The Globe's Middle East correspondent is currently in Cairo, reporting on developments as protests escalate. All mobile phone and Internet services in Egypt have been severed, but Patrick Martin took your questions over the phone via our staff in the Toronto newsroom.
We transcribed the questions and responses below.
(10:23 a.m. ET - 5:23 p.m. in Cairo) Jennifer MacMillan: Thanks for joining us today. I'm The Globe's Communities Editor, and I'll be moderating this discussion with Patrick Martin. Patrick is currently in Cairo, where all mobile phone and Internet service have been cut, so we're doing this live Q&A in a slightly different way. Patrick is on the phone with me from a landline in Cairo, and I'll be relaying your questions to him over the phone. He'll reply and I'll transcribe his answers into the discussion. So please excuse any typos - I'll be transcribing as fast as I can, and a few are bound to crop up.
(10:25 a.m. ET) Jennifer MacMillan: @FadiAlQassar asks via Twitter: do you think the momentum of the protests on the streets will slow down any time soon?
(10:25 a.m. ET) Patrick Martin: There's no doubt that the security forces in the first hour of this confrontation have scored some sort of victory.
They were well-organized and showed how they could divide the protesters into smaller, manageable groups and bar them from such places as the bridges across the Nile where they have the tactical advantage.
The people are funnelled into a bottleneck and the forces are there waiting for htem. The scale of the success without using deadly force (as far as I know) might prevent more people from joining the protests.
We'll know in the next 18 hours which way it's going to go.
(10:27 a.m. ET) Jennifer MacMillan: Here's our next question via Twitter from @amandamgrant: Al Jazeera is reporting army vehicles in Egypt - are you seeing this? Are the numbers as large as #jan25?
(10:28 a.m. ET) Patrick Martin: Certainly there are tens of thousands of protesters trying to make their way from the east bank of the Nile across the river to downtown Cairo. It appears that their numbers are similar to that of Tuesday.
There are scores of armoured vehicles but these are vehicles that belong to the security forces, not the army. So far all of the battles are being waged by forces under the interior ministry, the army is being kept out of the way.
(10:29 a.m. ET) Jennifer MacMillan: Here's our next question via Twitter from @jennycensus: Where are the women in Egypt's protests? Is the threat of sexual violence by security forces keeping them at bay?
(10:30 a.m. ET) Patrick Martin: The split is about 60-40, mostly men. Roughly half of the female protesters are secular, not wearing a headscarf. The others are more religiously observant. I stood with them today and cried with quite a large number of women who were tear gassed, along with the men.
(10:31 a.m. ET) Jennifer MacMillan: Here's our next question via Twitter from @goldmourn: Does hope remain strong among activists for change in gov't? Has shutting down the internet intensified the protests?
(10:32 a.m. ET) Patrick Martin: I was really impressed by the diversity of the protesters. I spoke to people in their 40s and 50s. I spoke to students in their teens and 20s. They all sounded the same notes: we only want a real democracy, we only want the freedom of any civilized society. They started calling the security forces cowards when I spoke with them. they should be turning and joining us, one fellow said.
I would say the commitment of the protesters in the face of the security forces remains high. But the practical success of these forces in these early hours may discourage others from joining it.
From a tactical point of view, shutting off the Internet, cell phones, BlackBerrys, was a brilliant stroke by the security forces.
It meant that the protesters were largely unable to communicate to make collecitive deicsions and were essentially leaderless. It was only their determination that kept them rushing at the security forces time after time despite the tear gassing.
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