*URGENT Update from CIVICUS partner in Egypt*
Johannesburg. 2 February 2011. Today, the situation in Egypt worsened as violence erupted between pro and anti-Mubarak protesters. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has received the following update from its partners on the ground in Egypt:
"Today (2 February 2011), after 8 days of the Egyptian Revolution which started on 25 January, an ‘opposition' revolution supporting Mubarak's regime began. Members of the remaining police system in civilian costumes, in collaboration with bullies and thugs using white weapons, terrorised the peaceful protestors in Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo with acts of violence and bullying," reports the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE). "Bullies, who were identified later to be part of the police, received 100 Egyptian Pounds, meals and transportation to Tahrir Square. Riding camels and horses, they terrorised the peaceful protestors using weapons to beat them. The army who played a great role in protecting the protestors from last Friday (called 'Anger Friday') up till yesterday is no longer protecting the protestors and leaves the harassers to beat and kill the protestors. It must be known that more than 100 people were killed since 25 January and more than 1000 people were injured."
CIVICUS calls on the Egyptian Army to separate and prevent violence between pro and anti-Mubarak protesters. This is in addition to its previous calls for the international community to unequivocally pressure Egypt's President Mubarak to step down (see below).
Statement from CIVICUS:
Johannesburg. 1 February 2011. President Hosni Mubarak is still clinging onto power despite continuing unprecedented protests caused by widespread dissatisfaction in Egypt against his 30 years of authoritarian rule.
Against this backdrop, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation urges the international community to tell President Mubarak in no uncertain terms that he must step down and permit the Egyptian people to attain their legitimate aspirations for a free society. Moreover CIVICUS calls on all democratic governments and multilateral institutions, especially the United States and the African Union, to rise to the occasion and unequivocally stand behind the Egyptian people's desire for a just and democratic government.
"In the past, the United States Government has armed and strengthened President Mubarak's dictatorial rule. It is now time to right that historical wrong by telling him in clear terms that he must step down in the interests of his country," said Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director at CIVICUS. "The world cannot afford to adopt a watch and wait approach to the protests as political and economic instability worsens. World leaders - and particularly those from the African Union - must speak truth to power by telling President Mubarak he needs to relinquish office immediately without shedding further blood."
The weeklong street protests in Egypt, which have mirrored the events leading up to the recent transition from authoritarian rule in Tunisia, have already seen the death of over 100 unarmed protestors shot in the streets by security forces. At present, the military is deployed in large numbers across the country in a show of strength by President Mubarak's regime. Tanks and fighter jets are being used to intimidate the protestors who continue to oppose the government in the streets. Journalists and citizens are being harassed in an attempt to block the free flow of information. There has also been a clampdown on social networking sites and the internet to prevent citizens from organising.
"President Mubarak and other dictators in the Middle East and North African region and beyond must see the writing on the wall and leave peaceably. These protests are not going to stop; rather they are likely to spread to other authoritarian states where people are suffering under the misrule of despots," said Mandeep Tiwana, Policy Manager at CIVICUS.
Egypt has been in a state of emergency since 1981 when President Hosni Mubarak assumed power. Expressions of legitimate dissent against the regime are legally prohibited through emergency laws which criminalise insulting the President, blocking traffic or distributing leaflets or pamphlets. Detention and torture of political activists in Egypt have been rife under President Mubarak's regime with thousands reportedly being held in Egypt's notoriously inhumane prisons without access to fair trials.
CIVICUS has noted the continued repression of activists and a hostile environment for Egyptian civil society through its Early Warning System project. Activists critical of the government have to contend with constant fear, intimidation and surveillance by Egypt's disproportionately large security establishment which operates with impunity. Additionally, a web of repressive laws facilitates unwarranted interference in the activities of civil society organisations, allows their dissolution on arbitrary grounds and keeps them in a permanent state of uncertainty.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world.
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