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February 2, 2011

Egypt restores internet access

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by Brian Turner

Egypt begun the process of restoring its internet service this morning, after cutting it for nearly a week in the face of anti-government protests.

Large scale protests against Hosni Mubarak, the likes of which have never been seen in Egypt before, were reportedly organised initially through Facebook and Twitter.

The Egyptian government therefore sought to help disrupt any organised protests by switching off the internet and mobile phone networks - though too late to stop the momentum that had already been building.

Protests continue, ironically, with a pro-Mubarak march now reportedly occurring in Cairo in concert with the larger anti-Mubarak one.

Perhaps cutting off the internet made it difficult for the government to organise its own counter-propaganda march, as opposed to genuine protesters?

In the meantime, while Hosni Mubarak has announced he will step down for elections in September, protesters are still clambering for a change of government now.

In part, it’s because it would be easy for Mubarak to go back on his word and decide to re-elect himself, while hard for the protesters to build up the same level of momentum they have - something those in Yemen know too well.

However, it is not simply rising food prices and joblessness that engages the anger of the Egyptians, as much as rage about the level of corruption in the country.

Corruption is a fact of life in Egypt, and only the military are seen as above it.

Mubarak himself stands accused of using all income from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh for his own use.

However, it affects every aspect of life.

One young woman told me that when she opened a shop, the electrician told her he could get the electricity on, but the paperwork means it would take about a year to get it hooked up. However, for around £500, he could get it done tomorrow.

Whatever doubts or concerns Western media may have about the Muslim Brotherhood, as close to an opposition as Egypt gets, the group’s work with charities means its seen as the best hope for addressing Egypt’s corruption issues.

Whether or not change in Egypt will be immediate or not, with the internet back on, it’s clear that there is no stopping the protest movement now.

And when they do stop, they can get back to posting funny YouTube videos on Facebook, and surfing LOLcats.

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