Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem Chair of West Midland PSC
Depending on one’s attitude, the departure of Hosni Mubarak from office today is momentous or dangerous or a dream that Palestinians would like to share, but can’t.
Not surprisingly, there has been no official statement from Israel till now, so far as I know, on the events in Egypt tonight. However, the doubts expressed in item 4 probably reflect official Israeli opinion and also the opinion of many Israelis. The concern in Israel is not democracy but security. This does not mean that Israel will not have security even if all the countries in the area go the way of Egypt. Should Israel make peace with the Palestinians it might yet find acceptance by other Arab states, notwithstanding changes in their governments. Wonder if the events in Egypt will spread and demand that Israel mend her ways?
President Obama’s speech said more or less what could be expected: happy for the Egyptian people, hoping that the events will fulfill their dreams, praising the uprising, and, also the army. I personally have an inherent suspicion of armies taking over power. I’d prefer a world without armies at all, not only because I’d prefer a world without wars, but also because military interests and structures are unhealthy for a democratic society. But then, the US is giving substantial military aid to Egypt, and wants to be able to continue being able to count on Egypt as a reliable friend. The army apparently is a necessary component of the latter.
The 5 items below reflect some of the opinions about tonight’s departure of Mubarak and what it bodes. The final item (by Fisk) was written before the news came out about Mubarak’s departure from office, but his doubts and questions are as relevant now as they were when he penned the piece.
I personally am delighted that there was no further bloodshed (although apparently there was in Raffah) and hope that there will not be. I hope that the people will be sufficiently intelligent to take the reins from the army as soon as possible, pen their new constitution, elect their officials, and carry on Egypt’s and the people’s business with intelligence and foresight. I am decidedly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. For the present they have achieved the first step to a change in the future: they have rid themselves of Mubarak.
All the best,
1. The Guardian,
11 February 2011
Egypt’s joy as Mubarak quits
With Hosni Mubarak’s departure, the age of political reason is returning to Egypt and the wider Arab world
[Egypt’s turning point: Anti-government protesters in Tahrir square. Photograph: Andre Pain/EPA]
A joyous night in Cairo. What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab. In Tahrir Square they’re chanting, “Egypt is free” and “We won!”
The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his $40bn loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.
Arab history, despite appearances, is not static. Soon after the Israeli victory of 1967 that marked the defeat of secular Arab nationalism, one of the great Arab poets, Nizar Qabbani wrote:
Corn ears of the future,
You will break our chains.
Kill the opium in our heads,
Kill the illusions.
Don’t read about our suffocated generation,
We are a hopeless case,
As worthless as a water-melon rind.
Don’t read about us,
Don’t ape us,
Don’t accept us,
Don’t accept our ideas,
We are a nation of crooks and jugglers.
Corn ears of the future,
You are the generation that will overcome defeat.
How happy he would have been to seen his prophecy being fulfilled.
The new wave of mass opposition has happened at a time where there are no radical nationalist parties in the Arab world, and this has dictated the tactics: huge assemblies in symbolic spaces posing an immediate challenge to authority – as if to say, we are showing our strength, we don’t want to test it because we neither organised for that nor are we prepared, but if you mow us down remember the world is watching.
Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman makes the announcement that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down Photograph: AP
This dependence on global public opinion is moving, but is also a sign of weakness. Had Obama and the Pentagon ordered the Egyptian army to clear the square – however high the cost – the generals would have obeyed orders, but it would have been an extremely risky operation for them, if not for Obama. It could have split the high command from ordinary soldiers and junior officers, many of whose relatives and families are demonstrating and many of whom know and feel that the masses are on the right side. That would have meant a revolutionary upheaval of a sort that neither Washington nor the Muslim Brotherhood – the party of cold calculation – desired.
The show of popular strength was enough to get rid of the current dictator. He’d only go if the US decided to take him away. After much wobbling, they did. They had no other serious option left. The victory, however, belongs to the Egyptian people whose unending courage and sacrifices made all this possible.
And so it ended badly for Mubarak and his old henchman. Having unleashed security thugs only a fortnight ago, Vice-President Suleiman’s failure to dislodge the demonstrators from the square was one more nail in the coffin. The rising tide of the Egyptian masses with workers coming out on strike , judges demonstrating on the streets, and the threat of even larger crowds next week, made it impossible for Washington to hang on to Mubarak and his cronies. The man Hillary Clinton had referred to as a loyal friend, indeed “family”, was dumped. The US decided to cut its losses and authorised the military intervention.
