Chronicles of a Revolution II
Thursday January 27th
I decided to go back to the area between Tahrir and Ramses squares, the same area I was at yesterday where the Lawyer’s Syndicate is, to join in today’s protests. People are saying that Tuesday the 25th was to sort of test the waters, and Wednesday and Thursday are to sustain the momentum until Friday, which would be a Day of Rage. When I got the Lawyer’s Syndicate I saw the same thing I saw yesterday, except with less protesters and more police. I joined in, but the dwindling numbers did not give me any hope for tomorrow.
Friday January 28th Morning
Today is D-Day. And I’m hopeful. For the first time in my life, I’m hopeful about the state of this country. Hosni Mubarak came to power in 1982, one year before I was born, and he’s been in power ever since. When I try to picture Egypt without this regime, I literally can’t imagine it, because I’ve known nothing else. I’ve dreamt of a Mubarak-free Egypt before, one where we get rid of all the corruption and all work together to restore this country to its former greatness. But this always felt like some fantastical dream. Today, it feels like it might become reality.
It’s strange to suddenly have no internet, no 3G, no SMSs, and no mobile calls. The only means of communication left standing are landlines. But because most people don’t communicate through landlines anymore, I don’t have the home number of most of my friends. It’s amazing what a sense of isolation this communication ban creates. But thankfully, al-Jazeera and BBC Arabic have been covering Egypt non-stop.
Al-Jazeera keeps pointing out how Egyptians were united against the regime regardless of religion. It sounds almost bizarre when they mention this, they are talking about something so far removed from the issue at hand. I’m not even saying Egyptians made a conscious decision to say “let’s set our religious differences aside for the moment”. No, it’s just not even an issue. But at the same time I can understand the focus: a) because Western media has relished in propagating this idea that tolerance is all but absent in Muslim countries; and b) we’ve had a few attacks against Christians in the past year that has caused us to doubt ourselves, and doubt the strength of our love for one another as Egyptians.
I’ve been told that several low-ranking police officers have indicated that they will join the protestors if numbers grow large enough. These people are probably one of the most oppressed strata in Egyptian society. I’ve heard this is beginning to happen in Alexandria, and I expect this will happen on a mass scale, but maybe tomorrow or tonight. Once the police realize they are overpowered.
Here we go.
Friday January 28th Evening
Saturday January 29th
Last night thugs and thieves stormed several buildings and looted homes and shops, and generally caused mayhem in several Cairo streets. Everyone knows they aren’t the protesters. These are the convicts let out of jail by the police to wreak havoc. These are the thugs hired by the NDP, the same ones hired to bully voters during election time.
There were some thugs near the area where I live. Thankfully, I live in an area populated by a lot of young men, and I’ve never thought of that as something I should be thankful for, but today I am. I see them leaving their buildings in groups, each one armed with a bat or whatever they could use as a weapon, to guard the entrances to our street.
I’m standing out my window looking at my Uncle drinking tea with the doormen from the area and chatting casually about what’s going on. The doormen are all armed with bats, and everyone is talking politics. I’m so proud of them, standing there with their bats and knives, ready to pounce on anyone who tries to come near. Far from the passive apathetic population we are so often claimed to be. I just wish I could reach my friends and make sure they’re all ok. May Allah protect us all.
Somebody just passed by our building, yelling for everyone in the street to come out to the windows or balconies. He said that the Minister of interior Habib al-Adly has opened all the prisons and that criminals are now running loose. He cited the religious imperative for every man to defend his family and property against these thugs that have already tried to enter our area several times, and were only stopped by young men guarding the streets, but now they need more numbers to be able to overpower them. Apparently this guy walked through every street in Nozha (the area I live) calling for the youth to come down to the streets. Thanks to this guy and his powerful vocal chords, many more people joined.
A few minutes later an announcement was made from the mosque’s loudspeaker somewhere in the area that said the following:
“Dear residents of Nozha, we have received word that thugs are approaching the area and will try to enter it. Please take what measures you can to protect yourself and stay safe. May Allah protect us all.”
