Egypt: Government forces make show of force at Cairo International Book Fair

Egypt: Government forces make show of force at Cairo International Book Fair

The annual Cairo Internation al Book Fair received a rare appearance of dozens of armed security forces on Friday as government fears of a pro-Gaza demonstration materialized.As book aficionados crept through the hundreds of publisher stalls from around the region and the world, security cordoned off the mosque area ahead of the Friday prayer.

Clad in their all black uniforms and protective face covering, row upon row of the young Egyptian state security made their way to deter any possible demonstration.An Egyptian journalist who was spending the day at the book fair believes that there probably would have been a demonstration had the massive amount of security not been present.”I overheard one guy say “too bad for all the security because we definitely would have had something here today” so it seems like something was being prepared,” Manar Ammar, a freelance reporter, told PANA.

The international book fair is a rare opportunity for Egyptians to search through thousands of publishers” collections and purchase titles at discounted prices. What makes Friday”s security presence surprising is that it is at a place of reading that Cairo made a show of force.”It just felt like they were everywhere and trying to make us [Egyptians] realize that they are in control. It is unfortunate that they would come here to the book fair,” Ammar continued.Yet, Friday”s events are a microcosm of the situation facing Egypt and Egyptians.”We believe it is right to show our disgust of Israel and what they are doing to the Palestinians. At the same time, while we are against what our government is doing, we are here to support them [Palestinians], not show our dislike of Mubarak,” one activist told PANA.

That same activist commented on the importance of people to come out when there are demonstrations. With so few Egyptians actively engaging the community, the activist believes there is little hope to galvanize the Arab world”s largest nation.”We need people, plain and simple. This movement will not continue to grow and gain strength until there are thousands of people on the streets, not simply a few hundreds.”That is the issue with the current state of affairs in Egypt. With a majority of Egyptians living off less than $3 daily, it is often a struggle to simply provide for the family, so getting those same people to go and protest against government policies remains the sole prerogative of the upper-middle class and elites.Leading activist George Ishaq, the former head of the opposition group Kefaya (Enough), believes that education is the only option if these movements are going to succeed in creating a voice for people in the face of what he terms “aggressive disregard” from the ruling government.

“People are frustrated by the government here, but they don”t have the means to go against them and they are scared,” Ishaq told PANA in a phone conversation.”The outright disregard for people, like what happened at the Book Fair shows people that the government is not going to stop until we all believe in what they are doing.”