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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 2/1/11

Power in Action -- The Making of Egypt's Revolution

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By Thursday, the organizers called for "A Day of Rage" after Friday's congregational prayers. The next round of protests included participation by all opposition groups, the largest of which was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Immediately hundreds of their leaders were rounded up and detained. As millions of people across Egypt took to the street, all 350,000 security forces and police were mobilized, advancing on the protesters and turning Egyptian streets and neighborhoods into battlegrounds. By the end of the day dozens more were killed and thousands injured.

Afterwards, security forces evacuated from all the cities. Chaos and confusion ensued. Police stations and buildings belonging to the ruling party were torched. The secret police opened all police stations and prisons releasing all criminals in a scorched-earth attempt to spread fear and chaos. The regime hoped to regain the upper hand by proving its worth to the people as their source of security.

After a four-day absence, at midnight on Friday, the 82-year old Egyptian president addressed his nation of 85 million by blaming his government, describing it as "inept," and promising to appoint a new cabinet. By the following day he appointed two generals, his chief of intelligence, Gen. Omar Suleiman as his first ever vice president and Gen. Ahmad Shafiq as prime minister.

People immediately dismissed the superficial gestures and demanded an end to Mubarak's 30-year rule. By Monday the new cabinet was sworn in, retaining 18 of the previous ministers, including those occupying the important posts of defense, foreign, communications, justice, and oil.

The only major change was the sacking of the interior minister, appointing another general in his place. Not a single opposition party was consulted, let alone appointed. The first order of business of the new government was to reconstitute the security forces and restore order.

Although by Friday the authorities had completely cut mobile phone and Internet services, the genie was already out of the bottle. When asked by the French news service AFP, Abd el-Fattah, who has been camping with her colleagues since Tuesday in Liberation Square, said, after the government disrupted the internet, "We've already announced the meeting places. So we've done it, we no longer need means of communication."

She continued, "We want the regime to go. We've been asking for reforms for 30 years and the regime has never answered or paid attention to our demands." She then added, "It won't just be tomorrow, but the day after and the day after that as well. We won't stop, we won't go home."

Amidst the chant "the People demand the fall of the regime," Abd el-Fattah talked to Al-Jazeera TV, which has been covering the unfolding events non-stop since it began four days earlier, and called for all opposition parties to form a transitional government. But by Saturday the regime interrupted all satellite channels including Al-Jazeera. Egyptians were now totally cut off from all means of information and communications.

By Sunday afternoon a provisional parliament, made up of the major opposition parties including the MB, the liberal Wafd, and the April 6 and Kefaya movements, met at Liberation Square and appointed a 10-member committee, headed by Dr. Elbaradei. Their mandate was to negotiate with the regime the departure of the embattled president. The April 6 youth was disappointed since they had hoped for a formation of a transitional government rather than a committee that would initiate negotiations with the despised regime.

Meanwhile, in the absence of the police and security forces, the president sent the army to restore order and intimidate the protesters. Tanks and armed vehicles were occupying major squares, thoroughfares, and public buildings. The following day F-16s and military helicopters were roaming the skies in a show of force. But the protesters immediately embraced the army, hugging them, chanting for them, and asking them to be on their side.

The head of the army declared that the military would not attack or intimidate the people but would only protect the country and maintain order. A few officers even joined the demonstrators in denouncing the regime. Overall, however, the army seems to have kept its loyalty to the regime despite the popular call to oust the president.

Meanwhile, people formed popular committees to protect their properties and neighborhoods. Hundreds of looters caught by the people were found to be either deserted police officers or common criminals released by the police. All were turned to the army for detention.

Despite the massive demonstrations, the total paralysis of the country, and the increasingly hardened will of the Egyptian people, President Mubarak remained arrogant, stubborn, and unmoved by his people's rage towards his regime. He also was emboldened as he received support from other authoritarians such as the King of Saudi Arabia, and the leaders of Libya and the Palestinian Authority.

Furthermore, a former Israeli defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, considered one of the closest Israeli politicians to Mubarak, told the Jerusalem Post after speaking to Mubarak, "I have no doubt that the situation in Egypt is under control." He then added, "Our relations with Egypt are strategic and intimate."

As the events unfolded the regime seemed confounded and shaken. Initially, the official news agencies in Egypt blamed some members of the ruling party and low-ranking officials. For instance the party demanded and received the resignation of Ahmad Ezz, the right-hand man of Jamal Mubarak, the president's son and undeclared heir apparent.

Ezz was a corrupt billionaire businessman who quickly rose through the party ranks and oversaw the latest fraudulent parliamentary elections where the party won 97 per cent of the seats. Just a few weeks ago, he was praised by ruling party officials for orchestrating the overwhelming victory despite more than 1,500 judicial orders that overturned much of the election results, but were ignored by the government. Ezz and his family immediately left the country in his private jet.

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Esam Al-Amin is a regular contributor for a number of websites.
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