Leave means Get out
Don't you comprehend?
O Suleiman O Suleiman
You too must leave
Sitting in sitting in
Till the regime is gone
Revolution revolution until victory
Revolution in all Egypt's streets
Chants by two million Egyptians, Liberation Square, Feb. 10, 2011
Thursday, February 10, was slated to be a day of preparation for the following day's activities in Egypt. Friday was dubbed "Defiance Day," in reference to the test of wills between the people and the beleaguered president. Despite 17 days of massive demonstrations across the country, Hosni Mubarak remained defiant, still stubbornly refusing to submit to the will of the people, who were coming out by the millions to demand his ouster.
A day earlier, the leaders of the revolution called for a major escalation with another round of massive protests scheduled for Friday. Not only did they ask the people to come to Tahrir Square by the millions, but they also planned to march on state symbols around the country.
By midnight, the buildings of the Council of Ministers, the People's Assembly (lower chamber of parliament), the Consultative Assembly (upper chamber), and the Interior Ministry were totally surrounded by thousands of people. Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq could not reach his office that day and had to relocate to the Ministry of Civilian Aviation.
The youth of the revolution also issued a passionate appeal to the labor movement and unions as well as to all professional syndicates to join the revolution in full force and ignore the regime-appointed union leaders, who were calling for calm as part of the propaganda machine to undermine the people's demands.
Strikes and protests by Egyptian labor are neither novel nor surprising. According to Egypt's Center of Economic and Labor Studies, there were 478 labor protests in 2009 alone, in which 126,000 workers were laid off, tragically resulting in 58 suicides. It was no surprise that this fervent pro-democracy call ignited a spark throughout Egypt.
Tens of thousands of workers across Egypt responded to this appeal and flocked to the streets. As a strike by thousands of workers in the state defense industries was declared in Cairo, these workers managed to block the streets leading to the factories where no one crossed the picket lines.
Other state-owned factories and government agencies throughout Cairo have declared strikes and took to the streets as well. For example, government employees at the Ministry of Environment, the medical Heart Institute, and sanitation workers were on strike. Similarly, public transport workers went on strike while holding a protest calling for Mubarak's ouster. Postal workers organized their protests in shifts.
In the cities of Asyut and Sohag in Upper Egypt, thousands of workers in the pharmaceutical factories, state electrical power and gas service companies, as well as university employees declared a strike and marched across their respective towns.
Furthermore, in the Nile delta cities of Kafr el-Sheikh, el-Mahalla al-Kobra, Dumyat, and Damanhour, major industries such as textile, food processing, and furniture, have completely halted all production. The strikes then spread along the canal and coastal towns of Suez, Ismailiyyah and Port Said. Approximately 6,000 workers at five government companies managed by the Suez Canal Authority continue to be on strike, threatening to spread widely, impacting the passage of international shipping through the canal.
According to the Ministry of Tourism,
over 160,000 tourists left Egypt in the last ten days, resulting in a
total loss of at least $1.5 billion in tourism-related revenue to the
economy. The Abu Dhabi-based paper The National reported that
the country's industrial output has dropped eighty per cent. The daily
economic loss is estimated to be between $300 million and $400 million.
Rahma Refaat, a lawyer and programs coordinator for the non-governmental Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS) told The National, "Most of those on strike say that they have discovered that the resources of our country have been stolen by the regime."
She then cited several strikes as a response to the general call by the pro-democracy leadership of the revolution. She listed 6,000 workers at the Spinning and Weaving Company in the industrial city of Helwan, outside Cairo, 2,000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in Qesna, while about 5,000 unemployed youths stormed a government building in Aswan demanding the ouster of the governor. "Every hour we hear about a new strike." She continued.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Kamal Abbass, executive director of CTUWS promised that if Mubarak was not out by Monday, all workers across Egypt would be on strike, a move that would paralyze the whole country.
Similarly, professional syndicates heeded the call and showed up to the protests in full force. On Wednesday evening, hundreds of judges dressed in their black robes and green sashes joined with other demonstrators in Tahrir Square.
According to Al-Jazeera over twelve thousand lawyers dressed in their black robes marched on Thursday to Abdeen, one of Mubarak's presidential palaces in central Cairo, demanding that he resign.
The same day thousands of medical doctors and pharmacists marched in their white coats to Tahrir Square, joining the demonstrators calling for Mubarak's departure. Meanwhile, thousands of journalists chased their government-appointed union president from his office, and marched to downtown Cairo declaring their support, to the delight of the protesters.
Likewise, actors, writers, directors, singers and musicians were not far behind. For the first time in recent history hundreds of artists joined while chanting with the public in an unprecedented display of support and solidarity.