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February 8, 2011 Week Three Of Demonstrations in Egypt Begin - History

February 8, 2011 Week Three Of Demonstrations in Egypt Begin - History

A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 8, 2011 Week Three Of Demonstrations in Egypt Begin

The protests in Egypt have entered their third week, with no real end in sight. The protests have begun to be so routine that the story was not covered on Israel's evening news until 20 minutes into the broadcast. As long as Mubarak remains in charge it is hard to see the demonstrators ending their demonstrations. On the other hand, Egypt seems to be stuck in a "Catch 22" when it comes to Mubarack resigning. The issue of Mubarak's remaining in office has confused American policy on Egypt as well. It would seem that under the Egyptian constitution, if Mubarak resigns, elections have to be held within 60 days. Two months is not long enough for any significant opposition party to organize, with the possible exception of the Muslim Brotherhood. Two months is also not long enough to put safeguards into place that will guarantee this is not the one and only free election to take place in Egypt. Many of the opposition leaders understand this problem. However, they are not willing to throw out the Egyptian constitution. They would like to modify the constitution. Others just want Mubarak out of office, whatever the cost. The current regime has been making a number of concessions to the opposition. For many, as long as Mubarak is in power, no amount of concessions will be sufficient.

So for the moment, there is a strange normalcy in Egypt. On one hand, Cairo is returning to a more normal rythym of commerce and other activities for a good part of the day. Though late in the afternoon hundreds of thousands of people return to the square to continue their protests. The current situation could go on for a while without a clear resolution. On the other hand there are reports that Mubarak will head to Germany for medical treatment.

The events in Egypt have had a small, but immediate and quiet impact on Israel. The defense budget was silently increased by 600 million Shekels over the last few days. In the meantime, one of the main stories covered today was the arrest warrant issued for Kiryat Arba's Rabbi Lior, for his endorsement of a book that claimed Jewish law supports killing Muslim children. The Rabbi refused to be questioned by police. Supporters held a rally in Hebron, warning they will stop anyone who tries to arrest the Rabbi. A large number of rabbis who opposed Rabbi Lior's rabbinic ruling have defended him. Lior's defenders claim that even though they disagree with his ruling, he has his rights to his opinions. They claimed that in a democracy freedom of speech is sacrosanct. In the United States, it has been a long established law, that however precious the right of freedom of speech, as Jusice Oliver Wendlall Holmes wrote: "no one has the right to cry 'fire' in a crowded theater". That, in essence is just what Rabbi Lior's words suggest. 

A few articles worth reading, the first by Rabbi SHMULEY BOTEACH in today's Jerusalem Post: Israel is Missing an Historic Opportunity

The second, Speaker's Corner of the Nile by Thomas Friedman 

The Third by Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post: Democracies don't happen overnight

If you have the time, there is a preview of Next Sunday's magazine article called A Plan for Peace That Could Still Be


Egypt protesters seek to spread beyond Tahrir Square

Egypt's protesters yesterday staged the largest protest since the democracy uprising began more than two weeks ago. Now, they may join forces with Egyptian laborers.

The largest demonstrations yet against President Hosni Mubarak swelled Cairo's Tahrir Square last night after young Google executive Wael Ghonim revitalized Egypt's democracy movement with an emotional TV interview upon his release from secret detention.

That massive turnout was a slap to government efforts to reach out to gradualist reform figures and simultaneously undermine the protests by painting the demonstrators as agents of foreign powers.

Now, organizers are aware that Tahrir Square, also known as Liberation Square, is becoming something of a democracy ghetto, and are pushing to establish other beachheads around the city and across the country.

“There are discussions of liberating other squares,” says Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a blogger and democracy activist who returned home from exile after the protests broke out.

After violent clashes by government-backed mobs and protesters a week ago cost about a dozen lives, protesters felt that they had paid for Tahrir with their blood and were reluctant to branch out, Mr. Fattah says. “But now the numbers are so high that there is no reason not to occupy two places,” he says.

Editor's note: Monitor staff photographer Ann Hermes shot video of a large protest in Tahrir Square on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

There were ominous signs that violence could return today. AFP reported that three protesters died today after clashes with police in El Kharga, a village about 200 miles south of Cairo. The police opened fire and wounded 100 Tuesday, with three of the injured passing today. In response, protesters have burned two police stations in town, a courthouse and an office of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

If the democracy protesters fully link up with Egyptian laborers, where resentment has been building for the past decade over declining real wages and management abuses like withholding pay, the Egyptian uprising could blossom into a full-blown national revolution.

But that remains very much an open question since so many workers' demands remain purely economic and they demonstrate some suspicion toward the demands for a full regime change.


Contents

In Tunisia and the wider Arab world, the protests and change in government are called the Revolution or sometimes the Sidi Bouzid Revolt, the name being derived from Sidi Bouzid, the city where the initial protests began. [21] [22] In the Western media, these events have been dubbed the Jasmine Revolution or Jasmine Spring, [23] after Tunisia's national flower and in keeping with the geopolitical nomenclature of "color revolutions". The name "Jasmine Revolution" originated from American journalist Andy Carvin, but it was not widely adopted in Tunisia itself. [24]

The protests and resultant political crises have generally been called the Jasmine revolution only in the foreign media. [25] [26] Tunisian philosopher Youssef Seddik deemed the term inappropriate because the violence that accompanied the event was "perhaps as deep as Bastille Day", [27] and although the term was coined by the Tunisian journalist Zied El Hani, who first used it on his blog on 13 January and initially spread via social media such as Facebook (hence "Revolution Facebook" among the youth of Tunisia), [28] it is not in widespread use in Tunisia itself. [29]

The debate surrounding the name and the poetic influences behind the Tunisian revolution was a popular question among Tunisian intellectuals. [30] The name adopted in Tunisia was the Dignity Revolution, which is a translation of the Tunisian Arabic name for the revolution, ثورة الكرامة (Thawrat al-Karāmah). [31] Within Tunisia, Ben Ali's rise to power in 1987 was also known as the Jasmine Revolution. [32] [33]

Some analysts have named this revolt as the Wikileaks revolution and the Facebook revolution because social media was a main source during the demonstrations and Wikileaks exposed some cracks in the government which has made Tunisians rise against the government.

Riots in Tunisia were rare [35] and noteworthy, especially since the country is generally considered to be wealthy and stable as compared to other countries in the region. [36] Protests had been repressed and kept silent by the regime, and protesters would be jailed for such actions, as with hundreds of unemployed demonstrators in Redeyef in 2008. [37] As noted by Mohamed Bacha in his book The Revolutionary Chants of Club Africain Ultras, [38] [39] Tunisian youth had found an outlet to express their anger and dissatisfaction, through the fan chants of sports association Club Africain Ultras, such as: The capital is very angry, We are solidary when we make war to the sons of --- Who oppress us, and Hey Regime, The Revolution is Imminent.

At the time of the revolution, Al Jazeera English reported that Tunisian activists are among the most outspoken in its part of the world, with various messages of support being posted on Twitter and Facebook for Bouazizi. [40] An op-ed article in the same network said of the action that it was "suicidal protests of despair by Tunisia's youth." It pointed out that the state-controlled National Solidarity Fund and the National Employment Fund had traditionally subsidised many goods and services in the country but had started to shift the "burden of providence from state to society" to be funded by the bidonvilles, or shanty towns, around the richer towns and suburbs. [ clarification needed ] It also cited the "marginalisation of the agrarian and arid central, northern west and southern areas [that] continue[s] unabated." [41] The protests were also called an "uprising" because of "a lethal combination of poverty, unemployment, and political repression: three characteristics of most Arab societies." [42] It was a revolution, notes a Tunisian geographer, "started not by the middle class or the northern urban centers, but by marginalised social groups." [43]

Twenty-six-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi had been the sole income earner in his extended family of eight. He operated a vegetable or apple cart (the contents of the cart are disputed) for seven years in Sidi Bouzid, 300 kilometres (190 miles) south of Tunis. On 17 December 2010, a female officer confiscated his cart and produce. Bouazizi, who had had such an event happen to him before, tried to pay the 10-dinars fine (a day's wages, equivalent to US$3). It was initially reported that in response the policewoman insulted his deceased father and slapped him. This was a false story, which "had been disseminated and used to mobilise as much as possible against the Ben Ali regime." [ who said this? ] [44] The officer, Faida Hamdi, stated that she was not even a policewoman, but a city employee who had been tasked that morning with confiscating produce from vendors without licenses. When she tried to do so with Bouazizi, a scuffle ensued. Hamdi says she called the police who then beat Bouazizi. [45]

A humiliated Bouazizi then went to the provincial headquarters in an attempt to complain to local municipality officials and to have his produce returned. He was refused an audience. Without alerting his family, at 11:30 am and within an hour of the initial confrontation, Bouazizi returned to the headquarters, doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire. Public outrage quickly grew over the incident, leading to protests. [46] [47] This immolation, and the subsequent heavy-handed response by the police to peaceful marchers, provoked riots the next day in Sidi Bouzid. The riots went largely unnoticed, though social media sites disseminated images of police dispersing youths who attacked shop windows and damaged cars. Bouazizi was subsequently transferred to a hospital near Tunis. In an attempt to quell the unrest, President Ben Ali visited Bouazizi in hospital on 28 December. Bouazizi died on 4 January 2011. [48]

Sociologist Asef Bayat, who visited Tunisia after the uprising and carried out field research, wrote about the mechanisation of large-scale capitalist farms in towns like Sidi Bouzid that have come "at the cost of smallholders' debt, dispossession, and proletarianization." [49] Tunisian geographer-cinematographer Habib Ayeb, founder of the Tunisian Observatory for Food Sovereignty and the Environment (OSAE), has questioned the model of development that was introduced in Sidi Bouzid:

[The region] received the most investment between 1990 and 2011. The leading region. It is a region that had an extensive semi-pastoral farming system, and it became in less than 30 years the premier agricultural region of the country. At the same time Sidi Bouzid had been a "moderately poor" region, in a sense, and I put that in quotation marks, and it is now the fourth-poorest region in the country. This is the development which people desire. The problem is that the local population does not benefit. These are people from Sfax and the Sahel who get rich in Sidi Bouzid, not the people of Sidi Bouzid. Hence the link with the story of Mohamed Bouazizi. [44]

On 28 November 2010, WikiLeaks and five major newspapers (Spain's El País, France's Le Monde, Germany's Der Spiegel, the United Kingdom's The Guardian, and the United States' The New York Times) simultaneously published the first 220 of 251,287 leaked documents labeled confidential. [50] These included descriptions of corruption and repression by the Tunisian regime. It is widely believed that the information in the WikiLeaks documents contributed to the protests, which began a few weeks later. [50]

