From 1981 to 2011, Hosni Mubarak was in power under emergency law with his son Gamal appearing to be a likely successor for the presidency. In December 2010, protests in Tunisia sparked by the death of Mohamed Bouazizi turned into a revolution. The death of Khaled Saeed in June 2010 became a similar rallying point for activists in Egypt. Increasing use of social media among activists centered on plans for a nationwide protest on 25 January 2011.
Millions turned out in major cities across Egypt on the 25th, especially in Cairo's Tahrir Square. In the beginning, tensions were high between the police and protesters with violence breaking out in Suez and Alexandria. The government took a hard line, using riot-control tactics, and shutting down communications; But by the 28th the protests were continuing and the police had retreated. The security role was taken over by the military, and from then on the situation remained almost entirely peaceful. As pressure rose on Mubarak, the scale of the protests continued to grow, especially on specially organized Friday rallies.
Mubarak initially gave concessions, including the dissolution of parliament, agreeing to oversee a process of reform, and promising not to run for reelection in September 2011. The protesters, however, were not satisfied and by February 8 there were widespread calls for Mubarak's resignation. On the night of 10 February, Mubarak gave a speech in which it was expected he would step down. Anger erupted when he stated plans to merely delegate some of his power. By the next day, 11 February 2011, he had resigned.
Protests took place in different location in Egypt. 20,000 protested in various locations across Alexandria, 200 demonstrators in the southern city of Aswan, 2,000 in the eastern city of Ismaïlia, and about 3,000 in the northern city of El-Mahalla El-Kubra. Deadly clashes broke out during the protests leading to the death of two protesters in Suez.
Cairo protesters had gathered in the morning in front of the High Court in the centre of Cairo. The demonstration was larger than expected. It broke through the security cordon and moved to Tahrir Square. Thousands protested in Cairo, with 15,000 occupying Tahrir Square (Liberation Square). Police used tear gas and water cannons against the protesters, who in turn threw stones at police, eventually forcing them to retreat.
Hossam el-Hamalawy stated to Al-Jazeera during the evening of the protest that the demonstrations were "necessary to send a message to the Egyptian regime that Mubarak is no different than Ben Ali and we want him to leave too." He also told Al-Jazeera, "People are fed up of Mubarak and of his dictatorship and of his torture chambers and of his failed economic policies. If Mubarak is not overthrown tomorrow then it will be the day after. If it's not the day after it's going to be next week."
On 26 January, riots continued with protesters' numbers continuing to rise. Violence by both protesters and police increased. One protester and one police official were killed in Cairo. Suez experienced an unexpected uprising; many protesters faced live rounds, and both protesters and police were beaten. Suez protesters set fire to several government buildings, including the police station.
Later in the day a protester of Bedouin descent was shot dead by police in the town of Sheikh Zoweid in the North Sinai region, raising the death toll to seven. In Suez, the uprising continued and violence increased as more buildings were set ablaze, including police posts. Some Suez and Sinai region protesters armed themselves with guns leading to violent conflicts.
Hundreds were arrested at the various protests. About 600 were arrested in Cairo, including 8 Egyptian journalists protesting against the government's reported restrictions on domestic and Middle Eastern affairs. More than 120 people were arrested in Asyut, mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The government shut down four major ISPs at approximately 5:20 p.m. EST. disrupting Internet and telephone traffic in the entire country except for Egypt's stock exchange and some government ministries served by the fifth ISP: Noor Group.
Tens of thousands filled the streets across Egypt on Friday, 28 January, called by some the "Friday of Anger" (Arabic: جمعة الغضب ǧumʿat al-ġaḍab Egyptian Arabic: [ˈɡomʕet elˈɣɑdɑb]) and by others as the "Day of Rage". Hours before the protests, the Egyptian government shut down Internet services, although some people communicated using a text-to-speech telephone service set up by Google and Twitter.Text messaging and mobile phone services also appeared to be blocked. According to Vodafone, all mobile operators in Egypt were instructed to suspend services in selected areas. The authorities had prior legislative approval to issue such an order.
Shortly after Jumu'ah (Friday prayers), tens of thousands of Egyptians assembled to protest; within hours the number rose to hundreds of thousands. ElBaradei arrived from Giza, where he had been leading protests, to Cairo.Ynetnews and CNN stated that ElBaradei was placed under arrest, while Al Jazeera English said that ElBaradei was unaware of his would-be house arrest. ElBaradei's detention prompted the U.S. to review its $1.5 billion aid package for Egypt; he was later released. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood said that twenty members of the banned group had been detained overnight, including Essam el-Erian, its main spokesman, and Mohamed Morsi, one of its leaders.
Throughout the day, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons into crowds during violent clashes between authorities and protesters throughout Egypt. In Port Said tens of thousands gathered and multiple government buildings were set ablaze. In Suez, police shot and killed at least one protester. Protesters in Suez took control of a police station, freed arrested protesters and then burned down a nearby smaller local police post. The government issued an 18:00 to 7:00 curfew, but protesters ignored it and were met by police. In the evening, one of the National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters buildings in Cairo was set on fire by an unidentified culprit. While protesters paused for evening prayers, police continued firing tear gas. The day's defiance was summed up by the plethora of Tunisian national flags and anti-Mubarak graffiti that the protesters had created in the Greater Cairo region, Alexandria, Beni Suef, Mansoura and Manufiya.