Omar Suleiman, an old western favourite, was selected as vice-president by Washington, endorsed by the EU, to supervise an “orderly transition”. Suleiman was always viewed by the people as a brutal and corrupt torturer, a man who not only gives orders, but participates in the process. A WikiLeaks document had a former US ambassador praising him for not being “squeamish”. The new vice president had warned the protesting crowds last Tuesday that if they did not demobilise themselves voluntarily, the army was standing by: a coup might be the only option left. It was, but against the dictator they had backed for 30 years. It was the only way to stabilise the country. There could be no return to “normality”.
The age of political reason is returning to the Arab world. The people are fed up of being colonised and bullied. Meanwhile, the political temperature is rising in Jordan, Algeria and Yemen.
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Hosni Mubarak resigns – and Egypt celebrates a new dawn
President Mubarak surrenders power to army and flies out of Cairo as 18 days of mass protest in Egypt end in revolution
Ahdaf Soueif: ‘Look at the streets … This is what hope looks like’
Will Mubarak’s resignation signal genuine progress for Egypt?
Hosni Mubarak: Egyptian ‘pharaoh’ dethroned amid gunfire and blood
Arab Israelis to mark Mubarak downfall in mass rally Saturday
A protest organized by the Balad party for Saturday will turn into a major celebration and is expected to draw large crowds. An Egyptian opposition leader is expected to address the rally directly from Cairo.
“The revolution’s victory is a historic and constitutive moment in the history of the Egyptian Arab people and of the Arab nation in general,” a Balad official said. “It is a moment where the people’s desire and aspiration for liberty, justice and democracy had won.” (Hassan Shaalan)
February 11, 2011
Palestinians can only watch as Egyptians are living their dream
Residents of Jenin’s refugee camp closely followed events in the land of the Nile, in a mood of melancholy jealousy.
In the Jenin refugee camp this week, there was one man who looked like he had been hanged. A rope tied around his body, he rocked back and forth for several long moments – bearing a striking resemblance to the effigy of Egypt’s president strung up in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. But in Jenin, it was the bad servant of the evil queen who was hanged – in a performance of “Alice in Wonderland,” based on the story by Lewis Carroll at The Freedom Theater. The audience cheered when they saw the hanged man, portrayed by the amateur actor Amjad Melhem.
The directors of the play are Juliano Mer-Khamis and Zoe Lafferty and the scriptwriter, a temporary resident of the camp, artist Udi Aloni, whom the program described as being from the U.S. The play’s producer came from Britain, clothes and props were handled by people from Portugal, Germany and Sweden; the wonderful acting troupe was comprised of residents of the Jenin camp. Jenin residents also handled publicity.
Dozens of excited children and teenagers assembled one afternoon this week in the modest but well-kept auditorium located on the edge of the camp – a hall that features black walls, cheap carpets and simple wooden benches. A few hours before the start of the production, some of these youngsters swept the theater area clean, while director Mer-Khamis roamed about the camp’s alleys, distributing flyers that called on children to attend the free performance.
The children’s play was laden with highly pertinent political messages. Mer-Khamis turned to the audience, half-smiling, before the production, and announced: “This is a dangerous play with subversive messages, and so anyone who talks will be thrown out of the auditorium.” But nobody uttered a word; no one disturbed the play, apart from a young child or two who cried when Alice was supposed to wed someone in an arranged marriage.
Then a miracle occurred: the magic rabbit rescued Alice from this unhappy marriage, and brought her to Wonderland, whose freedom she was to gain by using her engagement ring. The good servant rebelled against the evil queen, and everyone expected Alice from Jenin to lead the liberation of Wonderland. But Alice refused to play the role designated for her; instead, she called on residents to free themselves from the oppressive regime by using their own powers. And, indeed, the residents of Wonderland did break free of the evil queen. But their country was left without a ruler – the white queen existed only in their imagination, a symbol of freedom.
Did we say Egypt? Was this about the Israeli occupation? The song, Queen’s “I Want to Break Free,” played by the camp’s talented orchestra, said it all. During the next school vacation, readers should consider taking their children to Jenin’s Freedom Theater, which features a revolving stage, pyrotechnics and acrobats, music, colorful costumes, and high professionalism. The theater’s performances are not for children only, though the kids in the audience heartily applauded this production with earsplitting whistling and clapping.