Needless to say, I’m nervous and worried. Everyone is dressed and ready to go at any minute just in case something happens. What makes me the most nervous is my parents. My mother is paralyzed on her right side and she’s a pretty slow mover, she wouldn’t be able to run if necessary. I can’t bear to see any of my parents hurting in anyway, it drives me absolutely mad. I hope if anything happens, I am able to protect them. This is the first time in my life I’ve wished that I were a guy, so I’d have more physical strength to protect my parents if necessary.
I am still praying the same prayer I’ve been praying since Tuesday: May Allah protect our people and give them the strength to persevere until our demands are met and Mubarak is gone.
I just called two of my friends and they both told the exact same story. Thugs passed by through their street shouting “Come down with all your valuables, or else we’ll come up to your apartments and break in”. In both cases the thugs were dispersed because a someone owned a gun and fired a few shots in the air, upon which the thugs left. In my street every once in a while people would start yelling “the thugs have arrived, everyone get read”, but then nothing would happen. It’s very calm at the moment. I hope it’s not the calm before the storm. My friend was just telling me “there isn’t a single street that they haven’t passed in, so sooner or later they’ll show up on yours.”
I’m hearing a constant stream of gunshots. I’m not sure where it’s coming from. It feels like a war zone. Everything was calm and then suddenly gunshots and people yelling for all men to come down. My father and several other men had gone back to their houses to make the final prayer, he’d barely finished when all the chaos started. He grabbed his bat and ran down. He ran to the left, where the noise was coming from, and then people called him back “No! No, there are lots of people there, we need people on this side” so he went to the right. I can’t see him anymore. I can still hear gunshots but they’re coming from a distance. I’m not sure if that means the thugs came and retreated and are in another area.
The past hour has been pretty calm. I still haven’t seen my father since 8 but I’m sure he’s just standing off to the side somewhere. I really wish he’d just walk past our building, just so I could see for myself that he’s ok. I’m very impressed with my mother’s reaction, she hasn’t been rattled at all. She’s always been emotionally very strong masha’Allah, and today is no exception. This became especially clear when I talked to some of my friends and I could hear their mothers and sisters sobbing in the background. The past hour was spent basically calling everybody we could think of to make sure they’re ok. We’ve called all my aunts and uncles, our cleaning lady, my cousins and friends.
Everyone has said that the thugs came to their street. In some cases the thugs were chased away immediately by residents, and with others the thugs lingered on the street yelling for people to come down but eventually they’d leave. it’s so strange how people all over Cairo are repeating the exact same story. It’s so obvious that this is a well-planned strategy.
I just got off the phone with a friend, the thugs are right underneath her building calling for everyone to come down with their valuables. She’s terrified they’re going to come up and try to break into the apartment. I have a sudden desire to call my brother in Canada and let him know what’s going on. Unfortunately, he just changed his number and sent us his new number in an email two days ago, but because we were so caught up with the protests none of us wrote it down, and now there’s no internet.
My father came back around an hour and a half ago, thank God. Things have been pretty calm since. Except for 5 minutes ago when there were more gunshots, a lot of yelling and running around, my father ran down again but when things calmed down he came back up. The neigbourhood youth have completely blocked off our street creating barricades from rocks or using their own cars. It just hit me that we’re going to be at this all night. I’ve called people all over the city and it’s literally the exact same story. I’ve called maybe around 20 people in the last couple of hours, and everyone is going through the same thing. And one thing stands out really clearly: Egyptian youth are stepping up to the plate in a major way. They’ve not only been guarding their own neigbourhoods, but they’ve also been monitoring calls to the local news from people who need help so that they can rush over to areas that are under attack, and they’ve been taking shifts to guard hospitals and banks that have called into TV shows begging for help. May Allah protect them all. People are shouting now Allahu Akbar (God is Great). I’m not sure what victory we’ve just made. Apparently a car full of thugs and stolen goods was trying to come into our street, they were stopped by the locals and caught and delivered to the army.
