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February 2011, Week 2

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Wed, 9 Feb 2011 21:59:22 -0500
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Labour Unions Boost Egypt Protests

    Thousands of factory workers stay away from
    work as pro-democracy protesters continue to
    rally seeking Mubarak's ouster.

Al Jazeera 
February 9, 2011

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112913546831171.html

Egyptian labour unions have gone on a nationwide
strike, adding momentum to pro-democracy demonstrations
in Cairo and other cities.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from Egypt, said
around 20,000 factory workers stayed away from work on
Wednesday.

Al Jazeera's Shirine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said
that some workers "didn't have a political demand".

"They were saying that they want better salaries, they
want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want
the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to
them by the state."

However, Tadros also said that some workers were
calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to
step down.

The strike action came as public rallies calling for
Mubarak to immediately hand over power entered their
16th day.

Determined protesters are continuing to rally in
Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square, and other cities
across the country. They say they will not end the
protests until Mubarak, who has been at the country's
helm since 1981, steps down.

Protesters with blankets gathered outside the
parliament building in Cairo on Wednesday, with no plan
to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators
have put up a sign that reads: "Closed until the fall
of the regime".

Click here for more on Al Jazeera's special coverage

The government seems to be scrambling under pressure
from major powers and pro-democracy supporters, Al
Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker reported from the city.

She said people in Tahrir Square were angered by a
visit from Tamer Hosni, a famous Arab pop star, on
Wednesday morning.

Hosni previously made statements telling the
demonstrators to leave the square, saying that Mubarak
had offered them concessions. "His comments really did
not go down very well," our correspondent said. The
crowd reacted angrily and the military had to intervene
to keep them away from him.

"People feel very strongly here," Al Jazeera's Dekker
said.

Another Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from Cairo,
said there was also a renewed international element to
the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad
returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

There is even an internet campaign aimed at mobilising
thousands of expatriates to return and support the
uprising, our correspondent said.

Protesters are "more emboldened by the day and more
determined by the day", Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian
activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo on Wednesday.
"This is a growing movement, it's not shrinking."

Concessions fall short

Mubarak's message has thus far been that he will not
leave until his term expires in September.

As a gesture of goodwill, however, 34 political
prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim
Brotherhood opposition group, were reportedly released
over the past two days.

Dekker, our correspondent, reported that there are
still an unknown number of people missing, including
activists thought to be detained during the recent
unrest, while Human Rights Watch reported that the
death toll has reached 302 since January 28.

Egypt's health ministry denied the figures, however,
saying that official statistics would be released
shortly.

"He (Suleiman) is threatening to impose martial law,
which means everybody in the square will be smashed.
But what will he do with the rest of the 70 million
Egyptians who will follow us afterward."

Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the
five main youth groups behind the Tahrir Square
protests.

Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice president, warned on
Tuesday that his government "can't put up with
continued protests" for a long time, saying the crisis
must be ended as soon as possible.

Suleiman said there will be "no ending of the regime"
and no immediate departure for Mubarak, the state news
agency MENA reported from a meeting between the vice-
president and independent newspapers.

At one point in the roundtable meeting, he warned that
the alternative to dialogue "is that a coup happens,
which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps,
including lots of irrationalities".

When pressed by news editors to explain the comment, he
said he did not mean a military coup but that "a force
that is unprepared for rule" could overturn state
institutions, said Amr Khafagi, editor-in-chief of the
privately owned Shorouk daily, who attended the
briefing.

Response to Suleiman's statements was grim.

"He is threatening to impose martial law, which means
everybody in the square will be smashed," said Abdul-
Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the five
main youth groups behind protests in Tahrir Square.

"But what would he do with the rest of the 70 million
Egyptians who will follow us afterward."

Earlier on Tuesday, Suleiman said a plan was in place
for the peaceful transfer of power, which included
forming three committees  - one to propose
constitutional amendments, another to oversee the
implementation of the amendments and a third to
investigate the violent clashes of February 2.

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