Amid reports of looting, concerns were raised about the safety of the antiquities of the famous Egyptian Museum, near the epicenter of the Cairo protests. Egyptian state television announced in the evening that army commandos had secured the museum. Protesters joined soldiers in protecting the museum, situated beside the burning ruling party headquarters. Looters managed to enter during the night from the roof to damage a number of small artifacts, and it was initially reported that they had ripped the heads off two mummies, but subsequent reports claimed that Egypt's top archaeologist had mistaken skulls from other skeletons, and that the mummies were intact.
The arson and looting that took place throughout the day has been compared to the disorder that befell Cairo during the 1952 fire, also known as Black Saturday.
Deployment of the army
Police vehicle that was burned during the night of 28 January
A delegation led by the chief of staff of Egypt's armed forces, Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, was in Washington, D.C., although the visit was truncated due to the protests. The sessions, an annual country-to-country military coordination, were being led for the U.S. by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow. A meeting with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other talks had been planned to extend to 2 February. However, in light of events in Egypt, the delegation left Washington to return home. Before their Friday night departure, Vershbow urged the two dozen representatives of the largely American-funded Egyptian military "to exercise 'restraint'".
Al Jazeera reported an Associated Press claim that an elite counter-terrorism force had been deployed at strategic points around Cairo, and that Egypt's interior ministry was warning of "decisive measures". The secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party, Safwat Sherif, held a press conference stating, "We hope that tomorrow's Friday prayers and its rituals happen in a quiet way that upholds the value of such rituals ... and that no one jeopardises the safety of citizens or subjects them to something they do not want."
The Egyptian government deployed military in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez to assist the police. Al Jazeera reported that in Suez and in Alexandria the military wanted to avoid an open armed confrontation with protesters. In Giza, Protesters gathered in front of the l-Istiqama Mosque. where protesters and riot police fought in parts of Giza, including at the mosque.
From left to right: Protesters in Cairo carrying a coffin; and Demonstrators standing on an army vehicle in Tahrir Square, Cairo. The sign reads: "Leave, you tyrant. Down with Mubarak."
The night of 28/29 January was quieter in Cairo with fewer reports of looting than in previous days.
Widespread protests continued, with many protesters chanting, "Down with Mubarak". Chants of "the people and the army are one" were also heard, as the position of the army in the course of events continued to be critical but ambiguous. By 2:00 pm local time, approximately 50,000 had gathered in Tahrir Square, 10,000 gathered in Kafr-al-Sheikh, and additional protests took place in other cities. A curfew was announced by the army for Cairo, Alexandria and Suez from 4–6 pm. The 6:00 pm police curfew the previous day had had "almost no effect whatsoever", according to Al Jazeera English, and protesters continued to descend on Tahrir Square. Protesters gathered at the Ministry of Interior, and three were killed by police when they tried to storm the building.
Protesters were described by reporters as more confident and even celebratory as they felt they were nearing their objective—the end of Mubarak's regime—although they had no tangible evidence of this. An eyewitness told Al Jazeera that people of all ages and both genders were present. Demonstrators violated the curfew and no one attempted to stop them. Looting was also reported, while no police were visible.
In Beni Suef, south of Cairo, 17 protesters were killed by police as the protesters attempted to attack two police stations. In Abu Zabaal prison in Cairo, eight people were killed as police clashed with inmates trying to escape. According to a Reuters tally, these unconfirmed deaths brought the death toll to at least 100. Several Islamist terrorists and others escaped.Prison overcrowding and police brutality were voiced by many of the protesters. Emad Gad, an analyst with the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that he had obtained information from a trustworthy source that "there have been orders from the very top to free known felons from the prisons, to arm them and to let them mingle with protesters." Two Egyptian policemen jailed following the death of anti-corruption activist Khaled Said were among the hundreds of prisoners that escaped in Cairo that day.
Tanks were reported on the streets of Suez. A police station was torched after protesters seized weapons stored inside before telling officers to get out. At first there was a presence of the Central Security Force, then army troops who were ordered into major cities to quell street fighting. In the Sinai town of Rafah a lynch mob killed three police officers.
Protesters in Tahrir Square. Translation reads "Go away Mubarak"
A troop carrier defaced with protester graffiti, the larger of which reads "Down with Mubarak", "No to Mubarak", "Mubarak the dictator has fallen", "30 years of theft and injustice ... enough is enough ... get out now!", "Leave, you thief!"'.
Overnight, thousands of protesters continued to defy the curfew and, as the night progressed, troops and armoured vehicles deployed across Cairo to guard key places such as train stations, major government buildings and banks. The army had insufficient capacity to patrol neighbourhoods, so residents set up armed vigilante groups to drive off looters and robbers. A heavy army presence (though no police) was reported in Suez. Chaos was rampant in Suez during the night, but as day broke the streets remained relatively quiet. As in Cairo, many residents formed vigilante groups to protect their homes and businesses in the absence of police. The military set up numerous checkpoints throughout the city. An estimation of about 30 bodies including the bodies of two children were taken to El Demerdash Hospital in central Cairo.
