Everything changed forever in Egypt today.
In Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez hundreds of thousands of Egyptians defied a government-imposed curfew to continue their protests, which have grown to involve every section of the country. Many of the police have come over to the side of the people, and the military had to be sent in. The army was welcomed by the protesters.
The headquarters of the ruling NDP party was burnt down in Cairo. The government headquarters was burnt down. Around Egypt more than twenty police stations were set afire. In some places police stations were seized by the people and armories were looted.
US State cable 2010-02-17 10CAIRO213 documents a communication from a human rights activist (name redacted) to the US government discussing torture in Egypt and how best to address it.
On February 10, XXXXXXXXXXXX urged the U.S. to focus on quiet diplomatic approaches to the GOE on combating torture as our top human rights priority. XXXXXXXXXXXX believed such diplomacy would be more successful than efforts on other human rights issues. XXXXXXXXXXXXX advised that a series of discreet diplomatic approaches, as opposed to public statements, would be most effective in securing GOE agreement to combat torture. He said he has been in contact with diplomats from EU countries to encourage them to make similar approaches to the GOE.
XXXXXXXXXXX was pessimistic that the GOE would pass significant political legislation, other than the human trafficking law, before the 2011 residential elections. GOE discussions about lifting the State of emergency and passing a counterterrorism law "are just a distraction," he maintained. XXXXXXXXXXX asserted that MFA and NDP fficials, as well as some journalists in the pro-government press, are embarrassed over the extensive use of torture, and want to see improvements. He believed that a discreet order from the Interior Ministry to stop torture would have a powerful effect, and would be more effective than the passage of legislation expanding the definition of torture and increasing penalties, which the quasi-government National Council for Human Rights and independent NGOs have urged. (Note: A contact confirmed that on February 15 a parliamentary committee rejected legislation proposed by a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated MP to increase prison terms for torture from the current 3-10 years to 25 years, and extend the definition to cover senior officers who order torture. End note.)
US State cable 2010-01-31 10CAIRO147 from one year ago, outlines Egyptian police brutality and prison conditions as discussed in meetings between A/S Posner and "senior GOE officials".
Credible human rights lawyers believe police brutality continues to be a pervasive, daily occurrence in GOE detention centers, and that SSIS has adapted to increased media and blogger focus on police brutality by hiding the abuse and pressuring victims not to bring cases. NGOs assess prison conditions to be poor, due to overcrowding and lack of medical care, food, clean water, and proper ventilation. Per ref E, following a landmark 2007 sentencing of police officers for assaulting and sodomizing a bus driver, courts have continued to sentence officers to prison terms for brutality.
US State cable 2010-02-23 10CAIRO237 describes the return of Nobel Prize winner and former IAEA Chairman Mohammed El Baradei to Cairo.
El Baradei is seen as an "independent" and viable alternative to a corrupt regime and an ineffectual opposition. However, the mainstream opposition appears reluctant to claim him as their own "consensus candidate." Despite his reluctance to declare himself a candidate, he appears, for now, to have captured the imagination of some section of the secular elite that wants democracy but is wary of the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables show close US relationship with Egyptian president
"US embassy cable predicted Hosni Mubarak, if still alive in 2011, would run again for presidency 'and, inevitably, win'.
Secret US embassy cables sent from Cairo in the past two years reveal that the Obama administration wanted to maintain a close political and military relationship with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, who is now facing a popular uprising."
The Guardian: US reported 'routine' police brutality in Egypt, WikiLeaks cables show
"Torture widely used against criminals, Islamist detainees, opposition activists and bloggers, embassy cables suggest.
Police brutality in Egypt is "routine and pervasive" and the use of torture so widespread that the Egyptian government has stopped denying it exists, according to leaked cables released today by WikiLeaks."
The Guardian: US embassy cables: Egypt's bloggers take on key role as political activists
"Egypt's bloggers are playing an increasingly important role in broadening the scope of acceptable political and social discourse, and self-expression. Bloggers' discussions of sensitive issues, such as sexual harassment, sectarian tension and the military, represent a significant change from five years ago, and have influenced society and the media."
The Guardian: US embassy cables: Mubarak: Egypt's president-for-life
"President Mubarak last visited Washington in April 2004, breaking a twenty year tradition of annual visits to the White House. Egyptians view President Mubarak's upcoming meeting with the President as a new beginning to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship that will restore a sense of mutual respect that they believe diminished in recent years. President Mubarak has been encouraged by his initial interactions with the President, the Secretary, and Special Envoy Mitchell, and understands that the Administration wants to restore the sense of warmth that has traditionally characterized the U.S.-Egyptian partnership."
New York Times: Cables Show Delicate U.S. Dealings With Egypt’s Leaders
"It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first meeting as secretary of state with President Hosni Mubarak, in March 2009, and the Egyptians had an odd request: Mrs. Clinton should not thank Mr. Mubarak for releasing an opposition leader from prison because he was ill.
