1,000,000 oppose war in govt-backed Egypt protest
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Mar 7 04:39:05 MST 2003
One Million Show Up for Government-Sponsored Anti-War
Protest in Egypt
Not only did Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ruling
National Democratic Party sponsor Wednesday's protest,
members of the party, including the minister of
information, marched with the protesters.
Walid Kazziha, a political science professor at
American University in Cairo, says the government must
be feeling public pressure because, he says, it has
been a quarter of a century since members of the
Egyptian government actively participated in public
protests. Mr. Kazziha says the demonstration
accomplished two government objectives.
"The main message is that Egypt as a government and
the public opinion is against the war in Iraq," he
said. "Secondly that the ruling party in Egypt has now
adopted a new, more responsive, policy towards their
public opinion because, for the last 25 years, the
ruling party has not walked in a demonstration in
Egypt nor has it initiated one."
Another analyst says that the Egyptian media have
recently been drawing attention to the fact that while
millions of people in Western countries have been
demonstrating against a war on Iraq, there have been
only small protests in Egypt and the rest of the Arab
Dan Tschirgi is the head of the political science
department, also at American University in Cairo. He
says the Egyptian government may have felt the need to
sponsor Wednesday's protest out of embarrassment.
"The Egyptian press raised a lot of embarrassing
points regarding the absence of protests in the Arab
world, and by implication Egypt as well," he said.
"There was nothing to lose and something to be gained
by allowing controlled protests and by visibly being
seen as sponsoring these protests."
But according to Taha Abdel Alim, the deputy director
of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic
Studies in Cairo, the Egyptian government is trying to
relieve growing public pressure by taking a proactive
stance by allowing the kinds of protests it
"It's unusual. It may be some kind of response to the
pressure of the public opinion," he said. "Something
to say that we support our position against the war,
or the position of the Egyptian people and Arab
Over the past two years Egypt has allowed public
demonstrations regarding the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict but those protests were largely confined to
Egypt's interior ministry recently announced that
public protests would only be allowed if they were
peaceful and did not block traffic. Wednesday's
government sponsored anti-war protest was peaceful,
but with an estimated one million marchers, traffic
near the demonstration came to a complete standstill
for several hours.
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