Tag Archive | "Hosni Mubarak"

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Jubilant Cairo Now Faces Economic Devastation


By Amr Emam, NAM Contributor

CAIRO–It is Saturday 7:30 p.m., in Khan al-Khalili, the giant bazaar in the heart of Cairo’s traditional Islamic quarters, and Mohamed Ahmed has not managed to sell even one of the souvenirs he has carefully arranged on his shop’s shelves.

Ahmed, 35 and the father of three, keeps cleaning the glittering silver trays, handmade rugs, pottery and fabrics to make them more appealing to the few tourists and other visitors who still come to the market. But these days, the ancient alleyways are near empty of anyone but other shopkeepers.

“This is the toughest time in my 22-year career,” Ahmed told New America Media. “This shop has never been deserted like this.”

As tens of millions of politicized Egyptians celebrate their ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the end of three decades of dictatorship, millions of others slide into financial ruin or count the losses that the 18-day uprising has caused them.

The massive demonstrations that erupted on January 25—which also marked National Police Day–aimed to overthrow a corrupt regime and herald an era of political reform.

“Freedom” and “dignity” were rallying cries for throngs of protestors. But few of the revolutionaries could have imagined that their revolt would cause severe economic suffering to millions of their compatriots.

As the protests spread from central Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square to other cities across the nation, travel agencies cancelled their Egypt packages, and the tourists already here packed their bags and headed home.

More than 1 million foreign tourists left Egypt in the first nine days of the protests, according to Vice President Omar Suleiman. The Egyptian stock exchange also lost about 70 billion Egyptian pounds ($11.8 billion in U.S. dollars) the first three days of the protests, leading to its closure.

“Revolutions are always about victims, but never has there been a revolution with such a big number of victims,” said Maged Aly, a leading Egyptian economic analyst. “True, the anti-Mubarak demonstrations led to significant political gains, but the economic damage caused by the demonstrations can eclipse everything else if taken into consideration.”

Egypt's uprising cripples economy

As the demonstrations continued, Aly watched the financial resources of most Egyptians dry up, and the economy freefall into recession. Imports and exports came to a standstill, Aly said, while investors looked for more stable markets.

With a nationwide curfew from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., middle-class Egyptians cleaned out groceries and stored food and other staples in case of greater turbulence. But others were not able to buy even their most basic needs.

One was Mahmud Mohamed, a cab driver in his early 40s. A month ago, he drove his white Chevrolet from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., earning between 100 and 120 Egyptian pounds (about US$16-$20) daily, enough money to feed his two children and save for future needs. Now, he earns as little as one-fourth of that amount per day.

“This is catastrophic,” Mohamed said. “What benefit has the revolution brought me?”

Mohamed does not hide his elation at the ability of the revolutionaries to oust Mubarak, but Egyptian experts worry that the revolt’s economic impact has not yet fully hit, and they wonder how the nation will recover. They say problems in the construction industry, in particular, can cause greater crises, simply because it drives more than 70 other economic activities in this country.

“Millions of Egyptians work in the construction sector either directly or indirectly,” Aly said. “Most of these people have lost their jobs already.”

Tourism, though, has sustained the most damage. More than 2.5 million people work in tourism-related industries, including 80 percent who work on a seasonal basis. Most of these workers have lost their jobs as the nation’s hotels have emptied and tours have been canceled.

In the Khan al-Khalili, the aging al-Hussein Hotel used to stand at the receiving end of guided tours, welcoming thousands of tourists who wanted to experience the exquisite charm of medieval Islamic Cairo.

Today, only a few of the hotel employees have managed to hold on to their jobs. They stayed, not to serve guests–because there are not any–but to protect the hotel furniture from looters.

“February is usually the highest point in the tourist season,” said Khalid Hassan, the hotel manager. “All the rooms are empty, and it is all because of the demonstrations.”

Meters away, Mohamed Ahmed, the souvenir seller, stood outside his shop with three other shopkeepers and remembered the better days. He said he used to earn 50 Egyptian pounds (US$8.5) every day.

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“Now, I earn almost nothing,” Ahmed said. “We can do nothing, but hope that tomorrow things will get better.”

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“Farewell Friday”— Mubarak’s Last Stand


By Shirin Sadeghi

Yet another British-American-backed dictator is set to fall from grace. The Shah of Iran, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein —they all refused to concede defeat. And they all fell down.

Hosni Mubarak will, too, if he doesn’t review his history books. There are, after all, only two types of U.K.-U.S.-backed dictators: those who accept the endgame and live free to tell the tale, and those who don’t.

These men are dominoes—there were many before them and there will be many after them to keep the system going. With all signs pointing to the end, more than one of them has refused to bow down— just once. Instead these men remained in their deluded state of mind, fighting to stay in power —never once remembering who had kept them there for so long.

And each time, the fall was hideously embarrassing.

Hussein was ferreted out in an early-morning raid from the hole in the ground he was hiding in. The Shah was expelled into exile, passed from country to country, and when he died, buried abroad instead of at home. Noriega posed for a mugshot (his face scarred and dejected) as he stepped into a prison where he will likely spend his last days.

Though his own father was ousted by British and American forces, the Shah of Iran didn’t seem to understand how serious his predicament was when, in early January 1978, several thousand people marched against him in the streets of Iran. He still didn’t seem to understand by the following January, when he finally fled. It was only after he was bounced from country to country that he realized how much had been at stake. His story ended in Cairo, where his remains rest alone in an alien land.

Panama’s military dictator Noriega never dreamed that the British and Americans would turn on him. They told him to leave—his time was up. He didn’t hear them. They waged war, and now the only thing most people know about him is his infamous mugshot. He will die in prison, if he has lived at all these last three decades.

And then there was Hussein. They pulled him out of a hole he was hiding in. The crow-black dye on his hair was faded to a shadow of its former glamour. His famous mustache was indistinguishable from his barbed nest of beard. They hanged him in a basement and released the “stolen” cellphone video to prove it. He once waged war on his neighbor for them and this was how they repaid him.

On the brink of total loss, there is only one thing that could possibly save these ultimate dictators from themselves: the people. But nary a bone is tossed to the masses. These madmen could save their lives —or at least their legacies—if they would turn on their bosses instead of their people. Rather than siccing the security forces on the “insolent” public, they could reveal the dirty secrets of how they appeased their foreign bosses all those years. Make the backers look bad.

But they never once have.

Should he somehow manage to realize that he’s nothing special, Mubarak has many examples in history to turn to. Will he pull a Pinochet and quietly transfer power, thereby escaping the “ultimate slap?” Will he make like a Batista and flee? Or will he take a cue from Musharraf and negotiate a power-sharing step down that allows him future options at leadership?

If you leave when the United States and British governments tell you to, as these three men did, then you will avoid a crude end. And, you’ll likely live your last years in opulence—perhaps in a nicely developed country (nothing like the one you left behind in tatters)—thanks to the wealth you accumulated in power.

But Mubarak still hasn’t left. And, he’s made all the same mistakes of his predecessors. He didn’t have the sense not to turn on the people. And he was too deluded to flee. If he doesn’t make provisions to leave office immediately, his lot may be that ugliest of endings. Either way, the thousands of people in Tahrir Square are already bidding him farewell.

A version of this article originally appeared at HuffingtonPost.com.

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