There were reports of police obstructing demonstrators and using tear gas on hundreds of young protesters in Sidi Bouzid in mid-December. The protesters had gathered outside regional government headquarters to demonstrate against the treatment of Mohamed Bouazizi. Coverage of events was limited by Tunisian media. On 19 December , extra police were present on the city's streets. [51]

On 22 December, protester Lahseen Naji, responding to "hunger and joblessness", electrocuted himself after climbing an electricity pylon. [52] Ramzi Al-Abboudi also killed himself because of financial difficulties arising from a business debt by the country's micro-credit solidarity programme. [41] On 24 December , Mohamed Ammari was fatally shot in the chest by police in Bouziane. Other protesters were also injured, including Chawki Belhoussine El Hadri, who died later on 30 December . [53] Police claimed they shot the demonstrators in "self-defence". A "quasi-curfew" was then imposed on the city by police. [54] Rapper El Général, whose songs had been adopted by protesters, was arrested on 24 December but released several days later after "an enormous public reaction". [55]

Violence increased, and protests reached the capital, Tunis, [52] on 27 December where a thousand citizens expressed solidarity [56] with residents of Sidi Bouzid and called for jobs. The rally, organised by independent trade union activists, was stopped by security forces. Protests also spread to Sousse, Sfax and Meknassy. [57] The following day, the Tunisian Federation of Labour Unions held another rally in Gafsa which was also blocked by security forces. About 300 lawyers held a rally near the government's palace in Tunis. [58] Protests continued again on 29 December . [59]

On 30 December, police peacefully dispersed a protest in Monastir, while using force to disrupt further demonstrations in Sbikha and Chebba. Momentum appeared to continue with the protests on 31 December and the Tunisian National Lawyers Order organised further demonstrations and public gatherings by lawyers in Tunis and other cities. Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), said that lawyers across Tunisia had been "savagely beaten". [53] There were also unconfirmed reports of another man attempting to commit suicide in El Hamma. [60]

On 3 January 2011, protests in Thala over unemployment and a high cost of living turned violent. At a demonstration of 250 people, mostly students, police fired tear gas one canister landed in a local mosque. In response, the protesters were reported to have set fire to tires and attacked the RCD offices. [61] Some of the more general protests sought changes in the government's online censorship Tunisian authorities allegedly carried out phishing operations to take control of user passwords and check online criticism. Both state and non-state websites had been hacked. [62]

On 6 January 95% of Tunisia's 8,000 lawyers went on strike, according to the chairman of the national bar association. He said, "The strike carries a clear message that we do not accept unjustified attacks on lawyers. We want to strongly protest against the beating of lawyers in the past few days." [63] It was reported on the following day that teachers had also joined the strike. [64]

In response to 11 January protests, police used riot gear to disperse protesters ransacking buildings, burning tyres, setting fire to a bus and burning two cars in the Tunis working-class suburb of Ettadhamen-Mnihla. The protesters were said to have chanted "We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of God". Military personnel were also deployed in many cities around the country. [65]

On 12 January, a reporter from Italian broadcaster RAI stated that he and his cameraman were beaten with batons by police during a riot in Tunis's central district and that the officers then confiscated their camera. [66] A curfew was ordered in Tunis after protests and clashes with police. [67]

Hizb ut-Tahrir organised protests after Friday prayer on 14 January to call for re-establishing the Islamic caliphate. [68] A day later, it also organised other protests that marched to the 9 April Prison to free political prisoners. [69]

Also on 14 January, Lucas Dolega, a photojournalist for the European Pressphoto Agency, was hit in the forehead by a tear gas canister allegedly fired by the police at short range he died two days later. [70] [71] [72] [73]

During a national television broadcast on 28 December , President Ben Ali criticised protesters as "extremist mercenaries" and warned of "firm" punishment. He also accused "certain foreign television channels" of spreading falsehoods and deforming the truth, and called them "hostile to Tunisia". [74] His remarks were ignored and the protests continued. [59]

On 29 December, Ben Ali shuffled his cabinet to remove communications minister Oussama Romdhani, while also announcing changes to the trade and handicrafts, religious affairs, communication and youth portfolios. [75] The next day he also announced the dismissal of the governors of Sidi Bouzid, Jendouba and Zaghouan. [76]

In January 2011, Ben Ali said 300,000 new jobs would be created, though he did not clarify what that meant. He described the protests as "the work of masked gangs" attacking public property and citizens in their homes, and "a terrorist act that cannot be overlooked". Ahmed Najib Chebbi, the leader of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), responded that despite official claims of police firing in self-defense "the demonstrations were non-violent and the youths were claiming their rights to jobs" and that "the funeral processions [for those killed on 9 January] turned into demonstrations, and the police fired [at] the youths who were at these [. ] processions." He then criticised Ben Ali's comments as the protesters were "claiming their civil rights, and there is no terrorist act. no religious slogans". He further accused Ben Ali of "looking for scapegoats" and dismissed the creation of jobs as mere promises. [77]

Several webloggers and rapper El Général [78] [79] were arrested, but the rapper and some of the bloggers were later released. [80] Reporters Without Borders said the arrest of at least six bloggers and activists, who had either been arrested or had disappeared across Tunisia, was brought to their attention and that there were "probably" others. [81] Tunisian Pirate Party activists Slah Eddine Kchouk, Slim Amamou [82] [83] (later appointed Secretary of State for Sport and Youth by the incoming government) [84] [85] and Azyz Amamy were arrested but later released. [62] [86] [87] [88] Hamma Hammami, the leader of the banned Tunisian Workers' Communist Party and a prominent critic of Ben Ali, was arrested on 12 January, [67] and released two days later. [89]

On 10 January, the government announced the indefinite closure of all schools and universities in order to quell the unrest. [90] Days before departing office, Ben Ali announced that he would not change the present constitution, which would require him to step down in 2014 due to his age. [91]

On 14 January, Ben Ali dissolved his government and declared a state of emergency. The official reason given was to protect Tunisians and their property. People were barred from gathering in groups of more than three, and could be arrested or shot if they tried to run away. [92] [93] Ben Ali called for an election within six months to defuse demonstrations aimed at forcing him out. [94] France24 reported that the military took control of the airport and closed the country's airspace. [95]

On the same day, Ben Ali fled the country for Malta under Libyan protection. [96] His aircraft landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after France rejected a request to land on its territory. Saudi Arabia cited "exceptional circumstances" for their heavily criticised decision to give him asylum, saying it was also "in support of the security and stability of their country". Saudi Arabia demanded Ben Ali remain "out of politics" as a condition for accepting him. [97]

Following Ben Ali's departure from the country, a state of emergency was declared. Army Commander Rashid Ammar pledged to "protect the revolution". [98] Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi then briefly took over as acting president. [17] [99] On the morning of 15 January, Tunisian state TV announced that Ben Ali had officially resigned his position and Ghannouchi had handed over the presidency to parliamentary speaker Fouad Mebazaa, with Ghannouchi returning to his previous position as prime minister. [100] This was done after the head of Tunisia's Constitutional Court, Fethi Abdennadher, declared that Ghannouchi did not have right to power, and confirmed Fouad Mebazaa as acting president under Article 57 of the constitution. Mebazaa was given 60 days to organise new elections. [101] Mebazaa said it was in the country's best interest to form a national unity government. [102]

INTERPOL confirmed that its National Central Bureau (NCB) in Tunis had issued a global alert to find and arrest Ben Ali and six of his relatives. [103]

A commission to reform the constitution and law in general was set up under Yadh Ben Achour. [104] There were also calls by the opposition to delay the elections, holding them in six or seven months with international supervision. [105]

Following Ben Ali's departure, violence and looting continued [106] and the capital's main train station was torched. [106] The national army was reported to be extensively deployed in Tunisia, [106] including elements loyal to Ben Ali. [107]

A prison director in Mahdia freed about 1,000 inmates following a prison rebellion that left 5 people dead. [108] Many other prisons also had jailbreaks or raids from external groups to force prisoner releases, some suspected to be aided by prison guards. Residents who were running out of necessary food supplies had armed themselves and barricaded their homes, and in some cases had formed armed neighborhood watches. Al Jazeera's correspondent said there were apparently three different armed groups: the police (numbering 250,000), security forces from the Interior Ministry, and irregular militias supportive of Ben Ali who were vying for control. [109]

Ali Seriati, head of presidential security, was arrested and accused of threatening state security by fomenting violence. Following this, gun battles took place near the Presidential Palace between the Tunisian army and elements of security organs loyal to the former regime. [110] The Tunisian army was reportedly struggling to assert control. [111] Gunfire continued in Tunis and Carthage as security services struggled to maintain law and order. [112]

The most immediate result of the protests was seen in increased Internet freedoms. [113] While commentators were divided about the extent to which the Internet contributed to the ousting of Ben Ali, [114] [115] Facebook remained accessible to roughly 20% of the population throughout the crisis [115] [116] whilst its passwords were hacked by a country-wide man-in-the-middle attack. [117] YouTube and DailyMotion became available after Ben Ali's ouster, [118] and the Tor anonymity network reported a surge of traffic from Tunisia. [119]

The Ghannouchi administration (15 January – 27 February 2011) was a caretaker government with the primary goal of maintaining the state and providing a legal framework for new elections.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his cabinet on 17 January 2011, three days after Ben Ali's departure. The cabinet included twelve members of the ruling RCD, the leaders of three opposition parties (Mustapha Ben Jafar from the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties [FTDL], Ahmed Brahim of the Ettajdid Movement, and Ahmed Najib Chebbi of the PDP), [120] three representatives from the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), and representatives of civil society (including prominent blogger Slim Amamou). Three notable movements not included in the national unity government were the banned Ennahda Movement, the Tunisian Workers' Communist Party [121] and the secular reformist Congress for the Republic. [122] The following day, the three members of the UGTT and Ben Jafaar resigned, saying that they had "no confidence" in a government featuring members of the RCD. [123] [124] [125]

There were daily protests that members of Ben Ali's RCD party were in the new government. Thousands of anti-RCD protesters rallied in a protests with relatively little violence. [126] On 18 January, demonstrations were held in Tunis, Sfax, Gabes, Bizerta, Sousse and Monastir. [125] Ghannouchi and interim president Mebazaa resigned their RCD memberships in a bid to calm protests, and Ghannouchi stated that all members of the national unity government had "clean hands". [127]

On 20 January, Zouhair M'Dhaffer, a close confidant of Ben Ali, resigned from the government. All other RCD ministers resigned from the party and the central committee of the RCD disbanded itself. [128] [129] The new government announced in its first sitting that all political prisoners would be freed and all banned parties would be legalised. [130] The next day, Ghannouchi committed to resigning after holding transparent and free elections within six months. [131]

Police began to join the protests in Tunis on 23 January over salaries, and to deflect blame over political deaths attributed to them during Ben Ali's rule. [132] Army chief Rachid Ammar declares that the armed forces are also on the side of the protesters and would "defend the revolution". [133]

