Strike fails on Mubarak's birthday

Protests against conditions in Egypt are muted as leader celebrates 80th birthday.

    The Nile Delta city of Mahalla was the scene of violent protests in April by textile workers [AFP]

    "Wear black clothes ... or stay at home if you can ... hang a black flag next to an Egyptian flag outside your house ... don't buy anything on the day ... boycott state-owned papers," the Facebook page urged.
     
    But most Egyptians carried on their lives as normal on Sunday, with analysts saying that the failure showed the limited influence of online activism.
     
    Mohammed Sayyed Said, a political analyst, said the "total failure" of the planned strike showed online activists' inability to connect with ordinary Egyptians.
     
    "Several thousand people were debating an issue, which is extraordinary by any standards... But when it comes to touching cause with the public, it's a different story," Said, who is also editor of the independent Badeel newspaper, said.
     
    About eight per cent of Egyptians use the internet, the International Telecommunications Union says.

    Relaxed atmosphere
     
    Al Jazeera's Amr El-Kahky, reporting from Cairo, said on Sunday that the atmosphere in the capital was quite relaxed despite the call for protests.

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    Mubarak's birthday blues

    "We also heard claims by some civil servants that there were memorandums being circulated into government offices threatening disciplinary action against those who chose to stay at home today," he said.

    On Tuesday, the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group in Egypt, supported the day of protest.
      
    "The Muslim Brotherhood declares its endorsement of the call to stay at home next May 4, with the exception of those working in medical and public service institutions, and those who have exams in any educational institution," the group said in a statement.
      
    On April 6, a day of nationwide action was called, resulting in riots erupting in the Nile Delta industrial city of Mahalla, where three people had died and hundreds were detained after demonstrators pulled down posters of Mubarak.
      
    Esraa Abdel Fattah, 27, who created a Facebook group calling for the April 6 strike, was arrested and jailed for three weeks for "inciting unrest".

    In recent months, a number of strikes and protests have occurred in Egypt against low salaries and price rises.
     
    The rising public anger is considered one of the most serious challenges to Mubarak government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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