Posts tagged ‘Egypt’

March 9, 2011

Women’s rights marchers in Cairo: Egypt’s revolution means nothing if its women are not free

washingtonpost.com

Women’s rights marchers in Cairo report sexual assaults by angry mob

Cached:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/08/AR2011030805540.html

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An International Women's Day demonstration in Cairo's Tahir Square turned violent when a group of men attacked it. Photograph: Str/AP

CAIRO – Women hoping to extend their rights in post-revolutionary Egypt were faced with a harsh reality Tuesday when a mob of angry men beat and sexually assaulted marchers calling for political and social equality, witnesses said.

“Everyone was chased. Some were beaten. They were touching us everywhere,” said Dina Abou Elsoud, 35, a hostel owner and organizer of the ambitiously named Million Woman March.

She was among a half-dozen women who said they were repeatedly groped by men – a common form of intimidation and harassment here that was, in fact, a target of the protesters. None of the women reported serious injuries.

The demonstration on International Women’s Day drew a crowd only in the hundreds to Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove President Hosni Mubarak from power. Gone, organizers said, was the spirit of equality and cooperation between the sexes that marked most of the historic mass gatherings in the square.

As upwards of 300 marchers assembled late Tuesday afternoon, men began taunting them, insisting that a woman could never be president and objecting to women’s demands to have a role in drafting a new constitution, witnesses said.

“People were saying that women were dividing the revolution and should be happy with the rights they have,” said Ebony Coletu, 36, an American who teaches at American University in Cairo and attended the march, as she put it, “in solidarity.”

The men – their number estimated to be at least double that of the women’s – broke through a human chain that other men had formed to protect the marchers. Women said they attempted to stand their ground – until the physical aggression began.

“I was grabbed in the crotch area at least six times. I was grabbed in the breasts; my throat was grabbed,” Coletu said.

She and several others said they eventually took refuge in a tourism agency office protected by Egyptian army personnel.

The sexual assault of CBS News reporter Lara Logan during the Tahrir Square protests last month brought the problem to wider Western notice, but Egyptian women say that sexual harassment has long been rampant here and that they grow up expecting to be fondled in public by men with impunity.

Nagla Rizk, also a professor at American University in Cairo, said she went to the march Tuesday full of hope but left within an hour after sensing the ugly mood of the counterdemonstrators.

“The whole event was not successful, and I am very disappointed,” she said. “This is totally alien to the spirit of Tahrir.”

Egypt’s revolution means nothing if its women are not free

The Guardian

A mob of men attacking an International Women’s Day demo should not be allowed to happen in the new Egypt

Cached:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/09/egypt-revolution-women

Jumanah Younis

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 March 2011 12.00 GMT

Article history

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A demonstration commemorating International Women’s Day was attacked on Tuesday afternoon in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. More than 200 men charged on the women – forcing some to the ground, dragging others out of the crowd, groping and sexually harassing them as police and military figures stood by and failed to act.

It was a shocking wake-up call. Even in Tahrir Square, the symbol of Egypt’s newfound freedom, it seems that it’s going to take much more than a revolution to overhaul the deep-seated misogyny that some Egyptian men so freely and openly impose on the country’s female population.

The female demonstrators – myself among them – had been protesting against Egypt’s chronic sexual harassment problem, against the many barriers women face in public life, and against the pervasive conservatism that curtails the freedom of women in society at large. The women chanted slogans that had been used in the revolution itself, calling for freedom, justice and equality. But their demonstration quickly attracted a counter-protest.

The women’s chants calling for an “Egypt for all Egyptians” were drowned out by retaliations such as “No to freedom!” shouted by the opposing group. The men charged at the female protesters, who had been standing on a raised platform in the middle of Tahrir Square, and shouted: “Get out of here.”

Many women were dragged away individually by small groups of men who attacked them. I remained on the platform with five other women. A small circle of sympathetic men held hands around us to protect us from the crowd, which swelled on all sides.

