The PJ Tatler

Chaos in Egypt: Mubarak's son flees?

Unconfirmed rumors are stating that the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has fled the country with his family, as the “Day of Rage” erupts in Cairo and throughout Egypt. “Down, down, Hosni Mubarak,” chanted protesters in Cairo, where police fired teargas and used water cannon, and protesters hurled bottles and rocks at them.

The protestors appear to be inspired by the story of “Khaled Said,” an Alexandrian who was allegedly beaten to death by police, and nine protestors who attempted to set themselves on fire in the past week. Like the Tunisian riots, Egyptian anger has been sparked by police brutality and the martyrdom of those sounding off against government corruption and rule by secret police.

The recent riots are also a big change from the protests of the past, where mobs of security crushed the smallest signs of dissent. “Protesters on the streets called up to onlookers from windows above to join in — and many did. Police were relatively restrained and when they did come down with a heavy hand — firing water cannon in a central Cairo square for example — instead of sending people away, protesters seemed emboldened,” stated a Reuters news assessment. “Some even chased after officers, who fled down side roads. That suggests more Egyptians are losing their fear of retribution, which could itself galvanise others.”

The party to watch is Egypt’s largest and most organized opposition, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood [MB]. The MB has so far claimed that it has not taken a role and that its activists have been arrested and harassed. Although Mubarak’s regime is corrupt and controlling, realpolitik suggests that the MB may enter the protests if they pick up a bit. They will also stand the best chance of controlling a post-Mubarak situation, in the unlikely event that the Egyptian President falls.

The Egyptian government isn’t sitting aside. They shut down Twitter and have taken other measures to stop the spread of the protests.