On 27 January, Ghannounchi reshuffled his cabinet, with six former-RCD members departing the interim government. Only Ghannouchi and the ministers of industry and international cooperation (who had not been RCD members) remained from Ben Ali's old government. This was seen as meeting one of the protesters' demands, [134] and the UGTT stated its support for the reorganised cabinet. [135] New ministers included state attorney Farhat Rajhi as interior minister, retired career diplomat Ahmed Ounaies as foreign minister, and economist Elyes Jouini as minister delegate to the prime minister in charge of administrative and economic reform. [136] Ounaies later resigned after praising a foreign politician with ties to Ben Ali. [137] Mouldi Kefi became the new foreign minister on 21 February. [138]

By 3 February, all 24 regional governors had been replaced. [139] Days later, the government reached an agreement with the UGTT on the nomination of new governors. [140] The Interior Ministry replaced 34 top-level security officials who were a part of Ben Ali's security infrastructure. Mebazaa promised a national dialogue to address protester demands. [141]

Sidi Bouzid and El Kef saw violence in early February with protesters killed and a police car set on fire. A local police chief was arrested. [142] On 7 February, the defense ministry called up soldiers discharged in the previous five years to help control unrest. [143]

The first steps were taken on a bill that would give Mebazaa emergency powers, allowing him to bypass the RCD-dominated parliament. [144] The bill would allow Mebazaa to ratify international human-rights treaties without parliament [145] he had previously stated that Tunisia would accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the First and Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which would mean abolishing the death penalty). [146]

Reports emerged on 18 February that Ben Ali had had a stroke and was gravely ill. [147] Plans for a general amnesty were also announced on that day. [148]

Protests flared on 19 February, with 40,000 protesters demanding a new interim government completely free of association with the old regime, and a parliamentary system of government replacing the current presidential one. [149] [150] As a date was announced for an election in mid-July 2011, more than 100,000 protesters demanded the removal of Ghannouchi. [151] On 27 February, following a day of clashes in which five protesters were killed, Ghannouchi resigned. He stated that he had carried his responsibilities since Ben Ali fled, and "I am not ready to be the person who takes decisions that would end up causing casualties. This resignation will serve Tunisia, and the revolution and the future of Tunisia." [152] [153]

Béji Caïd Essebsi became prime minister, appointed by Mebazaa on the day Ghannouchi resigned. [ citation needed ] Although the cabinet was now free of RCD members, demonstrations continued as the protesters criticized the unilateral appointment of Essebsi without consultation. [ citation needed ]

Ghannouchi's resignation was followed the next day by the resignations of industry minister Afif Chelbi and international co-operation minister Mohamed Nouri Jouini. There were now protests for the entire interim government to resign, with the UGTT calling for an elected constituent assembly to write a new constitution. [154] Further resignations were reported on 1 March: minister for higher education and scientific research Ahmed Brahim, [155] minister of local development Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, and minister of economic reform Elyes Jouini. [156]

Mebazaa announced elections to a Constituent Assembly would be held on 24 July 2011. This would likely postpone general elections to a later date. [157] This fulfilled a central demand of protesters. [158]

In early March, the interim government announced that the secret police would be dissolved. [159] A Tunis court announced the dissolution of the RCD and liquidation of its assets, though the party said it would appeal the decision. [160]

In mid-April, charges were announced against Ben Ali, for whom international arrest warrants were issued in January. [161] There were 18 charges, including voluntary manslaughter and drug trafficking. His family and former ministers faced 26 further charges. [162]

The elections were further postponed and ultimately held on 23 October 2011. The election appointed members to a Constituent Assembly charged with rewriting Tunisia's Constitution. [163] The formerly banned Islamic party Ennahda, which was legalised in March, [164] won with 41% of the total vote. [163]

Refugees Edit

In mid-February 2011, about 4,000 mostly Tunisian refugees landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa, causing the authorities to declare a state of emergency [165] that would allow for federal aid to the island. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni accused the EU of not doing enough to curb immigration and asked them to do more. [166] He said that the "Tunisian system was collapsing" and that he would "ask the Tunisian Foreign Ministry for permission for our authorities to intervene to stop the flow in Tunisia", suggesting Italian troops would be on Tunisian soil. [167] He called the event a "biblical exodus". The comments started a row between the two countries with the Tunisian Foreign Ministry saying it was ready to work with Italy and others but that it "categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs or any infringement of its sovereignty." In response, Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that both countries share a "common interest" to halt the immigration, while he also offered "logistical help in terms of police and equipment" and called to re-establish previously successful coastal patrols of Northern Africa. By 14 February, at least 2,000 refugees had been sent to Sicily with the other 2,000 quarantined at a re-opened holding center. [168] On 2 March about 350 more people arrived on the island. In response, Italy declared a humanitarian emergency. [169]

The International Organisation for Migration said that no new boats had been spotted. The EU's Catherine Ashton was on a visit to Tunisia to discuss the issue. [ needs update ] German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "not everyone who does not want to be in Tunisia can come to Europe. Rather, we need to talk to each other how we can strengthen the rule of law in Tunisia again and whether Europe can be of help." [168]

Stock market Edit

The national stock market, the Bourse de Tunis (TUNINDEX), fell on 12 January for a three consecutive day loss of 9.3%. [170] Following the curfew in Tunis, the market index again fell 3.8% as the cost of protecting against a sovereign default in credit default swaps rose to its highest level in almost two years. [171] [172]

Following the resignations of Ghanoucchi and two Ben Ali-era ministers, the bourse was again suspended. [173]

International and non-state Edit

Many governments and supranational organisations expressed concerns over use of force against protesters. France, the former colonial power of Tunisia, was one of just a few states that expressed strong support for the Ben Ali government prior to its ouster, though protests were held in solidarity with Tunisia in several French cities and the French Socialist Party voiced support for the popular revolution.

Media and punditry Edit

The lack of coverage in the domestic state-controlled media was criticised. [40] Writer/activist Jillian York alleged that the mainstream media, particularly in the Western world, was providing less coverage and less sympathetic coverage to the Tunisia protests relative to Iranian protests, the Green movement, and censorship in China. York alleged the "US government – which intervened heavily in Iran, approving circumvention technology for export and famously asking Twitter to halt updates during a critical time period – has not made any public overtures toward Tunisia at this time." [174]

Despite criticism about the "sparse" level of coverage and "little interest" given to the demonstrations by the international media, the protests were hailed by some commentators as "momentous events" in Tunisian history. [175] Brian Whitaker, writing in The Guardian on 28 December 2010, suggested that the protests would be enough to bring an end to Ben Ali's presidency and noted similarities with the protests that led to the end of Nicolae Ceauşescu's reign in Romania in 1989. [175] Steven Cook, writing for the Council of Foreign Relations, noted that a tipping point is only obvious after the fact, and pointed to the counter-example of the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests. [176] Ben Ali's governing strategy was nevertheless regarded as being in serious trouble, [12] and Elliot Abrams noted both that demonstrators were able for the first time to defy the security forces and that the regime had no obvious successors to Ben Ali and his family. [177] French management of the crisis came under severe criticism, [178] with notable silence in the mainstream media in the run-up to the crisis. [179]

Al Jazeera believed the ousting of the president meant the "glass ceiling of fear has been for ever shattered in Tunisia and that the police state that Ben Ali created in 1987 when he came to power in a coup seems to be disintegrating". It added that Ben Ali's resignation, following his statement that he had been "duped by his entourage", may not have been entirely sincere. Le Monde criticised French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the European Union's "Silence over the Tragedy" when the unrest broke. [34] The Christian Science Monitor suggested that mobile telecommunications played an influential role in the "revolution". [180]

The revolt in Tunisia began speculation that the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution would lead to protests against the multiple other autocratic regimes across the Arab world. This was most famously captured in the phrase asking whether "Tunisia is the Arab Gdańsk?". The allusion refers to the Polish Solidarity movement and Gdańsk's role as the birthplace of the movement that ousted Communism in Eastern Europe. The phrase appeared in outlets such as the BBC, [181] as well as editorials by columnists Rami Khouri [182] and Roger Cohen. [183]

Larbi Sadiki suggested that although "conventional wisdom has it that 'terror' in the Arab world is monopolised by al-Qaeda in its various incarnations", there was also the fact that "regimes in countries like Tunisia and Algeria have been arming and training security apparatuses to fight Osama bin Laden [but] were [still] caught unawares by the 'bin Laden within': the terror of marginalisation for the millions of educated youth who make up a large portion of the region's population. The winds of uncertainty blowing in the Arab west – the Maghreb – threaten to blow eastwards towards the Levant as the marginalised issue the fatalistic scream of despair to be given freedom and bread or death." [184] A similar opinion by Lamis Ardoni carried by Al Jazeera said that the protests had "brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalization, thus restoring the Arab peoples' faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny." He also said that the protests that succeeded in toppling the leadership should serve as a "warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury" even though Tunisia's ostensible change "could still be contained or confiscated by the country's ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power." He called the protests the "Tunisian intifada" which had "placed the Arab world at a crossroads". He further added that if the change was ultimately successful in Tunisia it could "push the door wide open to freedom in Arab world. If it suffers a setback we shall witness unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power. Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed." [185]

Similarly, Mark LeVine noted that the events in Tunisia could spiral into the rest of the Arab world as the movement was "inspiring people. to take to the streets and warn their own sclerotic and autocratic leaders that they could soon face a similar fate." He then cited solidarity protests in Egypt where protesters chanted "Kefaya" and "We are next, we are next, Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next" and that Arab bloggers were supporting the movement in Tunisia as "the African revolution commencing. the global anti-capitalist revolution." He concluded that there were two scenarios that could play out: "a greater democratic opening across the Arab world," or a similar situation to Algeria in the early 1990s when the democratic election was annulled and Algeria went into a civil war. [186]

Robert Fisk asked if this was "The end of the age of dictators in the Arab world?" and partly answered the question in saying that Arab leaders would be "shaking in their boots". He also pointed out that the "despot" Ben Ali sought refuge in the same place as the ousted Idi Amin of Uganda and that "the French and the Germans and the Brits, dare we mention this, always praised the dictator for being a 'friend' of civilized Europe, keeping a firm hand on all those Islamists." He notably pointed at the "demographic explosion of youth" of the Maghreb, though he said that the change brought about in Tunisia may not last. He thinks "this is going to be the same old story. Yes, we would like a democracy in Tunisia – but not too much democracy. Remember how we wanted Algeria to have a democracy back in the early Nineties? Then when it looked like the Islamists might win the second round of voting, we supported its military-backed government in suspending elections and crushing the Islamists and initiating a civil war in which 150,000 died. No, in the Arab world, we want law and order and stability." [187]

Blake Hounshell wrote on Foreignpolicy.com that the Tunisian precedent raised the prospect of a "new trend. There is something horrifying and, in a way, moving about these suicide attempts. It's a shocking, desperate tactic that instantly attracts attention, revulsion, but also sympathy." [188]

Impact of the Internet Edit

The use of communication technologies, and the Internet in particular, has been widely credited as a contributor to the mobilisation of protests. [189] A blog associated with Wired described the intricate efforts of the Tunisian authorities to control such online media as [190] Twitter and Facebook. Other regional regimes were also on higher alert to contain spillover effects that might have ensued.