Against the charge of the counter-demonstrators, the circle quickly caved. Several women fell to the ground and a number of attempts were made by the attacking group to steal belongings.

As I struggled to stay upright, a hand grabbed my behind and others pulled at my clothes. When, a few minutes later, I found the other women I was with, one told me that a man had put his hand down her top, while another woman had been pushed to the ground and held down by a man on top of her. The police continued to direct traffic around the square as the incident was taking place.

Such outrageous displays of contempt for women cannot be allowed to persist in the new Egypt. Time and time again so-called “women’s issues” have been relegated to the bottom of the agenda: we must end corruption first, we must have political freedom first, etc, etc. On Tuesday, Egyptian women said: “Now is the time.” There is no freedom for men without freedom and equality for women.

This is not a free society if a woman cannot walk down the street without fear of being harassed, attacked, or even molested. Women have a right to participate in Egyptian society as equals – and this revolution will have achieved nothing if it does not recognise the basic right of the Egyptian women to exist, to demonstrate, to work, to live and walk the streets with dignity.

February 27, 2011

U.S. tells Gaddafi it is time to go as revolt closes in

 

Cached:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/27/us-libya-protests-idUSTRE71G0A620110227?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

By Maria Golovnina and Ahmed Jadallah

TRIPOLI | Sat Feb 26, 2011 7:40pm EST

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi’s grip on Libya looked ever more tenuous on Saturday, as his police abandoned parts of the capital Tripoli to a popular revolt that has swept the country and the United States bluntly told him he must go.

In the oil-rich east around the second city of Benghazi, freed a week ago by a disparate coalition of people power and defecting military units, a former minister of Gaddafi announced the formation of an “interim government” to reunite the country.

At Tripoli in the west, the 68-year-old Brother Leader’s redoubt was shrinking. Reuters correspondents found residents in some neighborhoods of the capital barricading their streets and proclaiming open defiance after security forces melted away.

Western leaders, their rhetoric emboldened by evacuations that have sharply reduced the number of their citizens stranded in the oilfields and cities of the sprawling desert state, spoke out more clearly to say Gaddafi’s 41-year rule must now end.

“When a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” aides to President Barack Obama said in describing a call on Libya he had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

SECURITY COUNCIL

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also showed a harder tone from Washington, which lately warmed to Gaddafi in recent years after decades of sanctions: “(He) has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence.”

A vote in the United Nations Security Council was imminent. It may impose sanctions and say Gaddafi should face war crimes charges over deaths, estimated by diplomats at some 2,000, during his 10 days of efforts to stem the tide of revolution.

Talk of possible military action by foreign governments remained vague, however. It was unclear how long Gaddafi, with some thousands of loyalists — including his tribesmen and military units commanded by his sons — might hold out against rebel forces comprised of youthful gunmen and mutinous soldiers.

London-based Algerian lawyer Saad Djebbar, who knows a large number of Gaddafi’s top officials, says that for Gaddafi staying in power had become impossible. “It’s about staying alive.”

“(Gaddafi’s) time is over,” he added. “But how much damage he will cause before leaving is the question.”

One key element in the opposition’s efforts to unseat him may be tribal loyalties, always a factor in the desert nation of six million and one which Gaddafi, despite official rhetoric to the contrary, tended to reinforce down the years.

His former justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil, now gone over to the opposition in Benghazi, was quoted by the online edition of the Quryna newspaper as saying that an interim government, whose status remained unclear, would “forgive” his large Gaddadfa tribe for “crimes” committed by the leader.

Such declarations may be intended to erode Gaddafi’s efforts to rally supporters into a do-or-die defense of the old guard.

Some of those closest to Gaddafi have been deserting him and joining the opposition. On Saturday, Libya’s envoy to the United States told Reuters he backed Abud Ajleil’s caretaker team — though it was unclear how much popular support that would have.

