Thursday, December 01, 2011

How America exports freedom to the Middle East


AS people in Egypt decided this week who to vote for, or whether to boycott the polls and continue fighting against military rule, America's pose as champion of freedom and friend of the people was exposed in an unflattering light.

Workers in the port of Suez have intercepted a cargo of tear gas which the Egyptian Ministry of Interior was due to receive from the United States. Twenty-one tonnes of tear gas all told.

Medhat Eissa, an activist in Suez, showed reporters documents he says he obtained from a group of employees at the Suez Canal customs. The employees have been subjected to questioning for their refusal to allow an initial seven ton shipment of the US-made tear gas canisters enter the port.

A group of employees at the Adabiya Seaport in Suez have confirmed, with the documents to prove it, that a three-stage shipment of in total 21 tons of tear gas canisters is on course for the port from the American port of Wilmington.

Employees say the container ship Danica, carrying seven tons of tear-gas canisters made by the American company Combined Systems, has already arrived at the port, with two similar shipments from the same company expected to arrive within the week.

Egyptian authorities needed to replenish their stocks after firing tear gas into crowds for six days in the week before elections were announced.

First election results are expected to be announced tomorrow.

Meanwhile 23 political forces and movements have called a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to honour the "heroes of Mohamed Mahmoud Street" and all those killed since Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed power in February.

Last week, five days of bloody clashes in downtown Cairo between protesters and security forces – including police and army units – left at least 42 demonstrators dead and hundreds injured. Fighting was particularly intense on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, next to the square.

The organisers of Friday’s planned demonstration say the blood of protesters spilt since the revolution – including the blood of those killed in last month’s Maspero clashes – had paved the way for “a society based on freedom and social justice.”

Their statement, circulating on a number of online social-network pages, added that protesters’ sacrifices on Mohamed Mahmoud Street had forced the SCAF to announce a timetable for the transfer of power to a civil authority and forced the unpopular government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to resign.

Friday;s demonstration is being organised by the People’s Socialist Alliance Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the presidential campaign of Mohamed ElBaradei, the April 6 youth movement, the Maspero Youth Coalition, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Suez Youth Bloc, along with several youth coalitions from Upper Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Revolutionaries Coalition (ERC) has called for a similar demonstration on Friday to honour those who were killed or who lost their eyesight in the recent clashes, calling it the rally for the “eyes of freedom.” Coalition spokesperson Amer Al-Wakeel said demonstrators planned to wear blindfolds in solidarity with those who lost their eyesight in the Mohamed Mahmoud skirmishes, during which police snipers allegedly targeted protesters’ eyes.

(Thanks to London-based journalist Rachel Shabi for drawing attention to the tear gas story)



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