On 11 March 2011, Reporters Without Borders gave its annual award for online media freedom to the Tunisian blogging group Nawaat.org. Founded in 2004, it played an important role for rallying anti-government protesters by reporting on the protests which the national media ignored. [191]

In January 2011, the BBC reported: "Clearly the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi has resonated across the region. 'There is great interest. The Egyptian people and the Egyptian public have been following the events in Tunisia with so much joy, since they can draw parallels between the Tunisian situation and their own. ' " [192]

After the beginning of the uprising in Tunisia, similar protests took place in almost all Arab countries from Morocco to Iraq, as well as in other states, ranging from Gabon to Albania, Iran, Kazakhstan, United States, India and others. Following weeks of protests, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February. Major protests against longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi broke out on 17 February and quickly deteriorated into civil war, ultimately resulting in the downfall of the Gaddafi regime later in the year. Syria experienced a major uprising of people calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian uprising also deteriorated into a civil war, giving rise to the militant group, ISIS, and partly causing the current refugee crisis. In addition, Yemen, Bahrain, and Algeria have seen major protests.

However, a financial analyst in Dubai suggested that "the spillover effect of the political turbulence to the large countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council is non-existent as there are no similar drivers." [193]

In mid-May 2013, Tunisia banned the Salafist Ansar al-Sharia from carrying out party congresses. The day after the congress was due to be carried out, clashes between security forces and party supporters in Kairouan resulted in one death amid attempts to disperse those who wanted to carry out the events. [194]

The Tunisian president, Beji Caid Essebsi, renewed the state of emergency in October 2015 for three months due to previous terror attacks. [195] In August 2019, the United States aided Tunisia with $335 million that will be given in five years to support its democratic transition and help in funding projects and initiatives that would develop the country. [196]


Gateway

Lying in the bed of a now-shrunken Nile, the site of the square has been an integral part of Cairo for centuries.

Its location is key, acting as a gateway to the city centre and to the western expansion of Cairo across the Nile.

It did not assume its current shape until the latter part of the 19th Century when another Mubarak - Ali Pasha Mubarak - was charged with remodelling Cairo after Paris at the behest of ruler Ismail Pasha.

The square ("midan") was known as Midan Ismailiya until the 1952 revolution and overthrow of the monarchy. It was renamed Midan Tahrir - Liberation Square - under President Gamal Abdul Nasser, who redeveloped it again, tearing down hated barracks which had once housed occupying British troops, and "liberating" the square and the city from its past.

The square has been the traditional gathering place for Cairenes with a grievance - from the bread riots of 1977 to the protests against the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some point out that the square's function as a gigantic traffic roundabout makes it an inhospitable gathering point for pedestrians, and that protests there tend to snarl up traffic flow for miles around.

As one blogger put it, "downtown Cairo is contested space, between the rich and the poor, government agencies and private interests, pedestrians and motor traffic, street vendors and shopkeepers".

But protesters who use the square as a platform to make their own demands can be hopeful that their voices will reverberate around Egypt.


Egypt Revolution 2011: A Complete Guide To The Unrest

Having trouble digesting the Egypt revolution? Not sure about the latest events and why they matter? Or just curious to learn more about Egypt in general?

You've come to the right place. The Huffington Post is aggregating our comprehensive coverage into easily-digestible nuggets below to help those who feel overwhelmed. This page is 100% human-curated. It will be fluid and changing as major developments happen, so please keep checking back. And please share it with your friends, family and colleagues.


Arydell Spinks had 12 children, but on October 22, 1963, seven of them missed school. “If they miss tests scheduled for that day and are marked ‘truant,’ that’s just too bad,” wrote the Chicago Defender in an article about Spinks’ plan to keep her kids home from school. Spinks’ . read more

“Diane, you’ve gotten in with the wrong bunch.” Those were the words that civil rights activist Diane Nash heard when her grandmother found out she was involved in the civil rights movement in 1960. Imagine her grandmother’s surprise when she found out that Nash wasn’t just . read more


Tiananmen Square

On April 18, 1989, after the funeral of communist leader Hu Yaobang, thousands of students marched in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, to protest the oppressive communist government. The protests continued as students called for strikes and class boycotts.

A few weeks later, on May 13, students began a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square insisting the government begin dialogue with them. Within a few days, the number of strikers had reached over one thousand. On May 19, a rally for political and economic change drew over 1.2 million demonstrators, most of them university students. The Chinese government imposed martial law on May 20 but to no avail.

Then, on June 4, Chinese police and troops opened fire on and beat the protestors. Chaos ensued as panicked demonstrators rushed to escape. Early the next morning, tanks arrived on the scene and plowed through any remaining dissenters. By 5:40 a.m., the protest was over.

No official death toll was ever released but some Western reporters estimated thousands may have been killed and up to 10,000 arrested. The brutal attack brought attention to the democratic movement in China and caused the United States to impose sanctions on the communist state for violating human rights.

Kent State University student hurling a tear gas cannister back towards National Guardsmen as the military is called out May 4th to put down massive anti-war protest.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images


Revolt! Comparing Historical Revolutions

Hulton Archive/Getty Images Revolutionary fervor in Petrograd (St. Petersburg, Russia), 1917. Go to related slide show »

Global History

Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.

Overview | What is a revolution, and how is it different from other kinds of revolts and conflicts? How do the protests in Egypt compare with historical revolutions? In this lesson, students work together to define revolution and engage in research to help them create infographics that represent various historical revolutions around the world.

Materials | Poster paper, markers, computer with Internet access and projector, copies of the handout Revolt! (PDF)

Warm-Up | Students work in small groups to respond to the following prompt:

How you would define the word revolution? How would you distinguish a revolution from a civil war, an uprising, a coup d𠆞tat, a rebellion or revolt, or a protest or demonstration? What elements do revolutions and other kinds of conflicts have in common? What elements set them apart? Are some of these terms synonymous? If so, which ones? Can the word revolution be used to mean different things? What examples from history illustrate your ideas?

Each group should write the definitions, historical events and other ideas they generated on their sheet of poster paper and post the sheet on the board or wall nearby.

Next, reconvene the class and read aloud each group’s poster. Then ask: What do you notice? On what ideas does the class have a general consensus? On what ideas do have some difference of opinion? Note whether any groups used the same historical event to illustrate different ideas. Briefly discuss, and clarify any misunderstandings, but allow for difference of opinion if groups can back up their ideas with convincing historical evidence.

You might also want to differentiate between political revolutions and revolutionary social changes like the Industrial Revolution.

Conclude the discussion by using elements of each groups’ definition to construct a class definition of “revolution.” Compare the class definition with dictionary definitions and textbook definitions to see how it compares. Does our definition go into greater detail? Less detail? Do you want to add anything from the dictionary definition to ours? Why or why not?

Related | The slide show “Unpredictable Uprisings” provides photos and brief overviews of historical revolutions and related events, including the American Revolution:

Even the American Revolution took years to arrive at the country’s present Constitution. With upheaval gripping several Arab nations ruled by oppressive or corrupt regimes, here is a historical sampler of the twists and turns of revolutions. Many start out broad-based, but often not for long.

Read and view the entire slide show with your class, using the questions below.

Questions | For discussion and reading comprehension:

  1. What are the commonalities and differences between and among these uprisings?
  2. Without the captions, what story do these photographs tell? If you had not read the captions, what would you think that this slide show was about? Why?
  3. Do all of the events included in this slide show fit our definition of revolution? If not, which ones do not fit our definition and why?
  4. What questions do you come away from this slide show with? Which of these events would you like to know more about?
RELATED RESOURCES
From The Learning Network
From NYTimes.com
Around the Web

Activity | In small groups, students will research different historical revolutions from across the globe. Give students the Revolt! handout (PDF) to guide their research.

You might choose to assign groups to research the revolutions depicted in the slide show, revolutions that are covered in your curriculum or the conflicts in the list below, which includes suggested starting points for research. For primary source material, they might also use the New York Times archives on NYTimes.com or in the Proquest database.

After the groups are finished collecting information about their assigned revolution, reconvene the class to discuss the following question: Now that you have a more in-depth understanding of one historical revolution, is there anything you would change about our class definition? If so, why and how would you change it?

Going further | Groups work together to create an infographic that graphically represents the answers to all of the questions on the Revolt! handout.

In an upcoming class, students conduct a gallery walk to view all groups’ infographics, taking notes on what commonalities exist among all of the revolutions. Then discuss the common elements and the extent to which these events qualify as revolutions, with respect to the definitions that the class generated. Does our definition need tweaking?

Alternatively or additionally, familiarize students with the winter 2011 events in Egypt, and discuss whether they would define that uprising as a revolution or not, given their understanding of the definition and their learning about other revolutions.

Standards | This lesson is correlated to McREL’s national standards (it can also be aligned to the new Common Core State Standards):

World History
44. Understands the search for community, stability and peace in an interdependent world.
46. Understands long-term changes and recurring patterns in world history.

Geography
13. Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth’s surface.

Language Arts
1. Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process.
7. Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of informational texts.

Civics
22. Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another, and issues surrounding United States foreign policy.
23. Understands the impact of significant political and nonpolitical developments on the United States and other nations.

Historical Understanding
1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns.
2. Understands the historical perspective.

Life Skills: Working With Others
1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.
5. Demonstrates leadership skills.


Mubarak resigns - Friday 11 February

• Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has resigned
• Military supreme command now controls government
• Obama calls Egypt's efforts an inspiration to the world
• Cheers and fireworks as protests turn to celebrations

ترجم هذه الصفحة إلى العربية

10pm GMT: Tahrir Square is still full of celebrating people, just after midnight in the Egyptian capital. Time to wrap up this live blog – and thanks to everyone around the world who has read and contributed to it, whether by phone, Twitter, email and any other form of media.

Jack Shenker in Cairo sends over this video of tonight's celebrations:

I just wanted to share this one as it's from crowds gathered at the bottom of my street, which lies only a few minutes walk from Tahrir. Everybody from the local baker to my neighbour the car mechanic was down there, and with flame-throwers apparently the revolutionary prop of choice tonight, health and safety considerations were being thrown to the wind. Sleep is unlikely to be on the agenda tonight for anyone around here.