One of Gaddafi’s sons, the London-educated Saif al-Islam, again appeared on television on Saturday to deny that much of Libya was in revolt. But he also warned: “What the Libyan nation is going through has opened the door to all options, and now the signs of civil war and foreign interference have started.”

OPPOSITION DEMANDS

Gaddafi, once branded a “mad dog” by Washington for his support of militant groups worldwide, has been embraced by the West in recent years in return for renouncing some weapons programs and, critically, for opening up Libya’s 1oilfields.

While money has flowed into Libya, many people, especially in the long-restive and oil-rich east, have seen little benefit and, inspired by the popular overthrow of veteran strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt, on either side of their country, they rose up to demand better conditions and political freedoms last week.

Particular condemnation has been reserved for aerial bombing by government forces and for reported indiscriminate attacks by Gaddafi loyalists and mercenaries on unarmed protesters.

“Gaddafi is the enemy of God!” a crowd chanted on Saturday in Tajoura, a poor neighborhood of Tripoli, at the funeral of a man they said was shot down by Gaddafi loyalists the day before.

Now, residents said, those security forces had disappeared.

Locals had erected barricades of rocks and palm trees across rubbish-strewn streets, and graffiti covered many walls. Bullet holes in the walls of the houses bore testimony to the violence.

The residents, still unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals, said troops fired on demonstrators who tried to march from Tajoura to central Green Square overnight, killing at least five people. The number could not be independently confirmed.

“We will demonstrate again and again, today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow until they change,” one protester said.

Libyan state television again showed a crowd chanting their loyalty to Gaddafi in Tripoli’s Green Square on Saturday. But journalists there estimated their number at scarcely 200.

REVOLT CLOSES IN

From Misrata, a major city 200 km (120 miles) east of Tripoli, residents and exile groups said by telephone that a thrust by forces loyal to Gaddafi, operating from the local airport, had been rebuffed with bloodshed by the opposition.

“There were violent clashes last night and in the early hours of the morning near the airport,” one resident, Mohammed, told Reuters. “An extreme state of alert prevails in the city.”

He said several mercenaries from Chad had been detained by rebels in Misrata. The report could not be verified but was similar to accounts elsewhere of Gaddafi deploying fighters brought in from African states where has long had allies.

Protesters in Zawiyah, an oil refining town on the main coastal highway 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, have fought off government forces for several nights.

One man told Reuters by telephone from the town on Saturday that heavy clashes early in the day left dozens dead. At one point “mercenaries” roared across a town square, spraying machinegun fire from the back of pick-up trucks, he said.

“They indiscriminately sprayed dwellers in the square. Youths, children, elderly and women have died,” he told Reuters. The account could not be independently verified.

At Tripoli’s international airport, thousands of desperate foreign workers besieged the main gate trying to leave the country as police used batons and whips to keep them out.

Britain and France followed the United States in closing their embassies. Britain sent in air force troop carriers to take some 150 oil workers out of camps in the desert.

Libya supplies 2 percent of the world’s oil, the bulk of it from wells and supply terminals in the east. The prospect of it being shut off — as well as speculation that the unrest in the Arab world could spread to the major exporters of the Gulf — has pushed oil prices up to highs not seen in over two years.

(Additional reporting by Yvonne Bell and Chris Helgren in Tripoli, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Souhail Karam in Rabat, Dina Zayed and Caroline Drees in Cairo, Tom Pfeiffer, Alexander Dziadosz and Mohammed Abbas in Benghazi, Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations, Angus MacSwan and Sonya Hepinstall in London; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Jon Boyle)

February 13, 2011

Middle East Crisis Factbox: Reaction to fall of Mubarak around Middle East

Cached:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/13/us-egypt-reaction-region-idUSTRE71C0TO20110213

Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:32am EST

Article Source: Reuters

(Reuters) – Below is reaction from the  Middle East to a revolt in Egypt which toppled veteran leader Hosni Mubarak on Friday.

* SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia, which had supported Mubarak throughout the mass protests, said on Saturday that it welcomed the peaceful transition of power in Egypt.

* “The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomes the peaceful transition of power in the Arab Republic of Egypt, and expresses hope in the efforts of the Egyptian armed forces to restore peace, stability and tranquility,” the SPA agency said.

* BAHRAIN:

– Bahrain respects the choice of the Egyptian people, the pro-government Al Watan newspaper quoted a government statement as saying on Saturday.

* Bahrain also said it was confident of “the continuation of Egypt’s leading role in the common Arab work and defending the interests of the (Arab) nation” and said it was interested in developing its relationship with Egypt, Al Watan said.

* ISRAEL:

– In remarks to reporters that echoed a written statement issued on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced satisfaction that Egypt’s military leadership had announced it would respect all the country’s international treaties.

– “The peace agreement was kept by Egypt throughout the years … it is the cornerstone of peace and stability, not only for the two countries, but for the whole region as well,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

* YEMEN:

– Against a background of spreading anti-government protests in Yemen, the official news agency Saba said the government was confident Egypt’s Higher Military Council would be able to manage the country’s affairs in the transition period.

* Saba, quoting an official source, said Yemen was keen to strengthen relations and would support the Egyptian people “in everything that would bring them stability, progress and development.”

* SYRIA:

– The state controlled newspaper al Watan referred to a statement by the military council which it said had called the uprising a revolution against the “social and economic problems of Egypt.”

In the newspaper’s view, the revolution was also against Egyptian foreign policy and “succumbing to American dictates” and the Egyptian alliance with Israel and Egyptian efforts to undermine the resistance, referring to the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

* TURKEY:

– Turkey called for elections to be held in Egypt in the wake of Mubarak’s resignation, so that the military can hand over power to a democratically elected government as soon as possible.

* “Free and fair elections should be held as soon as possible, with no toleration of chaos, instability or provocations, and constitutional democracy should be secured,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

* “The will of the Egyptian people should be reflected in the election results without any doubt cast on the legitimacy of the election,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by state-run Anatolian news agency.

* IRAN:

* “I congratulate the great Egyptian nation for this victory and we share their happiness,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by state television.

“We hope that the civil movement in Egypt can complete its victory through resistance and by a strong will so that it can successfully reach all its demands.”

* IRAQ:

* “The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak is a step in the right direction because it came as a response to Egyptians’ desire and will for change, and we have confirmed trust that our sister Egypt and its great people, with their experience, history and efficiency, will select leadership that will fulfill their ambitions and keep Egypt’s security, stability and great position in the world,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

* UAE

– “The UAE, which has closely monitored developments in Egypt, confirms its confidence in the ability of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in running the country’s affairs in these delicate circumstances in such a way that would realize aspirations and hopes of the Egyptian people,” the statement from the Emirates News Agency said.

* QATAR

– “This is a positive, important step toward the Egyptian people’s aspirations of achieving democracy and reform and a life of dignity,” said a statement from the Emir’s royal council said.

February 12, 2011

New Era Dawns in Egypt and Across the Arab World

Cached:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/world/middleeast/13egypt.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

By KAREEM FAHIM and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

Published: February 12, 2011

Pedro Ugarte/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. An Egyptian man embraced an army commander in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Saturday morning.

(Source: nytimes.com)

More information: nytimes.com

CAIRO — A new era dawned in Egypt on Saturday as this nation of 80 million — and hundreds of millions beyond its borders — began to absorb the fact that an 18-day mass movement of largely nonviolent protest brought down a nearly 30-year military dictatorship and renewed the country’s lease on life.

Within hours of the news that Hosni Mubarak had resigned as president, Egypt’s new army leadership quickly sought to project its control and assuage fears about military rule, at home and abroad.

In an announcement broadcast on state television on Saturday, an army spokesman said that Egypt would continue to abide by all of its international and regional treaties — which include its peace treaty with Israel — and that the current civilian leadership would manage the country’s affairs until the formation of a new government, without giving a timetable.

