Category Archives: Current Affairs

Egypt: Bits from Behind the Scenes

Two little bits (rumors?) from behind the scenes during Egypt's uprising.

Robert Fisk reported that on January 30th Mubarak ordered the military to attack the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, but the officers refused:

Last night, a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier's growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.

Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.

Thus when General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds yesterday evening that "everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met", the people cried back: "The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand."

While Paul Amar wrote that during the February 4th attacks on democracy demonstrators by pro-Mubarak supporters (likely paid thugs, police in plain clothes, government employees and even convicts freed on the condition that they attack the demonstrators), were not widely prevented by the military because they did not have ammunition:

The army’s role in countering Suleiman’s lust for repression was crucial to saving the momentum of this uprising. On 4 February, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs, but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.

That the military was unwilling to attack the demonstrators on January 30th, certainly lends support to the notion that their ammunition was take away from them before February 4th, and highlights the usefulness of nonviolent tactics in undermining the support given to the regime by the military and other groups in and outside of a government.

You say you want a Twitter revolution

With the exciting (largely) nonviolent overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian authoritarian governments, there has been talk of the effects of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools on these events.  Techdirt points us to the use of Usenet to keep the outside world informed of what was going on in the Soviet Union during the 1991 coup.  It is an interesting, albeit brief read.

Certainly in the Tunisian revolution, Anonymous seems to have had a hand in helping to take down government servers.  Certainly, if they were able to hack the computers and phone system of the presidency and make it difficult communicate with others then that would have contributed to Ben Ali's ouster.  Certainly, the internet can allow local nonviolent activists to work together and abroad to plan their efforts and craft fliers to distribute about goals and tactics.

Different articles have downplayed the effects of the internet and social media on the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and else where, but one of the keys to a successful nonviolent revolution is that large numbers of people must not fear government repression and realize that others do not fear such repression as well.  By increasing communication between people, the internet and social media help that process.  Hopefully these tools will get used to help overthrow authoritarian governments in the Middle East and beyond.

Thai government begins crackdown

The Red-Shirts' accepted Prime Minister Abhisit's offer to dissolve parliament and hold a November election, but demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban to
face criminal charges for his
role in the April 10 crackdown.   Abhisit rejected the Red-Shirts' demand, rescinded the offer of a November election and announced that his government will expel the Red-Shirts from their encampment in the business district in Bangkok.  The Red-Shirts have called for reinforcements.

According to Voice of America, the government crackdown has begun with the shooting of a Thai general who is supportive of the Red-Shirts in their encampment.

Other reporting: Christian Science Monitor, BBC, Times, Al Jazeera, New York Times.  I would have included the Bangkok Post, but I couldn't get to their articles for some unknown reason.

Nonviolence in Palestine

Here
are a set of recent articles/press releases about some efforts at
nonviolence in Palestine & Israel:

Opposition protesters in Thailand continue campaign. Success in the air?

In Thailand, the Red Shirt anti-government protesters (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, aka UDD) have continued their campaign to oust the current government.  This included retaking a pro-opposition tv station that the government attempted to censor.  One of their tactics was to occupy a commercial shopping district in Bangkok causing the shutdown of various malls.

Unfortunately for all, twenty one people have died including four soldiers and eight hundred have been injured when the military attempted to remove protesters from the area they are occupying.

According to the BBC, the head of the army has called for the government to be dissolved and expressed his reluctance to use force.  In a replay of what happened in January of 2009, the Election Commission has decided that the prime minister's Democratic Party should be dissolved due because they failed to declare an $8 million donation from a company during the 2005 election.  The case will be referred to the Constitutional Court as in early 2009.  The UDD brought the case.

The current government may fall soon since it no longer seems to have the support of the military.

Pictures:

Thailand Red protests heat up

I cannot say that Thailand has been quiet since the last time I posted, but with the recent protests by the Red-shirted demonstrators who are protesting the current government things have moved up in their intensity.  NPR reported 100,000 anti-government non-violent protesters have taken to demonstrating outside of government buildings. 

Recently, many protesters gave a little bit of their blood so that they could pelt government buildings with bags of the blood.  The news reports I have heard indicate that the protesters are sending a message that they are willing to shed blood in violent opposition to the current government. An alternative interpretation could be that they are showing that they are willing to withstand violent attacks by the government nonviolently.  Not being there or knowing Thai, it is hard to discern the truth.

The military at least does not appear to be attempting to escalate their own violence, but is hoping the protesters tire and leave.

Resistance to Chinese Censorship Goes Virtual

Boing Boing reported that an hour long video satire of Chinese government censorship, called War of Internet Addiction, has had 10 million views by Chinese netizens.  It was filmed entirely in World of Warcraft.

You can find commentary at DigiCha and YouKu Buzz

The original video is at the YouKu Buzz link, but the speed is very slow.  You can find an English subtitled version at YouTube in seven installments.

Helping Haiti

Haiti had its latest devastation with the earthquake they suffered two days ago.  After being hit by four hurricanes in 2008 and 100s of years of US and French occupation/meddling, the earthquake was very devastating.

With at least three million people homeless, and likely over 100,000 people dead, it would be an understatement to say that things are dire there.  Bikes Not Bombs and WBUR have sites you can go to listing organizations that can help.  Locally, Partners in Health setup a page with news and ways for people to donate.  The Red Cross has setup a way to make a $10 donation by texting "Haiti" to 90999.

With 2.8 million homes foreclosed on in 2009 (higher than in 2008) and more bad economic news to come, it can be tough to find the money to give, but if you can, please do.

UPDATE: Just found out that my employer has a part to play in the Red Cross' 90999 text message donation program.  No company on the message path charges anything, so 100% of what you give goes to the Red Cross.  Not an endorsement, just a clarification.