Not that you'd know it from our corporate news cartel or anything, but there's an uprising in Egypt. A rather large one, threatening to destabilize the country and possibly the region. I use the term "threatening" guardedly, because I would definitely like to see Egypt transition to an open and true democracy.
And wouldn't you know, the Egyptian arm of the US Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Egypt) has gone to bat for the Mubarak regime.
However, there is at least one powerful, multinational entity that has continually stood by Mubarak and the Egyptian elite and has continually fought efforts to democratize the country. As ThinkProgress previously reported, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce maintains a network of foreign affiliates known as Amchams, “which are foreign chambers of the Chamber composed of American and foreign companies.” In Egypt, this foreign affiliate is known as the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, known in short as AmCham Egypt.
AmCham Egypt’s relation to the Mubarak dictatorship stretches back decades. In fact, the Egyptian dictator even personally intervened to create the organization. In 1981, Mubarak issued an order to allow for the creation of the AmCham by giving it an exemption from Egypt’s strict NGO laws — which help limit the influence human rights and democracy promotion organizations. Since then, the chamber has grown to have hundreds of members. While roughly 75 percent of the organization’s members are Egyptian businesses, many of them are also large Western multinational corporations, like Coca Cola and BP. The Chamber’s member companies account for nearly 20 percent of Egypt’s GDP.
ThinkProgress goes on to detail how AmCham Egypt intervened to scuttle Russ Feingold's bill calling for an end to crackdowns on pro-democracy advocates, and how just recently, John Negroponte was sent to discourage any uprising or nasty pro-democracy talk.
During a brief question-and-answer session at the conclusion of his address, Negroponte said he was surprised by the unrest in Tunisia that ended the 23-year presidency of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He said that what happened in Tunisia is “not necessarily transferable” to other countries. He blamed the news media for sensational coverage of self-immolation protests in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania, and urged “a little bit of patience.” “Let’s hope the country doesn’t descend into chaos,” he said. “Chaos is in no one’s interest.”
The protest in Egypt has been going on for three days now. The Mubarak government has shut down Egyptians' access to the internet so protesters cannot get any news out. There's been almost a complete news blackout in the US about it, but BBC, AlJazeera, and other international outlets are reporting almost continuously.
Whether this protest ends with a vicious Iran-style crackdown or an overthrow of Mubarak remains to be seen. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed El Baradei has joined the protesters' call for Mubarak to step down and make way for a democratically-elected leader.
Mr ElBaradei, a campaigner for reform in Egypt who won the peace prize for his earlier work as head of the UN nuclear agency, says it is time for Mr Mubarak to step aside.
"He has served the country for 30 years and it is about time for him to retire," he said.
"Tomorrow is going to be, I think, a major demonstration all over Egypt and I will be there with them."
His arrival could spur protesters who have no figurehead, although many activists resent his absences in recent months.
Egyptians torched a police post in Suez early on Thursday in response to the killing of three demonstrators earlier in the week.
"Our government is a dictatorship. A total dictatorship," said Mohamed Fahim, a 29-year-old glass factory worker, as he stood near the charred skeleton of a car.
"It's our right to choose our government ourselves. We have been living 29 years, my whole life, without being able to choose a president."
One thing you can be sure of, though, is that the US Chamber of Commerce will do whatever is within their power to protect their corporate masters at the expense of the people standing up for their rights.
On Twitter, you can follow hashtag #Jan25 for information on the protests. This is not any "official" reporting outlet, but only snippets of what people on the ground are able to get out via whatever means are still available to them.
Also, this article on Al Jazeera from January 14th got my attention, not because I didn't understand this to be the case, but because I wonder why similar protests are not being undertaken across this country over the same issues.
From Tunisia and Algeria in the Maghreb to Jordan and Egypt in the Arab east, the real terror that eats at self-worth, sabotages community and communal rites of passage, including marriage, is the terror of socio-economic marginalisation.
The armies of 'khobzistes' (the unemployed of the Maghreb) - now marching for bread in the streets and slums of Algiers and Kasserine and who tomorrow may be in Amman, Rabat, San'aa, Ramallah, Cairo and southern Beirut - are not fighting the terror of unemployment with ideology. They do not need one. Unemployment is their ideology. The periphery is their geography. And for now, spontaneous peaceful protest and self-harm is their weaponry. They are 'les misérables' of the modern world.
Update 2:48 PM 1/28: As you may have heard, the protesters are out in force. There are rumors that elites are fleeing Egypt in private jets, and Mubarak has just made a statement blaming the protesters, firing the government (except him) and affirming his stubborn delusion that he has nothing to do with current unrest. The military is remaining neutral at this time. Mubarak claims these protests would not have taken place if citizens did not have the freedoms they have. It was a remarkable end play, but I'm not sure it will hold.