trumped-up charges against these eight nonviolent activists.

The peace-loving Mostafa Mohie - a colleague, comrade and friend - is amongst these eight youth. This brave activist/journalist is unjustly being detained, along with these seven other young men.

All eight are innocent of the fabricated charges (violent conduct, destruction of property, etc.) brought against them. Peaceful demonstrators calling for national unity must never be criminalized!

They must all be released, and these baseless charges must all be dropped.

Protest Stand for Release of 8 Solidarity Activists

Around 200 Egyptians - including Muslims, Christians, and Atheists - protested outside the General Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday evening for the release of eight peaceful Muslim activists arrested since Monday.

Protesters carried signs reading "If solidarity with Copts is a criminal offense, then I plead guilty" and "Muslim or Coptic is not the issue - same oppression and same burdens."

Demonstrators chanted for national unity and against sectarianism. One slogan (in Arabic) went "My name is Mina and my brother is Hussein, we are one not two."

While slogans were chanted against President/Dictator Hosni Mubarak, and the Minister of Interior Habib "El Butcher" Adly.

These eight youth activists had been peacefully protesting in solidarity with Coptic Christian protesters in Cairo's district of Shubra -- on the night of January 3 -- when they were arrested. Police officers have leveled trumped-up charges against these non-violent activists, including the destruction of public and private property.

Another protest in solidarity with these praiseworthy activists is scheduled for Thursday - January 6th, at 9am - outside the Galaa' Court, to which they are being referred.

Alexandria Bombing a Product of Dangerous Neglect by the Egyptian Government

Human Rights First
Alexandria Bombing a Product of Dangerous Neglect by the Egyptian Government

January 4, 2011

Washington, DC – Human Rights First condemns the Jan. 1 bombing of Christian worshipers outside a church in Alexandria, Egypt, an attack in which at least 22 people were killed and scores more wounded. The group noted that this heinous attack is only the latest in an escalating series of acts of violence against members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who comprise some 10% of Egypt’s population of 80 million.

Human Rights First is concerned that the Egyptian government has been insufficiently vigilant in countering disturbing trends towards religious bigotry and anti-Christian prejudice. For example, the authorities have been slow to bring to justice those responsible for earlier attacks on Christians, such as the shooting in Nag Hammadi on Jan. 6, 2010, Orthodox Christmas Eve.

“The government has also been slow to address long running discriminatory practices such as the under-representation of Copts in government and the security services, and the obstacles to building or repairing Christian houses of worship,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Though some government supporters have publicly engaged in threats and spreading inflammatory rumors against the Christian minority that contribute to the climate in which such appalling acts as the Alexandria church bombing become possible, Egyptian authorities have turned a blind eye to threats from Muslim religious leaders and mobs enraged by sectarian hatred.”

The organization notes that statements from senior government officials, including President Mubarak, blaming the violence against Egyptian Christians on “foreign fingers” suggest a troubling unwillingness to face up to the reality of increasing violence perpetrated by Egyptians against their fellow citizens. Human rights organizations in Egypt are questioning why Egypt’s powerful security services have not done more to safeguard the security of citizens.

”The Egyptian government has indulged extremism and religious intolerance in an apparent effort to siphon off support from its Islamist political opponents in the Muslim Brotherhood, which until the recent rigged parliamentary elections comprised the largest opposition group in the parliament,” noted Stahnke. “The failure of the Egyptian government to advance political reform is contributing to greater instability in Egypt of which escalating anti-Christian violence is one especially alarming indicator. Terrible incidents, like the Alexandria bombing, underline the need for Egypt to progress towards a more representative, more accountable and more legitimate form of government so that it is better able to respond to the needs of its people.”

In 2011, Egypt will hold a presidential election that, if it does not produce a new President, will provide some indication of who will succeed President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981. Human Rights First notes that the election and the succession process are an opportunity for Egypt to move forward with long postponed commitments to advance democracy and human rights. The group states that in order to contribute to creating an environment where sectarian hatred is not allowed to fester it is imperative that this opportunity is not missed.

Angry Coptic Christians protest, clash with police

Thousands of Coptic Christians across Egypt protested on January 4, and in many incidents clashed with the police. Angered by the deadly bombing of a church Alexandria, hundreds of Copts have been protesting -- since January 1-- in Cairo's district of Shubra, in districts of Alexandria and in other cities and towns nationwide.

Eight Muslim activists, including the socialist journalist Mostafa Mohie, were arrested -- on the night of January 3 -- while protesting in solidarity with the Copts in Shubra. These eight peaceful activists are currently imprisoned and are awaiting referral to a court -- on trumped-up charges leveled against them by police.


The Associated Press
Christians demonstrate in south Egypt

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

ASSIUT, Egypt -- About 500 young Egyptian Christians have defied a call by their leaders to avoid demonstrations and descended into the main streets of this southern city protesting the New Year's Day church bombing that killed 21.

The demonstrators gathered Tuesday evening in front of the ruling party's headquarters in the city of Assuit, which has a large Christian population, shouting slogans and vowing to protect the cross with their "blood and souls."

Many Christians blame the government for not protecting them.

No injuries have been reported even though the protesters threw rocks at riot police cordoning off the area.

The demonstration follows several protests that took place during the past three days in Egypt's main cities of Cairo and Alexandria.

Asia 1 aid convoy reaches Gaza

BBC News
Gaza blockade: Asia 1 aid convoy reaches Palestinians

January 3, 2010

Some 100 pro-Palestinian activists, part of an Asian aid convoy, have crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

The convoy's $1m (760,000 euros) worth of cargo was due to arrive separately by boat later, organisers said.

Egypt refused visas to some Iranians and Jordanians travelling with the convoy, which left India on 2 December.

Activists had planned to reach the Hamas-run Gaza Strip by 27 December, the second anniversary of Israel's 22-day Cast Lead offensive on Gaza.

More than 1,400 Gazans and 13 Israelis died during the 2008-2009 Gaza war.

Israel said Operation Cast Lead was aimed at halting militant attacks on Israel from Gaza.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli military campaign left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed.

The Asian aid convoy - dubbed Asia 1 - included a boat carrying 300 tonnes of medicine, food and toys, as well as four buses and 10 power generators for hospitals, Palestinian officials have said.

It was the latest effort by international activists to break Israel's blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.

In May 2010, nine activists on board a Turkish aid ship were killed when Israeli naval commandos stormed their aid flotilla, sparking an international outcry.

Since then, the Israeli authorities have eased some of the restrictions on imports into Gaza, but international aid agencies working there say that there has been "little improvement" for people in Gaza.

Israel heightened restrictions on Gaza after Palestinian militants captured one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, in June 2006. He has yet to be released.

Israel and Egypt further tightened the blockade in 2007 after the Islamist movement Hamas came to power. Israel, the US and the EU regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Over the past decade, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, although that number has declined dramatically since Operation Cast Lead.

The rockets fired by Palestinian militant groups into Israel rarely cause injury or damage, but they do cause widespread fear.

Protests in Solidarity with Tunisian Uprising & Egyptian National Unity

Protests in Solidarity with Sidi Bouzid Uprising & Egyptian National Unity

January 2, 2011

A protest stand in solidarity with Tunisia's "Sidi Bouzid Uprising" was forcefully dispersed by Egyptian police forces on Sunday evening. This stand was scheduled to take place in Downtown Cairo's Talaat Harb Square at 5pm, but hundreds of security forces had been deployed around the area in advance. This protest stand was thus thwarted along with another. The second protest stand, was scheduled for 6pm, in the same square - in solidarity with victims of the recent Alexandria church bombing.

The gravity of this domestic incident -- which left at least 21 dead and 79 injured -- along with its ensuing sectarian clashes, overshadowed the protest stand which was originally organized in solidarity with Sidi Bouzid. On Sunday night, A protest stand involving hundreds of Egyptian Muslims and Christians in Cairo's Shobra district

Moreover, prior to the Sidi Bouzid solidarity stand, local news had been filtering in throughout the day regarding other protest stands, marches, and clashes with police across Greater Cairo - led primarily by angry Coptic protesters.

Around a dozen activists and human rights advocates who had congregated at Talaat Harb Square, to express solidarity with the popular struggle in Tunisia, barely had enough time to unfurl their banners, or hold up their placards. Plain-clothed police forces wasted no time in pushing and shoving activists out of the square. Several journalists' were harassed and threatened with arrest, while four activists were briefly detained.

What was planned to be a solidarity stand quickly turned into a protest march. Scores of youth activists grouped-up along the way, and joined in a larger march which made its way to Ramses Street. Activists began chanting slogans in support of the popular struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, but these slogans shifted to more Egypt-centric concerns.

Chanting slogans for national unity among Egypt's Muslims and Christians became the focus of the protest march. "Muslims, Christians, we are all Egyptians," they chanted in Arabic, along with "Muslim and Coptic hand in hand, so we may bring about a new dawn."

Marching down the street a young female protester carried a sign reading "No to discrimination on the basis of religion."

Another protester, a veiled girl, carried a sign reading (in Arabic) "Give to Mariam what you give to Fatma, this is what real citizenship is about." The message being that Christians and Muslims should be treated as equal citizens in Egypt.

While this small group of activists was marching through Ramses Street, tens of other Egyptian opposition activists - primarily leftists and liberals- congregated outside the Journalists' Syndicate. Slogans were chanted against the ruling regime, and its perceived failure in protecting Egyptian Copts and Muslims. In other chants activists called on Muslims and Christians to overcome the problems of sectarianism.

Police forces quickly caught-up with the protest marchers on Ramses Street and ground their march to halt. Hundreds of riot police cordoned some 50 activists by the side of the street and upon its.sidewalk. In a police tactic know as "kettling" this cordon was increasingly tightened upon the protesters held within.

After more than an hour, plain-clothed policemen broke through the tightened cordon and assaulted activists including women. In response activists began chanting slogans against police officers and the Ministry of Interior, with some slogans calling for the dismissal of Interior Minister Habib el-Adly.

Activists were tightly restricted within this "kettle" for more than eight hours. Tens of protesters and journalists were slowly and gradually released. Yet about half the protesters remained "kettled" for over eight hours. One of the last activists to be released (name withheld) said the police "wouldn't let us out of the cordon because they were afraid that we would join the protesting Copts at their Cathedral in Abbasiya." The activist added "we were within walking distance from Abbasiya,"

Thousands of Copts were said to be protesting at the Cathedral, while several hundred angry Coptic protesters were reported to have clashed with police and hurled stones at security forces in protest against the Alexandria church bombing. Ramses Street was congested with traffic as police forces directed drivers away from Abbasiya. Ahmad Saeed Bridge, which leads to Abbasiya was closed to all traffic.

Although Cairo's solidarity stand with Sidi Bouzid was thwarted on Wednesday - for more than two weeks Egyptian activists, bloggers and human rights advocates have being expressing their on-line solidarity with the popular uprising in this Tunisian governorate. The uprising in Sidi Bouzid was sparked by the self-immolation of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17. As a public act of protest, Bouazizi - a street vendor - set himself alight outside a police station after his merchandise was confiscated.

Tens of thousands of Tunisians protested in response, and rioted in the Sidi Bouzid governorate. Four other suicide attempts in public were reported. The unrest spread from Sidi Bouzid to other governorates, cities and towns including Munastir, Sfax, Chebba, Shbikha, Soussa and Qairawan where thousands of Tunisians have protested against rising rates of unemployment and inflation amongst other grievances.

