The following is a very brief overview of the current situation in Egypt. For full, up-to-date coverage, visit The New York Times’ Lede Blog.
WHAT – The Egyptian people- an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 of them in Cairo on Wednesday, and thousands of others across the nation- have taken to the streets this week to protest President Hosni Mubarak’s long, corrupt, autocratic rule.
WHO – Mubarak’s only substantial political opposition has come from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative Islamic movement…until now. This week’s protests were largely organized by Egyptian youth, and were attended not by members of a particular party, but by Egyptians from all levels of society:
“Friday’s protests were the largest and most diverse yet, including young and old, women with Louis Vuitton bags and men in galabeyas, factory workers and film stars.” (NYTimes.com)
WHY NOW? – The people of Tunisia, long frustrated with corruption, unemployment, and government repression, took to the streets this month and ended the 23-year-long rule of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The success of the “Jasmine Revolution,” which started with a single street vendor’s self-immolation, inspired the Egypt protests.
WHAT’S NEXT? – President Mubarak has refused calls to step down, and his concession to replace his cabinet members has done little to appease the protestors. On Friday, he ordered the Egyptian Army into Cairo and blocked Internet access and cellular service across most of the country to disrupt protest planning on social media sites, but clashes between demonstrators and security forces have raged on.
WHAT ABOUT MIDDLEBURY?
According to the Study Abroad Office, five Middlebury students are currently studying at Middlebury’s C.V. Starr School in the Middle East, located in Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria was the site of some of the week’s most violent protests on Friday:
“Late Friday, downtown Alexandria was choked with smoke that blotted out the sunset…” (NYTimes.com).
After a 2-hour battle earlier today, it appeared that Alexandrian security forces were overwhelmed by the sheer number of protestors. The Egyptian Army arrived later and imposed a strict military curfew, much to the relief of many Alexandrians who “hoped that semblance of order would be retained after the destruction of a day spent venting pent-up anger” but the exact situation on the ground is unclear due to interrupted communications networks (NYTimes.com).
A MiddBlog inquiry sent to the five students in Alexandria was not received before the government blocked Internet access, and the Study Abroad office has yet to make a statement. If you have been in contact with anyone on the ground, please let us know. We will post any updates as soon as they come in.