Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt, Unrest, Crackdowns, and Possible Blowback

Like many in the Western World I was surprised by the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. I say Western World mainly because I have a feeling people in those countries had been seeing the signs and the tension building for a long time now. However, given that international news events aren't often covered all that much in the U.S., for many people what has gone down in less than a month comes completely out of left field.

As I said things have likely been building up for a while so imagine the effect that one person vocalizing what a lot of people have felt can have when it goes viral, like this blog did.

Today pro Mubarak forces decided to attack the demonstrators who have been largely nonviolent for the past week since the demonstrations have happened. While there have been some interesting points made about the protestors such as the relatively secular nature of many of them and the increased role of women amongst them (at least before things got violent), the counter protesters and the attackers have had one thing amongst them: they seem to be connected to Mubarak's government in some form.

Sadly this shouldn't be surprising. It has been common in a lot of countries for people to either infiltrate protesters to push people towards violence (or at least have them painted as violent in the media) or act as goon squads to terrorize people into submission. In Egypt some of the arrested looters were found to have police ID cards on them, for example. Granted some people could say said police were simply trying to help themselves given their poverty. However, in a context like this, it's more likely they were intended to give the impression that the protesters were doing all the looting and that Mubarak needed to restore order. In addition, several of the people in today's attacks on the demonstrators were found to have Interior Ministry IDs on them.

At this point it's too early to tell what will happen to Egypt. The simmering unrest has now exploded. Mubarak unleashing force against the demonstrators has pretty much backfired in terms of world opinion. Tensions are high right now and its hard to see what will happen. Mubarak has claimed he intends to stay in power until the September elections but the backlash he faces as a result of the crackdown could possibly speed up the timetable for him to leave the country (even Sen. John McCain has said "Mubarak must go". What does seem apparent is that things have reached a breaking point as the Egyptian people, struggling with high poverty and years of repression, had finally had enough and want an actual role in election and choosing a government that actually represents their interests.

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