Here's a summary of the day's historic events:

• President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and handed over power to the army

• Egypt's protests erupted in celebration as news spread that Mubarak had left Cairo

• The military command issued a statement promising a transition to democracy and to respect the will of the people

• Reports say the military has sacked the cabinet and suspended parliament

• Obama said the US will continue to be a friend and partner of Egypt, and that the events in Tahrir Square were an inspiration to the world

• Swiss authorities issue a pre-emptive freezing of any financial assets held by the Mubarak family in the country

Hats off to the Guardian's journalists on the ground: Jack Shenker, Peter Beaumont, Harriet Sherwood, Sean Smith and Chris McGreal.

Can't believe I witnessed the revolution but missed final act. To all who stood up to Mubarak's thugs, your courage has been an inspiration less than a minute ago via web peter beaumont
petersbeaumont

One final tweet: from Peter Beaumont, who was there in Cairo at the start but heard the news today while in a Morrisons supermarket carpark.

9.45pm GMT: Algeria is another country with a nervous government, ahead of a day of protest planned for Saturday. The government and security forces are leaving nothing to chance according to this AFP report from Algiers via Google:

Large numbers of police were deployed in central Algiers Friday ahead of a pro-democracy march planned by opposition groups in defiance of a government ban.

The head of the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), Said Sadi, said the authorities had ringed the capital in a bid to prevent people joining Saturday's march from outside.

"Trains have been stopped and other public transport will be as well," he said.

Sadi claimed that 10,000 police were being drafted into the city, to reinforce the 20,000 who succeeded in blocking the last protest on January 22, when five people were killed and more than 800 hurt in clashes.

Meanwhile, an unemployed man who had set himself on fire in the town of El Oued, in the far east of Algeria, died today, bringing to four the number of suicides by self-immolation in the last month, apparently inspired by events in neigbouring Tunisia.

9.32pm: After the overthrow of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, how are the region's other governments reacting? The Guardian's Julian Borger tweets some fascinating news from Bahrain:

Reports say Bahrain's King Hamad has offered a grant of $2600 to every family ahead of Bahrain's day of rage due on Monday. Panic spreads. less than a minute ago via web Julian Borger
julianborger

Well that's one way of doing it.

9.18pm GMT: Michael Bimmler, a Swiss student at Oxford, emails more details about the Swiss authorities freezing the assets of the Mubarak clan and allies:

The reason that the Foreign Ministry did not give details is that they did not know at the time of making the statement whether he holds any assets in Switzerland, or at least, they don't officially know.

This is the usual procedure in such cases, and has also been the procedure for Tunisia earlier this year: Besides decreeing that all accounts etc belonging to Hosni Mubarak and his family plus certain ex-ministers are immediately blocked, it also mandates banks to report to the federal administration whether they hold any accounts in the name of Hosni Mubarak etc.

Thus, it's a preventive "blanket injunction" aimed at any and all accounts of Mubarak et al, if there are any. It does not really serve to confirm whether Mubarak actually has any money in Switzerland or not, it could well be that actually no accounts will found to fall within the remit of the injunction.

More details here [pdf, in French] and the individuals named:

Hosni Mubarak
Suzanne Thabet, wife of Hosni Mubarak
Alaa Mubarak, son of Hosni Mubarak
Heidi Rasekh, wife of Alaa Mubarak
Gamal Mubarak, son of Hosni Mubarak
Chadiga el Gammal, wife of Gamal Mubarak
Mounir Thabet, brother of Suzanne Thabet
Ahmed Alaa El Din Amin El-Maghrabi, former minister
Mohamed Zoheir Mohamed Wahid Garana, former minister
Habib Ibrahim El Adli, former minister
Ahmed Ezz, former head of the NDP
Rachid Mohamed Rachid, former minister

9.06pm GMT: The White House has just posted video of Obama's statement on Egypt online – it's one of his better speeches.

8.54pm GMT: Israel's former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman told Fox News today:

If the radicals prevail [in Egypt] then we will have Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which would be devastating not just for Israel but for the stability of the whole region.

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official told Reuters: "It's too early to foresee how [Mubarak's resignation] will affect things. We hope that the change to democracy in Egypt will happen without violence and that the peace accord will remain."

8.49pm GMT: It turns out that Mubarak's fall is George Bush's fault – but not in the way you'd think. Salon reports:

Protesting against Bush's violent means of spreading democracy, a loosely formed group organized the largest demonstrations in Egypt's history around the March 20, 2003, invasion [of Iraq]. They eventually became known as Kefaya, meaning "Enough." Adopting the mission to bring down Mubarak and restore power to the Egyptian people, Kefaya held regular protests that called for the end of the emergency law, more freedom for the Egyptian people, and better handling of the economy – essentially similar demands seen in Tahrir Square today.

Out of Kefaya grew the April 6 youth movement, and the rest is history.

8.40pm GMT: Gibbs says Obama has not made any calls to heads of state in the region today in the wake of Mubarak's resignation. The spokesman also said that Obama had not spoken with Mubarak.

Gibbs also said Iran's government should allow its people to demonstrate and assemble peacefully, but instead was cracking down on opposition leaders and blocking international media in the wake of events in Egypt.

8.31pm: Now Obama pops up in the White House press briefing room, because it's the last day for his longtime spokesman Robert Gibbs. Obama begins by deadpanning:

Obviously, Gibbs's departure is not the biggest one today.

8.18pm GMT: NBC's Richard Engel, who has done a brilliant job reporting from Egypt, gets the reaction to Obama's words live from Tahrir Square, where he is mobbed by young men chanting Obama's name and "We love America!"

Barack Obama: 'US will continue to be a friend and partner' to Egypt

8.15pm: Obama's words are being carried live on Egyptian state television, with Obama saying the events there carried "echoes from Germans tearing down a wall," before quoting Martin Luther King:

'There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom.' Those were the cries that came out of Tahrir Square and the entire world has taken note.

Tahrir means liberation, and it is a word that speaks to something in our souls that cries out for freedom – and will forever more remind us of the Egyptian people.

8.10pm GMT: "Over the last few weeks the wheel of history has turned at a blinding pace," says Obama, in a brief but powerful statement.

The US president began by praising the armed forces's role but calling for reform to continue:

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. Above all this transition must bring all Egyptian voices to the table.

Obama listed lifting Egypt's emergency laws, revising the constitution and enacting other safeguards to "make this change irreversible" and set the path for free and fair elections. He continued:

The US will continue to be a friend and partner to all the people of Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is asked for.

I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role not only in the region but around the world.

And then with a nod to Martin Luther King:

Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained by violence. For Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force, that bent the arc of history toward justice.

8.06pm GMT: Obama is now speaking:

The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same. But this is not the end of Egypt's transition, this is a beginning. Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

7.54pm GMT: Al Arabiya television is reporting that the Egyptian military will announce the dismissal of the cabinet, the suspension of the upper and lower houses of parliament, and that the head of the constitutional court will form an interim administration with the military council.

Al Arabiya is also reporting that Amr Moussa will step down as secretary general of the Arab League within the next few weeks – and he is talked of as a leading contender in the up-coming presidential elections.

7.48pm GMT: President Obama is due to make a statement on Egypt from the White House's Grand Foyer – reserved for set piece presidential apperances – in 15 minutes or so.

7.37pm GMT: Hosni Mubarak spent his last hours in office bitterly denouncing the US, according to a phone call he held with an Israeli politician.

Reuters reports that former Labour cabinet minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had a 20-minute conversation yesterday with Mubarak: "He had very tough things to say about the United States," Ben-Eliezer told Israeli TV.

"He gave me a lesson in democracy and said: 'We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that's the fate of the Middle East,'" Ben-Eliezer said.

"'They may be talking about democracy but they don't know what they're talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam,'" he quoted Mubarak as saying.

7.30pm GMT: More reaction from Gaza, with Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman, issuing a statement tonight, saying Hamas was standing beside Egypt's "revolution victory" and backing its demands.

We congratulate the Egyptian people of this victory. We consider these results a victory for the people's will, stand, and sacrifices.

It criticised the Mubarak regime for its assistance in imposing a blockade on Gaza, adding:

"We are calling the new Egyptian leadership to announce immediately to leave the siege on Gaza and open the Rafah crossing from the Egyptian side and guarantee the free of movements and start the reconstruction."

7.24pm GMT: The Swiss government has frozen any assets belonging to Hosni Mubarak or family in Switzerland. The Foreign Ministry gave no details on what assets the Mubaraks hold in Switzerland, saying it "wants to avoid any risk of misappropriation of state-owned Egyptian assets".

Protesters wave Egyptian flags in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Photograph: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

7.15pm GMT: The Guardian's Jack Shenker shares the atmosphere in Tahrir Square right now:

The march from the presidential palace back to Tahrir square was a wall of sound. Car horns blared, amateur fireworks exploded centimetres above our heads,onlookers cheered raucously from the balcony above. Some people fainted, others unfurled their Egyptian flags in the middle of the street to pray, and many, many people had tears in their eyes.

Amid the jubilation though, there was a moment of reflection for those who died to make this day possible. 'Be happy martyrs, for today we feast at your victory,' sung the crowds.

On the ground were military police in red berets, all smiles and thumbs-up to demonstrators. Apprehension about what might happen next in an Egypt now under army control was being pushed aside to allow for celebrations, but as the procession reached the high-walled Ministry of Defence, Egyptians could not resist reminding their new overlords of who now held the balance of power in the Arab World's most populous nation. 'Here, here, the Egyptians are here,' they shouted up at darkened windows, pointing down to the street.

"For 18 days we have withstood tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy," said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a protester who has provided the Guardian with updates throughout the uprising. "But we held our ground. We did it."

7.07pm GMT: William Hague, the UK's foreign secretary, puts out a statement:

President Mubarak has heeded the calls of the Egyptian people for profound change and a fresh start.

This change has been brought about by the courage and determination of the people of Egypt themselves. We have faith in their ability to shape their future and to seize the opportunity to move towards an open and democratic society.

It is now time for Egyptians to move forward, to settle their differences peacefully and to achieve the transition to a broad-based government that meets the aspirations and commands the respect of all Egyptians.

The Higher Council of the Military Forces has a particular responsibility to implement the concrete and irrevocable steps this transition requires and to prepare for free and fair elections.

Any attempt to turn the clock back would be deeply damaging to Egypt's stability and cohesion and to its standing in the world, and would be met by condemnation.

It is not a time for half-hearted measures. Egyptians have shown that they want irrevocable change for the better, not cosmetic change".

7.04pm GMT: Egyptian state TV has bowed to the inevitable and is just showing al-Jazeera's feed. A week ago the government banned the channel from operating. Now this.

Meanwhile, this website is doing the rounds for those wondering if Mubarak is still president, thanks to ismubarakstillpresident.com.

6.57pm GMT: Wael Ghonim seems to be reassured by the military statement reported below.

