Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Regime of Thugs

Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Souief, a columnist for the Guardian, writes of Mubarak's bloodbath, now in progress:

Out of my window I saw the crowd marching across 15 May flyover. It's odd: the pro-Mubarak lot are so much more regimented – and so much less civil: the noise pollution, the rude gestures at the street, the sticks, the attitude – and at the same time the perfectly scripted banners, the "stewards" marshalling and directing them.

By midday they had started to attack Tahrir Square; the attacks are continuing as I write now. I'm getting regular updates from the square from my son, nieces, sister and other friends in the thick of it. The people who on Tuesday night were listening to music and debating modes of government are now putting their bodies on the line. It's all they have. The pro-Mubarak lot, of course, have sticks and stones, and swords and chains and dogs and trucks and … the military stand by and do nothing.

So who are these people? In support of the president, they throw Molotov bottles and plant pots from the tops of buildings onto the heads of women and children. To establish stability and order, they break heads with rocks and legs with bicycle chains. To have their say in the debate they slash faces with knives. Who are they? Well, every time one of them is captured his ID says he's a member of the security forces. And his young captors simply hand him to the military who are standing by.

So, the regime once again displays its banality; unable to come up with any move that is decent or innovative, it resorts to its usual mix of brutality and lies. On Tuesday night President Mubarak came on TV and patronised the rest of the country by claiming that Egyptians were in the grip of fear, and pretended that his regime which has been de-developing the country and stealing the bread from people's mouths is now suddenly equipped to "respond to the demands of our young people". He reminded the people of his (now ancient) history as an air force pilot and added a tearjerker about being an old man who wanted die in his country.

And the next morning, not 12 hours after the president's emotional appeal, the regime turned loose its thugs on the street. The same tactics that have been used against protesters over the last five years, the same tactics in force at the last elections to scare voters off the streets, appeared and with redoubled viciousness. This is the regime that is going to listen to the people and use the coming months to put in reforms. Sure.
I've been holding my breath for days, waiting to see which way the Egyptian army was going to jump.  I think at least some of the army are still on the fence, even now. Since most journalists are being physically intimidated and successfully chased from Tahrir Square, the odds don't look good.


The Committee to Protect Journalists is compiling a list of journalists who have been attacked today in Egypt. The breadth of these attacks is gobsmacking. Read it here.

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