Afterward, they departed the dark theater and entered the daytime darkness of life in a refugee camp – a life of want and crowding, unemployed youths, card games at the local cafe, children playing with junk on the streets and adults sitting at store-fronts, staring hopelessly into space. This is a reality of idleness and lost hope, of despair.
The Freedom Theater was founded many years ago by Juliano’s mother, Arna Mer-Khamis. Children who took part in its first cycle of plays were fighters in the first intifada; many of them are no longer alive. This week, it was hard to stifle ominous thoughts about what might happen to the children at the production of “Alice in Wonderland”: what does the future hold in store for this current generation of youngsters?
This week, Jenin’s wonderland was to be found in Egypt. Residents of the refugee camp closely followed events in the land of the Nile, in a mood of melancholy jealousy. Each night they crowded into homes to watch television and see what was going on in Cairo. But no winds of change are blowing in the West Bank. No solidarity demonstration was staged; not a single poster of support was to be seen on the streets. The pining for freedom is to be found only in the Jenin theater.
Camp residents saw what just a few days of popular protest can do – topple a tyrannical regime that has been in power for decades. Yet here in the camp, a struggle that has lasted decades, a mass, armed and sometimes violent campaign for freedom, has changed nothing. All is despair. At the end of last week, the IDF once again invaded the camp and in the dark of night whisked four young men from their beds. Nobody in the camp knew why this happened, or where the men were taken. That’s just the way the world turns.
Peddlers hawked their wares this week behind the iron gates of the Jalameh crossing point, hoping that Arab citizens of Israel whom the state has graciously allowed to enter Jenin might want to purchase something. However, the stores that line the street leading to Jenin, a street currently undergoing a well-funded renovation, were mostly closed, due to the lack of customers. Meantime, some 500 municipal workers in Jenin staged a strike, protesting a wave of dismissals; their places were taken by scabs, supplied by contractors. One municipality employee, Jamal Zubeidi, a dear friend who has accompanied us on visits to the camp for almost a decade, told us this week from his home: “The entire world is changing, and just one thing never changes – the wages of a Palestinian worker. Gold prices rise and fall, currency rates of the shekel and dollar fluctuate, and just one thing never rises or falls – our workers’ salaries. For 20 years, it has been 50-60 shekels a day. A kilogram of sugar cost a shekel, and now it is five times more expensive, but the wage remains 50-60 shekels a day. A gas tank cost 20 shekels, and now costs 70 – and the worker’s wage remains 50-60 shekels. The Palestinian worker’s salary is like God: it remains the same thing forever.”
Since the start of the demonstrations in Egypt, Zubeidi has been glued night and day to Al Jazeera broadcasts. Egypt’s revolution instilled a spark of hope, yet for him, it has not broken the spell of gloomy despair that grips the camp. “We also had demonstrations,” he says. “These were staged in protest against Al Jazeera’s disclosure of the documents. We have more democracy than anywhere in the world. They use speakers to call us to come out to demonstrate; the Palestinian Authority even sends us buses to transport us to the protests. In Egypt, it’s forbidden to demonstrate; here they send us buses. But they are not the right sort of protests.”
Zubeidi continues: “I watch Al Jazeera all day long, and I know what to believe, and what to disbelieve. All the residents of the camp support the demonstrators in Egypt. They say: If only this were to happen throughout the Arab world. But there is a major difference between a regime and an occupation. A struggle against an occupation lasts a long time. In Egypt, this is an internal struggle. Should we get a state, it will be more democratic than Egypt’s. We have much more experience with uprisings.
“One of the reasons for our failure is the Arab regimes, which haven’t helped us. We are not angry with the Arab people; our anger is aimed at its governments. These regimes never helped us. All they do is pressure Mahmoud Abbas to engage in another round of negotiations with Israel. They give him money, not to fight the occupation, but rather to pave roads. That will not take us anywhere. Now, after Tunisia and Egypt, we have hope regarding the Arab world. We always said: there is no war without Egypt, and there is no peace without Egypt. Perhaps Egypt and the Arab world will strengthen now, and begin to assist us. Iran has become stronger, as has Turkey, as well as China and India; it’s only the Arab world that hasn’t gotten stronger. Should it strengthen, should it become more democratic, it will help us.”
