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The Egyptian Struggle May Be Protracted, But Will Emerge Victorious

By Stephen Zunes

With the subsidence of dramatic demonstrations on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities a few days ago, as many protesters return to jobs and catch their breath, some analysts were arguing that the pro-democracy struggle had peaked and Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak had won. Tuesday's demonstrations proved otherwise. There is little question that the pro-democracy struggle in Egypt has achieved lasting momentum.

As with other kinds of civil struggles, however, a movement using nonviolent resistance can ebb and flow. There may have to be tactical retreats, times for regrouping or resetting of strategy, or a focus on negotiations with the regime before broader operations that capture the world’s attention resume.

Those who were expecting a quick victory are no doubt disappointed, but successful People Power movements of recent decades have usually been protracted struggles. It took nearly a decade between the first strikes in the Gdansk shipyards and the fall of Communism in Poland; Chile’s democratic struggle against the Pinochet regime took three years between the first major protests and the regime’s acquiescence to holding the referendum which forced the dictator from power.


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I got links to these articles from copies at ICH,

"Robert Fisk: Week 3, day 16, and with every passing hour, the regime digs in deeper

Our writer sees Cairo's protesters rally again in Tahrir Square"

Robert Fisk, Feb. 9, 2011

Blood turns brown with age. Revolutions do not. Vile rags now hang in a corner of the square, the last clothes worn by the martyrs of Tahrir: a doctor, a lawyer among them, a young woman, their pictures strewn above the crowds, the fabric of the T-shirts and trousers stained the colour of mud. But yesterday, the people honoured their dead in their tens of thousands for the largest protest march ever against President Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship, a sweating, pushing, shouting, weeping, joyful people, impatient, fearful that the world may forget their courage and their sacrifice. It took three hours to force our way into the square, two hours to plunge through a sea of human bodies to leave. High above us, a ghastly photomontage flapped in the wind: Hosni Mubarak's head superimposed upon the terrible picture of Saddam Hussein with a noose round his neck.

Uprisings don't follow timetables. And Mubarak will search for some revenge for yesterday's renewed explosion of anger and frustration at his 30-year rule. For two days, his new back-to-work government had tried to portray Egypt as a nation slipping back into its old, autocratic torpor. Gas stations open, a series of obligatory traffic jams, banks handing out money – albeit in suitably small amounts – shops gingerly doing business, ministers sitting to attention on state television as the man who would remain king for another five months lectured them on the need to bring order out of chaos – his only stated reason for hanging grimly to power.

But Issam Etman proved him wrong. Shoved and battered by the thousands around him, he carried his five-year- old daughter Hadiga on his shoulders. "I am here for my daughter," he shouted above the protest. "It is for her freedom that I want Mubarak to go. I am not poor. I run a transport company and a gas station. Everything is shut now and I'm suffering, but I don't care. I am paying my staff from my own pocket. This is about freedom. Anything is worth that." And all the while, the little girl sat on Issam Etman's shoulders and stared at the epic crowds in wonderment; no Harry Potter extravaganza would match this.

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Many of the protesters – so many were flocking to the square yesterday evening that the protest site had overflowed onto the Nile river bridges and the other squares of central Cairo – had come for the first time. The soldiers of Egypt's Third Army must have been outnumbered 40,000 to one and they sat meekly on their tanks and armoured personnel carriers, smiling nervously as old men and youths and young women sat around their tank tracks, sleeping on the armour, heads on the great steel wheels; a military force turned to impotence by an army of dissent. Many said they had come because they were frightened; because they feared the world was losing interest in their struggle, because Mubarak had not yet left his palace, because the crowds had grown smaller in recent days, because some of the camera crews had left for other tragedies and other dictatorships, because the smell of betrayal was in the air. If the Republic of Tahrir dries up, then the national awakening is over. But yesterday proved that the revolution is alive.

Its mistake was to underestimate the ability of the regime to live too, to survive, to turn on its tormentors, to switch off the cameras and harass the only voice of these people – the journalists – and to persuade those old enemies of revolution, the "moderates" whom the West loves, to debase their only demand. What is five more months if the old man goes in September? Even Amr Moussa, most respected of the crowds' favourite Egyptians, turns out to want the old boy to carry on to the end. And woeful, in truth, is the political understanding of this innocent but often untutored mass.


"Egypt's Berlin Wall moment
The recent uprisings do not exist merely in a historical vacuum, but must be considered within a geopolitical context.

by Richard Falk, Feb. 8, 2011

Author bio.: "Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights."

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