Egypt's Hosni Mubarak at first ignored protesters, and then
responded with force. 'I don't think Mubarak learned anything from
the Tunisian case,' says one observer.
Tunisia's deposed President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali seemingly
provided the Arab world a textbook in what not to do to avoid being
Yet instead of avoiding Mr. Ben Ali's missteps, observers say,
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak appears to be taking pages from his
"I don't think Mubarak learned anything from the Tunisian case,"
says Mustapha Kamel El Sayyid, political science professor at the
American University in Cairo.
In both countries, uncontrollable protests only worsened when
police tried to forcefully restrain them; police pulled back and an
ensuing security vacuum prompted neighborhood residents to patrol
their streets to protect their property; and people gave a joyous
welcome to the Army when it stepped in to secure streets.
The similarities in the responses may not bode well for the
Egyptian leader, or for the United States. While Tunisia's
revolution was a wakeup call to the Arab world and the West, the
toppling of Mubarak, America's most stalwart ally in the Middle East
and leader of the most populous Arab country, would have far wider
consequences for the region.
Similar roots of unrest, anger at police
The revolution in Tunisia was sparked by widespread anger not
only over rising unemployment and increasingly difficult living
circumstances, but the ruling family's flagrant corruption and the
government's crushing repression. In Egypt, protesters as well have
combined economic grievances with a stronger call for freedom and an
end to the 30-year-rule of their autocrat.
The Egyptian protests are moving somewhat faster than in Tunisia,
perhaps thanks to the example of the nation whose population is a
little over half the size of Egypt's capital, Cairo. While in
Tunisia the demonstrations began as a protest against the government
and did not, until the end, coalesce into clear calls for Ben Ali to
leave, signs saying "Down with Mubarak" and "Mubarak out" have been
a fixture at Egyptian demonstrations since the first one on Jan. 25.
As the demonstrations got bigger, police in both nations used
force to try to put them down, in what Sayyid says was a key factor
in pushing demonstrators over the edge.
Protesters fought police, welcomed Army
Tunisia's Army did not step in to restore order on the streets
until after Ben Ali's departure. Egypt's military began patrolling
the capital after protesters overwhelmed police on Friday. But in
both cases, the people welcomed the military with cheers, hugs, and
flowers. The internal security apparatuses of both nations have
earned the hatred of the populations after decades of being used to
suppress them. Torture at the hands of police is common in Tunisia
and Egypt. …