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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: En Égypte, la révolte sociale grandit

by Pierre Barbancey

Social Protest Is Rising in Egypt

Translated Sunday 20 February 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Mubarak gone, Egyptians are now free to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

Day had hardly dawned when the military police - recognizable by their red berets - invaded al-Tahrir square to dislodge the few dozen demonstrators still camping there. The evacuation was both militaristic and psychologically violent; the aim was to leave no trace of the demonstrations and the show of force was meant to demonstrate the power of the army, which claims to act as the guarantee of peace and order. Especially order! Indeed the military command was about to issue a new communiqué to ban union and labour meetings.

From our special correspondent in Cairo

The army’s clear intention in doing this is to outlaw strikes and social protest. This did not deter Egyptians from holding meetings. Hundreds of ambulance-drivers in their cars and transport workers gathered outside the Radio and Television building and demanded higher wages and better working conditions. Banks were closed all over the country following a call to strike that was largely followed. Tourist industry workers themselves organized a sit-in at the foot of the pyramids!

Yesterday afternoon uniformed policemen themselves marched but met with opposition as hundreds of young people tried to prevent them from reaching al-Tahrir square. Resentment was running high. “They had a hand in the repression,” one of the young men shouted, and lifted his T-shirt to show traces of blows on his chest. “They’ve tortured me.” Mad with rage, a demonstrator went and spat in the face of an officer who was trying to explain that “we also want to know who the killers were. We are victims of the regime.” To Mohammed, “our anger is understandable. Those policemen were given a free hand. They would arrest us for no reason, accuse us of carrying drugs, they would beat us.”

The Egyptian revolution has entered a new phase. Social protest is breaking out in every part of the country. The army is incapable of tackling this issue, since the government they have legitimized was set up by Mubarak himself.

Despite the police intervention, al-Tahrir square last night was far from having recovered its normal appearance.

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