He continues: “The situation here and in the Gaza Strip resembles Egypt. People have no work, and there is no food, and talking is forbidden. But, with us, each time people want to protest against Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas’ regime in Gaza, they are told: There is an occupation. Fight against the occupation. You will remember that before the second intifada, there was a desire to rise up against the Palestinian Authority; people set fire [to PA] jeeps and police stations; however, following Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, the uprising was directed against Israel. Now the occupation seems a bit distant, but should protest erupt against the Palestinian regime, it will, again, be redirected in opposition to Israel.
“There were no demonstrations here in support of the Egyptian people, because our regime has ties to the Egyptian leadership, and it does not allow protests. But a new intifada could erupt here at any time. Voices are stifled in the West Bank, and they are stifled in Gaza; and the majority of the Palestinian people, the silent majority, knows that what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia can happen here. Here, too, there are young people who studied in universities but have no work. There are many hungry people – we have that too. Here too there are people who are not allowed to speak out. Corrupt politicians – we have that too. And who opposes them? In Jenin there are 200,000 residents, and 500 policemen and soldiers. The ratio is the same in Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah. What would they do with hundreds of thousands of people rising up against them? The only question is when this will erupt.
“The problem is that since 2006, the Palestinian people has been divided. You remember how in 2002 we fought together – all forces, Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front, united. Those days are over. The people are divided. I am now 55 years old, and I will not take part in another uprising; but my children (you will remember that my son was six when the second intifada started ) will not ask me about their own participation. I think that demonstrators in Tunisia and Egypt learned from our own experience. During the first intifada we had popular committees, and in Egypt, neighborhood residents have organized in a similar fashion.
“We face a lot of pressure. I do not live in Gaza, but the pressure is strong there, as it is here, on the West Bank. I know a lot of people who have changed the way they look at our leaderships, Hamas and Fatah. Everyone on the legislative council has a Jeep, suit and tie; each one has built a palace. In the end, there will be an explosion here. It’s particularly dangerous in the refugee camps. The situation is very bad. But in Egypt and Tunisia, protestors had one goal, to oust the ruling regime, and that can be accomplished quickly. With us, it will take many years, dozens of years, to attain the goal. All of Palestine is the size of one neighborhood in Cairo, but we face not only our own regime; we also face Israel.
“I would have hoped that it would be the hungry people who protested in Egypt, but that’s not what happened. When we were young, we believed in the Popular Front, in revolution, but since then each one of us has turned into a teacher, doctor, merchant – nobody remembers having belonged to the Front. Only the hungry and poor remain in the same place; and so I hoped that they would lead the revolution in Egypt. That didn’t happen, and perhaps that won’t happen in our own case,” Zubeidi concludes.
We went out for coffee at an establishment located on the second floor of the city’s main bus depot. A large television screen was broadcasting Al Jazeera; it showed shots being fired on the streets of Alexandria. But nobody in the cafe had energy left to stare at the screen. A group of young people, off-duty security men, played cards; all the other men were looking down at what was going on in the street, averting their eyes from Egypt.
February 11, 2011
[ Mazel. Pessimistic Photo: Israeli Embassy, Sweden ]
Ex-Egypt envoy: Israel in trouble
Zvi Mazel, former ambassador to Cairo, says Israel facing ‘hostile situation’ following Mubarak’s downfall. ‘The army will rule Egypt for years. It’s a whole new world, with no one left to lead the pragmatic states’
Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt was particularly pessimistic Friday after hearing of President Hosni Mubarak’s dramatic resignation.
“It’s over, Egypt is no longer a superpower,” former Israeli Ambassador to Cairo Zvi Mazel told Ynet. “Egypt has completely lost its status in the area, while Turkey and Iran are on the way up. It’s a different world.”
“As long as we had Mubarak, there was no void in our relations with the region. Now we’re in big trouble,” he said.
Israel, Mazel said, had many reasons for concern. “From a strategic point of view, Israel is now facing a hostile situation. It’s over, there is no one left to lead the pragmatic, moderate state.”
Mazel said it could take time before a new government was established in Egypt.
“The familiar governmental framework of the past 30 years has dissolved, and it will take a year or two or three before a new regime rises to power.
“The next stage is disbanding parliament, as the people won’t accept a parliament based on fraud, and holding new elections. Naturally, the opposition will also want to run in these elections and will ask for a longer period of time to gain recognition. The Muslim Brotherhood will take action as well, of course.”
