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February 09, 2011

Day 15 in Tahrir Square: Crowds Remain Strong, Suleiman Makes Veiled Threat

Posted in: Egypt,Foreign policy

Pro-democracy protesters remain numerous in Tahrir Square. (photo: Al Jazeera-English)

The crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square remains strong today. New participants continue to stream into the square to take part in what Egyptians see as both a historic event and as the first opportunity to exercise freedom of speech. News outlet Al Masry Al Youm reports that many of the newcomers are now “members of the upper class and housewives who had once been skeptical of the uprising but were now actively participating in it.”

The small town from which President Hosni Mubarak came has mixed feelings about the uprising. They are proud of their hometown boy, but at the same time they are eager for change. And in spite of being a long way from Cairo, they are very aware of the on-going rally in Tahrir Square:

As for the January 25 popular uprising that has gripped Cairo and other cities in the days since, Jamel dispelled the notion that this was a phenomenon that concerned only an urban elite.

”The people who occupy Tahrir Square in Cairo have become a symbol for everyone in this country. We are all watching everything on television.”

The manifestation of the pro-democracy uprising is spreading to the professional class as well as the labor class. More employees are protesting:

Meanwhile at the headquarters of state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, Egypt’s largest daily, around 500 print-shop employees protested demanding full-time contracts, benefits and bonuses. They continued their protest on Wednesday.

Employee protests also spread around the country. An estimated 5000 employees of the state-owned telecommunications giant, Telecom Egypt, staged protest stands in three different locations across the city–the Smart Village, Ramses Square, and Opera Square. Shady Malek, an engineer with the company said, “We protested today for the establishment of an adequate minimum wage and maximum wage for our company’s employees and administrators.”

Yet in spite of the increasing size and reach of the uprising, Vice President Omar Suleiman made a veiled threat through MENA, a state-run news outlet:

Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency quotes Vice President Omar Suleiman as saying that a crisis triggered by 16 days of anti-Mubarak protests in Tahrir Square must end “as soon as possible.” Suleiman was speaking late Tuesday to a group of Egyptian newspaper editors.

MENA says Suleiman told the editors that the presence of anti-Mubarak activists and satellite television stations in the square was making Egyptian citizens “hesitant to go to work” and disrupting daily life. He accused the satellite television stations of “insulting” Egypt, without naming them.

But, Suleiman also is quoted as saying the government does not want to deal with Egyptian society using “police tools” and prefers to use dialogue to try to address the protesters’ demands

This is not a good sign; one might wonder what political entity will reach out to Suleiman to encourage him to back off, and how long it will be before they do so.


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