A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Day of Protest

Major protests took place today in Tunisia (continuing to demand the interim government step down) and in Lebanon (against Najib Mikati replacing Sa‘d Hariri), but right now I want to comment on Egypt.

Based on video reports, Facebook, Twitter, etc. the demonstrators seem to have succeeded in makiNG their presence felt, and have occupied Tahrir Square (the central one downtown, shown above at dusk today) and are planning an all-night sit-in. Big turnouts were reported from Alexandria as well.

Extensive presence of Central Security Forces means the government was able to control and channel the demonstrations to some extent, but they don't seem to have deterred them as has often happened in the past. Perhaps Tunisia really has given people a new determination. By all reports the demonstrators were peaceful and didn't loot or attack private vehicles. The police were not as gentle. This does seem to have been one of the most successful and impressive turnouts for a demonstration; too often in the past groups mustered tens of thousands of supporters on Facebook, but only a few dozen would show up in the street. This seems different.

The real question is whether everything returns to normal tomorrow. The difference in Tunisia was the crowds kept growing and people got angrier and angrier. But the Egyptian government has always allowed an opposition press as an outlet for releasing pressure; Tunisia was far more absolutist in its control. So I'd be surprised to see a replication of the Tunisian results in Egypt. Of course, I was surprised to see them in Tunis, too.


Rashad said...

Al-Jazeera reported that 2 Egyptians were killed in protests in Suez. Here is one of the main organizers on facebook.


David Mack said...

In terms of both U.S. interests and the impact on the region, Tunisia was a side show. Egypt is the center ring.