Monday, May 5, 2008

Egypt & Jordan: Where Strikes Fail

By Bachir Habib

Picture Galley: Courtesy of

In some countries, Jordan and Egypt for example, the only way to make a strike succeed is for the State to call for it. Imagine a State calling its workers and citizens to protest against the rise or prices of essential goods. It is conceivable wen the authorities decide to blame “Imperialism” for it.

In Cairo, on Sunday morning, correspondents there reported a “serious” police presence in the streets. A month ago, the relative success of the strike and the incidents of Mahalla where security forces clashed with protesters were followed by a vague of arrests against traditional and virtual activists. Security forces are catching up with creativity by arresting bloggers and facebook users who might be potentially dangerous.
Remember Esraa Abdel Fattah who has been detained for hours last month just because she was behind the facebook page calling for the 6th of April strike. And remember how the Egyptian police arrested bloggers before even starting to arrest the hundreds of demonstrators. Bloggers in Egypt seem to be perceived as a potential threat to National Security, that’s what I understand from the official Egyptian reaction.

Apparently the preventive actions against activists are the right weapon in the hands of our local tyrants.
In Jordan, on the evening of Sunday’s strike, three members of the Jordanian Left Social Movement were arrested for distributing pamphlets calling citizens to be part of the strike that will only last till 11 a.m. One more detail left, the Jordanian authorities denied arresting anyone… Classical!
Meanwhile, correspondents in Jordan say that facebook has been a tool widely used to diffuse the call for the strike. I am sure it’s a matter of time before facebookers and bloggers in Jordan become officially a National Security threat.

The outcome of these two strikes was practically a failure related partly to intimidation, but also to a lack of a political culture practiced within healthy and democratic multiparty system.
No wonder why the ruling parties in the Arab World are generally the only ones capable of mobilizing on demand. We pay the price in Fundamental, Civil, and Political Liberties for them to stay in power in the name of stablility and security.

The choice of the 4th of May for the Egyptian strike was not a coincidence; it was the 80th birthday of Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak. Today he can sit back and relax, he had a happy one!

According to all the international reports, food and prices crisis is a part of a global economic crisis settling down surely with no real international solutions for it, just alarming reports. So we will have to expect more demonstrations and movements related to that matter in the near future. That will hopefully give the oppositions in Arab Countries more chances to mobilize.
Incidentally, a demonstration under the same slogan is planned in Beirut on the 7th of may, but the Clausewitzean style might be the best way of describing it before it even happens: It will just be the continuation of the struggle between the '8th' and '14th of March' fronts by other means.

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