Egypt: How did it get to this point?
Thousands of protesters again defied curfew, gathering at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Monday.
January 31st, 2011
01:57 PM ET

Egypt: How did it get to this point?

As the protests in Egypt reach Day 7, CNN takes a look back at how they have unfolded.


On the heels of anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia, thousands of protesters spilled into the streets of Egypt in a rare display of anti-government outcry. CNN reporters on the scene witnessed throngs of people in Cairo march from Tahrir Square to the parliament building. Demonstrators threw rocks at police, who threw them back and shot tear gas at the protesters, who also reciprocated.

While Egypt estimated that there were 5,000 to 10,000 protesters, CNN estimated that the demonstration peaked at 15,000 to 20,000 protesters.

The protest's organizers said they wanted to mirror the uprising in Tunisia, which 10 days prior had precipitated the end of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule. Before the protests in Cairo, several Egyptians set themselves or tried to set themselves on fire earlier in the month, which also was reminiscent of Tunisia, where a man's self-immolation spurred the uprising.

The Egyptian protesters - who included young and old, Christians and Muslims, students, workers and businesspeople - said they were angry over the cost of living, failed economic policies and corruption. They demanded that President Hosni Mubarak, in power for three decades, follow the lead of Tunisia's president.

"We breathe corruption in the air," said one demonstrator.

At day's end, three protesters in the port city of Suez and a police officer in Cairo were killed. Forty-nine people were injured, according to news reports.


Egypt's security forces struck back hard, turning water cannons and more tear gas canisters on the protesters. In downtown Cairo, police hit demonstrators with fists and sticks, and 90 people were arrested at Tahrir Square. A watchdog group said 10 journalists were among those beaten.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei came forward to say that the government was not stable. The Interior Ministry later said it would not allow "any provocative movement or a protest or rallies or demonstrations."

The protesters were undeterred. They clashed with police in Suez, and in Rafah, near the Gaza border, Bedouins tried to stop traffic by setting tires ablaze and throwing rocks at cars, according to Egypt's state-run news agency.

In a sign that social networking was a catalyst in the demonstrations, Twitter said that it had been blocked for two days and that protesters were using other applications or proxy sites to get out their message. Egypt denied the claim, saying it had not blocked Facebook, Twitter or any other website and suggesting that the sites may have been slow because of the traffic.

In Washington, the White House called on both sides to refrain from violence and dubbed Egypt "a strong ally." The U.S. State Department said Egypt was integral to maintaining security in the Mideast because it has diplomatic ties with Israel, has participated in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and has aided efforts to stabilize Iraq. It also contributes to U.N. peacekeeping missions and backs the U.S. war on terror, the State Department said.

Analysts observed that the situation puts Washington in a difficult situation because while the U.S. wants more democracy, prosperity and freedom in the region, it needs allies like Egypt, which received more than $1.3 billion a year in military aid from the U.S.


As observers marveled over how large the protests grew and how rapidly, the violence - albeit on a smaller scale - continued for a third day. Parts of the internet went down in the country, and text messaging services appeared to be blocked. Nonetheless, protest pages continued to pop up on Facebook, Twitter and other websites.

The government continued to warn people against protesting as some Egyptians went door-to-door, urging their neighbors to take part in the demonstrations. Soccer matches in the country were canceled. The stock market was shut down for an hour after it fell precipitously.

A protester identifying himself only as Ahmed said police smashed his nose and glasses before taking him to a military camp with about 300 other activists.

"The conditions were terrible, because very few were allowed to go to the toilet, and we had to stand on the cold tiles of the floor, (which were) very dirty," he said.

ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate, arrived in the country and said the protests were growing because Egyptians "realize the regime is not listening, not acting." He said he would participate in the protests and urged the demonstrators and the government to keep standoffs peaceful. He also said Mubarak should stop detaining and torturing people.

"The barrier of fear is broken," he said after arriving from Europe, "and it will not come back."

The Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition bloc, made its first call for its followers to join in the demonstrations (after Friday prayers), a move that preceded prominent leader Isaam al-Aryan's arrest. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo later issued a statement telling Americans to avoid areas where people congregate after prayer.

