Strikes Spread Across Country

Following on the strikes in Suez and Ismailia, other Egyptian unions declared strikes nationwide, though not all striking workers had expressly political demands. The labor strikes included actions by post office workers, factory workers, and the staff at Al-Ahram, a government-run newspaper.

Egyptian security forces reported that protests in the city of Al-Kharga, located 375 miles south of Cairo, claimed five lives and injured more than 100 people. In Asyut, protesters barricaded and blocked a railway line; and in Alexandria, large crowds again gathered for anti-Mubarak rallies. Protesters set fire to a government building in Port Said, an act described by the New York Times as a response to poor housing conditions in the city.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has called on the Egyptian government to end the country’s official state of emergency, which allows authorities to detain anyone without bringing any charges. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit rejected the U.S. call to end the state of emergency, declaring that Washington was seemingly “imposing [its] will” on Egypt.

Interior Minister Mahmoud Wadgy delivered orders to release 34 political prisoners who had turned themselves in. Formerly detained for having “extremist” leanings, the prisoners were issued their freedom for showing “good intentions and express[ing] their desire to live peaceably with society.” The prisoners were noted to be among those who had left prisons when the police forces seemingly disappeared for two days in late January.

Newly appointed Cultural Minister Gaber Asfour quit the newly-formed government created in response to the ongoing protests. His official resignation cited poor health as the reason for his departure, but an Al-Ahram article suggests that he resigned due to social pressure.