In fact, a confidential diplomatic cable signed by the American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, advised Mrs. Clinton to avoid even mentioning the name of the man, Ayman Nour, even though his imprisonment in 2005 had been condemned worldwide, not least by the Bush administration."
Aftenposten: Egypt: Updated Democracy Strategy
"Our fundamental reform goal in Egypt remains democratic transformation, including the expansion of political freedom and democratic pluralism, respect for human rights, and a stable, democratic and legitimate transition to the post-Mubarak era. While our programs in the areas of judicial reform and decentralization are well-conceived and have had some notable successes, we propose to expand our support for civil society, especially through offshore programming."
El País: Una veintena de políticos haitianos tienen vínculos con el tráfico de drogas (Around twenty Haitian politicians are linked to drug trafficking)
"Según un informe confidencial de EE UU redactado antes del seísmo, la misión de Naciones Unidas deberá permanecer hasta finales de 2013. (According to a confidential cable from the United States written before the earthquake, the United Nations mission should stay in the country until the end of 2013.)"
El País: EE UU, contra la impunidad del maltratador en México (The United States against impunity of gender infractors in Mexico)
"Los cables denuncian que el 60% de las mujeres mexicanas han sufrido alguna vez la violencia machista, miles han sido asesinadas, y la impunidad de los agresores, facilitada por las disputas entre competencias federales o estatales, malogra los esfuerzos del gobierno de Felipe Calderón contra la erradicación de la lacra. (The cables denounce that 60% of the Mexican women have suffered at least once gender violence, thousands have been murdered y the infractors remain unpunished thanks to political struggles and competitions between the federal government and that of the states, which hinder the efforts of Felipe Calderón's government against this problem.)"
US State cable 2009-02-23: 09CAIRO326 describes a February 17, 2009 meeting between US Senator Joseph Lieberman and Egyptian President Gamal Mubarak.
Gamal criticizes the Israeli government's decision not to move forward on the Gaza ceasefire without the release of Corporal Shalit. "The various Palestinian factions are due to begin reconciliation talks in Cairo "in about 10 days" and this development will make those discussions more difficult. It makes Egypt look bad, and strengthens Hamas."
Gamal discusses a split within Arab ranks between "moderates" (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and "radicals" (Syria and Qatar). He is of the opinion that Iran has skillfully exploited the lack of movement towards peace. The best way to thwart Iranian ambitions in the region, according to Gamal, is to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and create a unified
Palestinian government. "The Palestinians need elections, both residential and parliamentary."
US State cable 2009-01-15: 09CAIRO79 is titled SUBJECT: GOE STRUGGLING TO ADDRESS POLICE BRUTALITY. The title is directly contradicted by the cable which concludes The GOE has not begun serious work on trying to transform the police and security services from instruments of power that serve and protect the regime into institutions operating in the public interest.
Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. ... NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone. Egyptians are bombarded with consistent news reports of police brutality, ranging from high profile incidents such as accidental but lethal police shootings in Salamut and Aswan this past fall (refs B and C) that sparked riots, to reports of police officers shooting civilians following disputes over traffic tickets. In November 2008 alone, there were two incidents of off-duty police officers shooting and killing civilians over petty disputes.
US State cable 2009-05-19 09CAIRO874 contains a complimentary profile of 81 year old Egyptian president Mubarak where he is praised for weathering, during his 28 year tenure, at least three assassination attempts, and a "manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat".
He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran,s regional influence.
Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a "tough, strong military officer who is fair" as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak's own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people.
We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world. He can harken back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued. In addition to Iraq, he also reminds us that he warned against Palestinian elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep. Now we understand he fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he puts some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf. While he knows that Bashir in Sudan has made multiple major mistakes, he cannot work to support his removal from power.
EGIS Chief Omar Soliman and Interior Minister al-Adly keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics.
It is 8:00pm in Cairo and protesters are still out in the streets defying the curfew that went into effect two hours ago; it bans anyone from the streets until 7 a.m. In Cairo the ruling party headquarters is on fire. Internet, SMS, and cellphone connections are now being interfered with, but earlier we had this from the Guardian's running blog:
4:45pm A downtown police station in Cairo, police cars and gas tanks outside the police station are on fire, which could account for the number of loud explosions being heard, al-Jazeera reports.
It is the fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands demanding an end to President Mubarak's rule. Mubarak has imposed this curfew in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, where all day police and demonstrators have been fighting running battles. Security forces fire rubber bullets, teargas, and water cannon at protesters. That won't be enough because by now the struggle has grown from the major cities to towns and villages. Protesters appealed to the police to join them and at the same time worked to outlast and tire the overwhelmed police.
US state cable 2010-02-24: 10DOHA71 outlines Senator Kerry's meeting with Qatar's Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani (HBJ) on February 13, 2010. In the meeting, HBJ stresses that it is a mistake to exclude Hamas from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, equates Egypt to a physician with one patient, and accuses Egypt of having a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. He also warned against a US military action against Iran.
