25 Jan 2011

Egypt protests: thousands on the streets

As thousands of Egyptians stage protests across the country demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, Twitter has not been accessible in the country, Channel 4 News understands.

Widespread protests in Egypt, Twitter down - Reuters

The nationwide “Day of Revolution” coincides with Police Day and the protesters are rallying against Mubarak’s 30-year rule, a crumbling social welfare, and unemployment, in scenes reminiscent of those in Tunisia earlier this month, which led to the flight of ruler Ben Ali.

Before the social networking site became unavailable, at around 3pm GMT, tweeters in the country posted sightings of out-of-control protests and claims of police brutality.

“Police just arrested everyone in Cilantro (an Egyptian coffee shop). Took their IDs and phones. We barely got out,” one tweet read.

“News of protesters being beaten up in Shubra,” read another.

Reports emerging suggest the scale of the protests have mushroomed throughout the day. Initial reports of hundreds of protestors have changed to tens of thousands.

It is thought that at least 20,000 demonstrators assembled outside the Arab League Headquarters in the capital Cairo.

‘Security siege’

The author of a prominent Cairo-based blog, Egytian Chronicles, emailed Channel 4 News with an account of the ongoing protests.

“I tried to get in to the Tahrir protest at the main square of Cairo but I failed as…Cairo (is) technically blocked, under a security siege that can’t be described, we have not seen something like that for years across the country,” he wrote.

“I have received (information) that the protesters at Al Tahrir square are being attacked by the security forces.”

Further reports suggest that two journalists have been arrested in Mohendessin, Giza and Mahalla.

A website which was live-streaming protests in Cairo went offline shortly before Twitter did.

Unconfirmed reports circulating suggest that Gamal Mubarak, the leader’s youngest of two son, had left the country with his wife, Khadiga El Gammal.

The Cairo Chronicles blogger told Channel 4 News: “Since yesterday, there have been a lot of rumours about private jets leaving Cairo.”

In the past eight days, it is believed that at least 12 Egyptians have set themselves on fire, again evocative of the Tunisian revolt.

Egyptian Opposition leader Ayman Nour said Egyptians were tired of having Mubarak as their leader.

“Our message today consists of one word: ‘leave’. We are telling President Mubarak to leave. ‘We do not want you. We cannot stand you or your system of government. The Egyptian people no longer want this system. You (Mubarak) have closed all doors to a peaceful change.’

“Today we have started a process of change inspired by Tunisian protests. Today may not be the end; this could be the start of a stage that I believe will be the final stage,” Nour said.

The Interior Ministry warned it would deal firmly with anyone breaking the law and that demonstrators could face arrest.