Asked whether Mubarak should step down, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said, "No, I think the time has come for President Mubarak to move in the direction to be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there." He further said that he felt Mubarak would respond to the "legitimate concerns that are being raised" and that many of the protesters were middle-class people simply looking for more opportunity.

Ahmed, the protester, said Egypt wants democracy, after the American model, and he was disappointed by the United States' reaction to the protests and its support for Mubarak.

"We can't understand how come this leader of the free world is looking the other way when it comes to our rights or freedom," he said. "The despotic regime that (the U.S.) supports always demonizes the image of United States ... always putting blame on the United States for everything."


Reports emerged that the demonstrations have spread across the nation, from Cairo and Alexandria to Suez and Ismailia. Soldiers and tanks rolled into major cities as demonstrators in Cairo and Alexandria torched police stations while burning and overturning police vehicles. Plumes of smoke rose over the Nile River as police fired water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas canisters into crowds.

It was the first time since 1985 that the army had been deployed to contain unrest.

Riot and plainclothes police backed by the tanks continued to clash with demonstrators, who screamed, hurled rocks and accosted the security forces. They chanted "God is Great" and demanded that "the dictator" must go. "Down, Down, Mubarak," they shouted. One protester said he was beaten and jailed and fears that his life is in danger, and in Cairo, police threatened a CNN crew and take its camera.

However, protesters said the army was far less aggressive than police had been, and in some cities, including Cairo and Alexandria, Egyptians applauded the arrival of tanks.

As Mubarak imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. Friday until Saturday morning because of "hooliganism and lawlessness," social networking played an increasingly important role to the uprising as Egypt continued a widespread crackdown on communications within and leaving the country.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the protesters to be peaceful and said, "We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters, and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything within its power to restrain its security forces."

The State Department urged Americans to postpone any nonessential travel to Egypt as airlines began canceling flights into the country.

The travel warning came as WikiLeaks released diplomatic cables showing that the U.S. is frustrated with Mubarak's government but that it also considers Egypt an important and heretofore stable ally in negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program and in the handling of Hamas in Gaza. The U.S. also regards Egypt as an important player in combating Islamic fundamentalism.

However, the cables show that the U.S. is troubled by the torpid pace of finding a successor for the 82-year-old Mubarak, economic reforms and Egypt's attitude toward domestic opponents.


Shortly after midnight, Mubarak asked the government to step down, saying in a televised address, "I will commission a new government to take over tomorrow." Later in the day, he appointed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his deputy and tapped Ahmed Shafik, the civil aviation minister in the defunct Cabinet, to form a new government, state-run TV reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Mubarak after the address and told him he had a responsibility to "take concrete steps and actions" to deliver on the promise of democracy and greater economic opportunity that he made during his address to the Egyptian people.

"Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away," the American president said.

An Obama official later said Mubarak's speech was "hardly conciliatory and highly disappointing, but what did you expect?"

Tens of thousands of protesters, many of them disappointed that Mubarak did not announce his resignation during his speech, defied the curfew to continue the protests.

Responding to Mubarak's announcement, ElBaradei told Al-Jazeera that Egyptians wanted a regime change, not new personnel.

"The Egyptian people are saying one thing: President Hosni Mubarak must leave. We have to move towards a democratic state."

With security dwindling in some neighborhoods, businesses were looted, and abandoned police stations were robbed of their weapons. In one Cairo neighborhood, roads were barricaded as residents handed out sticks and knives for protection, and armed men stayed up all night to protect their homes. One resident likened the situation to "the Wild West."

"There have been no police officers on the streets since this morning. ... All the men are trying to protect the ladies, their wives and children," Cairo resident Sherief Abdelbaki said. "We have all become vigilantes."

The army, which was still being embraced by many protesters, issued a statement: "Stop the looting, chaos and the things that hurt Egypt. Protect the nation, protect Egypt, protect yourselves."

In one instance, thousands of chanting demonstrators ransacked the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party and set it afire, but when they approached the state-run television building, soldiers linked arms, forming a human chain. The crowd stopped respectfully in front of the troops but continued chanting "Down, down, Hosni Mubarak."