HBJ told Senator John Kerry February 13 that "everyone in the region" seems to have a separate plan for moving ahead on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute when only one plan was needed; a plan that both the Israelis and Palestinians would accept and finalize. HBJ underscored that it is a mistake to ignore Hamas in seeking a lasting agreement. Saying this does not mean that Qatar expresses a preference for Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot sign off on an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians where open divisions exist.
A summary of the US state cables involving Egypt released and tweeted from Wikileaks today. Updates will follow.
2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt displeased with number and tone of U.S. recommendations
2011-01-28 Cable: The Amir of Qatar discusses Syria, Egypt, and Iran
2011-01-28 Cable: Political arrests of Muslim Brotherhood
2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt's Emergency Law
2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt action against, poet, bloggers, novelist and journalists
2011-01-28 Cable: Police torture in Egypt
2011-01-28 Cable: Police brutality and poor prison conditions in Egypt
2011-01-28 Cable: Assessing support for Mohammed El Baradei
2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran
2011-01-28 Cable: President Mubarak in Washington
2011-02-28 Cable: Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread
2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a "split" within Arab ranks
The latest at 6:00pm pst: As protests build and El Baradei returns, Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party [NDP] says it is open to dialogue but continues the brutal suppression of demonstrators. More protests are expected on Friday and the Internet is all a twitter with the news.
As the Egyptian revolt entered it's third day the number of protester continued to grow into the tens of thousands, numbers completely unprecedented for a country in which such mass demonstrations have been illegal for more than 30 years. The activists who began by calling for economic relief and an end to this State of Emergency first established in 1981 are now demanding a complete change in government and the ouster of president for 30 years Hosni Mubarak.
As we reported on Tuesday, Egyptians and other activists working remotely planned to begin protesting on Tuesday January 25. From the start,
[t]here has been a significant amount of support and planning for the protest online, causing the government and police to promise an equally strong suppression. Over 85,000 people have liked the Facebook page for the protest day, calling for a day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment.
The turnout may have surprised even Egyptian authorities, however, and support is coming in many forms. This Facebook page called for video production and quickly received a link to this piece. Many videos are surfacing on Youtube and elsewhere (see the this collection, for instance).
Egyptians will be demonstrating today in solidarity with Tunisia and in hope for change within their own government. An Egyptian national holiday in honour of the police, has been renamed 'The Day of Wrath', 'Revolution Day', and the 'Koshari Revolution', the latter referring to a rice, lentils and pasta dish frequently eaten by lower income Egyptians.
There has been a significant amount of support and planning for the protest online, causing the government and police to promise an equally strong suppression. Over 85,000 people have liked the Facebook page for the protest day, calling for a day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment.
April 6 Youth Movement, whose group said they distributed over 150,000 flyers for the event, had at least three members arrested last week for distributing pamphlets, according to Egypt's al-Masry al-Youm. Almost half of Egypt's 80 million people live on less than or just above USD$2 a day. The protesters are calling for a raise of minimum wage to 1200 pounds, linking wages to prices, getting rid of the Interior Minister, and abolishing the state of emergency that Egypt has imposed since 1981.
"The lesson from what's happening in Tunisia is that (Arab leaders) won't be able to hide any more behind the Islamist threat argument."
If Tunisians are protesting for freedom, not religion, what role did Wikileaks and online social networks play in mobilizing Arab populations to throw off the shackles of authoritarian, repressive, and corrupt regimes? Are our western institutions responsible for the waves of protest threatening to drown capitals in the Middle East?.
The spate of "copycat" self-immolation protests taking place across the Middle East has claimed another victim.
Twenty-five-year-old Ahmed Hashem El-Sayed, the third Egyptian to set himself ablaze this week, died in hospital late Tuesday. El-Sayed is the third Egyptian to copy Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17, triggering riots and the ensuing Tunisian revolution. Original source
Previously on WL Central:
A man set himself on fire outside Egypt’s parliament in Cairo. Restaurant owner Abdo Abdelmoneim from Qantara stood in front the parliament building in (downtown Cairo) and set fire to himself reportedly because he did not receive the bread coupons for his restaurant. He was immediately taken to hospital to receive treatment.
AllVoices reports that the man appeared at first as though he had come to sit in front of the Council, then he poured gasoline on the lower half of his body and dove to the ground. Security guards and a taxi driver used fire extinguishers to put out the fire.
The guard said, "Security Council found in his identity card is the name .. Abdou Abdel Moneim Hamada Jaafar Khalifa, born on the tenth of February 1962 from the city west of Kantara, Ismailia, and the owner of a restaurant."
Al Jazeera reports from Cairo, Egypt, where some are hoping to follow Tunisia's example and have an uprising of their own. "Down with corruption, Down with autocracy, Down with dictators!" they chant.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit downplayed any risk of a Tunisian style uprising in Egypt.
"The talk about the spread of what happened in Tunisia to other countries is nonsense. Each society has its own circumstances," Abul Gheit told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh.