Civil unrest in Egypt surged to a new level, as protesters
prepared to take the streets to demonstrate against the regime of
President Hosni Mubarak on Friday. Massive protests are
planned after prayer ends, but unconfirmed reports from the largest
nation in the Middle East suggest that the government may be
prepared to brutally suppress any unrest.
Several sources confirmed that most of the "Egyptian internet' has
been shut down, with only one major provider - the Noor Group -
still online. Because the Noor Group's clients include major
western firms, as well as the
Egyptian Stock Exchange
, some suspect it has been spared so that some economic activity
graph of internet activity
at CNET.com vividly illustrates just how complete the web
lockdown of the country is at this time - it's clear this is no
accident, though the regime denies involvement. A nation of more
than 80 million, with a gross domestic product of over $500
billion, has now gone dark to the rest of the world.
There are also unconfirmed reports that security services may be
preparing to incite violence, possibly by posing as protesters, in
order to justify armed reprisals. Several protesters and police
have already died in the last week of protests, and Friday's street
action looks likely to eclipse the first days.
"This is a revolution," a 16-year-old protester in Suez told
. "Every day we're coming back here."
The situation remains volatile, and it could get more complicated.
Mohammed el-Baradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency
director general, is perhaps the most powerful opposition figure in
Egypt. Having recently returned from Europe, he pledged to join the
protests tomorrow, and offered to lead a reform movement if chosen.
Some analysts see Egypt as another Tunisia, with an autocratic
regime at the end of its leash. In Tunisia, however, military
forces largely stood aside as the protests continued, and the U.S.
did not intervene heavily.
The other parallel is seen in the election protests that rocked
Iran in 2009 and 2010, which were heavily publicized but ultimately
Egypt is balanced on a knife-edge - and the way it falls is in the
hands of its people and its leader.