Guest Author - Debora Dyess
Egypt erupted in riots January 25, 2011 as its citizens protested the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Unemployment, corruption and lack of personal freedoms finally led angry Egyptians into the streets to express their frustration with a government that does not meet their needs. The day, a planned day of recognition for the Egyptian police force, became instead a “day of rage”.
Cairo citizens literally backed police across a bridge as they marched, yelling anti-government protests. throwing rocks and creating dramatic video footage for the world to watch. In other areas, police officers changed into civilian clothing and fled police stations, trying to blend into the crowds as they moved across the city. The police in Egypt are viewed by many to be cruel and corrupt, and stations in major cities across the nation were ramsacked. Egyptian President Mubarak called on the army to restore order and ordered a nighttime curfew, which many ignored. In many places the military was greeting as they moved into the city with cheers, pats on the back and cameras. Civilians posed with the army members, taking pictures.
The Cairo Egyptian Museum, which houses more than 120,000 artifacts, reports that looters entered the museum and damaged statuettes and mummies related to King Tut. A small statue of Tut atop a panther was broken, and the mummified remains of Tut’s grandparents and other articles dating back to the time of the Pharaohs were damaged. When word of the attack on the museum spread, civilians made a human wall around the building, pleading with would-be-looters to leave the museum and its contents alone. Protecting their 5000 year history, they held off most of the thieves until the army arrived. The full extent of the damage is not yet known. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities says that much of the last nine years of his work in the museum was ruined in one night.
The world has reacted to the rioting in Egypt. Stocks world-wide fell,, and oil prices rose . Because the Suez Canal runs through Egypt, and hundreds of oil tankers pass through it each month. Other countries in the Middle East are watching their neighbor with concern.
US President Barak Obama spent 30 minutes on the phone with Mubarak on Saturday, urging the Egyptian leader to show restraint against non-violent protesters, and reminded him that human rights had to prevail. In a televised speech later that day, Mubarak said he was forming a new government, with him at the head, and refused to step down. When protests continued, largely organized on facebook, twitter and through cell phone communications, Mubarak forced ISP providers to cut service to the nation. This resulted in more rioting.
On Sunday, thousands gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, surrounding and cheering Mohamed ElBaradei, the leader of a political party that opposes Mubarak. In response, the president sent fighter jets low enough over the crowd that they could see the cockpits from the ground. Protesters were not impressed. “Today I look into the eyes of each one of you,” ElBaradei said, “and everyone is different today. Today you are an Egyptian demanding your rights and freedom, and what we started can never be pushed back.”
The United States has encouraged Americans to leave Egypt and is making arrangements to assist her citizens in safely leaving the country Monday.