The Egyptian Crisis Continues

Protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s government continue in Cairo and other cities, and the government has all but given up on dispersing the masses from the streets. Hundreds of people mobilized to support Mubarak in Cairo, but their number was a fraction of the tens of thousands that occupied the capital’s Tahrir Square Monday night.

The past few days have been repeats in terms of protester mobilization. Every day, Egyptians in Cairo and other cities occupy the main squares and march through the streets, then thousands spend the night in their city’s main square. In the morning, they’re joined by more protesters, and begin again.

The government has used every tactic available to disperse the crowds, and the police are back on the streets after disappearing for days. The army is out in full force. Internet has now been fully disconnected, cell phone and landlines are restricted, and SMS has been blocked for days. The government imposes a 12-hour curfew during the afternoon, evening, night, and early morning, to no avail.

Protesters allege that mobs waging a campaign of looting across Cairo are government operatives.

After his speech on Friday promising that his government will listen to the people’s voices and appoint a new government, Mubarak appointed a vice president and shuffled his cabinet. Most appointees have backgrounds in Egypt’s military or police, though -- prompting many Egyptians and outside observers to reject it as a step towards reform.

On Sunday, Mubarak ordered newly appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik to increase subsidies and to work on reforms for the economy. Later, the government announced that Vice President Omar Suleiman had been asked to open dialogue with the opposition. But the opposition had already settled on their one demand: Mubarak must resign. This demand was repeated by opposition leader and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed El Baradei at a protest in Cairo, and later by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

The government’s inability to disperse the protesters or to meet their demands has started chipping away at the international support Mubarak received when the crisis first began.