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February 2011

Feb 1  People are again in the streets of Egypt demanding in unison that President Mubarak step down – now. Mubarak stands tough. He speaks of a "silent majority" and that he is a man of the military. He talks patriotism and his service to Egypt. He says that he will die in Egypt, and he says he will not run for re-election in September. TV anchors describe people in the streets as a revolution and speak vaguely about reforms. The anchors say nothing about any kind of major economic reform and nothing, of course, about population growth. Christopher Hitchens in Slate is describing the crucial element making the revolt as psychological (not economic). David Brooks in the New York Times writes of a "Quest for Dignity." Some in the United States see aid from the US to Egypt as having been a waste and are rallying opposition to foreign aid.

Feb 1  In response to demonstrations of a lesser extent, King Abdullah of Jordon dismisses his cabinet and appoints a new prime minister whom he calls on to institute "true prolitical reforms." The BBC describes the protesters as demanding action on unemployment and rising prices. The political reform they call for is the right to elect the prime minister.

poster

Feb 2  A BBC journalist in Egypt said it: Egypt's ruling elite is fighting back. Pro-Mubarak forces instigate violence against protesters. Journalists are singled out, beaten up and some put into jail. The Army watches while it is assumed by many of us that the military top brass is siding with Mubarak against the uncertainty that threatens Egypt elite.

Feb 2  In Yemen for the Second Day of Rage, any thousands in the cities Sana'a, Aden and Taiz protesting against the government's constitutional amendment allowing President Saleh to run for another term. In a speech, against government corrupts and Saleh's control of power and resources. Saleh of Yemen looks down upon protests in the streets and says that he would not run for re-election when his term ends in 2013 and that neither will his eldest son, Ahmed.

Feb 3  Reports exist of impoverished young men being paid to join in the attack on anti-Mubarak demonstrators – one source is Arab News, an English language online newspaper in Saudi Arabia. Those in charge of Egypt's security and its state-run television are holding to the practice of lying for the sake of the status quo. The uprising is being blamed on foreigners. Journalists are being singled out as spies. Journalists are being roughed up and in some instances taken away to jails. Anderson Copper of CNN has been punched ten times in the head. A Fox News reporter has been arrested as an Israeli spy. State-run TV has not given its journalists the right to report from the street. There are no reports of what is happening in the street, but there is an attractive young woman singing "My president, my president you feel for us. You always raise our heads high." Two journalists quit Nile TV, and they are proclaimed as heroes.

Feb 3  Using NASA's telescope in outer space, astronomers discover planets in a system with a star much like the sun – at a distance of about 2,000 light years. It is estimated that there must be a great many more such systems, extending the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.

Feb 3  Lenin continues to be downgraded. Chairman of the Communist Party USA, Sam Webb writes that Marxism-Leninism "was too rigid and formulaic, our analysis too loaded with questionable assumptions, our methodology too undialectical, our structure too centralized, and our politics drifting from political realities." He describes Marxism-Leninism as having taken shape "during the Stalin period."

Feb 5  ABC News describes the new worth of Hosni Mubarak's family as ranging "from $40 billion to $70 billion by some estimates." That is near the wealth of Bill Gates. ABC News quotes a professor of Middle East Politics at Durham University in England: "Mubarak, his wife and two sons were able to also accumulate wealth through a number of business partnerships with foreigners."

Feb 5  The protests in Egypt are united by a common desire among them for Mubarak to step down and for real elections. They are without outstanding leaders. There is no cabal telling them what they should do or believe. But there is the claim by supporters of Mubarak that the anti-Mubarak protest is driven by devilish persons with ulterior motives. They are associating the protest movement with foreign instigators. And in the US at Fox News, Glenn Beck speaks of Islamists and Leftists together driving the protest movement. These conspirators, claims Beck, want to crush the American way of life.

Feb 6  It is now being reported that the pro-Mubarak supporters in the streets on February 2 and 3 were not just the "thugs" orchestrated by a state agency of some sort. There remains in Egypt many people who are uncomfortable with the idea of change. And there are many who want the demonstrators to go home and back to work and to give those in power time to act on their promises.

Feb 7  Leadership of the protest movement in Cairo has emerged, described in the US press as a handful of young people who helped start the protest movement. The New York Times reports that they are "...busy meeting to organize their many small groups into a unified structure." Their movement continues to insist on Mubarak's immediate resignation, and they go beyond Mubarak. They support moves against economic "corruption" like that of the steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a friend of Mubarak's son Gamal. And they call Vice President Suleiman a torturer.

Feb 8  We are being reminded by some in the media that a global food crisis is happening. Writes economist Paul Krugman: "World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn sugar and oils." Severe weather events are being described as the cause of the food crisis, with a connection to global warming. And the recent unrest in North Africa and the Middle East is being connected to rising food prices – which drove Parisians into the streets in 1789.

