By Surkh Musafir
“After thirty years of corruption, poverty and corruption, we’re telling Mubarak to get out of Egypt now,” says 21-year old Rana.
She is holding a sign condemning Egypt’s unelected president Hosni Mubarak at a rally held in Toronto’s Dundas Square on Saturday, January 29, 2011. Upto 700 Egyptians and allies came out to demonstrate solidarity with the millions of Egyptians rising up against dictatorial rule.
“They are demanding an end to Mubarak’s thirty years of power, of the National Democratic Party and his ruling elite,” says Mostafa Henaway, an activist with Tadamon! (Solidarity! in Arabic) in Montreal, where hundreds have been demonstrating outside the Egyptian consulate for several days.
“It’s time for them to go and to create a new constitution and political reform.”
The U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak has staged rigged elections and used an extensive police apparatus to cement his control over the country since 1981. The power of the police was seen when, in massive clashes, hundreds of protesters died on Friday, January 28. Ultimately, however, the protesters prevailed and occupied Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
According to 41-year old Ghada, holding a flag of Egypt with the cross and crescent drawn on it at the Toronto rally, Mubarak also manipulated sectarianism to “divide and conquer.”
“When I was in school there was no difference between Christians and Muslims, nobody asked about religion. We were neighbours, friends, colleagues,” says Ghada. “But now there is discrimination against Christians and this hurts them—and Mubarak allowed it to happen.”
“Economically, protesters are demanding a raise in the minimum wage, an end to price hikes on basic foods,” says Henaway. Mubarak’s application of neoliberal capitalist policies has ensured that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
“One must consider the protests in Tunisia and Egypt as part of the global fight-back against the economic crisis,” notes Henaway. “Although many people are looking at Greece and other countries in Europe, what is happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and Lebanon is part of the first large wave of struggle against ‘austerity’ in the Middle East.”
Mubarak has also acted as a tool of U.S. foreign policy in the region, strongly supporting Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians.
“We want to support the Palestinian people who have had their lands illegally occupied,” says Rana.
Ghada concurs, “Egyptians are very angry about Mubarak’s policies toward Israel. They want peace, nobody wants war, but the way he has been handling everything has been obscene. We support Gaza.”
Among the roaring crowd were many Tunisians, who had come out to celebrate Tunisians’ expulsion of dictator Zinedine Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years, and to express solidarity with Egyptians.
“The old regime did a lot of crime, they did not manage the resources of the country,” says 51-year old Tunisian Abdel Majid. “We don’t want the old regime in government, we want transparency, democracy and freedom.”
“In Tunisia, they simply replaced one figure [Ben Ali] with another of the same ruling party,” explains Henaway. Thus, many Tunisians are still engaged in protest against the new government, despite the departure of Ben Ali. “This is beginning to take place in Egypt.”
Henaway argues that in order for the uprising in Egypt to be successful, the new movement of the youth must build bridges with the recently-formed independent labour movement “to make an explosive mix.”
“Hopefully, [the labour movement] joining in with these demonstrations will turn the tide, maintain the pressure and end the regime.”
What is necessary is not just a rejection of the dictatorial regimes, but the economic policies that Mubarak and Ben Ali imposed under Western tutelage. “People will have to surpass all this to win a real people’s revolution.”
“Revolution across Egypt. Revolution until victory.”