But there were also instances of protesters lashing out at the army. Such was the case in Cairo, where demonstrators swarmed an army vehicle outside a hotel.

Protests in Cairo were largely peaceful, despite episodes of lawlessness. A police van slammed into a protester in Suez. In Cairo, a demonstrator was shot while hurling a rock.

At the Interior Ministry, violence erupted between demonstrators and security forces. Dr. Ragab Ali at the Ebad Al-Rahman Clinic said five people were fatally shot and another 60 were injured.

At Prison Demu, near Cairo, several officials were killed when 1,000 inmates escaped the facility. In Alexandria, 31 people were killed in protests, according to officials, and chaos erupted when patients at a hospital grew angry that they weren't be treated quickly enough.

As Egypt's ambassador to the U.S. said his communication with the White House had come to a halt, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Mubarak to bring about a "process of transformation" and to hold "free and fair elections." The U.S. said it was reviewing its aid policy for the north African nation.

Israel remained largely quiet on the situation, and a Knesset member said he didn't believe that the protests could bring down Mubarak's government because there were no viable leaders in the opposition.

"There is no leading figure that can lead the wave of protests till the regime falls," Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who is considered to have the closest ties to Mubarak, told Israeli Army Radio. "This is not a regime of one person, but it is backed by the army, the intelligence agencies and the secret service."

Mubarak imposed another curfew from 4 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, the cities where the largest protests had unfolded.

Egyptian military leaders cut short a visit to the Pentagon, and Egypt's Central Bank announced the closure of all banks and the stock market Sunday, state-run television reported. University exams were also postponed.

The protests began seeping beyond Egypt's borders as demonstrators in New York, Washington, London, Geneva and Toronto staged gatherings in support of those in Egypt. They demanded that Mubarak step down.


The U.S. began flying stranded Americans out of the country as demonstrators again defied Mubarak's curfew. The protests appeared largely peaceful as there were signs of increasing cooperation between the army and civilians, both fed up with looting and threats of violence from opportunistic criminals. More than 3,000 people, including looters and escaped prisoners, had been arrested, state-run media reported.

Protesters, again defying curfew, were seen cheering, chatting and posing for pictures with members of the military in their tanks. The army had been deployed to replace police forces that had clashed brutally with demonstrators.

Ali Regal, a student activist in Alexandria, said the military was working with demonstrators to coordinate security and map out a plan to set up checkpoints across the port city, but there were still signs of unrest.

"The army is very helpful and working with us," Regal said. "There is a strong cooperation between the masses and the army."

The demonstrators said they had two central demands: that Mubarak's administration face a trial and that the constitution be changed.

At Cairo's Tahrir Square, crowds flanked ElBaradei, cheering his arrival. He told protesters he came "to participate today in the lives of Egyptians. Today, I look into the eyes of each one of you, and everyone is different today. Today, you are an Egyptian demanding your rights and freedom, and what we started can never be pushed back. As we said, we have one main demand: the end of the regime and to start a new phase."

Fatma Morayef, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Tahrir Square, said, "The square has emptied out since the afternoon, but it's still a great atmosphere, a sense of solidarity and very well-behaved: People are sitting around bonfires or walking around picking up rubbish," Morayef said. "Crowds who find occasional looters drag them over to the soldiers and hand them over."

Several thousand people remained in the square Sunday night, and many said they plan to stay until Mubarak resigns, Morayef said.

ElBaradei said earlier during a CNN interview that Mubarak should step down to "save the country" and that he felt he was "mandated by the people who organized these demonstrations ... to agree on a national unity government."

Though Mubarak has given no indication that he intends to step down, he opened the door to "dialogue with all the political parties," state-run media reported. He conceded that the protests had been peaceful but said the demonstrators had been "infiltrated by a group of people who use the name of religion, who don't take into consideration the constitution rights and citizenship values."

In Alexandria, machine-gun fire could be heard as thousands of protesters marched through the streets Sunday night. Gunfire could also be heard in Cairo, including in front of the Egyptian Museum, where vandals earlier beheaded two mummies. A makeshift clinic was erected on the doorstep of a mosque in the capital.