The Associated Press, quoting an official at the Cairo airport, said that some current members of the government had been barred from traveling abroad.

The army spokesman urged citizens to cooperate with the police, after weeks of civil strife, and urged a force stained by accusations of abuse and torture to be mindful of the department’s new slogan: “The police in the service of the people.”

As the impact of the revolution settled in, some members of the movement that toppled Mr. Mubarak vowed to continue their protest, saying that all their demands had not yet been met. In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the new Egypt, protesters met in small clusters, arguing about the path forward, as thousands of volunteers cleaned the square.

Some said their sit-in should continue.

As soldiers removed some barricades on the square’s periphery, volunteers with brooms swept streets and scrubbed graffiti from a statue in a nearby square.

The tone of the state media quickly reflected Egypt’s altered reality.

“The People Overthrew the Regime,” read the headline in Al Ahram, the flagship state-owned national newspaper and former government mouthpiece, borrowing a line from the protest movement. Another article noted that Switzerland had frozen the assets of Mr. Mubarak, and those of his aides. On state television an announcer referred to the “Youth Revolution.”

People across the Arab world celebrated the end of the dictatorship in the largest Arab country after a similar uprising in Tunisia last month, but it was less clear if they would be able to follow their examples.

In Yemen, police officers with clubs beat anti-government protesters as they marched on the Egyptian Embassy, demanding the resignation of the president, Reuters reported.

In Algeria, where an anti-government demonstration had been called, only several dozen protesters arrived in the center of the capital, Algiers, and they were met by hundreds of police officers in riot gear, Reuters reported.

The protests elsewhere came the day after Mr. Mubarak, 82, left without comment for his home by the Red Sea in Sharm el Sheik. His departure overturned, after six decades, the Arab world’s original secular dictatorship. He was toppled by a radically new force in regional politics — a mainly secular, largely nonviolent, youth-led democracy movement that brought Egypt’s liberal and Islamist opposition groups together for the first time under its banner.

“One by one the protesters withstood each weapon in the arsenal of the Egyptian autocracy — first the heavily armed riot police, then a ruling party militia and finally the state’s powerful propaganda machine.

Mr. Mubarak’s fall removed a bulwark of American foreign policy in the region. The United States, its Arab allies and Israel are now pondering whether the Egyptian military, which has vowed to hold free elections, will give way to a new era of democratic dynamism or to a perilous lurch into instability or Islamist rule.

President Obama, in a televised address Friday, praised the Egyptian revolution. “Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day,” he said. “It was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism and mindless killing — that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist movement that until 18 days ago was considered Egypt’s only viable opposition, said it was merely a supporting player in the revolt.

“We participated with everyone else and did not lead this or raise Islamic slogans so that it can be the revolution of everyone,” said Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, a spokesman for the Brotherhood. “This is a revolution for all Egyptians; there is no room for a single group’s slogans, not the Brotherhood’s or anybody else.”

The Brotherhood has said it will not field a candidate for president or seek a parliamentary majority in the expected elections.

The Mubarak era ended without any of the stability and predictability that were the hallmarks of his tenure. Western and Egyptian officials had expected Mr. Mubarak to leave office on Thursday and irrevocably delegate his authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman, finishing the last six months of his term with at least his presidential title intact.

But whether because of pride or stubbornness, Mr. Mubarak instead spoke once again as the unbowed father of the nation, barely alluding to a vague “delegation” of authority.

The resulting disappointment enraged the Egyptian public, sent a million people into the streets of Cairo on Friday morning and put in motion an unceremonious retreat at the behest of the military he had commanded for so long.

“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state’s affairs,” Mr. Suleiman said in a brief televised statement.

It is now not clear what role Mr. Suleiman, whose credibility plummeted over the past week as he stood by Mr. Mubarak and even questioned Egypt’s readiness for democracy, will have in the new government.