By 6:00 am local time, Tahrir Square was quiet, with only a few hundred people. Later in the morning, 3–5,000 protesters were reported as gathering there, including hundreds of state judges protesting for the first time.
The National Association for Change, along with the April 6 Youth Movement, "We are all Khaled Said", the Jan 25 Movement and Kefaya (the main organizers of the protests) gave their support to ElBaradei to negotiate the formation of a temporary national unity government. They called for a new constitution and a transitional government. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), reiterated demands for Mubarak's resignation. The MB also said, after protests turned violent, that it was time for the military to intervene. Al Jazeera reported that 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were released from custody as their guards abandoned their posts.
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's Minister of Defence and Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, was seen with the protesters in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. As of 18:30, ElBaradei had arrived in Tahrir Square and announced that "what we have begun cannot go back". He also said "You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future. Our key demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which each Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity." Egyptian opposition leaders said that talks would be held only with the army. Mubarak was holding a meeting with his military commanders at the time.
Soldiers were then ordered to use live ammunition, but the army refused the order since it was present to "protect the people". The army chief told protesters they would not be fired upon. Helicopters monitored the protests, and fighter jets repeatedly flew low over Tahrir Square. After the first pass of the two Egyptian Air ForceF-16s, the crowd cheered and subsequent passes triggered louder chants, laughing, and waving. The crowd did not disperse. Protesters were also reported picking up garbage in Tahrir Square, as essential services were not working and that they wanted to "keep our country clean". Food and water were offered at the scene by Egyptian people to the Egyptian protesters in sign of solidarity with the protesters.
Mubarak asked the current aviation minister and former chief of Air Staff Ahmed Shafiq, to form a new government. Shafiq, a Mubarak loyalist, had often been mentioned as a potential successor to Mubarak due to his politically reliable nature.
The Egyptian Central Bank said all banks and the stock market would remain closed on 30 January. Police returned to the streets at about 10:30 pm except at Tahrir Square. By 10:55 local time, Al Jazeera's offices in Cairo were ordered to close. At the same time, all correspondents for the network had their credentials revoked.
On the night of 30 January Mubarak's Sharm el-Sheikh holiday villa was guarded by a small force of armed and loyal police who turned away all approaching vehicles. Sharm el-Sheikh had seen no deaths and minimal trouble.Military aircraft were visible from the local airport's perimeter fence, although the airport was frequently used by the armed forces for operations. It was also one of the hubs for private air travel in and around Egypt, but most light aircraft had departed earlier that day.
An Egyptian Air Force Mi-17 circling over Tahrir Square
The night of 30 to 31 January was quieter in Cairo, with fewer reports of looting. For the fourth day in a row the curfew was violated without repercussions. Security officials had announced that the curfew would start at 3:00 pm and threatened to shoot anyone who ignored it, although eventually little or no action was taken as security and army personnel left Tahrir Square.
Hundreds of thousands continued to protest in Egyptian cities, including 250,000 protesters in Cairo alone. A protester was shot dead in Abu Simbel and extra troops were moved to guard the Suez Canal. For the first time during protests, there were pro-Mubarak protests of at least 1,000 people. Mohamed ElBaradei again joined thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square. The National Association for Change, an umbrella group that contains several opposition movements including the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-democracy groups, chose ElBaradei to negotiate with Mubarak. Luis Ayala, the secretary-general of the Socialist International said that the NDP was expelled because:
The use of violence, with scores dead and injured, is totally incompatible with the policies and principles of any social democratic party anywhere in the world. Consequently, we consider that a party in government that does not listen, that does not move and that does not immediately initiate a process of meaningful change in these circumstances, cannot be a member of the Socialist International. We are, as of today, ceasing the membership of the NDP, however we remain determined to cooperate with all the democrats in Egypt striving to achieve an open, democratic, inclusive and secular state.
Industrial strikes were also called in many cities, including Cairo.Nissan had suspended production at its plant in Egypt to ensure employees' safety after anti-government protests, but Hyundai's plant chose to continue working.
Reports emerged of several major prisons across the country being attacked, and law and order rapidly deteriorated across most of Egypt. Criminal violence continued in Cairo as looters burnt out the Arkadia shopping mall. Egypt Air cancelled all internal and outbound flights; an inbound Egypt Air flight from London to Cairo was diverted to Athens because of an alleged bomb threat. Once policing became more problematic due to police disappearing from Cairo, the military took over, creating an overall more rigid system and making the military position more critical. Senior Egyptian generals led by Tantawi released a statement saying:
The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people. Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.
Zahi Hawass, an internationally known archeologist, was appointed by Mubarak to the newly created cabinet post of Minister of Antiquities during the cabinet shakeup on 31 January. Hawass said in a statement published on his personal blog that "the broken objects can all be restored, and we will begin the restoration process this week". In a New York Times interview he rejected comparisons with Iraq and Afghanistan and said that antiquities were being safeguarded.