- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CAIRO | Joyous over the success of their “Nile Revolution” last week, Egyptians are still celebrating — and protesting — as they look forward to a future of democracy, freedom of expression and a government free of corruption.

But, considering Egypt’s long-standing problems of poverty, unemployment and high food prices, and its now devastated post-demonstration economy, no one knows when that future will begin.

“It won’t take one week or two weeks. Maybe after six months,” said Mohammad Ataya, who reopened his Tahrir Square store Wednesday after having protested during the 18-day uprising that ended with President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation Friday.

Former protesters are waiting cautiously to see whether the army — now Egypt’s governing body — will fulfill its promises of social justice while other discontented groups are emerging in force and the economy stagnates.

“This is one of the few times of my life that I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow,” said Hossam El Shafeey, an engineer. “I don’t even have an imaginary scenario in my mind.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian-inspired revolts continued to spread across the Arab world Wednesday:

• In Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi, riot police clashed with opponents of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The regime tried to appease the protesters by doubling the salaries of government workers and releasing Islamic militants who had opposed Mr. Gadhafi.

• Protesters in Bahrain demanded political reforms in a third consecutive day of demonstrations in the central square of the capital, Manama.

• About 2,000 protesters gathered outside government buildings in southern Iraq, one of the most dramatic scenes since Iraqis began demonstrating against dysfunctional government.

• Demonstrators in Yemen called for an end to their president’s 30-year rule, and one protester died in a clash with police in the southern part of the country.

Egypt’s ruling military council said Wednesday that the emergency laws that allowed police to round up opposition to the Mubarak regime will be lifted before elections are held, a key promise to protesters.

Despite pleas from the army for workers to get off of the streets and return to their jobs, labor strikes that began before Mr. Mubarak resigned have continued across the country.

On Wednesday, workers protested outside Cairo International Airport, and 12,000 textile workers struck at a plant in the city of Mahalla el-Kubra, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, workers in industries including transportation and theater walked off their jobs, demanding better salaries and working conditions. In Cairo, hundreds of angry transit workers gathered outside the state media building, saying they work full time for as little as $50 a month.

In nearby Tahrir Square, hundreds of police officers marched, chanting “We are all Egyptians” in an attempt to draw support from the crowds lingering in the square.

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