01.28.11

Egypt Protests: Mubarak's Government in Chaos

Demonstrators in Cairo continue to march in the streets, defying a curfew and rejecting President Mubarak’s gesture of naming a vice president.

Six straight days of mass protests have left Egypt in near shambles, as military and police forces continue to clash with opponents of Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Governments are prepping flights for non-Egyptian citizens to leave the country, and Hillary Clinton swept the Sunday talk shows to urge "real democracy" for Egypt. Read the latest news, with photos and video.

International governments are preparing flights to send their citizens out of Egypt after the sixth day of protests and violence created concerns for non-Egyptian citizens. Major airlines such as Lufthansa and Air India are working with the U.S. and Turkey to send aircraft to Cairo and Alexandria. Greece's foreign ministry have at least two military aircraft on standby and Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent his presidential plane to pick up Iraqis. Reports of chaos at Cairo's airport claim Egyptians are trying to leave from a number of decreasing flights. The U.S. has stated they will not be using their military to assist in evacuations, but states that flights leaving Cairo will begin on Monday. Companies such as Royal Dutch Shell are also evacuating 60 of their international families.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that she wants Egyptians to have a free and fair election as a result of the anti-government uproar. Clinton reiterated President Obama's statements that support "universal rights" and steps to advance "political reform within Egypt," without mentioning the potential fall of President Hosni Mubarak. While both Clinton and Obama denounced the widespread looting and violence, Clinton applauded the Egyptian military for walking the delicate line between keeping order and protecting protesters' rights. She told ABC News that the White House has not discussed cutting off military aid to Egypt, which is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. military aid. "We always are looking and reviewing our aid but right now we are trying to convey a message that is very clear, that we want to ensure there is no violence and no provocation that result in violence," she said.

Photos: Egypt Protest

Hosni Mubarak tried, but his gestures weren’t enough for Egyptian citizens hungry for change. In the face of persistent mass demonstrations against his government, the 82-year-old president announced on Saturday the appointment of his first-ever vice president, tapping former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. He also appointed a new prime minister and fired his entire cabinet.

Still, an estimated 50,000 demonstrators continued to converge on the streets across the country, calling for Mubarak’s resignation—and, in some cases, causing violence and looting. In Cairo’s treasured national museum, two protesters broke in and tore the head off of two mummies, damaging 10 more small artifacts until they were taken out and the building was put under military guard. Reports emerged again that the headquarters of Egypt’s ruling party was set on fire. Ursula Lindsey wrote a first-hand account of Cairo protests, describing anti-Mubarak graffiti on the streets and vehicles set on fire. The army, though, was effective at keeping order, and protesters were seen handing water and snacks to soldiers. Hospitals were in chaos, suggesting that death tolls were higher than available estimates. Agence France-Presse reports that at least 102 people have died over the last five days. On Saturday, Egyptian police shot and killed 17 protesters when they tried to break into two police stations in Biba and Nasser City.


Montage of Egypt Protests
Video screenshot

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Laureate and opposition leader who returned to his country during the protests this week, told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview on Saturday that Egypt “is in a state of collapse at the moment.” He continued: “The key reason is that the president of the state, President Hosni Mubarak, is not heeding the call of the people, he is not willing to listen to the people.” ElBaradei was placed under house arrest on Friday. Read his manifesto for change in Egypt, written exclusively for The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

Back in D.C., Obama and his White House team were desperately struggling to calibrate their response. From officials' initial buoyant optimism and behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuvers to the swift judgment call that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's speech required President Obama's response, John Barry reports on the administration's decision-making during the gathering storm.


Military prevents confrontation between protesters and police in Cairo.
Video screenshot