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In Egypt, Activists Prepare for General Strike, Military Increases Tanks in Streets
In Egypt, a general strike has been called for Saturday, February 11, exactly one year after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. The strike aims to reach universities, factories, public transport and other public services. After a year of turmoil, protesters are still angered over the role of the military in Egyptian governance -- and most recently by the mishandling of the recent soccer match clash, which saw the death of at least 74 people. 15 people have died in the past week in the subsequent protests and street violence between civilians and security forces following the match.
The call for strike has not been met with approval from religious groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, the Egyptian military has promised an increase in soldiers and tanks in the streets ahead of the strike.
The general strike is endorsed by the Egypt Revolutionaries' Alliance, a coalition of over 50 political groups. The purposes of the strike include the dismantling of the interim government and immediate presidential elections, as apposed to the scheduled elections in June.
Activists hope that the strikes will spark civil disobedience and a new wave of governmental accountability. Reuters reports:
The protests are set to continue spontaneously until May, activists say, to press demands including a return of the army to its barracks, forming a national salvation government, prosecuting those responsible for incidents of violence against protesters and better pay and conditions for workers. "We are tired of blood and dead people ... the military council is the reason behind this," said Sherif Hany of Cairo University student union, which has called for an open strike.
On Saturday, strikers will march to the headquarters of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) where a peace vigil will be held.
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However, divisions have arisen between activists' organizations and religious groups. Religious leaders have appealed to people not to go on strike.
The protests are set to continue spontaneously until May, activists say, to press demands including a return of the army to its barracks, forming a national salvation government, prosecuting those responsible for incidents of violence against protesters and better pay and conditions for workers.
"I appeal to you ... not to disrupt work even for one hour and commit yourselves to meet your duties toward yourselves, your families and your country," Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayib, Grand Imam of Egypt's highest Islamic authority al-Azhar, said in a message to the nation of 80 million people. [...]
The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party is the biggest bloc in the new parliament, has refused to back the strike.
"This call is very dangerous to the interests of the nation and its future," Mahmoud Hussein, general secretary of the Brotherhood, said in a statement on its website.
A group supporting the military council launched an online campaign entitled "hire me instead," calling on the authorities to fire strikers and hire unemployed people in their place.
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Ahead of the strike, the Egyptian army has promised to increase its presence in the streets across the country, fearing mass unrest. RT reports:
Egypt’s ruling military has decided to deploy more troops and tanks across the country ahead of a nationwide general strike on the anniversary of the fall of the Mubarak regime. [...]
The Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sami Enan, called on Egyptians to “protect the security and stability of the country through work and production,” MENA news agency reported. [...]
On Wednesday, [Prime Minister Kamal] al-Ganzouri told a press conference that the ruling military would not hand over power before June 30. He stressed that the military council would stick to its schedule.
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The Real News Network, today, reports on Egyptian women protestors confronting police and soldiers as they prepare for the general strike:
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