Celebrations at Tahrir Square (Photo: Reuters)
Mazel also spoke about the meaning of military rule, which he believes Egypt is expected to experience in the coming years. “It’s a whole new world, an unknown world. The army is responsible for the jurisdiction systems, and the military constitutional regime is completely different than civilian rule.
“General Tantawi has been appointed chairman of the Higher Military Council, making him the ‘de facto’ temporary president. He is a well known person who never even thought about running for president. In any event, there is no longer a familiar legitimate governmental framework in Egypt.”
According to the former envoy, the fate of Israel’s relations with Egypt in the coming years is hard to predict. “(Tantawi) is okay, but the strategic situation comprises forces we are unfamiliar with. The army will likely maintain the peace agreement, but there will be developments we cannot foresee at this time.”
He did say, however, that the Muslim Brotherhood movement has no foothold in the new reality. “At this stage the army is anti-Muslim Brotherhood. They did some screening to let in as few (Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers) as possible, and they won’t let them rise.”
Mazel believes Egypt is only part of a domino effect.
“We may see a series of upheavals in the region now. Mubarak’s downfall supports revolutionaries everywhere, from Yemen to Algeria. The question is whether such Middle East will be manageable. What if there are coups in Jordan, Morocco or Saudi Arabia? Only God knows who will otake power.”
5. The Independent,
11 February 2011
Robert Fisk: As Mubarak clings on… What now for Egypt?
The fury of a people whose hopes were raised and then dashed
Demonstrators wave their shoes in an insulting gesture during Mubarak’s speech ]
To the horror of Egyptians and the world, President Hosni Mubarak – haggard and apparently disoriented – appeared on state television last night to refuse every demand of his opponents by staying in power for at least another five months. The Egyptian army, which had already initiated a virtual coup d’état, was nonplussed by the President’s speech which had been widely advertised – by both his friends and his enemies – as a farewell address after 30 years of dictatorship. The vast crowds in Tahrir Square were almost insane with anger and resentment.
Mubarak tried – unbelievably – to placate his infuriated people with a promise to investigate the killings of his opponents in what he called “the unfortunate, tragic events”, apparently unaware of the mass fury directed at his dictatorship for his three decades of corruption, brutality and repression.
The old man had originally appeared ready to give up, faced at last with the rage of millions of Egyptians and the power of history, sealed off from his ministers like a bacillus, only grudgingly permitted by his own army from saying goodbye to the people who hated him.
Yet the very moment that Hosni Mubarak embarked on what was supposed to be his final speech, he made it clear that he intended to cling to power. To the end, the President’s Information Minister insisted he would not leave. There were those who, to the very last moment, feared that Mubarak’s departure would be cosmetic – even though his presidency had evaporated in the face of his army’s decision to take power earlier in the evening.
History may later decide that the army’s lack of faith in Mubarak effectively lost his presidency after three decades of dictatorship, secret police torture and government corruption. Confronted by even greater demonstrations on the streets of Egypt today, even the army could not guarantee the safety of the nation. Yet for Mubarak’s opponents, today will not be a day of joy and rejoicing and victory but a potential bloodbath.
But was this a victory for Mubarak or a military coup d’état? Can Egypt ever be free? For the army generals to insist upon his departure was as dramatic as it was dangerous. Are they, a state within a state, now truly the guardians of the nation, defenders of the people – or will they continue to support a man who must be judged now as close to insanity? The chains which bound the military to the corruption of Mubarak’s regime were real. Are they to stand by democracy – or cement a new Mubarak regime?
Even as Mubarak was still speaking, the millions in Tahrir Square roared their anger and fury and disbelief. Of course, the millions of courageous Egyptians who fought the whole apparatus of state security run by Mubarak should have been the victors. But as yesterday afternoon’s events proved all too clearly, it was the senior generals – who enjoy the luxury of hotel chains, shopping malls, real estate and banking concessions from the same corrupt regime – who permitted Mubarak to survive. At an ominous meeting of the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Defence Minister Mohamed Tantawi – one of Mubarak’s closest friends – agreed to meet the demands of the millions of democracy protesters, without stating that the regime would itself be dissolved. Mubarak himself, commander-in-chief of the army, was not permitted to attend.