Feb 8  Contrary to the expectations of some, "one of the biggest protests yet" occurs in Egypt, according to Reuters. It is reported in the US media that the demonstrators do not trust the Mubarak regime, especially Vice President Suleiman, enough to stop their demonstrations. They believe that for their own protection they must continue to hang together. Anderson Cooper of CNN says this is "the most dangerous time for the anti-Mubarak protesters." Dr. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University says there is nothing more dangrous than a wounded dictator.

Feb 8  The New York Times reports: "Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say." At least a few US conservatives agree. Meanwhile, the US having any control over events in Egypt beyond withdrawing aid to the Mubarak-military regime appears to be fantasy, and the Obama administration has said nothing about "reviewing" US aid to Egypt's military since the Mubarak regime began promising more democracy and freedom for Egyptians.

Feb 9  On this, the 16th day of the uprising in Egypt, protests widen. In Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal, angry protests include setting fire to a government building, textile workers block roads and canal workers are on a sit-down strike. In the city of El Kharga protesters burn down a police station and other buildings. A report describes 5,000 unemployed youths storming a government building in Aswan. At Egypt's most widely circulated newspaper, Al-Ahram, journalists join together to demand better working conditions and the freedom to report with more honesty. It appears to be the end of the Mubarak-military dictatorship. If the Vice President orders the army to crack down, the lower-ranks of the army are likely to go over to the side of the revolution.

Feb 10  In Bolivia, a crowd is angry with President Morales over food shortages and rising prices. Morales feels forced to abandon a public event.

Feb 10  In Egypt, joining the protests in Cairo are thousands of chanting lawyers in black robes and medical persons wearing white lab coats, also engineers and journalists. Postal workers join in solidarity with the youth of Tahrir square, and workers across Egypt are on strike. The Mubarak-Suleiman regime no longer controls the media. And they have probably lost control of the common soldier.

Feb 11  It is early morning in Egypt – still dark – as this is being written. Yesterday in Cairo the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces met for the third time since 1967, and high-ranking officers met with the demonstrators and announced that all of the movement's demands will be met. Presumably this includes Mubarak and Suleiman stepping down. The military appears to have already chosen to be on the side of the people of Egypt – the people demonstrating – which is in the military's interest. Mubarak failed to face the reality that he no longer has any power. To a nation that rejects him as their president he said, "I am addressing all of you from the heart, a speech from the father to his sons and daughters." He said that what was happening was not about him, it was about his beloved Egypt, but he rambled on to focus on himself and his service to the nation. He referred to himself as president, spoke about defending Egypt from foreign intrusions, and he said nothing about resigning. His VP, Suleiman, spoke a half hour later and advised people to go back to their houses and to their work. The people of Egypt have no more patience with being treated like children. As we enter the new day the people of Egypt are more angry than they were yesterday. Yesterday had the biggest crowds yet, and it is said that today there will be more of them. Today is showdown day.

Feb 11  Late today, Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak has "charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country." A spokesman for the military announced that, "The armed forces are committed to sponsor the legitimate demands of the people." He said, "There is no legitimacy other than that of the people." Egyptians in the streets erupted in a euphoric celebration that lasted through the night.

Feb 13  In Yemen during the last three days the government has been arristing protesters. Protesters are confronted by pro-Saleh demonstrators, and today security forces arrest 120.

Feb 13  From Egypt, Richard Engel of NBC News, one of the best US journalists working the Middle East, reports that he found what seems like a protest on every corner in Cairo. He speaks of protests by bank employees, factory employees and journalists. People, he says "are no longer willing to accept corruption and mismanagement." Policemen, he adds, are "reinventing themselves" and asking for better pay.

Feb 15  In front of Sana'a University, around 2,000 Saleh supporters, backed by undercover police and using sticks and electric batons, attack student protesters.

Feb 17  After days of protest, Bahrain's military does what the Egyptian military did not: crackdown and disperse the demonstrators. In Bahrain the military moved against the demonstrators with tanks, tear gas, shot guns and concussion grenades in the early morning while the demonstrators will sleeping. At least five persons are reported dead.

Feb 17  In Libya's capital, Tripoli, demonstrators in the streets are pro-government. Libya had its revolution, beginning in 1969, led by Muammar el-Gaddafi. Anti-Gaddafi protests appear in cities in along the eastern coast, in Al Bayda and Benghazi.

Feb 18  In Bahrain people are back in the street mourning their dead. Their call for a constitutional monarchy has changed to a call for an end to the monarchy. The government says it is sorry but that the military crackdown was necessary. The security excuse is considered a lie. It appears that what they saw as necessary was preserving their power.

