In Egypt, nationwide protests planned for January 28

Yasmine Fathi , Thursday 27 Jan 2011

A 'Friday for Martyrs and Political prisoners" is scheduled for tomorrow, after noon prayers. Tens of thousands are expected to turn out

Egypt has been rocked by protests since January 25

Following Tuesday's 'Day of Rage', which saw tens of thousands Egyptians take to the street in protest of a regime they are demanding steps down, activists are planning again, for tomorrow, Friday January 28. The difference this time, is that organizers hope the event will be bigger and better and that the government will be forced to concede to demands.

Activists and protestors have dubbed tomorrow’s event – which is set to take place following the midday Friday prayers – ‘The Friday for Martyrs and Political prisoners’. It will honor the six who were killed in clashes with riot police - four of whom are from the Port City of Suez - as well as the estimated 850 to 1,000 who have been detained.

While in Tuesday's protest people were directed to demonstrate in four pre-arranged points in Cairo as well as nine governorates, this time, demonstrators are being called on to meet at mosques (and churches) after Friday prayers – in fact, to finish their prayers and walk out onto the streets and into a march. From there, the plan is for the march to proceed into the biggest square in respective districts – the idea being to have demonstrations the size of Tuesday’s multiplied in various locations across the city. If things go according to plan, with 140,000 mosques in the country, the number of protestors will hugely dwarf those of Tuesday. The organizers have said they will, at some point, release a list of “main” mosques where the largest gatherings are expected.

“We will pray for the souls of the dead, and the release of the detainees and then go out to demonstrate our rage,” Abdel Halim Qandil, coordinator of the Kifaya movement told Ahram Online. “The people who participated in last Tuesday’s protests will come out again and the people who didn’t now feel brave enough to go out and join. What happened last Tuesday gave people hope that they can achieve change.”

The event is once again being organized by several opposition and democracy movements, youth groups and opposition parties including the 6th of April Movement, Ayman Nour’s Al-Ghad party, the Democratic Front Party, Kifaya, Khalid Said supporters, El Baradei’s National Association for Change (NAC) and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which have officially endorsed tomorrow’s event.

The groups have again used social media including Facebook and Twitter to reach out to people, and have also this time sent activists out to the streets with flyers. The April 6th movement alone claim they have distributed 60,000 flyers so far.

“We are using every means possible to reach the people, because this protest will be bigger than anything Egypt has ever seen before, it will be huge,” Amal Sharaf, a member of the 6th of April Movement told Ahram Online.

In Suez, which wide-spread demonstrations the past two days which claimed four lives at the hands of riot police, the governorate’s residents are gearing up for tomorrow. The meeting point in Suez will be the Arba'een Mosque in the city’s Arba’een Square.

“The people here are furious over the death of the locals and they won’t remain silent,’ says Ahmed El Kilani, Kifaya's coordinator in Suez. “Everybody will join, including the families of the people who died.”

El Kilani added that yesterday he filed a complaint to the Suez General Prosecution against Interior Minister Habib El Adly, as well as to the head of Suez security, accusing them of  ‘vindication’, as they were both responsible for the bullets that were fired and led to the deaths.

Many public figures also expected to join the protests, including Ghad party leader Ayman Nour, Hamdeen Sabahi from the El-Karama Party, and Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who will arrive this evening from Vienna.

“ElBaradei’s visit was supposed to end on February 5, but he decided to cut it short to join tomorrow’s demonstration,” said Mahmoud Adel, the coordinator of the Independent People’s Campaign in Support of ElBaradei and the Demands for Change. “We will release shortly the name of the mosque he will pray in.”

The groups calling for tomorrow's demonstration are once again calling for four demands that were also made last Tuesday. They want the president to refrain from running for a sixth term in office, the government to resign, dissolving parliament, and the formation of a National Unity Government, in addition to democratic elections and amendments to articles 67, 77 and 88 of the constitution and a cancellation of the emergency law.

The group will create several committees to follow up on the detainees, in addition to the ones that have already been formed and active in organizing  tomorrow’s protests and acting as a connecting point between the NAC and the protestors.

The Muslim Brotherhood also held a meeting yesterday with the NAC at the headquarters of the Democratic Front Party and joined in the calls for Egyptians to demonstrate tomorrow.

“We are simply responding to the call by this country’s youth, who through Facebook and other networking sites have asked us to join them in their struggle for freedom,” Essam El-Erian the official spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood told Ahram Online. “We ask the police to deal with us in a civilized manner and let us express ourselves peacefully.”

NAC activist Abdel Rahman Youssef agreed. “Poverty and injustice unites us all,” he said. “’We are speaking out against 30 years of corruption and plan to continue until the government goes out on TV and acknowledges our pain.”

Since the early hours of Wednesday, protestors have confronted a ferocious atmosphere on the streets. Police have thrown tear gas, used water tanks, and fired rubber bullets freely at citizens in the street. Reports have described Cairo and surrounding governorates, as a “war zone.”

The situation tomorrow, organizers say, could be much worse.

“To be quite honest, we expect everything from the police, including firing live ammunition at the crowd,” Youssef said. “But we will do everything we can to exhaust them. The protests are organized across thousands of mosques, it will be impossible for them to control the crowds.”

This time, organizers anticipate that the government will employ other tactics on the ground to deter the crowds. Qandil recalled an incident last year, when the government paid a preacher to be a part of its game plan following calls for protests after the death of Khaled Said at the hands of police.

“The Imam of the mosque found out that several activists were in the Friday’s prayer and prolonged the khutba (Friday Sermon) to stop them from going out,” Qandil explained. “The khutba lasted two hours; the imam was doing everything to stop us from leaving the mosque. At the end of the day these imams are appointed by the government, but we know their tactics well and will deal with them.”

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