Egypt shutdown worst in Internet history

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Normal Egypt shutdown worst in Internet history

Post by Wrapitup on Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:20 pm

by Katia Dolmadjian Katia Dolmadjian – Sat Jan 29, 12:05 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – The scale of Egypt's crackdown on the Internet and mobile phones amid deadly protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak is unprecedented in the history of the web, experts said.

US President Barack Obama, social networking sites and rights groups around the world all condemned the moves by Egyptian authorities to stop activists using cellphones and cyber technology to organise rallies.

"It's a first in the history of the Internet," Rik Ferguson, an expert for Trend Micro, the world's third biggest computer security firm, told AFP.

Julien Coulon, co-founder of Cedexis, a French Internet performance monitoring and traffic management system, added: "In 24 hours we have lost 97 percent of Egyptian Internet traffic.

According to Renesys, a US Internet monitoring company, Egypt's four main Internet service providers cut off international access to their customers in a near simultaneous move at 2234 GMT on Thursday.

Around 23 million Egyptians have either regular or occasional access to the Internet, according to official figures, more than a quarter of the population.

"In an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet," James Cowie of Renesys said in a blog post.

Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr were all off air but Cowie said one exception was the Noor Group, which still has 83 live routes to its Egyptian customers.

He said it was not clear why the Noor Group was apparently unaffected "but we observe that the Egyptian Stock Exchange ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] is still alive at a Noor address."

Mobile telephone networks were also severely disrupted in the country on Friday. Phone signals were patchy and text messages inoperative.

British-based Vodafone said all mobile operators in Egypt had been "instructed" Friday to suspend services in some areas amid spiralling unrest, adding that under Egyptian law it was "obliged" to comply with the order.

Egyptian operator ECMS, linked to France's Telecom-Orange, said the authorities had ordered them to shut them off late Thursday.

"We had no warning, it was quite sudden," a spokesman for Telecom-Orange told AFP in France.

The shutdown in Egypt is the most comprehensive official electronic blackout of its kind, experts said.

Links to the web were were cut for only a few days during a wave of protests against Myanmar's ruling military junta in 2007, while demonstrations against the re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 specifically targeted Twitter and Facebook.

Egypt -- like Tunisia where mass popular unrest drove out Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month -- is on a list of 13 countries classed as "enemies of the Internet" by media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"So far there has been no systematic filtering by Egyptian authorities -- they have completely controlled the whole Internet," said Soazig Dollet, the Middle East and North Africa specialist for RSF.

Condemnation of Egypt's Internet crackdown has been widespread.

Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Cairo to restore the Internet and social networking sites.

Facebook, the world's largest social network with nearly 600 million members, and Twitter also weighed in.

"Although the turmoil in Egypt is a matter for the Egyptian people and their government to resolve, limiting Internet access for millions of people is a matter of concern for the global community," said Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman.

Twitter, which has more than 175 million registered users, said of efforts to block the service in Egypt: "We believe that the open exchange of info & views benefits societies & helps govts better connect w/ their people."

US digital rights groups also criticised the Egyptian government.

"This action is inconsistent with all international human rights norms, and is unprecedented in Internet history," said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology in the United States.

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Post by CritterFan1 on Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:11 pm

This is so unreal. Cannot imagine what everyone is going through there. Unforgivable what the rioters have done to some of Egypt's priceless artifacts. Hopefully this situation will improve before it gets even more dangerous.
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Normal Jubilant crowds flood Cairo, escalating protests

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:51 am

The repercussions were being felt around the region, as other authoritarian governments fearing popular discontent pre-emptively tried to burnish their democratic image.

Jordan's King Abdullah II fired his government Tuesday in the face of smaller street protests, named an ex-prime minister to form a new Cabinet and ordered him to launch political reforms. The Palestinian Cabinet in West Bank said it would hold long-promised municipal elections "as soon as possible."

With Mubarak's hold on power in Egypt weakening, the world was forced to plan for the end of a regime that has maintained three decades of peace with Israel and a bulwark against Islamic militants. But under the stability was a barely hidden crumbling of society, mounting criticism of the regime's human rights record and a widening gap between rich and poor, with 40 percent of the population living under or just above the poverty line set by the World Bank at $2 a day.

The U.S. ambassador in Cairo, Margaret Scobey, spoke by telephone Tuesday with prominent democracy advocate, Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the embassy said. ElBaradei has taken a key role with other opposition groups in formulating the movement's demands for Mubarak to step down and allow a transitional government paving the way for free elections. There was no immediate word on what Scobey and ElBaradei discussed.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya television, ElBaradei rejected an offer late Monday by Vice President Omar Suleiman for a dialogue on enacting constitutional reforms. He said there could be no negotiations until Mubarak lea.

Suleiman's offer and other gestures by the regime have fallen flat. The Obama administration ew government Monday afternoon that dropped his interior minister, who heads police forces and has been widely denounced by the protesters. Mubarak was shown making the appointment on state television but made no comment.

The United States, meanwhile, ordered non-essential U.S. government personnel and their families to leave Egypt in an indication of the deepening concern over the situation.

