What’s Going on in Egypt

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard something about the protest going on in Egypt. If geography isn’t your forte, Egypt is a country in North Africa. They are bordered by the

Hosni Mubarek

Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.

 

The protests began on January 25 with tens of thousands marching through the streets of downtown Cairo to the beat of the ousting of their president Hosni Mubarak who has been accused of corruption throughout his administration.

The protests sparked worldwide attention due to the increasing use of social media like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube that allow activists to coordinate, communicate and document the events as they occur.

Prior to the Egyptian protests, major demonstrations were occurring in Tunisia that began in December. The protests began after thousands of Tunisians became dissatisfied with high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, suppression of freedom of speech and poor living conditions. The ongoing conflict has resulted in 219 deaths and 94 injuries. It also led to the ousting of the now former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 28 days after the protests began.

The Egyptian protests, like that in Tunisia, have focused on issues like food inflation, corruption, suppression of freedom of speech and high unemployment. But unlike Tunisia, Egyptians are also fighting against police brutality, state of emergency laws, and the lack of free elections.

In Egypt, the death toll currently stands at 300, including 135 protestors, 12 policemen, 12 escaped prisoners and 1 police chief.

Mubarak dissolved his government in late January. In response to mounting pressure from protestors, he announced he would not seek re-election in September.

On February 4, “The Day of Departure,” Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud was the first journalist to die while covering the protests. He succumbed to gunshot wounds sustained on January 28.

As recent as February 6, protestors continue to camp out in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Journalists continue to be targets for prosecution. A journalist named Ayman Mohyedlin was arrested by soldiers in Tahrir Square. Protestors against the regime now exceed 1 million people.

International reactions to the protests have varied. Most western states have announced that only peaceful protests should continue.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that Egypt remains an important partner for Canada and that “We urge the Egyptian government to ensure full freedom of political expression for its citizens.” He added that the Canadian government “continues to stand by the people of Egypt as they demand democratic reforms and respect for human rights. We urge the Government of Egypt to begin an immediate transition toward democratic reform.”

U.S. President Barack Obama stated that his first concern is preventing injury or loss of life and said: “What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people. Ultimately the Egyptian people will determine the future of Egypt. The United States will always be a committed partner to that future, with the Egyptian government, and with the Egyptian people.” He also said that the Egyptian protesters have rights that are “universal,” with the right to peaceful assembly and association, free speech and “the ability to determine their own destiny. “These are human rights and the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

— Curtis Sindrey

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