Socialist Worker

The seven days that shook a dictatorship

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2237

The people of Egypt, inspired by the Tunisian uprising, have taken to the streets determined to oust the dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Their revolt has shown that Arab and Western rulers were right to fear the spread of revolution after Tunisia.

Events there saw mass protest force out a Middle Eastern leader for the first time in decades.

Protests that began on Tuesday of last week in Egypt have continued.

Despite brutal repression, people continued to pour onto the streets and face down armed police. Some four million people were thought to have taken part in the protests by the beginning of this week.

People set up neighbourhood committees to defend residential areas. Tahrir Square in Cairo became a central rallying point, but other cities across the country were in flames.

The army had been on the streets since the state security and police forces left the scene, but had not attacked protesters as Socialist Worker went to press.

The uprising began on Tuesday 25 January, when people gathered in Cairo.

The police brutally dispersed protesters in Tahrir Square and the government shut down the internet and mobile phone

networks. Thousands protested in Alexandria, Suez and the Nile Delta.

Undercover police attacked protesters, killing at least five on the first day. Six days later more than 100 people had been killed and over 2,000 injured. Close to 1,000 people had been arrested.

Despite the brutality, people continued to pour onto the streets. In Suez, police fired on protesters with live ammunition—but they fought back, setting fire to several government buildings, including the police station. The police were forced to retreat.

The Muslim Brotherhood, under pressure, announced its support for the protests and encouraged its supporters to join them after Friday prayers last week.

As Friday prayers took place, protesters massed on the streets of the major cities.

In the northern Sinai area of Sheikh Zuwayid, several hundred Bedouin people exchanged fire with police—a 17-year old protester was killed.

As thousands poured out of Friday prayers, the police used water cannon, rubber and live bullets, and batons to attack protesters.

They were not deterred. Thousands stormed and took control of the police station in Suez, freeing protesters. In Port Said tens of thousands gathered and set fire to government buildings.

Ignored

The government issued a 6pm to 7am curfew, which was ignored. In the evening, protesters set fire to one of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters buildings.

The police were driven off the streets. Mubarak, under immense pressure, finally appeared on TV around midnight, but did not resign. He sacked the cabinet and said he will appoint a new one.

People were not appeased by Mubarak’s announcement. Protesters took to the streets the next day demanding his resignation.

Police killed at least three protesters in Cairo as they attempted to storm the interior ministry.

Looters in the National Museum were found with state security ID on them. Protesters drove them out and surrounded the museum to protect it.

The army became the main presence on the streets as the police retreated. Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman as vice-president and Ahmed Shafik as prime minister.

On Sunday several police stations were torched. Thousands marched for over seven hours in Alexandria. People fraternised with the army, clambering onto tanks with flags and posters.

Thousands of prisoners were released or escaped. These included Palestinian resistance fighters and leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Monday, trade unions called for a general strike and a march in Cairo on Tuesday to bring down Mubarak.

There are reports that strikes are spreading throughout Suez and that textile workers in Ghazal Mit Ghamr have kicked out their bosses and are running the factory themselves.


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