Scores of Tunisians have been arrested in the course of these events, with many more injured - some seriously as police have reportedly fired upon protesters and rioters. At least two men were shot dead in late December, and a third man killed himself by electrocution during a street protest.

Under pressure from these protests, Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali sacked the Governor of Sidi Bouzid, and three ministers were removed last week during a cabinet reshuffle .

On Wednesday night, a number of protesting Egyptian activists were drawing parallels between the uprising in Tunisia and increasing social unrest in Egypt.


Coptics protesting bombing clash with Egypt police

Coptics protesting bombing clash with Egypt police
Sun Jan. 2, 2001

By Sarah Mikhail and Sherine El Madany

(Reuters) - Angry Coptic Christians clashed with police on Sunday as they demanded more protection for Egypt's Christians following a New Year's Day church bombing that killed 21 of their brethren.

Hundreds of members of Egypt's large Christian minority protested in Cairo and Alexandria, the northern city where the presumed suicide bomber detonated a device outside a church during a midnight service.

A security source said Egypt was holding seven people for questioning over Saturday's bombing, which also wounded 97 people, and had released 10 others.

At Saint Mark's Cathedral, the Cairo base of Orthodox Pope Shenouda, several hundred young Copts fought police on Sunday as they tried to leave the cathedral grounds and take to the streets to demand more protection for Christians.

Their protest continued into the night, the crowd held back by a cordon of riot police nine men deep. A church official approached the crowd briefly to try to calm them down, without success.

"Security - are you with us or with them?" the men cried. "You government are cowards."

"Pope Shenouda, have a care. We are youth. We will protect you with our blood," the men shouted, many of them holding aloft makeshift wooden crosses. "Revolution, revolution in Egypt, in all churches of Egypt."

Earlier, protestors in Cairo had heckled government officials who visited the cathedral compound to offer condolences: "Where are you, Interior Minister, when they are killing our brothers before your eyes?"

Some protesters pelted a minister's car with stones when he left, witnesses said. Some visiting Christian officials had cars shaken by angry demonstrators, while other protesters scuffled with police outside the compound.

Extra police officers were posted outside several churches in Cairo and Alexandria on Sunday, preventing cars from parking next to the buildings, witnesses said.

Pope Benedict, head of the Roman Catholic church, condemned the bombing as a "vile gesture," the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in the Middle East and Africa.

Egyptian officials said there were indications that "foreign elements" were behind the blast and that it seemed to have been the work of a suicide bomber.

An Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda threatened in November to attack Egypt's Coptic Church. And about two weeks before the bombing, a statement on an Islamist website urged Muslims to attack churches in Egypt and elsewhere around Christmas, which for Orthodox denominations such as the Copts falls on January 7.

A statement on another Islamist website after the blast read: "This is the first drop of heavy rain, hand over our prisoners and turn to Islam." No group was named.

Islamist groups have accused the Church of trying to coerce Christian women who wanted to convert to Islam.

One protester, Nader Shenouda, said: "When there was a threat from al Qaeda a month or a month and a half ago, did the government have to wait till the disaster happened before protecting us?"

Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, the head of al Azhar, Egypt's most prestigious seat of Sunni learning, visited the Muslim Orthodox Coptic Pope Shenouda to express condolences.

President Hosni Mubarak, 82, has pledged to track down the culprit. He made a televised address on Sunday calling for national unity, saying the attack was directed at all Egyptians, not just Christians.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 79 million people. Tensions often flare with the majority Muslims over issues such as building churches or close relationships between members of the two faiths.

Analysts said the attack was on a much bigger scale than typical sectarian flare-ups but said laws that make it easier to build a mosque than a church, and similar causes of Christian complaint, meant such an attack would fuel sectarian tension.

Angus Blair, head of research at investment bank Beltone Financial, said the blast was likely to be brushed off by investors in the bourse and was not likely to have a "material negative impact" on tourism, a major revenue source.

*(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh, writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Jon Boyle)