The transfer of power leaves the Egyptian military in charge of this nation, facing insistent calls for fundamental democratic change and open elections. Hours before Mr. Suleiman announced Mr. Mubarak’s exit, the military had signaled its takeover with a communiqué that appeared to declare its solidarity with the protesters.

Read on state television by an army spokesman, the communiqué declared that the military — not Mr. Mubarak, Mr. Suleiman or any other civilian authority — would ensure the amendment of the Constitution to “conduct free and fair presidential elections.”

“The armed forces are committed to sponsor the legitimate demands of the people,” the statement declared, and the military promised to ensure the fulfillment of its promises “within defined time frames” until authority could be passed to a “free democratic community that the people aspire to.”

It pledged to remove the reviled emergency law, which allows the government to detain anyone without charges or trial, “as soon as the current circumstances are over” and further promised immunity from prosecution for the protesters, whom it called “the honest people who refused the corruption and demanded reforms.”

Egyptians ignored the communiqué, as they have most official pronouncements of the Mubarak government, until the president’s resignation was announced. Then they hugged, kissed and cheered the soldiers, lifting children on tanks to get their pictures taken. “The people and the army are one hand,” they chanted.

Whether the military will subordinate itself to a civilian democracy or install a new military dictator will be impossible to know for months. Military leaders will inevitably face pressure to deliver the genuine transition that protesters did not trust Mr. Mubarak to give them.

Yet it may also seek to protect the enormous political and economic privileges it accumulated during Mr. Mubarak’s reign. And the army has itself been infused for years with the notion that Egypt’s survival depends on fighting threats, real and imagined, from foreign enemies, Islamists, Iran and the frustrations of its own people.

Throughout the revolt, the army stood passively on the sidelines as the police or armed Mubarak loyalists fought the protesters centered in Tahrir Square.

But Western diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were violating confidences, said that top army officials had told them that their troops would never use force against civilians, depriving Mr. Mubarak of a decisive tool to suppress the dissent.

Now the military, which owns vast commercial interests here but has not fought in decades, must defuse demonstrations, quell widespread labor unrest, and rebuild a shattered economy and security forces. Its top official, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, 75, served for decades as a top official of Mr. Mubarak’s government. And its top uniformed official, Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, has not spoken publicly.

Egypt’s opposition has said for weeks that it welcomed a military role in securing the country, ideally under a two- to five-member presidential council with only one military member. And the initial reaction to the military takeover was ecstatic.

“Welcome back,” said Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who administered the Facebook group that helped start the revolt.

Mr. Ghonim, who was detained for 12 days in blindfolded isolation by the Mubarak government as it tried to stamp out the revolt, helped protesters turn the tide in a propaganda war against the state media this week, when he described his captivity in an emotional interview on a satellite television station.

“Egypt is going to be a democratic state,” he said Friday in another interview. “You will be impressed.”

Dr. Shady el-Ghazaly Harb, 32, a transplant surgeon who was among the small group of organizers who guided the revolution, said the leaders had decided to let the protests unwind on their own. “We are not going to ask the people to stay in the square or leave — it is their choice,” he said. “Even if they leave, any government will know that we can get them to the streets again in a minute.”

Amr Ezz, 27, another of the revolt’s young leaders, said that calling the revolution a military coup understated its achievement. “It is the people who took down the president and the regime and can take down anyone else,” he said. “Now the role of the regular people has ended and the role of the politicians begins. Now we can begin negotiations with the military in order to plan the coming phase.”

The opposition groups participating in the protest movement had previously settled on a committee led by Mohamed ElBaradei, the former diplomat and Nobel laureate, to negotiate with the army if Mr. Mubarak resigned.

Egyptian politicians were already beginning to position themselves to run for office. Amr Moussa, one of the country’s most popular public figures, resigned his position as head of the Arab League, and an aide, Hesham Youssef, confirmed that Mr. Moussa was considering seeking office.