Overall, said Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.S., "The situation seems to be improving slightly in terms of security for private and public property." However, the ambassador said he had heard no communication from Cairo or Washington. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he wanted peace and stability in the region and that he was "anxiously monitoring" the situation in Egypt.

Cell phone and mobile internet service appeared to have returned, but Egypt's Information Ministry said it was revoking Al-Jazeera's license and withdrawing accreditation of the network's staff, state media said. Mubarak also imposed another curfew until 8 a.m. Monday.


Demonstrations defied the curfew with a seventh straight day of protests and announced they were arranging a "million man" march in protest of Mubarak's government. Follow the developments at This Just In.

soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Joe

    More than 10 billion to Israel? Why? Oh wait they run this country, that's why, see I knew there was a reason.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Histeacher

    The “gradual change” that Hilary is suggesting means that America/Zionists will have enough time to bribe and bring another spy like Mubarak. While they can control people in a gradual process, they cannot control a sudden upraise of masses such as the current one that will bring a real leader that represents people’s interests and not America’s/Zionist. I hope that people of Egypt will not accept anything less than a revolution in leadership, and unconditional removal of Mubarak and all his bribed accomplices. Any other direction will play into America’s/Zionist plan of bribing another leader and tricking Egypt into a gradual change that America/Zionists can control in their favor.

    I cannot understand why people of Egypt cannot find Mubarak and remove him physically, like Romanians did to president Chaushesku decades ago. Also, why not enter the national TV and just say to the whole nation that he is no longer president. This guy is America's/Zionist spy who did everything they wanted him to do, and he did all opposite to what Egyptian people wanted. He deserves nothing less than a humiliating physical removal.

    America/Zionists have paid Mubarak for decades to suppress any democratic movement. Even today when you read America’s/Zionist self-called experts they say they would like to see a democratic change as long as people do not choose this movement or that movement that is not in America’s/Zionist interest. America’s/Zionist hypocrisy is just disgusting. Do not you hypocrites understand that you cannot place conditions on democracy based on America’s criminal and Zionist land occupation goals. Whatever the people choose that’s what they will have!!! And you know very well that all Egyptians are against the Zionist regime, and against Americans as long as the U.S. supports the Zionist regime.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Let's see Egypt elect a government that is truly democratic and provides protection to all people under it's rule to practice their own religion, believe in educating women, and freedom of thought and expression. Let's look at a sampling of the Arab world and find one country that has all those elements. I hope that Egypt does develop into this. Unfortunately, what will happen (as it has time and time again) is that instead of so-called "American/Zionist" corruption taking over the interests of the Egyptians, you will have "Islamic" religious corruption taking over the interests of Egyptians. You will end up with another totalitarian state regime which suppresses freedom of religion, expression, and education of women. Yes you can say that Egyptians voted freely for this and therefore it is considered "democracy". However, democracy is more than just having a vote and letting people choose a government. It continues every day and has basic freedoms and protections. Democracy is not defined by a "one time" decision to elect yet another dictatorship.

      January 31, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Thank you Histeacher,that is one of most sensible statements here on this page. However,if their puppet Mubarak goes,the right-wing thugs in Washington fear that without him they can no longer pull the strings in the Middle East and that's what scares them but what scares me is that he might just hang on and that I do not want!!!

      January 31, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Christian

    I'd like to know why a major network like CNN can broadcast Nile TV but can't afford to pay a translator?

    January 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. danny

    This corruption has seeped down from the United Nations(Which is the most corrupt organization in the world) and their programs to aide the politicians and crooked representative from all member nations, while pouring money into to the accounts of the politicians while the worker has to deal with inflation and shortages due to the money not being channeled to where it is supposed to go. The UN is worse than any slush fund that was ever thought up by a crook.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steph

