Laura Bush, wife of the US president, visited Egypt last week to shower praise on the country’s regime. She described Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, as “bold and wise”, claiming that he was “taking the first step” towards democracy.
But the real meaning of US-style “democracy” was revealed on Wednesday of last week, when teams of riot police and right wing mobs viciously attacked supporters of the opposition Kifaya movement in front of the world’s press.
Women demonstrators were singled out by Mubarak’s thugs, witnesses say. Police delivered them to waiting gangs who stripped and molested them. Several women journalists were among those attacked and humiliated.
One eyewitness described what happened when a pack of thugs attacked a cornered demonstrator: “They started grabbing her. They tore her clothes until she became almost naked, covered only with the little that was left.
“Then one of them threw her to the ground and jumped on top of her. Some held her legs and arms, while others molested her. I saw her crawl on the floor inside the circle, trying to get rid of this animal, only to have someone else fall on top of her. She almost died.”
Mubarak’s latest outrage has sparked an angry reaction across Egyptian society. The Association of Egyptian Mothers, roughly equivalent to the Women’s Institute in Britain, is now calling on the interior minister to resign.
The association also issued a call for all Egyptian women to wear black on Wednesday of this week as a mark of protest against the Mubarak regime’s increasing repression.
Egyptians are describing the attacks as “Abu Ghraib on the streets”—drawing a direct link between Mubarak’s brutal methods and those of his paymasters in Washington.
The attacks on the demonstrators came on the day of a referendum organised by the government over a constitutional amendment to modify the rules for presidential elections.
Previously presidential elections were restricted to a single candidate, with voters given a choice of yes or no.
The new rule opens up the contest to multiple candidates—but only if they are endorsed by government bodies in the grip of the National Democratic Party regime. The Kifaya movement and the Muslim Brotherhood have denounced the referendum as a sham and called on people to boycott it.
They were demonstrating against the referendum outside the press syndicate building in Cairo when they were attacked.
The regime is claiming some 54 percent of Egyptians participated in the referendum, but opposition activists say the real figure is more like 4 percent.
Journalists covering the referendum say polling booths were deserted. Some found that they could vote several times if they posed as Mubarak supporters.
Kifaya activists say the referendum is designed to create a staged presidential election contest between Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 20 years, and his son Gamal, who is pretending to be a “reformer”.
These manoeuvres are being endorsed by the White House, which is presenting them as evidence of democratisation in the Middle East.
The US government props up Mubarak’s rotten government with billions of dollars of military and economic aid each year.
But civil unrest is spreading across the country. A wave of strikes and demonstrations has arisen, with Kifaya emerging as the leading organising force behind them.
This is the kind of democracy that George Bush certainly does not want — and the Egyptian state has been given the green light to stamp it out.