Egypt protests create historic turning point for Mideast and Arab neighbors
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Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered in central Cairo, the capital of Egypt, for almost a week. The dramatic revolt against President Hosni Mubarak, who is 82 years old and has held power 30 years, pushed him to name a new vice-president and prime minister. But the daily marches and military response continue, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.
Students and other young protesters kick-started the revolt Jan. 25, then were joined by Egyptians of all ages who blame Mubarak for economic hardship and lack of personal liberties. Crowds demand that the president -- whose name is pronounced hoss-knee moob-are-ack -- leave the country of 79 million people. Egypt, a Muslim-majority country in northeast Africa, is a major a Mideast power that is friendly to the U.S. and signed as 1979 peace treaty with Israel, a border neighbor. "The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we've cooperated on many issues," says President Obama. "But we've also been clear that there must be reform -- political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people."
Mubarak cut off Internet and wireless service late last week, fearing that Facebook, Twitter, laptops and smart phones help opponents organize against him and expose his weakness to the world --as happened in nearby Tunisia, where similar street demonstrations changed the government Jan. 14 and sent the president of 23 years into exile. An Egyptian writer and lecturer, Mona Eltahawy, puts the region-wide stakes in context: "If he goes, all the other old men will follow -- those who have smothered their countries with one hand and robbed them blind with the other. Mubarak is the Berlin Wall," she wrote this past weekend in The Guardian, a leading British newspaper.
President Mubarak says: "These demonstrations shouldn't have happened, because of the big advances in freedom that were given. . . . I assure you that I'm working for the people and giving freedoms of opinions, as long as we are respecting the law." -- Jan. 28 televised address
President Obama says: "This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. . . . What's needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people: a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people." -- Jan. 28 at White House
Arab writer says: "It's the most exciting time of my life. " -- Mona Eltahawy, Jan. 29 in The Guardian, a London newspaper
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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