Protest for democracy in Egypt

April 13, 2009

WASHINGTON--Some 50 people representing a coalition of Egyptian and Egyptian-American organizations turned out in front of the Egyptian embassy April 4 to demonstrate for democracy and human rights.

For the past several years, labor and social activists have led a fight in Egypt for democracy and against the regime's support for U.S. imperialism and Zionism. Although their attempt to launch a general strike and day of action in Egypt on April 6 was foiled in large part through government repression, local activists in Washington, D.C., gathered together to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Egypt.

The action was organized by a coalition of organizations that coalesced to show solidarity with the April 6 Movement in Egypt formed after the general strike on that date last year. The D.C. coalition includes the Alliance of Egyptian-Americans, Ahl al-Quran, Hukuk al-Naas, the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, the Muslim American Society and Voices for a Democratic Egypt. An American NGO, Freedom House, also sent several representatives to the demonstration.

Demonstrators chanted slogans in English and Arabic. A popular one was "Down with Hosni Mubarak" (the dictatorial president of Egypt), and one that condemned Mubarak's efforts to crown his son as the new president, "Hey, Gamal, tell your dad. The Egyptian people hate him."

Many demonstrators were cautiously optimistic about the movement in Egypt while expressing skepticism that change will come through traditional channels. Dina Guirguis of Voices for a Democratic Egypt criticized the Obama administration's policy toward Egypt. "When Hillary Clinton went to Egypt, she downplayed human rights and described the Mubarak regime as 'good friends' of the United States," she said. "Administration officials have publicly spoken against conditioning aid to Egypt on human rights."

But she expressed optimism about activism by opposition groups, noting how liberal democracy activists, labor, the Muslim Brotherhood and socialists have all endorsed actions on April 6. Guirguis said local activists would continue to work together and show solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Egypt until the dictatorship falls.

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