But this is a Middle Eastern epic, one of those incremental moments when the Arab people – forgotten, chastised, infantilised, repressed, often beaten, tortured too many times, occasionally hanged – will still strive to give the great wheel of history a shove, and shake off the burden of their lives. Last night, however, dictatorship had still won. Democracy had lost.
All day, the power of the people had grown as the prestige of the President and his hollow party collapsed. The vast crowds in Tahrir Square began yesterday to move out over all of central Cairo, even moving behind the steel gates of the People’s Assembly, setting up their tents in front of the pseudo-Greek parliament building in a demand for new and fair elections. Today, they were planning to enter the parliament itself, taking over the symbol of Mubarak’s fake “democracy”. Fierce arguments among the army hierarchy – and apparently between Vice-President Omar Suleiman and Mubarak himself – continued while strikes and industrial stoppages spread across Egypt. Well over seven million protesters were estimated to be on the streets of Egypt yesterday – the largest political demonstration in the country’s modern history, greater even than the six million who attended the funeral of Gamal Abdul Nasser, the first Egyptian dictator whose rule continued through Anwar Sadat’s vain presidency and the three dead decades of Mubarak.
It was too early, last night, for the crowds in Tahrir Square to understand the legal complexities of Mubarak’s speech. But it was patronising, self-serving and immensely dangerous. The Egyptian constitution insists that presidential power must pass to the speaker of parliament, a colourless Mubarak crony called Fatih Srour, and elections – fair ones, if this can be imagined – held within 60 days. But many believe that Suleiman may choose to rule by some new emergency law and then push Mubarak out of power, staking out a timetable for new and fraudulent elections and yet another terrible epoch of dictatorship. The truth, however, is that
the millions of Egyptians who have tried to unseat their Great Dictator regard their constitution – and the judiciary and the entire edifice of government institutions – with the same contempt as they do Mubarak. They want a new constitution, new laws to limit the powers and tenure of presidents, new and early elections which will reflect the “will of the people” rather than the will of the president or the transition president, or of generals and brigadiers and state security thugs.
Last night, a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier’s growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.
Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
Thus when General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds yesterday evening that “everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met”, the people cried back: “The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand.”
Last night, the Cairo court prevented three ministers – so far unnamed, although they almost certainly inc-lude the Minister of Interior – from leaving Egypt.
But neither the army nor Vice-President Suleiman are likely to be able to face the far greater demonstrations planned for today, a fact that was conveyed to 83-year-old Mubarak by Tantawi himself, standing next to Suleiman. Tantawi and another general – believed to be the commander of the Cairo military area – called Washington, according to a senior Egyptian officer, to pass on the news to Robert Gates at the Pentagon. It must have been a sobering moment. For days, the White House had been grimly observing the mass demonstrations in Cairo, fearful that they would turn into a mythical Islamist monster, frightened that Mubarak might leave, even more terrified he might not.
The events of the past 12 hours have not, alas, been a victory for the West. American and European leaders who rejoiced at the fall of communist dictatorships have sat glumly regarding the extraordinary and wildly hopeful events in Cairo – a victory of morality over corruption and cruelty – with the same enthusiasm as many East European dictators watched the fall of their Warsaw Pact nations. Calls for stability and an “orderly” transition of power were, in fact, appeals for Mubarak to stay in power – as he is still trying to do – rather than a ringing endorsement of the demands of the overwhelming pro-democracy movement that should have struck him down.
11.00 As demonstrators mass in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Foreign Minister warns of a military coup if protests continue
15.15 The Egyptian Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, tells the BBC Arabic Service that Mubarak may step down
15.20 The secretary general of the ruling NDP party, Hossan Badrawy, says he expects Mubarak to make an announcement that will satisfy protesters’ demands
15.30 An Egyptian army commander tells protesters in Tahrir Square that: “Everything you want will be realised”
15.45 Egypt’s military council releases a statement saying it is in continuous session and the army will take necessary measures to “safeguard the homeland”, in the clearest sign that Mubarak will be on his way out soon
16.04 The Information Minister, Anas el-Fekky, says Mubarak is in fact not stepping down and remains Egypt’s President
16.15 Al Arabiya television station carries an unconfirmed report that Mubarak has travelled to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with his army chief of staff
17.11 A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition group, says he fears the army is staging a coup
20.50 Defying expectations Mubarak speaks on state TV, giving no indication that he will step down soon