Egypt unrest: anti-Mubarak protesters seek new resolve

  • Published
Protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo, 8 February 2011
Image caption,
Protests are continuing on Tahrir Square in central Cairo

Protesters on Cairo's central Tahrir Square have called for a new push to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, two weeks into their campaign.

Thousands of people still occupy the square but their lines have been gradually pushed back by the army, keen to get traffic moving again.

Talks have achieved little and Mr Mubarak appears unlikely to resign.

The government has announced concessions, including a 15% pay rise for six million public sector workers.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says that this is a sign that the government is seeking to consolidate its power.

US President Barack Obama has softened his criticism, and spoken positively about a process of dialogue.

"Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path, and I think they're making progress," Mr Obama said in Washington.

Feeling the strain

Opposition activists insist that the dialogue is going nowhere and that they continue to be harassed and arrested, our correspondent reports.

Inspired by the success of a similar popular uprising in Tunisia, the protesters have sought to dislodge Mr Mubarak after 30 years in power.

They blame him for Egypt's economic problems and accuse his government of corruption and repression.

The unrest over the last two weeks has seen fierce clashes with police, and pitched battles between protesters and Mubarak supporters.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) researchers say they have confirmed the deaths of 297 people since 28 January, based on a count from seven hospitals in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. No comprehensive death toll has been given by the Egyptian government.

Some economic activity has resumed, but authorities have delayed reopening the stock exchange until Sunday. On Friday it was estimated that the unrest had been costing the economy an average of $310m (£193m) a day.

The numbers of those on Tahrir Square swells each day, and drops back overnight but, after days of protests, those camping on the square are beginning to feel the strain.

Poor weather has muddied a grassy area used by protesters to pitch their tents.

Food is limited and scores of the remaining demonstrators have suffered injuries, with bandaged heads, arms in slings, and crutches a common sight.

'No traitor'

Omar Salim, who travelled to Cairo from the northern Sharqiya province and had spent the last four nights sleeping in the square, tried to put a brave face on the miserable conditions.

Image caption,
The army is holding the line around Tahrir Square

"The hunger spurs us on," he told the Associated Press. "We're in this together, we are all one - that's what keeps us going."

Ahmed Mustafa, a 58-year-old plumber who said his 26-year-old son Islam had been shot dead in front of his eyes on Saturday, said his resolve to see the protest through to the end had only grown.

"This country has no freedom, no plurality of opinion," he said. "What kind of country is it in which a young man of 26 isn't able to marry, to make a family?"

Mr Mustafa said he and his two other adult sons - Karim, 27, and Khaled, 24 - were also ready to pay with their lives to oust the Mubarak government.

"They've come to die like him and I'm ready to go, too," he told AP.

Wael Ghonim, the Google marketing executive who was behind a Facebook page credited with sparking the demonstrations, was freed on Monday after being detained for 11 days.

He said he had not been ill-treated in custody but was shocked to be branded a traitor.

"Anyone with good intentions is the traitor because being evil is the norm," he told a TV channel.

"If I was a traitor, I would have stayed in my villa in the Emirates and made good money and said, like others, 'Let this country go to hell'. But we are not traitors."

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.