Egypt protesters: Mubarak, you're not hearing us
The Egypt uprising is rolling on with protesters crawling on tanks, hugging soldiers, and insisting that Mubarak must go.
After days of unprecedented Egypt street protests driven by demands that the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak end, the aging Egyptian leader finally emerged from seclusion to address his people.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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At midnight last night he told Egyptians he has "exhausted my life for the country," informed them that he has "always insisted that sovereignty lies with the people," and said his first duty was to "defend Egypt's security and stability." He labeled protesters arsonists and rioters, insisted Egypt is "a state of institutions governed by the rule of law" and appeared to warn Egyptians to heed uprisings in other countries "that drove people to chaos and mayhem that brought them no benefits."
His concrete concession? A cabinet reshuffle. Mr. Mubarak's demeanor and words made it clear that he had no intention of going anywhere.
If Mubarak was hoping his speech, which aside from its references to this week's extraordinary events could have been cribbed directly from his commentary in decades' past, would defuse the crowds, he would have been sorely disappointed today. The Egyptian people responded.to his comments by defying an overnight curfew and pouring out onto streets across the country today, redoubling their demands he be driven from power. The cabinet? It answers to Mubarak and carries out policies he sets. If they've failed, the ultimate responsibility lies with him.
"His address yesterday was very disappointing to everyone in Egypt... they don't want this regime, they want change," Abdallah al-Ashal, a former assistant to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, told Al Jazeera English. "President Mubarak doesn't understand the scope of the demonstrations and their demands. Either he should respond to them or he should leave."
BBC Arabic reported a crowd of 50,000 in Alexandria. Al Jazeera was carrying footage of tens of thousands streaming through the seats of Cairo. Al Jazeera English reported that the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was torched in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor (on Friday, the NDP building in Cairo was destroyed in a fire set by protesters). Clashes with police have claimed dozens of protesters' lives in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez in the past 24 hours, though it will be days before an accurate national death toll can be sorted out.
President Obama finally spoke to Mubarak after his speech Friday night. The US is a key backer of the Egyptian regime, providing $1.3 billion in military aid last year, and a withdrawal of support would be catastrophic for Mubarak. Mr. Obama stopped short of that in his remarks after the phone call, but echoed previous warnings from the US against a harsh crackdown and urged Egypt to accelerate "reform."