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“Tunisia, Tunisia…” Oggi nuove proteste al Cairo

Non si ferma il braccio di ferro tra dimostranti e governo in Egitto. Dieci manifestanti sono rimasti gravemente feriti nell’azione avviata in nottata dalle forze di sicurezza per disperdere le migliaia di persone raccolte da martedì pomeriggio in Tahrir Square, la grande piazza al centro del Cairo. Per oggi mercoledì il Movimento del 6 aprile ha indetto una nuova convocazione di massa. I manifestanti gridano, insieme ad altri slogan contro Mubarak, anche “Tunisia Tunisia”.

La polizia ha utilizzato gas lacrimogeni e cannoni ad acqua nelle prime ore della giornata per disperdere i manifestanti che avevano occupato la centrale piazza Tahrir durante la notte. All’alba le strade sono tornate tranquille, con il traffico che fluisce attraverso la capitale. Due manifestanti e un poliziotto sono rimasti uccisi negli scontri propagatisi martedì in diverse città del Paese, dove i dimostranti infuriati per la povertà e la repressione sono stati ispirati da quanto accaduto questo mese in Tunisia, dove il presidente è stato deposto.

Martedì sera, il centro web di un’università aveva annunciato che in tutto il Paese nordafricano sarebbe stato bloccato l’accesso al sito di microblogging, usato in altre occasioni – come è stato il caso delle rivolte in Iran dopo il contestato esito del voto – per organizzare manifestazioni e diffondere notizie fuori dai canali ufficiali. «Abbasso, abbasso Hosni Mubarak» hanno gridato i manifestanti al Cairo. Nel corso delle proteste nella Capitale, ha detto la tv egiziana, un agente è rimasto ucciso. Ma sulla sua morte non sono state fornite informazioni più precise. A Suez, invece, due persone sono morte in seguito alle proteste. Una fonte medica ha parlato di due cadaveri portati in ospedale. La fonte ha detto che a provocarne la morte sarebbero state pallottole di gomma (un cameraman di Al Jazeera è stato colpito in modo lieve). Ad Alessandria alcuni manifestanti hanno abbattuto un ritratto di Mubarak, 82 anni, e di uno dei suo figli, Gamal, che molti egiziani ritengono sia destinato a succedere al padre quando questi si ritirerà. «Tunisia, Tunisia» hanno gridato i manifestanti in tutto il paese. Gli attivisti sul web – tra i più duri contestatori di Mubarak – hanno organizzato le proteste contro la povertà e la repressione in concomitanza con una festività pubblica della polizia.

Qui di seguito il punto questa mattina di Al Arabiya:

Calm returned to the streets of Cairo at daybreak on Wednesday after a night and a day of unprecedented demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak to end his 30-year rule.

An Egyptian opposition group has called on Egyptians again to take to the streets for a second day on Wednesday.

The pro-democracy youth group April 6 Movement, which launched the call for Tuesday’s protests, urged people to head to Cairo’s main square, just hours after police fired tear gas on thousands of protesters to disperse them.

“Everyone needs to head down to Tahrir Square to take over the square once again,” the group said on its Facebook page — which along with Twitter had helped to organise the protests.

Egyptian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and beat protesters to clear thousands of people from a central Cairo square in the early hours of Wednesday after the biggest rallies in years against the authoritarian rule, inspired by the revolt that toppled Tunisia’s president this month.

The White House early Wednesday said that Egypt’s government should be “responsive” to its people’s aspirations.

“The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper,” it said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Wednesday that France regrets the loss of life in Egyptian anti-government protests and supports calls for more democracy “in all countries.”

“I can only deplore that there were deaths, two among the demonstrators, one among the police,” the minister told France’s RTL radio.

“One must be able to demonstrate without there being violence, let alone deaths,” she added.

Two protesters and a police officer were killed in the nationwide demonstrations inspired by Tunisia’s uprising, which also demanded a solution to Egypt’s grinding poverty and were likely to fuel growing dissent in a presidential election year.

Mobilized largely on the Internet, the waves of protesters filled Cairo’s central Tahrir – or Liberation – Square on Tuesday, some hurling rocks and climbing atop armored police trucks.

“Down with Hosni Mubarak, down with the tyrant,” chanted the crowds. “We don’t want you!” they screamed as thousands of riot police deployed in a massive security operation that failed to quell urgent protest.

It’s night fell, thousands of demonstrators stood their ground for what they vowed would be an all-night sit-in in Tahrir Square just steps away from parliament and other government buildings – blocking the streets and setting the stage for even more dramatic confrontations.

The United States late Tuesday urged all sides in Egypt to refrain from violence and said it wanted to see reforms to boost political and economic opportunity.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said the United States believed the government of Egyptian President Mubarak was stable and was looking for ways to meet the Egyptian people’s needs.

As the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, Egypt has much greater strategic importance to the United States than Tunisia. Cairo has long received significant U.S. aid and supported Washington’s efforts to promote wider Israeli-Arab peace.

We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people and we urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence

U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton

While U.S. President George W. Bush at times strongly pressed Egypt to respect human rights and hold free and fair elections, his administration later softened its rhetoric and President Barack Obama has continued the softer tone.

“We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people and we urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence,” Clinton said in a comment addressed as much to the government as the protesters

The State Department, in a statement released later, expressly called on “Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully.”

“We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

A large security force moved in around 1 a.m. Wednesday, arresting people, chasing others into side streets and filling the square with clouds of tear gas. Protesters collapsed on the ground with breathing problems amid the heavy volleys of tear gas.

