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Egypt: A Wake Up Strike

Around 500 people were arrested in Egypt Sunday as police quashed a general strike, in protest against the increasing cost of living and calling for better wages.

And just as word about the strike was spread via massive text-messaging, email, and popular social networking platform Facebook, bloggers and online activists kept the world abreast with arrests and developments on the ground minute by minute throughout the day.

The strike, all over Egypt, created a rift in opinions, between those confirming its success and others announcing its abortion and even failure. Many people stayed home, as participants in the event and avoiding the day's sandstorms or simply out of fear from the anticipated violent clashes that might break out on the streets.

Witnesses reported light traffic on the streets, which were dotted with police vehicles and swarming with plainclothes policemen. Throughout the day news continued to pour in via Twitter, Facebook and blogs about arrests being made, against protesters, politicians and citizens, including bloggers.

SA wrote “what happened in the strike today”:

“I am just back from that long day. And I was about to be arrested, the Egyptian security didn’t stop bothering and aggressing the activists .
Since last night they started by arresting many activists and today they continue to arrest a lot .
I was in the Tahrir Square since 11 AM and there were a huge number of soldiers and security in plain cloths, they were bothering everyone and asking for our ids and pushing us to go away.
Three young girls from the American university in Cairo AUC come to protest at the square using breads ,the security guys didn’t like they way those young girls protest with and many soldiers were attacking the girls.
A woman with her two kids tried to save the girls but the police arrested the mother .
The two boys were alone crying because they took their mothers .
They arrested some women at the Tahrir square too and make a siege around them but me and other AUC students, we stayed in front of that siege asking the police to free them and we didn’t move till, they let them go.”

She also added:

“At down town in front of the syndicate of lawyers I was there when people in the street decided to join the people of the demonstration inside the syndicate, we were shouting outin the street “fall down Hosni Mubarak” but tens of soldiers ran after us with sticks and wanted to attack us, I was using my camera to film when an officer arrested me and wanted to take my camera and my mobile phone, thanks God a French friend journalist came and said I am his assistant and after 15 minutes of negotiation I could be out of that.
Till now they arrested more than 100 people ,but anyway a lot of Egyptians particpated in the strike by staying home .
The message of the regime was clear “no freedom, freedom of expression”.
I am wondering where was Mubarak the dictator hiding today ?
The police were very aggressive today but we resist till the end and I am considering today a victory against corruption, abuse, torture, dictatorship.”

Hossam El Hamalawy and Sandmonkey posted regular updates but the star of the day was a new blog (Ar) put up by activists, which invited people to send in their stories, pictures and videos, to document the events of the day. Tadamon Masr also posted regular updates, as they were happening throughout the day. Both blogs are still updating the day's incidents as this report was being compiled.

Ghariba wrote in detail about the events, quoting BBC Arabic, and adding a video of the clashes in El Mahala, where the textile factories and the heart of the strike was, featuring scenes of chaos:

The blogger added:

ونقلت مراسلة بي بي سي عزة محيي الدين عن مصادر امنية قولها إن عدد المعتقلين اليوم بلغ 207 قبض عليهم فى محافظات القاهرة والجيزة والإسكندرية والبحيرة وقنا .ومن بين المعتقلين اعضاء في أحزاب الغد والناصري والتجمع و حركة كفاية ومجدي أحمد حسين الأمين العام لحزب العمل المجمد

The BBC correspondent Azza Muhiydin quoted security forces as saying that the number of those arrested today reached 207, detained in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Al Buhaira and Qana. Among those detained are members of the Al Ghad, Al Nasseri, Al Tajamua’ and Kifaya Movement as well as the secretary general of Labour Party Madji Ahmed Hussain.

In Mahala, things were literally aflame. Unlike the peaceful demonstrations in big cities like Cairo, which were marred by detentions and the occasional stand off with riot police such as that in from of the Lawyers Syndication, Mahala's witnessed violent clashes between citizens and police officers. Witnesses also confirmed the death of two people, including a nine-year-old. Electricity was cut off, a gas station burned and a few shops were broken into.

Zeinobia reports “Mahala on Fire” and says:

“The great Mahla is on fire currently , all the road to the greatest city in the middle East for the textile industries are blocked and closed even the trains going there are shifted to other cities in North Delta.
We began to receive news at about 6 PM that Mahla on fire technically , some one sent an email including the photos in the slide show below described the city as Egyptian Gaza.
The forces used warning blots and tear gases ,along with sticks ,people were badly injured
It reached the point of no return when two persons killed to become the first martyrs of the 6 of April which I always remember , the first one was 20 years old young man and the second was a 9 years old boy “strangely today in Gaza also a young boy was killed !!”, Yes it turned to be correct and true unfortunately.
People there got angry ,more clashes ,unfortunately those who are engaged more in the fight are the youngsters from 11 to 16 years , there are weapons used like the local short swords , there are fires in the streets.
Now the city is under a siege from the security forces.”

Despite the crackdown, a new Facebook Group was up and running last night, inviting people for a new strike on May 4, to coincide with the Egyptian President's Birthday. The group has so far attracted 1,300 members, and following is a quick draft of its initial demands for the upcoming strike:

1-يوم 4 مايو اضراب و مضاهرات سلمية ان شاء الله
2- اول اسبوع من شهر مايو محدش هيشترى فيه لحمه
3- التجمع للمظاهرات يوم 4 مايو فى مكان هيتحدد بعدين و غالبا هيكون سرى
4- التجمع للمظاهرات ان شاء الله هيكون داخل الجوامع و الكنايس انتلاشى ازى الامن المركزى هنتجمع جواها باعداد كبيرة بعدد كده نخرج فى الشوارع و الميادي

ن

1. On May 4, a peaceful strike and demonstrations.
2. No one shall buy meat in the first week of May.
3. Participating in demonstrations will be in certain secret places.
4. Gatherings will be in mosques and churches and we will then march to the big squares and streets.

Though it is quite early to confirm the success of April 6 strike, and its repercussions, it sure hit a nerve, with thousands of people mobilising themselves and freely available online tools to demand their freedom, equality, democracy and an honourable life for themselves and the future generations of Egypt.

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