The military statement is great. I trust our Egyptian Army #Jan25 less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Wael Ghonim
Ghonim

The armed forces statement said: "We know the extent of the gravity and seriousness of this issue and the demands of the people to initiate radical changes. The higher military council is studying this issue to achieve the hopes of our great people."

6.50pm GMT: In this audio you can hear the emotion in the voice of veteran activist Ahmed Salah, as he shared what today means to him:

It brought tears to my eyes several times. I mean I have always had faith that we will win but this is remarkable. It's like, how many days? We started on the 25th . and we won. That couldn't have been imaginable just even a week ago, 10 days ago, that we will actually be free.

6.43pm GMT: More on vice president Joe Biden's remarks on Egypt today:

This is a pivotal moment in history. This is a pivotal moment not just in Middle East history but in world history.

On Fox News though they have a different view. One presenter said it was the biggest event since "victory in Iraq".

Carl Bernstein – the Watergate guy – says it's on the scale of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

6.35pm GMT: The White House now says that Obama's statement will take place at 3pm ET / 8pm GMT / 10pm EET.

Egyptian military addresses protesters in Tahrir Square. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

6.29pm GMT: A spokesman for Egypt's military has just appeared on television to read a new statement, "Communique Number Three".

Read aloud in a flat monotone, the statement said that the supreme council of the armed forces was "currently studying the situation to achieve the hopes of our great people" and will issue further statements to clarify its position:

The council will issue a statement outlining the steps and procedures and directives that will be taken, confirming at the same time that there is no alternative to the legitimacy acceptable to the people.

The military also had a farewell message for Mubarak:

"The supreme council of the armed forces is saluting President Hosni Mubarak for all he has given in sacrifice in times of war and peace."

And it had kind words for the protesters:

"The supreme council of the armed forces is also saluting the spirits of those who were martyred."

Note that the army's statement made no mention of vice president Suleiman – interesting in the context of the Ahram Online report mentioned below. Further analysis of what this all means when we get the full text.

6.25pm GMT: The New York Times's Lede blog alerts us to an intriguing report from Ahram Online, the English-language arm of the state newspaper Al Ahram, that "both of last night's addresses by Mubarak and Suleiman were in defiance of the armed forces":

Maj. Gen. Safwat El-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt's General Intelligence and member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, asserted, in an interview with Ahram Online, that the address delivered by President Mubarak last night was formulated against the wishes of the armed forces, and away from their oversight. He claimed that Vice Preisdent Omar Suleiman's address, which came on the heels of Mubarak's address, was equally in defiance of the armed forces and away from its oversight.

El-Zayat said that represented a deep cleavage between the armed forces and the presidential authority of both Mubarak and Omar Suleiman.

6.18pm GMT: My colleague Hazem Balousha sends this from Gaza City:

Hamas is calling on people to rally tonight all over Gaza to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and his regime. People are patrolling the streets and raising Egyptian flags. Some Hamas fighters have fired into the air since it was announced that Mubarak stepped down.

6.13pm GMT: The White House has announced that Barack Obama's statement on Egypt, scheduled for 1.30pm ET (6.30pm GMT), has been delayed, and the venue has been switched from the press briefing room to the Grand Foyer as the administration prepares to ramp up Obama's response.

This is Richard Adams in Washington DC taking over live blogging duties.

Turn off auto-refresh at the top of this page to watch the full video.

It's fair to say he doesn't look very happy.

6.00pm: It can't be very often that Amnesty International is joining in the celebrations of an army taking power but this has not been an ordinary day. Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

I congratulate the protesters for their extraordinary courage and commitment to achieve fundamental change. Persistent attempts to put down peaceful protests have not only failed but redoubled the determination of those demanding change. The way Egyptians have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers to demand dignity, human rights and social justice has been an inspiration to oppressed peoples everywhere.

The departure of one man is not the end. The repressive system that Egyptians have suffered under for three decades has not gone away and the State of Emergency remains in place. Those in power must grasp this opportunity to consign the systematic abuses of the past to history. Human rights reform must begin now.

5.58pm: Ian Black, the Guardian's Middle East editor has been analysing what comes next.

Rule by the military can only be temporary. Mubarak's exit, the dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament, constitutional reforms and abolition of the emergency laws are all non-negotiable. If those reforms are achieved then Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – beyond the removal of a stubborn 82-year-old president long past his sell-by date.

It seems clear from the events of recent days – especially the confusion and contradictory messages on Thursday — that the army is divided. If it moves solely to protect its own privileged position, and that of the big businessmen who have done so well out of their links with the regime – then the system will not open up, at least not without large-scale repression and bloodshed.

On the implications for the wider Middle East:

Egypt's extraordinary change matters first for Egypt's 82m people. But what happens in the Arab world's most populous country matters for many millions of other Arabs, who also suffer from unemployment, inequality, corruption and unresponsive, unaccountable governments – and share the language in which it is being covered in media such as al-Jazeera and social networking sites that official censors cannot easily block.

Other authoritarian regimes, shocked first by the uprising in Tunisia and now in Egypt, have been trying to pre-empt trouble by promises of reform, sacking ministers, maintaining subsidies or raising wages to buy off critics and defuse tensions. The symptoms are visible from Yemen to Jordan, from Algeria to Syria.

On the implications for the US:

Egypt remains a vital asset in allowing US military overflights, as the guardian of the strategically vital Suez canal, and a loyal ally in the regional confrontation with Iran. Mubarak has played a key role in supporting the western-backed Palestinian Authority and containing the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, not least because of its affinity with the banned Muslim Brotherhood – whose likely future role in a freer Egyptian political system is a key and much-discussed issue both at home and abroad.

The events of the last 18 days have forced Obama to shift away from stability to embracing if not promoting democracy – to the evident discomfort of other conservative Arab friends, especially the Saudis. Jordan and Yemen share those concerns – fearing that unconditional US support for them may now also wane.

This is a picture from yesterday when anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square shouted in anger after the first by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

5.54pm: Joe Biden, the US vice president, who initially defended Mubarak, saying he was not a dictator and should not stand down, said: "This is a pivotal moment in history. the transition that's taking place must be an irreversible change"

There has been reaction from other leaders.

The British prime minister David Cameron called for a move to "a move to civilian and democratic rule" . He said the departure of Mubarak offered Egypt a "really precious moment of opportunity". Speaking on the steps of No 10, he said the new government should start to put in place "the building blocks of a truly open, free and democratic society".

German chancellor Angela Merkel, said: "Today is a day of great joy. We are all witness to historic change. I share the joy of people on the streets of Egypt."

5.49pm: The Nobel peace prize winner and Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei has been talking to Al Jazeera in the last half and hour.

"This is the emancipation of Egypt. This is the liberation of the Egyptian people," he said in a phone interview with the broadcaster's English-language news channel. "It's a dream come true," said El Baradei, who added that it was the Egyptian people who had been able to restore their "humanity and independence.

Asked what happens next, he replied: "What I have been talking about and proposing is a transition period of one year. We would have a provisional council, a transition government, preferably a provisional council including a person from the army and civilians, but the main idea would be that the army and the people would work together for a year up to the point where we could have a free and fair election."

He said his message to the Egyptian people was: "You have gained your liberty, you have gained the right to catch up with the rest of the world. Make the best use of it you can and God bless you."

5.48pm: There has s been a jubilant response in Lebanon and Tunisia, the Associated Press reports:

Moments after Egypt's vice president Omar Suleiman made the announcement of Mubarak's resignation, fireworks lit up the sky over Beirut. Celebratory gunfire rang out in the Shiite-dominated areas in south Lebanon and in southern Beirut.

On Al-Manar TV, the station run by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah faction, Egyptian anchor Amr Nassef, who was once imprisoned in Egypt for alleged ties to Islamists, cried emotionally on the air and said: "Allahu Akbar (God is great), the Pharaoh is dead. Am I dreaming? I'm afraid to be dreaming."

In Tunisia, where a successful uprising expelled a longtime leader only weeks earlier, cries of joy and the thundering honking of horns greeted the announcement. "God delivered our Egyptian brothers from this dictator," said Yacoub Youssef, one of those celebrating in the capital of Tunis.

5.47pm: Amr Mousa, an Egyptian, and the secretary general of the Arab League, who has previously hinted that might stand for presidency, has given his reaction:

I look forward to the future to build a ntional consensus in the coming period. There is a big chance now and a window has opened after this white revolution and after the president's concession.

Asked if he was interested in being president, he said: "This is not the time to talk about that . As an Egyptian citizen, I am proud to serve my country with all the others at this stage, to build a consensus of opinion."

5.46pm: Our political correspondent Allegra Stratton says the UK has already been considering the prospect of an asylum application from Mubarak:

The UK's national security council (NSC) has considered what happens if Hosni, his wife Suzanne or or their son Gamal Mubarak, indeed any of the president's family, would like asylum in the UK. Remember Gamal has a five-storey house in Knightsbridge.

A government source says that the Foreign Office is aware that the UK's government's new position on the middle east – hands off, welcoming of change – would be troubled if the UK were to also grant any asylum requests to Mubaraks or indeed other deposed Arab leaders.

The text from the NSC meeting, held last week, says: "The NSC is working on predicting where and when events might occur next. There is a low risk that former heads of state and members of regimes might seek refuge here. Many have the documentation and money to get here, and some will have links to the UK. Each request will be considered, in consultation between the Home Office and Foreign Office, on a case by case basis."

So, cautious language, but the source says they are thinking about what their position will be as and when any request comes through. There will be a question mark over exactly what the FCO and Home office could do given Suzanne was born in Wales and is thought to have British citizenship.

5.42pm: In what has turned out to be a momentous day, here is a summary of events.

President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and handed over power to the army. His vice president, Omar Suleiman, said in a short TV address: "In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state."

Protests turned to celebrations around Egypt. "Cairo erupts in celebration as 18 days of defiant protest finally delivers a revolution after 24 hours of euphoria, dashed hopes and victory," our correspondent Chris McGreal wrote from outside the state TV centre. "There was a complete eruption of humanity, I have never seen anything like it. The world's biggest street party has really kicked off here," said Jack Shenker from outside the presidential palace.

But there are still questions over what happens next. The army is now in charge and it has yet to make its intentions clear.

Protesters celebrate President Hosni Mubarak's resignation. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

5.28pm: Our correspondent Chris McGreal was outside the Egyptian state TV building when the historic announcement was made. In this audio report, he says:

They were completely stunned. When this very brief announcement came from the vice president Omar Suleiman, he simply said "Mubark's gone", there was a a pause. Then a ripple went through the crowd and they went wild. Some fell onto their knees praying, people were weeping instantly. They were hugging each other, chanting in unison, "Mubarak's gone", words to that effect. There was joy, euphoria, call it what you want. I think people couldn't quite grasp that this revolution that they'd led fro 18 days had finally delivered.