Anthony Shadid, Mona El-Naggar and Liam Stack contributed reporting.

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February 11, 2011

Mubarak Leaves Egypt in Turmoil

Cached:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-11/egypt-in-turmoil-marks-mubarak-s-legacy-after-wave-of-protests-violence.html

By Alaa Shahine and Cam Simpson – Feb 11, 2011 11:07 AM ET

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It took 18 days of pressure from Cairo protesters as the U.S. and the European Union called for change to end the 30-year presidency of Hosni Mubarak, who kept peace with Israel, battled Islamic militants and preserved American interests in the Middle East.

His departure came after violence killed more than 300 people, according to the United Nations, with police sometimes firing on demonstrators and pro-Mubarak forces attacking as well. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, which holds more than 50 percent of all known oil reserves.

The replacement for Mubarak — who said just yesterday that he would stay until September elections while handing powers to his vice-president — must have democratic legitimacy, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said in a telephone interview before Mubarak said he would leave.

Egypt is now at a stage of development in which it is reasonable and expected by the population,” Brzezinski said of the need for a leader popularly elected in free and fair elections.

In its final days, Mubarak’s regime also faced tough criticism from its most powerful ally, the U.S. Since the protests began, officials in the administration of President Barack Obama have been condemning violence wielded against demonstrators, calling for a faster transition and saying emergency laws, which had been used to justify harsh security tactics, should be lifted.

Facebook Opponents

Mubarak was brought down by an unexpected coalition of opposition politicians, members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and, most important, tens of thousands of young people who planned and organized the demonstrations on Facebook and Twitter.

Chief among them: Wael Ghonim, a 30-year-old Google Inc. executive whose social media expertise helped trigger and propel the demonstrations. He was arrested and held in secret detention for more than a week as Mubarak’s government shut down the Internet and mobile services, the tools he used to help make the protests possible.

Two days after his Feb. 7 release, Ghonim told those gathered in Tahrir Square, “I’m not a hero. You’re all heroes, the martyrs who have died in the struggle are the real heroes.” Pictures of those killed were posted around the square.

Mubarak, a former air-force general who as president was commander of the largest military force in the Arab world, was the nation’s longest-serving ruler in more than 150 years. He controlled a government that was the linchpin of U.S. policy in the Middle East for three decades, Brzezinski said.

Peace With Israel

Mubarak kept peace with Israel, with which Egypt had had formal peace for only two years when he took office, supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts, backed Iranian sanctions over its nuclear program and helped broker Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

At the same time, Mubarak, an 82-year-old with jet-black hair, controlled a regime condemned by the U.S. government for its lack of basic freedoms at home, for its widespread suppression of political opposition and for the torture of Egyptian citizens, which was often carried out with impunity, according to the State Department.

“If you are prepared to reconcile those two realities, then it seems to me that, on balance, Mubarak has been a partner and a friend to the U.S. and the region,” said former U.S. Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller.

Still, Miller said, the cost was steep.

‘Anger and Animosity’

“His increasing authoritarianism and repression generated enormous anger and animosity, not just towards him, but also toward the United States,” said Miller, who served as a State Department official under six U.S. secretaries of state and was a peace negotiator in the Clinton Administration. He is now a public policy scholar at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Mubarak was propelled to power by the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, the leader who made peace with Israel two years earlier. Only Mohammed Ali, who ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1849, governed longer in the past 200 years.

Miller said three decades of stability in the region for the U.S. and Israel helped Mubarak buy a pass from Washington when he failed to follow through on pledges to open the country’s political system to competition that would have posed a challenge to his own rule.

Egypt’s benchmark stock index has risen more than seven- fold in the past 10 years. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has almost tripled in the same period. Egypt’s stock market is the second-biggest in North Africa by market value after Morocco according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Protected Ruling Elite

Since the global financial crisis, though, Egypt’s economic growth rate has dropped below the 7 percent that the government estimates is necessary to create enough jobs for a growing working-age population — such as the young people who camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Suppression of a wide array of perceived rivals under an emergency law promulgated in 1981 marked Mubarak’s reign. Some analysts and opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, said his policies protected the ruling elite while leaving the poor grappling with an inflation rate that reached more than 20 percent in 2008.

