Egypt Revolt post Tunisia: Is a Dam breaking? What happens next?
London, UK - 26th January 2011, 10:25 GMT
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Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets across Egypt, facing down a massive police presence to demand:
2. Cheaper food; and
3. Ouster of President Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 30 years since Sadat's assassination in 1981.
As of the time of release of this briefing, three people are dead. Two protestors died in the port city of Suez and a security officer died in central Cairo. Protests also took place in Alexandria and industrial Nile Delta towns.
At least 100 protestors were injured in Cairo, where police used tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and dogs to try to disperse the crowds, and Twitter has been blocked.
Twitter and Facebook
Twitter and Facebook are amongst the top Internet social networking services used by protesters to share information and to co-ordinate activities. Activists called for a "day of revolt" in web messages.
Twitter's website became inaccessible in Egypt across all ISPs -- Internet Service Providers -- as of late Tuesday 25th Jan in what is widely believed to be a move to thwart protesters campaigning to oust Mubarak. Despite this censorship, such is the power of distributed computing social media -- supported over multiple communication channels -- that local twitter users are currently sending tweets via mobile telephone text messages and third party software applications. This proves, once again, that in the event of a digitally driven rebellion, self assembling dynamic networks are more flexible than central government strategy.
As John Gilmore, one of the great computer science innovators and founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in 1993, "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it!"
Egyptian protests appear to demonstrate similar patterns to Tunisia as well as copycat effects:
. Thousands have joined the protests after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.
. There have been multiple self-immolations.
. Individuals appear unafraid to risk personal injury to protest, what they believe to be an unjust and intolerable situation.
. Beyond this point of massive street protests, Tunisia's established ruler fell in 48 hours.
. Is the Egyptian protest moving too fast for existing systems to respond quickly enough to contain the situation?
. Will Egyptian government responses be sensitive enough to counter this latest escalation without excessive bloodshed?
Despite some 20-30,000 police being deployed in Cairo centre and the use of tear gas, demonstrators broke police barriers to march towards the central Tahrir square. Once there, thousands of protesters chanted in unison: "The people want the ouster of the regime."
Ironically, Egyptian protest called by pro-democracy youth group 'April 6 Movement' coincided with the national holiday marking Police Day.
Historic Food Riots
Egyptian protests are the largest and most significant since January 1977's riots over bread subsidy cuts that shook the Arab world's most populous nation. Those protests ended three days later with dozens dead, but the Egyptian poor who spearheaded the action were triumphant. President Sadat, at the time, restored the bread subsidies.
Egypt is the Arab world's largest country with a vast security establishment. What are the consequences of these protests on other Arab and Islamic countries?
If Egypt undergoes a full blown Tunisian ‘revolution’:
1. Will the functioning of the major US military base in Egypt come into question?
2. Would there be a spike in the price of oil if there were to be such a major upheaval in the Arab world?
3. How fast is this mode of digitally driven leaderless revolution going to spread to yet more countries?
As anarchy spreads in the streets: are the long-reigning powers, turning into the powers that were? What are the unintended consequences?
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