But Chris warns there will now be close scrutiny of the army:

Of course there will be a sobering up. Not many people are thinking of what the military role means and of course once the military is in the saddle so to speak, people will be looking to it to actually deliver. They will be wanting to see, for instance, the dissolution of parliament, the lifting of the state of emergency, all the kind of things they have been demanding as well as Mubarak's resignation. I think they're feeling newly empowered, I think people realise the can hold parliament to account of bring it down and if it's seen to be not delivering they may well be back out on the streets.

5.20pm: There are reports that the Egyptian army is to make another statement soon.

5.19pm: Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, has been quick to instill a note of caution:

But the game isn't over, and now a word of caution. I worry that senior generals may want to keep (with some changes) a Mubarak-style government without Mubarak. In essence the regime may have decided that Mubarak had become a liability and thrown him overboard — without any intention of instituting the kind of broad, meaningful democracy that the public wants.

Senior generals have enriched themselves and have a stake in a political and economic structure that is profoundly unfair and oppressive. And remember that the military running things directly really isn't that different from what has been happening: Mubarak's government was a largely military regime (in civilian clothes) even before this. Mubarak, Vice President Suleiman and so many others — including nearly all the governors — are career military men. So if the military now takes over, how different is it?

5.18pm: Harriet also contemplates how the downfall of Mubarak will play in Israel, his great ally:

Israel will now be extremely uncertain about future relations with Egypt. The peace treaty between the two countries that has been in place for more than 30 years has not exactly made them warm allies, but the peace has held.

Israeli ministers and officials have been warning for almost three weeks that regime change in Egypt could end the "cold peace". Their worst fears are that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood will gain in power and influence and Egypt will adopt a hostile attitude towards the Jewish state.

They are also worried about the impact on Gaza, as Hamas has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

There was no immediate reaction to Mubarak's resignation from the prime minister's office, although a statement was expected later tonight.

Binyamin Netanyahu has been telling his international counterparts that Israel expects any future Egyptian government to honour the peace treaty and that the international community should be making that clear to an incoming regime.

5.17pm: Harriet Sherwood reports from Israel on the reaction to Mubarak's demise from Hamas:

I've just spoken to Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza. He was cautious in his reaction to events in Egypt, saying Hamas had no wish to interfere with Egypt's internal affairs.

But, he added, Hamas hoped to see an improvement in relations between Egypt and all Palestinians. "We are one family," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's close allies, "are present everywhere", he said.

He would not be drawn on whether a new Egyptian regime may wish to review the peace treaty it signed with Israel more than 30 years ago. "There is no clear picture about the new government, but it will be controlled by the army t begin with, he said. "We are hoping to benefit."

4.59pm: Here's some reaction from Qatar, from Reuters:

The Qatari government said it regarded Egypt's transfer of power to a military council on Friday as a positive step. "This is a positive, important step towards the Egyptian people's aspirations of achieving democracy and reform and a life of dignity," the statement from the Emir's royal council said.

4.54pm: Mubarak picked an auspicious date to resign. On this day 32 years ago the Iranian revolution took place when the Shah's forces were overwhelmed. And 21 years ago today Nelson Mandela was freed by the apartheid regime in South Africa.

4.50pm: Wael Ghonim, Google's head of marketing in the Middle East, annointed by some as the voice of the revolution after his emotional speech on his release from prison, tweeted simply: "Welcome back Egypt".

4.46pm: Reaction has started to come in from the US and the EU.

The White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said:

The president was informed of president Mubarak's decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office. He then watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval (office).

The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said:

The EU respects president Mubarak's decision today. By standing down, he has listened to the voices of the Egyptian people and has opened the way to faster and deeper reforms. It is important now that the dialogue is accelerated leading to a broad-based government which will respect the aspirations of, and deliver stability for, the Egyptian people. The future of Egypt rightly remains in the hands of the Egyptian people. The EU stands ready to help in any way it can.

A joyous night in Cairo. What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab. In Tahrir Square they're chanting, "Egypt is free" and "We won!"

The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his $40bn loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.

4.42pm: Barack Obama, who appeared humiliated last night when Mubarak gave that infamously equivocal statement, is to speak at the White House at 6.30pm GMT.

4.36pm: The Guardian's Twitter map of Middle East protests is being overrun with outpourings of emotion from Egypt at the moment. It's a great visual representation of the reactions in the country.

Says @Port_Sa3eedy: "Someone slap me. I can't believe. I'm tearing down #egypt #mubarak "

4.28pm: From amidst a cacophony of cheers, our correspondent Jack Shenker describes the reaction of the crowd outside the presidential palace.

There was a complete eruption of humanity, I have never seen anything like it. The world's biggest street party has really kicked off here. There are huge huge crowds of people jumping up and down suddenly as one. Suddenly everyone rushed into the road. I'm being slapped in happiness and bounced around.

4.27pm: Egyptian state TV is showing live pictures of the celebrtions in Tahrir square. "The newsreader is smiling and looks as happy as many of the people down there on the square," says the anchor on al-Jazeera English.

4.23pm: The Egyptian pro-democracy campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei has cheered Mubarak's resignation. "This is the greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he told The Associated Press. He said he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

4.20pm: Our correspondent Chris McGreal in Tahrir Square writes: "Cairo erupts in celebration as 18 days of defiant protest finally delivers a revolution after 24 hours of euphoria, dashed hopes and victory."

4.17pm: We have now embedded a live video stream from Tahrir Square. You can watch it by refreshing this page.

4.12pm: The full text of the vice-president's very brief statement:

In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state.

4.03pm: There are huge cheers in Tahrir Square.

President Mubarak has gone and the army has been entrusted with the republic, it has just been announced.

Al-Jazeera screengrab

4.02pm: Omar Suleiman is making a statement now. "President Hosni Mubarak has decided to waive the office of the republic."

3.54pm: A potentially interesting development from Reuters:

A senior Egyptian military spokesman arrived at the headquarters of Egypt's state television on Friday, a military source told Reuters. Earlier, Egyptian state television had reported that the presidency was due to issue an important statement.

3.49pm: My colleague Harriet Sherwood sends this from Jerusalem:

The Israeli media is reporting a telephone conversation between Mubarak and Israel's trade minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a long-time friend, shortly before the Egyptian president's speech last night.

Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio: "He knew that this was it, that this was the end of the road. He was looking for only one thing – give me an honourable way out. 'Let me leave in an honourable fashion.'"

3.48pm: Here is an interactive map of the Guardian's Twitter network of Arab protests.

3.44pm: Our correspondent Martin Chulov, who is monitoring events from Amman, says Egyptian state TV is now interviewing protesters. "This time, he must be gone," Martin says.

3.43pm: We are awaiting a "statement from the presidency" - not, interestingly, from the president. In the meantime Hossam Badrawi, secretary general of the ruling NDP, has announced he has quit the party in an interview on Hayah TV, according to multiple sources. Yesterday he had been prominent among those who were predicting that Mubarak was about to stand aside.

"It's a resignation from the position and from the party," Badrawi told al-Hayat TV. "The formation of new parties in a new manner that reflects new thinking is better for society now at this stage."

3.41pm: Al-Arabiya TV is now reporting that police killed 5 people in the clashes in el-Arish (see 3.32pm).

3.32pm: There are reports of clashes in the north Sinai town of el-Arish. Al-Jazeera says at least one person died and 20 were injured when people with small firearms attacked a police station. From Reuters:

Around 1,000 Egyptians attacked a police station in the north Sinai town of el-Arish on Friday to try to free prisoners, exchanging gunfire with police who retreated to the roof, witnesses said. The attackers set ablaze three vehicles outside and hurled petrol bombs during confrontation.

3.31pm: My colleague Richard Adams in Washington sends the following:

White House official just said: Mubarak's departure to Sharm el-Sheikh a "positive first step". Also says Suleiman will be "clarifying" what his powers are.

Egyptian TV says statement "from the office of the presidency" very, very shortly.

Egyptian army tanks surrounding the presidential palace have turned their gun turrets away from the crowd, according to CNN.

3.30pm: On the Arabist blog, Issandr El Amrani has posted his instant thoughts on the situation as he sees it. It's worth a read. Amrani believes it is "pretty evident that Suleiman is in charge". He asks why the regime, including the army, still need Mubarak to be nominally in charge. He says:

Mubarak needs to be in place, even if only symbolically, for amendments to the constitution to be made. If the constitution is suspended, then this forces the army to take charge itself (presumably through the supreme military council), which opens the way to demands for civilian government and lifts the last layer of distance that the army has vis-a-vis the people.

3.00pm: There are reports that president Hosni Mubarak has left Cairo. Helicopters have been seen leaving the presidential palace in Cairo, and a local government official has said he is in the red sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

After Mubarak's speech last night, it appeared he had defied the people's call for him to step aside. But today, Egyptian diplomats are briefing that he has indeed relinquished power to his deputy, Omar Suleiman. The army also stated that a handover of power had begun.

The New York Times is portraying this as a significant moment in the protests. It says diplomats are trying to confirm that Mubarak's speech last night "signalled his irrevocable handover of presidential authority":

Western diplomats said that officials of the Egyptian government were scrambling to assure that a muddled speech Mr Mubarak made on Thursday night that enraged protesters had in fact signalled his irrevocable handover of presidential authority. "The government of Egypt says absolutely, it is done, it is over," a Western diplomat said. "But that is not what anybody heard" in Mr Mubarak's speech.


Uprising

On February 15, 2011, anti-government rallies were held in Benghazi by protesters angered by the arrest of a human rights lawyer, Fethi Tarbel. The protesters called for Qaddafi to step down and for the release of political prisoners. Libyan security forces used water cannons and rubber bullets against the crowds, resulting in a number of injuries. To counter the demonstrations further, a pro-government rally orchestrated by the Libyan authorities was broadcast on state television.

As the protests intensified, with demonstrators taking control of Benghazi and unrest spreading to Tripoli, the Libyan government began using lethal force against demonstrators. Security forces and squads of mercenaries fired live ammunition into crowds of demonstrators. Demonstrators also were attacked with tanks and artillery and from the air with warplanes and helicopter gunships. The regime restricted communications, blocking the Internet and interrupting telephone service throughout the country. On February 21 one of Qaddafi’s sons, Sayf al-Islam, gave a defiant address on state television, blaming outside agitators for the unrest and saying that further demonstrations could lead to civil war in the country. He vowed that the regime would fight “to the last bullet.”

The government’s sudden escalation of violence against protesters and other civilians drew international condemnation from foreign leaders and human rights organizations. It also seemed to damage the coherence of the regime, causing a number of high-level officials—including the minister of justice and a number of senior Libyan diplomats, including the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations—to resign in protest or issue statements condemning the regime. A number of Libyan embassies around the world began to fly Libya’s pre-Qaddafi flag, signaling support for the uprising. Support for Qaddafi also seemed to waver in some segments of the military as the Libyan air force carried out attacks against demonstrators, two Libyan fighter pilots flew their jets to Malta, choosing to defect rather than obey orders to bomb Benghazi.