    The question of the day or better yet of the decade would be.."How come the people in Iraq, Afganistan didn't do the same thing"? The people in Eygpt are getting there point across and want change by protesting, shutting the country down. Yet the American Goverment because of greed of Oil, greed of Money felt as though we needed to go into these countries and dictate without a plan, without the backing of the UN or anybody else. If the people in Iraq and Afganistan really wanted change then they would be doing the exact same thing as the Egyptians. That's just like someone coming into a dirty home demanding for the person who pay the rent to clean up. Well if the person of the house don't want to clean up then it's not going to get clean. You can't force people to do anything and if your going to force them then you need to make sure you have a serious back up plan. The people in Egypt,Cairo have a plan and want there house to be clean, so it's at the top. The people in Iraq and Afganistan need to take some pointers of what to do and what not to do.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • rafaMEX

      the reason they dindnt do any "uprising" is because of the same reason here in Mexico we dont do: we are mustly OK (midlle class) and the poor is poor enough to not have enough strength to go out and start a civil war, instead they all move out to the US (illegal immigrants).
      Mass media its just a bunch of lies, proof is all this happening that the mass media is having trouble to explain to you after all the BS they already told you to belive..

      January 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jen

    My mistake and correction: Everyone should read "Animal Farm".

    January 31, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DGJeep

    Why does the American Press allow themselves to be used by dictators. How and WHY do we call DICTATORS like Hosni Mubarak allow themselves to be called President. To me and I would think MOST Americans a president is an elected official. HE CLEARLY is not how and why have you and others been lying to us???

    How can anyone that is not filling a vacancy appoint a Vice President????

    It is all a WAR of words I know. But we have to be able to RELY on your words for accepted meanings.



    January 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TruBlue

    A few minutes ago (1:27pm pacific time), Egyptian President, wife Suzzane, son Gamal and grandchildren arrived in London's Heathrow Airport with 97 suitcases, according to one prominent journalist in the Philippines. If this is true, why didn't picked up the breaking news?

    January 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cesar

    Baahaaahaaahaa. Haaaahaaaaahaaa. Lauren makes me laugh.

    January 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TruBlue

    Correction: Without the president, just his wife, son, and grandchildren arrived in a Private the Hosni M is still clinging to power. Source was:

    January 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. duke

    All who didn't know that bush senior and saddam were buddies are the same ones who don't know that Saddam went to college in america!

    January 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave254

      Uhm, actually, Duke, you political moron, Saddam went to school in Egypt. But, at least HE wen to school which is more than you apparently did.

      January 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Informer

      This is just to let you know you're incorrect. Saddam went to the Cairo Law school and later the Baghdad Law College.

      January 31, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. duke

    I'll give 3 guesses as to where Saddam got his mustard gas from??
    The same gas that bush(jr)said saddam used on his people during the run up to the war??

    January 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave254

      In the immortal words of Dean Wormer: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

      January 31, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. littledebbieoatmealcookie

    this seems to sum it up ( a picture's worth a thousand words ) ...

    January 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. anonymous

    All the comments of "Revolution Revolution Revolution" that Im reading amazes me. Do you not realize how scary this situation is? Does anyone realize what the aftermath of this situation could lead to? When Maburak is gone what happens? What happens if the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel fails? Egypt is Israel's largest Arab ali. Who do you think is going to back Israel?.....the good ol USA. Thats all the U.S. needs more tention and conflict in the Middle East. Then what happens if a "fair" election is actually held? From everything I have been reading it looks like Mohamed ElBaradei is the prime cadidate. Yes, once a Nobel Peace Prize winner but has anyone really done any reasearch on him? Lets just hope his views and intentions are to lead a free and more prosperous Egypt and not a radical religious Egypt. I never claim to be a "political genius" but from what I see the fall of Maburak could lead to a very scary situation.

    January 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bluto

      Concerned that El-Baradei might not be a good choice as leader of Egypt?
      The Egyptians have had to put up with an even worse leader: HOSNI MUBARAK
      And Mubarak has been in power for the last THIRTY YEARS.
      So what is so wrong with allowing someone new to lead Egypt?
      If democracy is allowed in Egypt, then the Egyptians can decide whether or not to allow that person to continue as a leader.

      Concerned that a new Egypt might pursue a foreign policy agenda different from the agenda Mubarak has had until now?
      Should the Egyptians then have to resign themselves to continue with Mubarak in power, just so that the US and Israel can continue to feel "safe and comfortable"?

      January 31, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. nm

    January 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
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