Egyptian protests escalate dramatically


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29-01-2011 08:00 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


29-01-2011 08:00 AM



29-01-2011 08:35 AM

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2011-01-29 08:00:38

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JACKSON, Elizabeth




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Egyptian protests escalate dramatically -

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Tear gas has filled the Cairo air as thousands of protesters take the streets to voice their anger
over what they say is a corrupt, authoritarian regime which has left the country in poverty. The
fourth day of protests was by far the largest with demonstrators defying a curfew, fighting pitched
battles with riot police and setting buildings on fire including the ruling party's headquarters.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Today we go straight to the Egyptian capital, where evening has descended with
no clear indication of who is in control and what tomorrow might bring.

Protesters are demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, and while security
forces struggled to contain the crowds who converged on the city, now, a kind of calm euphoria
seems to have taken over.

Anti-government activists had promised a "day of wrath" after Friday prayers in the country's
mosques. Police blocked social networking websites in an effort to stifle the protests but the
violence broke out soon after the prayers finished. Many of the protesters are young people
frustrated by unemployment, poverty, corruption and the lack of freedom under the Mubarak

The unrest is unprecedented under the Mubarak regime, and was triggered by the overthrow two weeks
ago of the president in Tunisia, which also inspired anti-government protests in Yemen and Algeria.

In a moment we'll cross to our correspondent in Cairo, but first this report from Meredith

(Sound of protesters yelling)

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: As soon as Friday prayers finished, chants began, with thousands of Egyptians
calling for freedom.

(Protesters chant)

Across the capital crowds surged towards riot police, who responded swiftly with water cannons, and
soon tear gas filled the Cairo air. Tanks rolled down the streets as people, no longer afraid of
the government or its security forces, voiced their anger at what they see as being a corrupt,
authoritarian regime.

PROTESTERS: Allah Hu Akbar!

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Buildings across the city have been set on fire, including the headquarters of
the ruling political party as witnessed by the BBC's Wyre Davies. (check name - I think this is
right but not 100% sure.)

WYRE DAVIES: It's incredible scenes here, I never thought I'd see this in Cairo. This is President
Mubarak's governing headquarters, the headquarters of his ruling NDP Party and it is in flames. The
building is gutted, it is surrounded by protesters.

Some people are going in and taking things from the building but this was a symbol of Mubarak's
power, of Mubarak's regime, and the building is in flames.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: As the protests raged nearby, Samida stayed at work selling vegetables on the
street. Like many demonstrators, she's frustrated with the country's poor economy.

SAMIDA (translated): Life is really expensive now. When you have four or five children, how can you
afford to live?," she asks me. "I agree with the protesters," she says.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The protesters have been joined by the former head of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. He's now been placed under house arrest but not before making
this comment.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI: The Egyptian people will take care of themselves, the Egyptian people will be
the ones who will make the change. We are not waiting for help or assistance from the outside world
but what I expect of the outside world is to practice what to preach, is to defend the rights of
the Egyptians for the real universal values; freedom, dignity, social justice.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Protesters also fought pitched battles with riot police in Alexandria, Suez and
other cities. Old and young, secular and Islamist, tens of thousands of Egyptians are calling
president Hosni Mubarak a dictator and demanding he step down.

PROTESTER: Goodbye! Down with Mubarak!

ELIZABETH JACKSON: One of the many protesters on the streets of Egypt, ending that report from
Meredith Griffiths