They join a wave of people rushing to flee the country — over 18,000 overwhelmed Cairo's international airport and threw it into chaos. EgyptAir staff scuffled with frantic passengers, food supplies were dwindling and some policemen even demanded substantial bribes before allowing foreigners to board their planes.

Normally bustling, Cairo's streets outside Tahrir Square had a fraction of their normal weekday traffic. Banks, schools and the stock market in Cairo were closed for the third working day, making cash tight. Bread prices spiraled. An unprecedented shutdown of the Internet was in its fifth day.

The official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured, thought reports from witnesses across the country indicated the actual toll was far higher.

But perhaps most startling was how peaceful protests have been in recent days, after the military replaced the police in keeping control and took a policy of letting the demonstrations continue.

Egypt's army leadership has reassured the U.S. that the military does not intend to crack down on demonstrators, . The Egyptians use a colloquial saying to describe their strategy: A boiling pot with a tight lid will blow up the kitchen, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Troops and Soviet-era and newer U.S.-made Abrams tanks stood at roads leading into Tahrir Square, a plaza overlooked by the headquarters of the Arab League, the campus of the American University in Cairo, the famed Egyptian Museum and the Mugammma, an enormous building housing departments of the notoriously corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.

Protester volunteers wearing tags reading "the People's Security" circulated through the crowds in the square, saying they were watching for government infiltrators who might try to instigate violence.

"We will throw out anyone who tries to create trouble," one announced over a loudspeaker. Other volunteers joined the soldiers at the checkpoints, searching bags of those entering for weapons. Organizers said the protest would remain in the square and not attempt to march to avoid frictions with the military.

Two dummies representing Mubarak dangled from traffic lights. On their chests was written: "We want to put the murderous president on trial." Their faces were scrawled with the Star of David, an allusion to many protesters' feeling that Mubarak is a friend of Israel, still seen by most Egyptians as their country's archenemy more than 30 years after the two nations signed a peace treaty.

Every protester had their own story of why they came — with a shared theme of frustration with a life pinned in by corruption, low wages, crushed opportunities and abuse by authorities.

Sahar Ahmad, a 41-year-old school teacher and mother of one, said she has taught for 22 years and still only makes about $70 a month.

"There are 120 students in my classroom. That's more than any teacher can handle," said Ahmad. "Change would mean a better education system I can teach in and one that guarantees my students a good life after school. If there is democracy in my country, then I can ask for democracy in my own home."

Tamer Adly, a driver of one of the thousands of minibuses that ferry commuters around Cairo, said he was sick of the daily humiliation he felt from police who demand free rides and send him on petty errands, reflecting the widespread public anger at police high-handedness.

"They would force me to share my breakfast with them ... force me to go fetch them a newspaper. This country should not just be about one person," the 30-year-old lamented, referring to Mubarak.

Among the older protesters, there was also a sense of amazement after three decades of unquestioned control by Mubarak's security forces over the streets.

"We could never say no to Mubarak when we were young, but our young people today proved that they can say no, and I'm here to support them," said Yusra Mahmoud, a 46-year-old school principal who said she had been sleeping in the square alongside other protesters for the past two nights.

Authorities shut down all roads and public transportation to Cairo and in and out of other main cities, security officials said. Train services nationwide were suspended for a second day and all bus services between cities were halted.

Still, many from the provinces managed to make it to the square. Hamada Massoud, a 32-year-old a lawyer, said he and 50 others came in cars and minibuses from the impoverished province of Beni Sweif south of Cairo.

"Cairo today is all of Egypt," he said. "I want my son to have a better life and not suffer as much as I did ... I want to feel like I chose my president."

Tens of thousands rallied in the cities of Alexandria, Suez and Mansoura, north of Cairo, as well as in the southern province of Assiut and Luxor, the southern city where some 5,000 people protested outside an ancient Egyptian temple.

The various protesters have little in common beyond the demand that Mubarak go.

A range of movements is involved, with sometimes conflicting agendas — including students, online activists, grass-roots organizers, old-school opposition politicians and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps the most significant tensions among them are between young secular activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to form a state governed by Islamic law. The more secular are deeply suspicious the Brotherhood aims to co-opt what they contend is a spontaneous, popular movement. American officials have suggested they have similar fears.

A second day of talks among opposition groups fell apart after many of the youth groups boycotted the meeting over charges that some of the traditional, government-condoned opposition parties have agreed to start a dialogue with Suleiman.