Feb 18  Demonstrators in the hundreds are reported to be in the streets of Libya's major cities, along with government forces. Human Rights Watch reports 24 dead – in recent days it would seem. Greater demonstrations are taking place today in Yemen, in their eighth straight day.

Gaddafi

Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi,
Libya's "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution"

map of Libya

Libya, courtesy of World Factbook

Feb 19  Protests continue in Libya, with 84 reported dead. A pro-government newspaper, Al Zahf Al Akhdar, writes that to "Any risk from these minuscule groups, the people and the noble revolutionary power [Gaddafi's 1969 revolution] will violently and thunderously respond." In the Western press descriptions of Libya as under a dictatorship continue. Unemployment is high among young Libyans and there is considerable homelessness. Libya has had a very fast growth in population and rising urbanization.

Feb 20  Reports on the fifth day of protest in Libya describe open fire on residents of the city of Benghazi as they attend a funeral procession. Dozens are described as killed. Also described, in the New York Times, is a quick crushing of "three smaller uprisings in working-class suburbs of the capital, Tripoli." International news organizations are prohibited from entering Libya, so it is difficult to measure how massive the protests are, but videos out of Libya available on the BBC show crowds much more sparse than those that had appeared in Egypt. One video shows "protesters" with captured weapons. Whether the protesters are firing back at government forces remains an unknown. The likelihood that the "protesters" can win a violence contest against government forces seems to be nearly zero.

Feb 21  Benghazi, Libya's second city, appears to be under the control of rebels. The army there is reported to have gone over to the side of the protesters. Yesterday one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, spoke on television, rambling and often repeating himself, giving regrets that inexperienced militiamen fired on crowds. He blamed unrest in Libya on tribal factions and Islamists. He promised reforms and warned against civil war and the tragedy of the country's disintegration. He said, "We will fight until the last man, until the last woman, until the last bullet." The BBC reports senior diplomats defecting to the side of the rebels.

Feb 22  In addition to rebels in control in Libya's east, in the streets of Libya's capital, Tripoli (in the west), several neighborhoods are sealed off with makeshift barricades erected by those hostile to Gaddafi. Meanwhile, forces wanting to defend Gaddafi's revolution are in the streets of the capital, some of them carrying weapons. Gaddafi makes a speech on television saying he will die a martyr rather than quit. The speech helps him little. General Abdul Fatah Younis, Libya's minister of interior resigns and is interviewed by Al Arabiya. Libya's ambassador to the US, Ali Ajuali, joins at least seven other ambassadors in quitting their post. Gaddafi's supporters have been calling Gaddafi the "Leader and Guide of the Revolution." Former ambassador Ajuali calls him a dictator.

Feb 24  More fighting in Libya. Gaddafi speaks on state television and blames the revolt against his rule on Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. He claims that protesters have been fueled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs.

Feb 24  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announces a gift of $36 billion for Bahrain. According to bizmology.com its purpose is "to ease the economic burdens of its restive people, offering them interest-free home loans, unemployment assistance, and debt forgiveness."

Feb 25  Anti-Gaddafi forces In eastern Libya unite and establish their own law and order. People in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq express solidarity with the anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya. In at least ten cities in Iraq tens of thousands demonstrate. They demand better government services and denounce corruption. They burn buildings. Gaddafi speaks in Tripoli's Green Square. Referring to himself he says that "the people love him." He adds, "We are dignity and glory and history and struggle."

Feb 26  Gaddafi invites foreign journalists to a guided tour of Tripoli. They see bread lines, city blocks in revolt, the government painting over anti-Gaddafi grafiti, people afraid to talk to the press, bodies removed to an unknown location and a doctor who alone saw more than 68 persons killed. (New York Times)

Feb 26  In Yemen in recent days a dozen or so protesters have died in the streets and many have been injured. The government crackdown is not working. Anger has made the protests bigger. Today, senior sheikhs from Yemen's main tribes (Hashid and Bakil) declare their support for the protesters.

Feb 27  The United Nations Security Council yesterday passed sanctions against Gaddafi and members of his family, and it voted to refer Gaddafi to the International Criminal court. Today, anti-Gaddafi forces seized control of the Az Zawiyah district (population around 300,000) 50 km west of Tripoli. In Tunisia, following attacks yesterday by his police on peaceful protesters, the deaths of three and the teargassing of shoppers, the now very unpopular prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, resigns.

Feb 28  Rebel military officers take steps to coordinate with military officers who have tanks, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons in Zawiyah just west of Tripoli. The military in the east controls Libya's oil fields. Interviewed by ABC News and others, Gaddafi "refuses to acknowledge" that there have ever been demonstrations against him in the streets of Tripoli and denied ever having used force against his people. "My people love me. They would die for me," he said.

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Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.