25 January 2011

Egypt: Protesters Say Tunisia is the Solution

Thousands of Egyptians defied their government to join protests Tuesday. Police fired teargas and attacked protesters, demonstrators told RFI of being beaten by police.

"The security forces have been beating the protesters. I myself I've been beaten up," says protester Mohamed Hamama, whose hand was injured by police in Mansoura city.

"People are trying to get through the cordons," he adds. "We don't know what's next. The security forces are very aggressive against us, some people have been arrested."

He estimates there are at least 15,000 protesters in Mansoura, which is some 100 kilometres north of the capital Cairo.

In Cairo, there are protesters of all ages, according to protester Mohammed Rahhal.

"We know that what's happening is wrong and we're asking for the end of the actions of the regime and of the brutality of the emergency laws," Rahhal told RFI. "A lot of people are on their first demonstration, which is really, really heart-warming."

Inspired by the example of Tunisian uprising, they chanted lines from Tunisian poet Abul Qassem Al-Shabi: "If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call.

"And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall."

In Cairo, demonstrators marched towards the central Tahrir Square and down the Corniche, chanting "Down with Mubarak". President Hosni Mubarak has been in power for three decades.

Some 20,000 to 30,000 police are deployed in the capital Cairo, as protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court with large signs that read "Tunisia is the solution".

People are calling for Mubarak to leave the country, for freedom, social justice, an end to corruption and better salaries.

"At the beginning it was relatively under control and the police didn't intervene," says correspondent Alexandre Buccianti. "And then when the number had grown the police intervened with water canons and tear gas. People are still chanting and the police are firing tear gas."

The Interior Ministry has warned that it would deal "firmly" with all those who behave illegally.

The protest was organised on Facebook by groups of mainly young people, Buccianti adds. By Monday, almost 100,000 people had said they would join the protests. Opposition party the Muslim Brotherhood endorsed the protests, but the main group behind the demonstrations is Kefaya, the Egyptian Movement for Change.

"Today the words you could hear most were 'Mubarak Out', even in English," says Buccianti. "I even saw some Tunisian flags and the Egyptians are hoping to do what Tunisia managed to do."

Mohamed Hamama in Mansoura agrees:

"Tens of thousands of protesters are streaming down the street, chanting against Hosni Mubarak, chanting against the corruption," he says.

"They are living so miserably, their salaries are very far below the poverty line. The Tunisian example has proved that people in the streets can change the system and change the regime. "

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