On February 22 Qaddafi delivered an angry, rambling speech on state television, condemning the protesters as traitors and calling on his supporters to fight them. The speech took place in the Bāb al-ʿAzīziyyah compound, Qaddafi’s primary headquarters in Tripoli, in front of a building that still showed extensive damage from a 1986 air strike by the United States. He resisted calls to step down and vowed to remain in Libya. Although he denied having used force against protesters, he repeatedly vowed to use violence to remain in power.

Clashes continued, and Qaddafi’s hold on power weakened as Libyan military units increasingly sided with the opposition against the regime. As demonstrators acquired weapons from government arms depots and joined forces with defected military units, the anti-Qaddafi movement began to take the form of an armed rebellion. The newly armed rebel forces were able to expel most pro-Qaddafi troops from the eastern portion of Libya, including the city of Benghazi, and many western cities by February 23. The Libyan-Egyptian border was opened, allowing foreign journalists into the country for the first time since the conflict began. Pro-Qaddafi paramilitary units continued to hold the city of Tripoli, where Qaddafi and members of his family and inner circle remained.

As Qaddafi massed his forces in the Tripoli area to hold off the rebels there, his public statements seemed to indicate that he was becoming increasingly isolated and desperate. Speaking by telephone on Libyan state television on February 24, Qaddafi once again lashed out at protesters, saying that the young people at the core of the protest movement were acting under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and that the demonstrations were being controlled by al-Qaeda.

Foreign leaders continued to condemn the violence. However, international efforts to intervene or pressure the regime to end the bloodshed were complicated by the presence of many foreign nationals in Libya still waiting to be evacuated.

The regime continued its efforts to hold the capital, launching attacks around Tripoli, some of which were repelled by rebel forces. On February 25 pro-Qaddafi gunmen in Tripoli attacked unarmed protesters and others as they emerged from mosques after Friday prayers.

International pressure for Qaddafi to step down increased as violence continued and foreign nationals were evacuated. The UN Security Council unanimously approved a measure that included exacting sanctions against the Qaddafi regime, imposing a travel ban and an arms embargo, and freezing the Qaddafi family’s assets. The measure also referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The United States, the European Union (EU), and a number of other countries also imposed sanctions. On February 28 the United States announced that it had frozen at least $30 billion in Libyan assets.

Amid continuing skirmishes as rebel forces strengthened their positions outside Tripoli, Qaddafi invited a number of Western journalists to the city in an attempt to demonstrate that the situation remained under control in the capital. In interviews he continued to blame al-Qaeda and hallucinogenic drugs for the uprising. He claimed that Western leaders who had called for him to step down had done so out of a desire to colonize Libya, and he insisted that he was still well loved by Libyans.

A rebel leadership council, formed by the merger of local rebel groups, appeared in Benghazi in early March. Known as the Transitional National Council (TNC), it declared that its aims would be to act as the rebellion’s military leadership and as the representative of the Libyan opposition, provide services in rebel-held areas, and guide the country’s transition to democratic government.

Conditions in Libya worsened as the armed struggle continued, and thousands of people, mostly migrant workers from Egypt and Tunisia, fled toward the borders. Governments and humanitarian organizations began to organize efforts to address worsening shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies throughout the country.

After the rebels succeeded in taking control of eastern Libya and a number of cities in the west, the conflict appeared to enter a stalemate. The Qaddafi regime still controlled enough soldiers and weapons to hold Tripoli and to stage fresh assaults, which rebel fighters, although poorly equipped, were largely able to repel. Most fighting took place in the towns around Tripoli and in the central coastal region, where rebels and Qaddafi loyalists battled for control of the oil-export terminals on the Gulf of Sidra.

As the fighting continued, forces loyal to Qaddafi seemed to gain momentum, launching successful assaults to retake control in strategic areas around Tripoli and on the coast of the Gulf of Sidra. Attacking with fighter jets, tanks, and artillery, pro-Qaddafi forces had by March 10 driven rebel forces from Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, and from the oil-export centre of Ras Lanuf. Those gains highlighted the Qaddafi loyalists’ advantages in weaponry, training, and organization.

As Qaddafi appeared to gain the upper hand, the international community continued to debate possible diplomatic and military responses to the rapidly developing conflict. Countries worked to establish contact with the TNC, although only France granted it official recognition, announcing on March 10 that it would treat the council as Libya’s legitimate government. International condemnation of the Qaddafi regime continued to build, and, at an emergency summit on March 11, the EU unanimously called for Qaddafi to step down. However, the international community remained divided over the possibility of military intervention—most likely by imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, a measure long requested by the rebels to prevent Qaddafi loyalists from launching air attacks. Some countries, including France and the United Kingdom, signaled their support for such an operation, while others, including the United States and Germany, expressed their reservations, emphasizing the need for broad international consensus and warning against possible unforeseen consequences of military intervention. The African Union (AU) rejected any military intervention in Libya, asserting that the crisis should be resolved through negotiations, whereas the Arab League passed a resolution on March 13 calling on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

On March 15 Qaddafi loyalists launched a heavy assault on the eastern city of Ajdābiyā, the last large rebel-held city on the route to Benghazi. On March 17, as Qaddafi loyalists advanced on the remaining rebel positions in Benghazi and Tobruk in the east and Misurata in the west, the UN Security Council voted 10–0—with abstentions from Russia, China, Germany, India, and Brazil—to authorize military action, including imposition of a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians. The Qaddafi regime responded by declaring an immediate cease-fire, although there were reports that pro-Qaddafi forces continued to launch attacks after the announcement and that heavy fighting continued in Benghazi.

Beginning March 19, a coalition of U.S. and European forces with warplanes and cruise missiles attacked targets in Libya in an effort to disable Libya’s air force and air defense systems so that the UN-authorized no-fly zone could be imposed. Coalition missiles struck buildings in a compound used by Qaddafi as a command centre, and in eastern Libya warplanes attacked a pro-Qaddafi armoured column positioned outside Benghazi. Emboldened by the air strikes, rebel forces once again launched an offensive to challenge pro-Qaddafi forces’ hold on the oil centres on the coast. Qaddafi denounced the coalition attacks as an act of aggression against Libya and vowed to continue fighting international forces and the rebels.

Coalition spokesmen announced on March 23 that the Libyan air force had been completely disabled by coalition air strikes. However, heavy fighting continued on the ground. Pro-Qaddafi units massed around the rebel-held city of Misurata in the west and the contested city of Ajdābiyā in the east, shelling both heavily and causing significant civilian casualties. Attacks by coalition warplanes soon weakened pro-Qaddafi ground forces in eastern Libya, allowing rebels to advance west again.

On March 27 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officially took command of military operations previously directed by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom in Libya. The handover came after several days of debate between NATO countries over the limits of international military intervention several countries had argued that the coalition’s aggressive targeting of pro-Qaddafi ground forces had exceeded the mandate set by the UN Security Council to protect civilians.

On March 30 Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected, fleeing to the United Kingdom. The defection of Koussa, a former head of Libyan intelligence and a longtime member of Qaddafi’s inner circle, was interpreted as a sign that support for Qaddafi among senior Libyan officials was beginning to wane.

As the fighting progressed, it began to appear that, even with NATO attacks on pro-Qaddafi forces, the Libyan rebels—a poorly armed and disorganized force with little military training—would be unable to oust Qaddafi or achieve decisive successes against Qaddafi’s professional troops. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis intensified, with an AU delegation traveling to Tripoli on April 10 to present a cease-fire plan to Qaddafi. AU representatives announced that Qaddafi had accepted the plan, although pro-Qaddafi forces continued to launch attacks on April 11. The plan was rejected by the rebel leaders on the grounds that it did not provide for Qaddafi’s departure from Libya.

As the stalemate continued, the United Kingdom announced on April 19 that it would send a team of military liaison officers to Libya to advise rebel leaders on military strategy, organization, and logistics. The next day France and Italy announced that they would also send advisers. All three countries specified that their officers would not participate in fighting. The Libyan foreign minister condemned the decision to send military advisers, saying that such aid to the rebels would only prolong the conflict.

NATO attacks continued and targeted a number of sites associated with Qaddafi and members of his inner circle, such as the Bāb al-ʿAzīziyyah compound in Tripoli, drawing protests from Libyan officials who charged that NATO had adopted a strategy of trying to kill Qaddafi. His son Sayf al-Arab and three of Qaddafi’s grandchildren were killed in a NATO air strike in April. In June the ICC issued arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his son Sayf al-Islam, and the Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, for ordering attacks against civilians during the uprising. Some observers expressed concern that the ICC’s proceedings against Qaddafi would discourage him from relinquishing power voluntarily. In spite of pressure from NATO attacks, rebel advances in the eastern and western regions of Libya, and the Qaddafi regime’s international isolation, Qaddafi continued to hold power in Tripoli.

After months of stalemate, the balance of power once again shifted in the rebels’ favour. In August 2011 rebel forces advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli, taking control of strategic areas, including the city of Zawiyah, the site of one of Libya’s largest oil refineries. Rebels soon advanced into Tripoli, establishing control over some areas of the capital on August 22. As rebel fighters battled pro-Qaddafi forces for control of Tripoli, Qaddafi’s whereabouts were unknown. The next day rebel forces appeared to gain the upper hand, capturing the Bāb al-ʿAzīziyyah compound, Qaddafi’s headquarters. Rebels raised Libya’s pre-Qaddafi flag over the compound as jubilant crowds destroyed symbols of Qaddafi. Fighting between rebels and loyalists continued in a few areas of Tripoli.

By early September rebel forces had solidified their control of Tripoli, and the TNC began to transfer its operations to the capital. Qaddafi, effectively forced from power, remained in hiding, occasionally issuing defiant audio messages. Rebel forces focused their attention on the few remaining cities under loyalist control, attempting to use negotiations to persuade loyalist commanders to surrender peacefully and avoid a bloody ground assault. When negotiations failed, rebel troops began to push into the cities of Sirte and Banī Walīd, engaging in heavy fighting with loyalists. The TNC achieved new international legitimacy on September 15 when the UN General Assembly voted to recognize it as the representative of the Libyan people in the UN. On October 20 Qaddafi was discovered and killed by rebel fighters in his hometown, Sirte, as they fought to solidify their control of the city.

The TNC struggled to establish a functional government and exert its authority in the months that followed the fall of the Qaddafi regime. Local rebel militias that had fought autonomously during the uprising, especially those in western Libya, were reluctant to submit to an interim government formed in eastern Libya with little input from the rest of the country and were suspicious of some TNC officials’ past ties to the Qaddafi regime. The militias refused to disarm, and skirmishes between rival militias over territory were common.


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