Mubarak’s governments blamed population growth and the economic mismanagement of past administrations for the poverty that plagued the nation of 80 million.

Egypt’s per-capita gross domestic product more than quadrupled from 1981 to 2009, when it stood at $6,000, lower than countries such as Namibia and Gabon, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Funeral Visit

Mubarak never put in doubt the policy of diplomatic rapprochement with Israel, though his only visit to the Jewish state was for the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

He renewed ties with Arab states, which had almost universally rejected Cairo’s separate peace accord with Israel under Sadat. They showed their anger by breaking diplomatic relations with Egypt, suspending its membership in the Arab League and moving the group’s headquarters from Cairo to Tunis.

Addressing Arab leaders in Cairo in 1996, Mubarak stressed his commitment to regional peace, which he maintained until the end of his regime.

“There isn’t among us anyone who wants to take the region back to the destruction of war or to the phase of no war and no peace,” he said. “We are sincerely determined to struggle for peace until the end.”

Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter when the U.S. helped forge the Egypt-Israel accord, said that was Mubarak’s most important legacy.

Avoiding Legacy

“I think avoiding war in the region is of importance to the United States,” Brzezinski said. “The moment Egypt signed a separate peace treaty with Israel the possibility of an encircling attack on Israel, like in 1973, faded.”

Mubarak also retained Egypt’s alliance with the U.S., which began with Sadat’s break with the then-Soviet Union. Egypt now receives about $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid. U.S. non-military aid last year was $250 million, according to the State Department.

Critics, including the group Human Rights Watch, said he went too far, arguing that the alleged torture of terrorism suspects created more danger than it quelled.

The government’s “foul record on torture” played an important part in fueling the anger that brought Mubarak down, said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Five Times President

She called on the new government to end torture and prosecute perpetrators.

Mubarak was elected president five times. Four were by referendum in which he was the only candidate, and one, in 2005, was an election against an array of weak candidates. Throughout his reign, he retained the state-of-emergency rules that restricted political activity and free speech.

Like Egypt’s three other presidents since the revolution of 1952, Mubarak came from the military. Almost three decades after he assumed power, that same military would announce that it recognized “the legitimacy of the people’s demands” and promise not to fire on peaceful demonstrators.

Until the crisis that began with demonstrations Jan. 25, Mubarak had never appointed a vice president or officially designated anyone as his likely successor. The rise of his son, Gamal, up the ranks of the ruling National Democratic Party led Egyptians to conjecture that he would succeed his father. Both men repeatedly denied this.

Brotherhood Opponents

His most visible political opponents were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group that had renounced violence in the 1970s. Dissatisfaction among Egyptians over corruption and economic inequality fueled its growth.

In 2005, Mubarak opened presidential elections to multiple candidates. The regulations were so restrictive that no strong challengers emerged; the runner-up, lawyer Ayman Nour, won only 7 percent of the vote to Mubarak’s 88 percent. After the election, Nour was jailed for four years on fraud charges that human-rights groups say were trumped up.

In elections later in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in the 454-member parliament — a surprise result that prompted a crackdown on Islamic activists and on anti-Mubarak secular politicians, judges, newspaper editors, bloggers and street demonstrators. Hundreds of Brotherhood activists were rounded up and some put on trial in closed-door military courts.

In 2007, a constitutional amendment forbade parties with religious ties, eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood from fielding a presidential candidate. Rules on running as an independent were also tightened, making a Brotherhood-affiliated nominee unlikely.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alaa Shahine in Cairo at asalha@bloomberg.net Cam Simpson in London at csimpson13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Riad Hamade in Dubai at rhamade@bloomberg.net.

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