Egypt protests: Major protests mark day eight (Live updates)
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We'll be marking time in Egyptian Standard Time and in Eastern Standard Time.
Protesters are refusing to leave Tahrir Square and Hosni Mubarak refuses to leave office. There are small clashes in Alexandria between anti-government protesters and pro-Mubarak protesters, where gunfire was heard on Al Jazeera's live feed. Everything remains uncertain and in flux at the moment.
Will Englund sent another report in from Cairo about the reaction to Mubarak's speech:
At this tense moment, we're signing off from the blog for the night with a look back 30 years, to the day Mubarak took over as president of Egypt.
On October 14, 1981, after a two day insurgency that ended with the assassination of then-president Anwar Sadat, Mubarak was sworn in before a heavily guarded National Assembly as the country's fourth president. In the Washington Post article that ran the next day, he was described as "a tough-minded former bomber pilot and Air Force commander," who "is regarded as one of the heroes of the 1973 war with Israel." He had strong words for the Islamic extremists who were involved in the assassination. His words may come back to haunt him. The article states:
He said no one, no matter what his rank, wealth or privilege, was above the "sword of the law.""I say from here," he added, "I say to all those who exploit the freedom of the people and their safety, that the fire of the people is worse, and that anyone who thinks violence against the people, the decision of the people, will not be turned back and they shall not escape fierce punishment.
The press briefing at the White House, which is usually scheduled for 2 p.m., has been postponed, likely due to Mubarak's speech. The briefing should be taking place soon and can be watched live here.
In a recorded statement, Hosni Mubarak said the country must "choose between stability and chaos." He said irrespective of the situation, he had no intention of running again. He made it clear that he would stay in office for the next few months to work toward a peaceful transition of power. He blamed political forces who rejected his invitation for dialogue. "Egypt will come out of these difficult circumstances much more stronger," he said. "This dear country is my country... I will die on its land and history will judge me."
The initial reaction from the protesters in Tahrir Square, according to CNN, were angry chants of "We're not leaving Thursday, we're not leaving Friday, we're not leaving."
Egyptian blogger and activist Hossam El-Hamalawy called in from Cairo to say that the crowd in Tahrir Square will only be appeased when Mubarak resigns:
Egyptian state television is now reporting that an "important statement" will air shortly. The New York Times reports that Obama urged Mubarak to stand down in the next elections, which are scheduled for September. This solution will likely not appease the crowds in Tahrir Square who have demanded nothing less than Mubarak's immediate resignation.
Al Jazeera live feed will have the statement and you can watch here.
After Israel, Egypt receives the most U.S. foreign aid than any other country, getting on average just around $2 billion a year since 1979, a report from ProPublica states. Currently, the country receives around $1.55 billion a year. The independent news organization looked into the financial relationship between Egypt and the U.S. and found that $1.3 billion of the funding goes to military spending. From a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks:
President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual [foreign military financing] as "untouchable compensation" for making and maintaining peace with Israel.
The aid does not require Egypt to meet any specific conditions regarding human rights.
Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language news channel based in Dubai, reports that Mubarak will speak tonight, saying he will announce that he will not run in the upcoming election, but will remain in office until then. There is no outside verification for this information and the sources are unnamed. However, BBC Arabic reports that senior figures in the National Democratic Party say there "may" be a statement in the next few hours.
ABC News did report that President Obama sent retired ambassador Frank Wisner to Cairo to speak with Mubarak about how to best prepare for an "orderly transition." Wisner served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And the New York Times said that the message Wisner delivered from Obama was that Mubarak should not run for another term this fall.
Zahi Hawass, the chair of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, was appointed as the minister of antiquities on Monday. Hawass said that all the major monuments and museums of Egypt are being protected by the army. He also said most of the property that had been stolen in the violent conflicts last week has been returned. He thanked both the army and the citizens who stood guard over the rare objects, MSNBC reports.
On Hawass's personal web page he posted this statement:
The commanders of the army are now protecting the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and all of the major sites of Egypt (Luxor, Aswan, Saqqara, and the pyramids of Giza) are safe. The twenty-four museums in Egypt, including the Coptic and Islamic museums in Cairo, are all safe, as well. I would like to say that I am very happy to see that the Egyptian people, young and old, stood as one person against the escaped prisoners to protect monuments all over the country. The monuments are safe because of both the army and the ordinary people.
Some foreigners think Egypt is not interested in protecting our monuments and museums, but that is not true, at all. Egypt has 5,000 years of civilisation, and we love our heritage. I want to send a message to the people of Egypt: all of you are responsible, to ultimately be judged by your own history, to protect your monuments, and should not permit ignorance or outlaws to damage our history - it is the most important thing we own. I am sure the bells from the churches are ringing now, and the voices from the minarets of mosques are calling, to say that Egypt is a safe place to live.
The Post's Janine Zacharia breaks down the loose opposition coalition that has been organizing demonstrations in Egypt:
The Post's correspondent Griff Witte talks about the size of the crowd, which has been reported to be anywhere in size from tens of thousands to two million people, and the Egyptian people's reaction to the U.S. response:
The Post's correspondent Leila Fadel talks about protests from around Egypt:
Philip Crowley, a State Department official, just wrote on Twitter that the State Department is reaching out to Mohammed ElBaradei, one of the leading opposition figures:
Just a few weeks before protests broke out on the streets of Cairo, Congress failed to pass a resolution condemning Egypt's records on human rights and free elections -- all thanks to a powerful lobbying campaign. Dan Eggen looks into who the Egypt's cheif U.S. lobbyists are and how they have helped funnel the nearly $2 billion in military and other foreign aid to Egypt each year. Read it here.