Things have been calm since they caught that car full of thugs. We still occasionally hear gunfire in the distance, but the youth patrol don’t seem too worried and their presence right underneath my building makes me feel safe. My father came up a while ago, they sent all the “old people” up and told them to take on the day shift while the young ones would take on the night shift.
January 30th 10am
I woke up a few hours ago and immediately started calling everyone I know to make sure they passed the night safely. It really is amazing the way everyone is repeating the same story. I realize I keep saying that, but it’s just so bizarre. Thank God everyone’s safe even though some came a bit closer to the thugs than others. An Egyptian American friend of mine told me she was considering travelling to the States and asked me if I was considering traveling to Canada. I told her over my dead body. I have never been more attached to Egypt than I am at this very moment. I am so proud and I am so honoured to be a part of this, even if we have to endure a period of insecurity, hopefully it’s only transitional. Several people have reported that the thugs they’ve caught were holding police and interior security IDs. The theory that most people believe is that the jails were set open and these thugs were set loose as part of a strategy to strike terror into the people. All day fighter jets and helicopters have been flying all over Cairo, not clear whether that’s a show of force from the government to scare the protesters or whether they actually plan on attacking the protesters. But the jets have been flying incredibly low, and they are so loud they cause panic every time they pass by.
Maghreb just called and everyone, including the protesters, are praying. The Al-Jazeera Cairo bureau has been shut down by the government but the English channel has managed to continue coverage through their correspondents, and they managed to find another apartment to set up their live camera. So at least we’re still seeing live pictures. Fighter jets and helicopters are still passing every now and then. I’m really worried about the protesters tonight. There’s a general sense that the government is planning a climactic end to this saga, and that end might possibly involve the use of force against the protestors. I have so many friends there, I pray they’re ok.
A couple of friends in Tahrir square have spoken with the soldiers and they’ve been told they’ve had orders to shoot the protesters since yesterday but they’ve refused, but that today the orders have been stronger. Other soldiers have denied this. I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound logical. If they had orders to shoot yesterday and they refused to obey, that would have caused a military coup, it would not have passed by lightly. But I do expect they will get similar orders tonight. My hope, and my belief, is that they will not shoot. But you never know. At this point the only thing we can do is wait and see.
Just a thought: I can’t count the number of times I’ve complained about all the noise caused by all the young men living on my street when they talk and laugh loudly and play soccer until dawn. Never again.
It’s getting dark. That’s when the army will take action if it plans to, and that’s when the thugs start to come out. In short, now is when all the action starts.
So I finally got the scoop on what happened last night when that car full of thugs was caught by the youth on my street. Apparently the car entered the street right behind mine, and refused to stop at the checkpoint the youth had created. It broke it down and was driving away at full speed, but thankfully one of the neighbourhood watch people is a police officer so he has a gun. He shot at the tires and stopped the car. Immediately they rushed to apprehend the three men inside, and it’s good that they did so quickly because they found guns which I’m sure they would have used had they been given the time to reach for them. They also found a lot of money and stolen goods. They turned the men and the car in to the military tank nearby. So far it’s been very calm. The people are still out on the street for another all-nighter. Just now there was a bit of skirmish at the end of the street, and around half the guys ran towards that end, and I could hear gunfire and people screaming. They came back a while later and were talking about what happened. I couldn’t make out all of what they said, but heard the words “escaped from prison” and “weapons”.
Mood right now: weary. Starting to lose hope. It’s beginning to feel like groundhog day. I was so hopefully yesterday, and now I’m starting to feel that they might win this battle. I mean, how long can this go on? What if things get worse crime-wise. The protesters will have to go to their homes to protect their own families. What if water gets cut off, which has already happened in Alexandria? What about when people start running out of food? What about when people run out of money? The banks are all closed and the ATMs aren’t working. I’m trying to looking into the future and all I can see is that if the government stalls for a few more days the protestors will have to give in. But the protestors themselves see it differently, and the opposition figures are already talking about a post-Mubarak Egypt. According to them, Mubarak can’t afford to continue this for a few more days because of the immense losses to Egypt’s economy and political pressure. I hope they’re right.