By Tamara Wing
Late into Egypt’s fourth day of political demonstrations, thousands of protesters defy the curfew imposed by the State and vow to keep a strong presence on the streets throughout the night. Egypt’s Central Security police force–universally despised by the people for their brutality–have shifted to keeping a lower profile since Friday when President Hosni Mubarak ordered the army to be deployed. Protesters in cities across Egypt welcomed the soldiers with cheers as their tanks and personnel carriers arrived; the soldiers are regarded as being loyal to Egypt and its people, whereas the police are seen as loyal to Mubarak himself.
On Saturday evening CST, Reuters reported that the death toll since protests began on Wednesday had climbed to over one hundred. The number includes 68 protesters killed on Friday in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, as well as 17 who were killed by police while attacking a police station. Egypt has largely been allowed to collapse into a state of anarchy as the police and military are tasked with containing the protests while local gangs take advantage of the chaos. Off of the main roads, there is little, if any, emergency response as Egyptians are left to fend for themselves as home robberies and looting become widespread. From over the loudspeakers of neighborhood mosques, young men are being called out to protect their homes, families and neighbors; the army is advising these makeshift neighborhood watch committees on tactics. In some neighborhoods, concrete blocks are dragged into the streets to keep traffic out until the drivers are confirmed as local residents. The young men keeping watch over their neighborhoods overnight are armed with guns, knives and bats. Egyptians are effectively policing themselves as the stand-off between the people and their government nears the beginning of its fifth day.
President Hosni Mubarak has had little to say publicly since protests began; yesterday he announced that his Vice President and Prime Minister would see their positions replaced by two of Mubarak’s political allies and personal friends. The international community has condemned Mubarak’s reaction to the protests; Germany and the U.S. are two countries considering a cut or suspension of aid to Egypt due to the human rights violations in recent days (after Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, Egypt is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid, with $1.3 billion annually in addition to $0.9 billion in economic aid).
Peaceful demonstrations of solidarity with the Egyptian protesters were held on Saturday in cities around the world.