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Post by raine1953 on Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:34 pm

Mubarak says he'll step down in September

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Bowing to eight days of protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday night that he will hand over power to an elected successor "in a constitutional way" when his term ends in September.
But the announcement rang flat in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where thousands of protesters erupted in chants of "Down with Mubarak" and "The people want the president to be judged" following his announcement. Some waved shoes in the air -- a deep insult in the Arab world.
"This is not enough," Mahmoud Safi, a lawyer taking part in the Cairo demonstrations, told CNN shortly before the announcement. "We have one request. We want him to leave our country now, immediately, not tomorrow."
Mubarak has led Egypt for nearly 30 years since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, aided by an emergency decree that has allowed him to rule with an iron fist. But following demonstrations that have only grown in the past week, the 82-year-old former air force general told his people Tuesday night, "I have spent enough time serving Egypt."
"My first responsibility now is to restore the stability and security of the homeland, to achieve a peaceful transition of power in an environment that will protect Egypt and Egyptians and which will allow for the responsibility to be given to whoever the people elect in the forthcoming elections," he said.
Crowd angry over announcement Tony Blair: It's "over" for Mubarak Egypt protests threaten global economy Scholar: Mubarak behind chaos
At a glance: Nations facing unrest
He added, "I will pursue the transfer of power in an way that will fulfill the people's demands, and that this new government will fulfill the people's demands and their hopes for political, economic and social progress."
Throughout the demonstrations, the world watched as the Arab world's most populous nation -- a bulwark of stability and a major U.S. ally in the region -- went through the throes of what increasingly appeared to be a revolution.
In Washington, a U.S. official involved in the Obama administration's deliberations on Egypt said Mubarak's decision would be "a significant step in the right direction." The official said the White House has made clear "at the highest levels" that it wanted Mubarak to state that neither he nor his son, Gamal, would be a presidential candidate in the next elections set for September.
In Cairo, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, met Tuesday with opposition leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and will be speaking with leaders of other political movements, a senior State Department official said. The official cautioned that Scobey's talks with ElBaradei doesn't mean the United States favors him.
Mubarak's announcement comes less than three weeks after a wave of protests that forced Tunisia's longtime strongman to flee to Saudi Arabia in mid-January. As the Egyptian demonstrations grew, Mubarak sacked his cabinet and ordered newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman to hold talks on political reform with opposition leaders.
But a coalition of six Egyptian parties issued a joint list of demands Tuesday
A joint statement issued Tuesday by a coalition of six political parties, including the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood, laid out five demands for the government:
-- The resignation of Mubarak.
-- The formation of a transitional government to calm the unrest.
-- The establishment of a committee to draft a new constitution that "will guarantee the principle of equality and the circulation of power."
-- The dissolution of parliamentary councils in the wake of "forged" elections.
-- The use of the military "to protect the country according to the constitution."
In Arabic, Tahrir means liberation -- and in the central Cairo square, never did it seem more true.

Though soldiers stood guard with their guns at key locations Tuesday and helicopters hovered overhead, the country's powerful military announced Monday that it would not open fire on peaceful protesters. By afternoon, demonstrators stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square for a "march of millions."
Amr Badr, a young doctor, optimistically said his voice was important and that it "is going to be heard after today."
"This is our Egypt," Badr said with the conviction that the nation would be returned to people who, for three decades, have known no leader but Mubarak.
Protesters set up their own checkpoints to keep weapons out of the square, and the Egyptian army issued a statement thanking "all the citizens and the youth for working with their armed forces to protect public and private property."
The demonstrators came despite efforts by the government to suspend rail service and cut off mobile phone and internet networks, and despite the mounting hardships around them. Banks and schools were shuttered, teller machine screens were dark and gas stations ran out of fuel. Long lines snaked around bakeries and supermarkets as shops began to ration how much food customers could buy.
State television reported Monday that the crisis has cost the country an estimated 69 billion Egyptian pounds (nearly $12 billion) and set its economy back six months.
The demonstrations had turned ugly last Friday, when thousands of riot and plainclothes police used brutal force to crack down on people on the streets. Since then, the army has replaced police as the enforcers of security, and the gatherings have been largely peaceful.
Unconfirmed reports suggest up to 300 people may have been killed during the protests, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Tuesday. CNN has not been able to independently confirm the death toll. Human Rights Watch has reported 80 deaths from two hospitals in Cairo, 36 in Alexandria and 13 in Suez.
Scattered pro-Mubarak camps tried to defend the Egyptian leader. "No to the traitors," said one group of supporters making their way to the heart of the protests.
In recent days, protests inspired by the Tunisian outcome have spread to Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Sudan. A Facebook page urged similar demonstrations in Syria.
In Jordan, calls for political reform prompted King Abdullah II Tuesday to dismiss his government and appoint a new prime minister.
Meanwhile, foreigners have started streaming out of Egypt. The U.S. State Department said 1,600 Americans have been evacuated and the British carrier BMI was organizing an extra flight to get 124 passengers out Tuesday. Other countries including China, India, Thailand and Australia were attempting to get stranded citizens out of Egypt.
Much of the Egyptian anger is driven by economic woes, including a dramatic rise in the cost of living coupled with high unemployment. Despite the government's food subsidies, people are struggling.
Egypt's economy was stagnant for decades, but in the past 10 years it began to grow, creating bigger differences between rich and poor, said Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan.
The majority of Egypt's population is under 30 -- as is the vast majority of its unemployed. Many in the crowd are young men looking for economic opportunities and a better life.
As one person in Tahrir Square put it to CNN: It's about putting bread on the table.
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