Lauren Bohn, a Fulbright scholar in Egypt, has uploaded a series of videos from the protests to Vimeo. In this clip, Egyptians sing their national anthem, only to be cut off by the roar of a fighter jet. The translated words are "My homeland, my homeland, my homeland/My love and my heart are for thee/My homeland, my homeland, my homeland/My love and my heart are for thee."
Griff Witte reports from Cairo that "hundreds of thousands of cheering people packed every inch of Tahrir Square, with supporters still streaming in from every direction and filling the surrounding broad avenues of downtown."
Witte spoke to Mohammed Fouad, 29, a software engineer who said:
Washington has been very anxious about what's happening here. But it shouldn't be anxious. It should be happy. This will reduce terrorism. When people have their voice, they don't need to explode themselves.
Will Englund filed this report from Cairo, where he says people "are already talking about the presidency of Hosni Mubarak in the past tense:"
If you are in Cairo or another region where protesting is taking place and would like to share what you are seeing and hearing in the streets, call our Google Voice number at +1 202-709-POST and leave a message with details. If you are comfortable telling us your name, please leave that at the start of the message. Also please tell us where you are reporting from.
The U.S. State Department has issued a statement ordering all non-emergency U.S. Government personnel and their families to leave Egypt, further reducing its diplomatic footprint in the country. The statement says:
The Department of State will continue to facilitate the evacuation of U.S. citizens who require assistance. Cairo airport is open and operating, but flights may be disrupted and transport to the airport may be disrupted due to the protests. U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo at: EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov, or at 1-202-501-4444. Please follow the directions on the Embassy website for all other consular inquiries.Obama's Egyptian problem (3:53 p.m. EET | 8:53 a.m. EST)
When protests first broke out in Egypt, President Obama tried to take a carefully plotted course of noncommittal. Speaking to the nation on Friday, he did not come out on the side of either American ally Hosni Mubarak or on the side of the Egyptian protesters. Over the weekend, the White House seemed to set a more determined course that will lead to the eventual departure of Mubarak, but his initial hesitation may have deeply marred his standing in the Arab world.
The White House administration has begun to use the phrase "orderly transition" " to signal its desire for a change in leadership, but it is still treading very carefully as it gauges the best path to follow in Egypt. The Post's political blogger Chris Cillizza discusses Obama's Egyptian problem on the latest Fast Fix:
After protests in Jordan, inspired by the unrest in the region, Jordan's King Abdullah dismissed the government and appointed former military adviser Marouf Al-Bakhit to replace the prime minister Samir Rifai, Reuters reports. A news wire from the Jordan news agency writes that the new government will have the task of "taking practical, swift, and tangible steps to launch a real political reform process, in line with the King's vision of comprehensive reform, modernization and development."
Demonstrators in Jordan have protested the social and economic problems in the country, Joel Greenberg reports, but they have not challenged the king. The protests have been peaceful and have not been confronted by the police.
Griff Witte reports from Tahrir Square:
The transcript of his report reads: "This is Griff Witte with the Washington Post reporting from Cairo, Egypt, where there is a massive demonstration today against the government of President Hosni Mubarak. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have converged on Tahrir Square, which is the central plaza in the middle of the city, and they are demanding that Mubarak step aside.
"Unlike in previous days, there's a real sense of expectation on the streets today. There's a sense that the protesters have won, that Mubarak has lost, that he is very soon going to be leaving the country, leaving his job as president. There is a sense of triumph among the demonstrators, a real giddiness even. People believe that after a week of very large and very intense protests, that that have broken the back of Mubarak's government and that he is going to be forced out.
"Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. Mubarak does not seem to be willing to yield, but the protesters feel that it is only a matter of time.
"I saw a number of signs that they were holding reading 'Game Over', reading 'Checkmate'. There was a procession of demonstrators who walked down the center of the plaza. Tey had hoisted up on their shoulders a fake tomb that they had constructed for a mummy. They were all chanting, 'The Pharoah is finished,' replicating the delivery of a pharoah's body to its final resting place. They believe that's essentially what they're doing here in Egypt. They believe that they're sending Mubarak off. This is a man who has ruled this country for 30 years, but they believe they're sending him off -- perhaps as soon as today, although that remains to be seen."
• Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square Tuesday morning and in cities around Egypt. The Post's Griff Witte in Cairo reports that the atmosphere is buoyant and peaceful, in marked contrast to last week's violent clashes. The crowd is significantly larger than it has been on any previous day and chants: "Mubarak, wake up! Today is your last!"
• However, Witte said that Egypt's uprising "lacks charismatic personalities and any clear agenda beyond ousting Mubarak and holding elections to choose a successor." From Twitter voices in the square, it is uncertain if the plan is to march to the presidential palace this afternoon, or to wait until Friday.
• Phones still seem to be working. Google and Twitter launched a "speak-to-tweet" service that allows people to tweet by dialing one of three international numbers and leaving a voicemail message. The message will automatically tweet the message and use the hashtag #egypt. The company posted three numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855). People can also go to @Speak2Tweet to listen to the messages. About 500 messages have been left since the project started late Monday night.
• Human Rights Watch confirmed that undercover police looted and committed acts of violence last week to stoke fear. Hospitals confirmed that several wounded looters carried police identification cards. Thousands of prisoners also escaped from prison over the weekend, and it was rumored the government allowed the prison breaks to further the notion of instability. State-run Egyptian television has continually reported on looting, violence and criminals rather than on the demonstrations. Al Jazeera suggests that it is an attempt to keep people at home so they do not join the protests.
• There are counter protests in Cairo, with demonstrators shouting their allegiance to Mubarak. There has not been any violence reported between the two groups of protesters.
Here's footage from earlier Tuesday morning as demonstrators prepare for the protest:
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