Egyptians in Malta are urging the media to shed light on the riots at home, after media communications, including mobile phone lines, were blacked out by the Egyptian government yesterday.
Two Egyptian men voiced their concern about the fact that their government was cutting down communications.
One of them, 38-year-old Yasser Emam, from a village just outside Cairo, said he was worried about his family in Egypt, especially his wife and six-year old son.
He said he tried calling his wife yesterday but the mobile network had been cut off. It was probably only a matter of time, he said, until the fixed lines were disabled.
“I told her not to go out, not to join in the protests. I’m worried about them. If I were there, however, I would urge them to go out with me,” he said.
Mr Emam, who works in Malta, said he had not been home in six months and was very worried about what was happening in Egypt “where people were being killed in the streets”.
Accompanied by a friend, who preferred to remain unnamed, he produced a letter he said was sent to them through Facebook from friends back home before the networking website was shut down.
“The Mubarak regime is banning Facebook, Twitter and all other popular internet sites. Now, the internet is completely blocked in Egypt and today the government blocked the three mobile phone networks,” the letter says, adding there was talk landlines could also be blocked. This did not stop protesters from flooding the internet with clips of the riots, however, as pictures and videos were uploaded on several websites.
Things escalated in Egypt after Friday prayers yesterday, when the police clashed with thousands of protesters calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.
Moustafa Megawer, a member of Mohamed ElBaradei’s Movement for Change, was one of the people protesting around Cairo yesterday.
“It is a shame on the Egyptian government to arrest someone like Mr ElBaradei. People don’t want this government any more. They came out because they are very angry. They don’t care about anything in the country.
“I hope this whole mess resolves peacefully and we have no more violence from the police or the military. We hope the Egyptian government will listen to the protesters and reform to really change,” Mr Megawer, who lives in Malta, said.
The riots, now in their third day, were inspired by a similar revolt in Tunisia, which tumbled the 23-yearreign of former President Zine alAbidine Ben Ali. Following the unrest in Tunisia and the ousting of President Ben Ali, several commentators drew parallels with countries in the region.
Anthropologist Ranier Fsadni spoke of “uncharted waters” saying the situation depended on how neighbouring governments would respond. What happened in one country would affect demands in another.
The protests in Egypt were preceded by unrest in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen.
Although certain factors were widely shared across the region, Mr Fsadni said the combination of factors in Tunisia was a particular one.
Long-standing organisations capable of urging protests even after the change of President, spiralling food prices, a pervasive sense of a political ending because of the President’s age and health, an army with a tradition of detachment from politics and a high unemployment rate shaped the political upheaval in Tunisia, he said.
Although several of these conditions were present in the surrounding Islamic countries, they differed from Tunisia in a number of ways.
Mr Fsadni said the protests in Algeria appeared to have subsided, in part because gas revenues could be used to reduce food prices meaningfully. In Jordan, protests had been aimed at changing the government but had not challenged the monarchy itself.
Not all of these conditions were present in Libya, he said. The Facebook letter produced by Mr Emam speaks of water and electricity cuts in the city of Suez and situations in hospitals where patients were being refused urgent medical care.
“The injured protesters are lying in the streets and the riot police are preventing people from helping them,” the letter says, adding families of killed protesters were not being given the bodies for burial.
“The government is preparing a crackdown,” the letter says, adding that in all Egyptian cities tear gas, rubber and plastic bullets and chemicals like “diluted mustard gas” were being fired on protesters.
Officers in plain clothes, it says, were carrying blades and knives to intimidate rioters.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us