Saturday, March 12, 2011

Unity Friday in Tahrir Square

Today in Tahrir Square
Photo by AP/Grace Kassab
Today's protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square was called Unity Friday to celebrate unity between Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims.  According to an article from the Egyptian Gazette, there were banners in the Square saying "We are all Egyptians” and “The revolution will succeed if we are all united” were carried by protesters.   Here is an article from an Egyptian newspaper Ahram about this demonstration:

Here is a video from the website of one of the local newspapers, Ahram, showing the sit-in that has been happening since this past Sunday by Coptic Christians in front of the National Television Station building.  They are demanding that the army rebuild their church that was recently burned in Helwan and that the mayor of Helwan resign.  (Helwan is a suburb of Cairo.)

On a different topic, I was glad to read in the Egyptian Gazette today that an organization that monitors censorship, Reporters Without Borders, said that in Egypt "the heavy filtering (of Internet sites) at the height of the revolution has reportedly ended."  This is very good news.  Related to this issue, many people have stopped self-censoring themselves here.  Before the revolution, conversations critical of the government almost never happened in public places.  Now such open conversations are common.  For me as well, I'm writing things on this blog that I never would have written two months ago.  But many Egyptians point out that there is still far to go such as releasing all political detainees, lifting the emergency law, revising or rewriting the Constitution.  

Here's a link to the Egyptian Gazette article about decreased censorship.

Around the region:

The news is on in our flat almost all the time when we're home.  We watch Al Jazeera, EuroNews, CNN, BBC and sometimes Press News (from Iran).   Everyone is very worried about Libya, and Bahrain has also has had a deadly protest today.  

Over 50,000 pro-democracy protesters were in the streets of Bahrain today.  Police shot into the crowd to break up the demonstration injuring more than 150 people.  People were protesting, "The people want to overthrow the government!"

Libya has been just brutal.  One of the parents in our sons school is Libyan and he told me there were reports I was glad to see on EuroNews that the entire European Union has said Qaddafi must go immediately,  Obama has also said this.  While words are not enough, I'm glad at least to see these statements since I know they will mean a lot to the Libyan people.  I remember during the 11 days of Egypt's revolution, many Egyptians knew on a daily basis what Obama's and Hilary Clinton's public statements were.  When Obama and/or Clinton were back-pedaling implying there should be negotiations with Mubarak or that he should oversee the transition to democracy, Egyptians were very frustrated by this.  Sometimes Egyptians would make comments about this to me with their consistent message being that the U.S. should say Mubarak must go, (something the U.S. government never really did in explicit terms).  Hopefully this clarity from the international community regarding Libya will help energize and give strength to the Libyan people.

Speaking of U.S. influence, I found this interesting map showing U.S. aid provided to countries in the Middle East, much of which is military aid:
If this map is too small to read, you can see it in a larger form at this link:

Lastly, for anyone who would like a little more background about what's happening with protests country by country, here is a link to an interactive map showing all the countries that have had pro-democracy protests in the past two months.  If you click on the country, a summary appears at the left.  Bahrain is marked with a circle, off the cost of Saudi Arabia.

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