Foreign Policy Blogs

CAIRO DISPATCH: Government Shows Nervousness

A few points from events on the ground in Cairo as protest continue here:

1-Some government media figures appear to be joining ranks with the protestors. Mahmoud Saad, a talk show host in the Egyptian state-run TV, has announced that he will no longer appear on TV starting tonight after he came under pressure from top government officials to report “untruths” about the protests. Mahmoud Saad, a opular TV host, has told other journalists that his disappearance from his daily show, Masr El-Naharda (Egypt Today), comes in protests against pressure to defame protestors as rioters “destroying the country”. The state is clearly starting to launch a media campaign against the protests. My guess is that they will try to scare off the rest of Egyptians from joining the protests in the future by labeling protestors “saboteurs”.

2-Police continued to arrest women in big numbers. This is noteworthy because young Egyptian women, many wearing the veils and many others without it, are taking part in the demonstrations despite the violent crackdown by the police. I expect this to be a major contentious point that could push more ordinary to protest against the government that is arresting “their daughters”. IN this generally conservative society, women are often treated with more respect and are often shiled from dealing with the brutal and abuse police members. It shows how nervous the government is. They are starting to cross some extra red lines.

3- The government has stepped up its security response across the country with dozens of armored vehicles visibly deployed around important buildings in Cairo including the TV and Radio building overlooking the River Nile and several ministerial offices. There will be more beatings, arrests and rubber bullets. More injuries and, worse, even deaths if that pace continues.

4-The government has co-opted labor unions. Sources inside the labor unions say that they now have directions from the Interior Ministry to work to foil any activities by independent labor leaders.

4-The Egyptian government hasn’t responded politically to any of the demands of the protestors. The government has cut or removed subsidies for many staple goods in a country where millions survive on less than two dollars a day. Just before the protests broke out on Tuesday, the government was preparing to cut energy subsidies, a move that would have hiked prices even further. The health ministry was also planning to cut its public health care coverage, limiting the hours at public hospitals were patients could be seen for reduced fees. No word on whether that will change or not. For now, they are ignoring all calls for change.

Emad Mekay
Cairo, Egypt