The sound of what appeared to be automatic weapons fire could be heard as riot police and plainclothes officers chased several hundred protesters who scrambled onto the main road along the Nile in downtown Cairo. Some 20 officers were seen beating one protester with truncheons.

“It got broken up ugly with everything, shooting, water cannon and (police) running with the sticks,” said Gigi Ibrahim, who was among the last protesters to leave the square. “It was a field of tear gas. The square emptied out so fast.”

Ibrahim said she was hit in her back with something that felt like a rock. “Some people were hit in their faces.”

Some protesters turned violent amid the crackdown. They knocked down an empty white police booth and dragged it for several yards before setting it on fire, chanting that they want to oust the regime. A police pickup truck was overturned and set ablaze behind the famed Egyptian Museum. Protesters also set fire to a metal barricade and blocked traffic on a major bridge over the Nile.

Police at the bridge fired tear gas and protesters mounted a charge, forcing officers to retreat, though they quickly regrouped. Two protesters with bleeding head wounds were carried off in ambulances.

Well after midnight, the smell of tear gas drifted throughout central Cairo and riot police remained deployed in large numbers. Tahrir Square looked like a battlefield covered with rocks and debris. The gates of the ruling party headquarters near the square were smashed.

Scattered groups of protesters were holding out in several areas. Many were chased by police vehicles into the Shubra neighborhood, where the streets were strewn with rocks in a sign of a heavy confrontation.

iscontent with life in Egypt’s authoritarian police state has simmered under the surface for years. However, it is Tunisia’s popular uprising, which forced that nation’s autocratic ruler from power, that appears to have pushed young Egyptians into the streets, many for the first time.

“This is the first time I am protesting, but we have been a cowardly nation. We have to finally say no,” said Ismail Sayed, a hotel worker who struggles to live on a salary of $50 a month.

“We want to see change, just like in Tunisia,” said 24-year-old Lamia Rayan.

Dubbed a “day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment,” Tuesday’s protests in cities across Egypt began peacefully, with police at first showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a calculated strategy to avoid further sullying the image of a security apparatus widely criticized as corrupt and violent.

Tomorrow, don’t go to work. Don’t go to college. We will all go down to the streets and stand hand in hand for you our Egypt. We will be millions

An activist wrote on Facebook

But as crowds filled Tahrir Square – waving Egyptian and Tunisian flags and adopting the same protest chants that rang out in the streets of Tunis – security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.

At one point, demonstrators attacked a water cannon truck, opening the driver’s door and forcing the man out of the vehicle. As protesters hurled rocks and dragged metal barricades, officers beat them back with batons.

Protesters emerged stumbling amid clouds of acrid tear gas, coughing and covering their faces with scarves. Some had blood streaming down their faces. One man fainted. Police dragged some away and clubbed a journalist, smashing her glasses and seizing her camera.

The sight of officers beating demonstrators had particular resonance because Tuesday was a national holiday honoring the much-feared police.

Like the Tunisian protests, the calls to rally in Egypt went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 people voicing their support. Throughout the day organizers used Twitter to give minute-by-minute instructions about where to gather in an attempt to outmaneuver the police, until the government blocked it in the late afternoon.

Twitter said early Wednesday it had been blocked in Egypt. In a message, the company wrote: “We believe that the open exchange of info & views benefits societies & helps govts better connect w/ their people.”

“Tomorrow, don’t go to work. Don’t go to college. We will all go down to the streets and stand hand in hand for you our Egypt. We will be millions,” wrote one activist on a group on Facebook, which has been a key tool mobilizing demonstrators.

After remaining silent throughout the day, Egypt’s government called Tuesday night for an end to the protests. The Interior Ministry, which controls the security forces, said authorities wanted to let the protesters express their opinions and accused the crowds of “insisting on provocation.”

“Some threw rocks at police … and others carried out acts of rioting and damage to state institutions,” it said. The ruling party said some 30,000 protesters had turned out across the country.

Egyptians have the right to express themselves

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hosam Zaki

“Egyptians have the right to express themselves,” said Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hosam Zaki.

The dead in Tuesday’s violence included a policeman who was hit in the head with a rock in Cairo, and two protesters who died in the city of Suez east of Cairo, an Interior Ministry official said.

“I support change,” said Sami Imam, a 53-year-old retired teacher who took part in Tuesday’s protests. “The police cannot kill us because we, to all practical purposes, are already dead,” said the father of four, clutching Egypt’s red, white and black flag.

“I have not visited the butcher in six months,” he said, in a reference to Egypt’s rising meat prices.

Adding to the uncertainty is that Mubarak, 82 and ailing, has yet to say whether he plans to run for another six-year term in office. Mubarak has not appointed a deputy since he became president in 1981 and is widely thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.

The protests also follow a parliamentary election marred by allegations of widespread fraud that saw Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party win all but a small number of the chamber’s 518 seats.

In recent weeks, Mubarak and his son have repeatedly vowed to ensure that ambitious economic reforms engineered by the younger Mubarak over the past decade filter down to the poor. But that has not happened and there has been a marked increase in the frequency of street protests over the economy.

Nearly half of Egypt’s 80 million people live under or just above the poverty line, set by the U.N. at $2 a day. The widespread poverty, high unemployment and rising food prices pose a threat to Mubarak’s regime at a time when tensions between Muslims and Christians are adding to the nation’s woes.

The population is growing 2 percent a year and has a “youth bulge”, with some 60 percent under 30 years old, including 90 percent of jobless Egyptians.

With discontent growing over economic woes and the toppling of Tunisia’s president resonating in the region, it was an acknowledgment of the need to tread softly by an Egyptian government that normally responds with swift retribution to any dissent.

(Compiled by Abeer Tayel)


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