Anyone planning to embark on an Egyptian tourism adventure in the near future that includes a heavenly cruise on the Nile or a tour of Cairo’s pyramids should go ahead without fear. There is no reason to change plans. What happened Tuesday in Cairo’s and Alexandria’s main squares should not deter anyone. Even if the protests continue, officials here will not be issuing a grave travel advisory.
Egypt is not Tunisia,
and Mubarak knows how to enforce his rule. Egypt’s security apparatuses, and there are at least four of those responsible for the regime’s stability and domestic peace, possess plenty of experience in crushing protests.
On Tuesday it indeed looked scary. Tens of thousands of protestors poured into Egypt’s streets at once. Their ability to organize secretly under the regime’s staring glare is impressive, but also provokes pity for their distress. Some citizens even dared to declare that Mubarak must go, and that Tunisia’s leader is waiting for him in Saudi Arabia.
However, it’s important to note that Mubarak did not see fit to escape even to the calm Sharm el-Sheikh. He remained in his palace with his advisors and received reports around the clock. The protestors urged him to go away? So what? This is not the first time opposition movements are expressing their anger. The anger is justified, yet nothing will be changing.
On Tuesday, the police were unequivocally ordered to conduct themselves gently and refrain from opening fire. Shots fired at protestors look very bad in Washington. However, should the demonstrators cross the red lines and insist on continuing to gather at the squares, security forces will boost the level of response.
Both camps also know, based on the experience accumulated in 30 years under Mubarak, that the time to settle scores shall arrive. When the situation calms down and the streets empty, those who provoked the “day of fury” will be taken care of.
It was also interesting to see that the curses hurled at the president Tuesday did not mention even once the name of his heir apparent, Mubarak’s son Gamal. This too attests to the limited scope of the confrontation.
The protestors and security forces faced off against each other while being fully aware of the rules of play and size of the court. The demonstrators yelled and kicked, while the forces pushed them back and managed to convey the message that “our long arms shall reach each and every protest organizer.”
There is no magic solution. The Mubarak regime has no intention of panicking or disappearing because of tens of thousands of protestors. The regime also cannot raise the lowly salaries of millions of poor and unemployed who have no chance of finding a regular, respectable job. The corruption at the top won’t end either. Those who can afford it will take bribes and pray that they won’t be caught.
The six million people working in the top political echelons, the business sector, the security services and the media live off the regime and serve as its safety belt. Should Mubarak fall, their world will collapse at once. They see the opposition movements and those who dream of running for president in October as a headache that must be addressed with their own methods, preferably without the cameras capturing the violence.