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People who read this blog know that I am not the most enthusiastic supporter of today's protest for both political reasons , and for the fact that I am not quite sure what it would achieve. It's hard to take a protest seriously that gives u the choice between being apathetic or participating by staying at home and doing nothing. However, the government seems to be taking it very seriously, so maybe I should to, especially that they arrested Malek and a number of activists yesterday, forcing a number of other bloggers and activists to spend last night in any other place but their homes. I just took a cab ride to Dowtown and the streets are crawling state security and they are stopping young men who are walking by themselves on the streets and checking their ID's and forcing them to get off the streets as soon as possible.
On the other hand, the government is going for an entire media blitz to stop the strike: The cover of government mouthpieces AlAhram and Al Akhbar are filled with headlines that both deny the existance of any strike , following the line of "What strike? That's just a bunch of hype started by a number of illegal and shady movements and individuals who want to ruin the country!", and yet detail the amounts of legal punishment and trouble that anyone who participates in a strike would receive "Losing your job, Fines, 3 months to a year in prison, being on the government's shit list forever, etc..etc..". Uber government presswhore RoseAlYusef published a headline asking people to calm down, go to work and not worry because everything is working fine and there is no strike , and life is rosy. In Rosealyusef's world, reality is what you make it, which must work really well for them.
The interesting thing is, no one knows really which political powers are with or behind this protest. I mean sure, AlWasat, and alKarama parties are in, and so is whomever is representing Kefaya these days, and some factory workers. The Muslim Brotherhood have announced they won't participate, but they are supporting the protest "with their hearts", whatever the fuck that means. The Pro-government other parties like Egypt;s Youth and the conservative party and their many counterparts are all saying that they support freedom of expression, but are against such shady political stunts that achieve nothing and only hurt the country. The Democratic Front, the Nasserite party are in solidarity with the strike, while Al Tagamo3 and the Wafd party are not joining because "they weren't invited to join" (Awwww……). And Al Ghad , on the other hand, enjoys the most unique position of being For and Anti the strike at the same time, thanks to the fact that there are two factions claiming to represent it now: The Musa faction, which is anti joining, and the Ayman Nour faction, which is all about joining, and naturally AlAhram quotes Musa , while Al Masry Al Youm quotes Gamila Ismael, Nour's wife! It's beautiful!
As far as the people go, they have various reactions: Nawarah Negm's maid thinks that the people will destroy the Bread Bakeries, Haisam tells a story about the driver of his friends' father who is striking today, because he believes that the strike is against the Dutch Fitna movie, the Taxi drivers I took eysterday and today assure me that they have heard of the strike and that people are all worried about it, because whomever doesn't show up to work today will go to jail, even if they were sick. He also told me that the local souq (markets) were open till midnight last night, with people buying lots of goods in anticipation for today. Many of the private schools, afraid of…ehh..I don't know..something..have canceled schools today, and thus the streets of Cairo are empty this morning. Al Dustour newspaper is also reporting that Egyptian movie Star Ahmed ElSaqqah is joining the protest by halting production of his new movie for the day. Saqqa the revolutionary. Who knew?
Anyway, the people behind the strike have created a special blog to document it (can be found here ), and are urging the people on the streets to send their pictures, posts and stories to them , using this e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. They even have a hotline: 0118361000 or 0119423496, so don't hesitate to call it. if you witness something, even if you don;t agree with the protest or the ideology behind it. Look at it the way I look at it: It's a way to flip off the government who won't just allow protesting in the streets, but won't allow people to stay home either. It's the least we can do, no?
Update: They have also arrested Mohamed Sharkawy and Kefaya's leader Mohamed Al Ashqar from their homes, and they have arrested Mustapha Khalil at a Fabric shop in Al Mansoura, out of fear that he might purchase fabrics that could be sued to make protest banners. Oh yeah!
Update: ALMahalla strike is canceled. I repeat, Al Mhalla strike is canceled. All Eyes are now on Al Tahrir square!
Update: Just spoke to Jano at Mahalla. It seems that Mohamed Al Attar and the other strike leaders had reached some kind of compromise over "food allowance" that prompted them to cancel the strike. The other leaders who didn't want to cancel the strike, like Karim Al Bheery, are reportedly sieged into their offices and not allowed to leave or talk to the workers or do anything.
Update: Mohamed Abdel Kuddous got literally kidnapped in Downtwon while buying a newspaper. And yes, it is Mohamed Al Sharkawy- from Mlameh publishing- who got arrested from his finace's house in Sheikh Zayed. The Fun just keeps on rolling!
Update: Kafr Al Dawar workers also abandoned the strike plans, proving once again that egyptian political activists excel at nothing but creating hype. Sweet!
Update: We can probably spin this as a success if we want to. It will go something like this: This call for people to stay at home was so successful no one went to the streets and protested!
Update: People, don't despair! We are victims of our own success. Our campaign to keep people at home was so successful, that no one showed to the protests. Really, we should be applauding ourselves. Job well done people, Job well done!
Update: A demonstration erupted next to the Lawyers sydnicate. The Police is trying to squash it and isn't allowing anyone access inside the syndicate's building!