Augenzeugenbericht IV: We have seen Egypt in all its glory and all its despair.
The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. We have seen Egypt in all its glory and all its despair.
Tuesday, January 25th, (Police Day - a national holiday) was the beginning of a revolution. That day, my friends and I for the most part, did not participate in any demonstrations. Wednesday and Thursday were normal working days, although some people continued to demonstrate, and huge demonstrations were planned for Friday. When we saw what happened that day, many of us became determined to participate in the demonstrations on Friday. (The weekend in Egypt is Friday and Saturday). Friday morning we woke up to find that all mobile telephony and Internet had been cut. Many of you probably do not know that since Mubarak came into power 30 years ago, the country has been operating under emergency law which makes any form of assembly illegal. Until last week, most people shied away from any anti-government demonstrations because the consequences were undoubtedly severe punishment by the brutal Egyptian Police Force.
Inspired by the events that took place in Tunis, and the sheer number of people who were moved through Facebook and other social media websites, people were no longer afraid to engage in peaceful demonstrations on Friday. As a girl, I was discouraged by my friends from participating on Friday. The protesters that day were brutally attacked by the Police with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Police used indiscriminate force to try to disperse the crowds, but the masses - who mostly have very little to lose, put up an enormous fight. The stories from that day are incredible. Many of the shops in the streets stayed open and provided water and juice for the protesters who were being attacked. The protesters were determined that it remain a peaceful demonstration. One man with a Dodge Ram took it upon himself to pick up injured protesters in his truck, drive them to safety, and then come back with drinks for the protesters. The army, who is very much loved and respected by the people moved in that evening, and all the Police in Egypt mysteriously disappeared. They were ordered by a higher force to leave so that chaos would ensue, and the people would call out for them to come back.
Friday evening, Mubarak addressed the nation. His speech was a slap in the face. No concessions were made except that he dissolved the Cabinet of Ministers, which was perhaps the only thing he had going for him. He even went so far as to say that he 'made the demonstrations possible' on Friday, and blamed the corruption in the government entirely on his cabinet. His speech added more fuel to the fire.
Saturday, the number of protesters grew as people became more determined to remove him from power. The newly appointed cabinet was a joke, and included many corrupt people from the 'previous' regime. Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman as his first VP. This gave a certain amount of hope as he is generally respected and people would accept him as the leader of a transitional government. The mobile service was restored for phone calls, but no messages or instant messaging and no Internet. That day, it became known that thousands of prisoners were released from prison. Prisons and police stations were emptied of their fire arms by thugs. They began looting Friday night, and continued throughout Saturday. It is believed that many of the looters were actually members of the Police Force who were still MIA. Late Saturday evening, the military moved into the neighborhoods to start providing protection. Also on Saturday, a neighborhood watch began where all the men in the neighborhoods began working in shifts using any weapons they had, ranging from kitchen knives and golf clubs to fire arms, to protect our homes. Luckily, through the protection of the military, and our own brave men who patrolled the streets, safety and order were restored, and I believe the media played a major role in enlarging the magnitude of the threat. Thank God, no one I know was attacked or had their homes broken into.
Saturday-Tuesday were amazing days of hope for our country. In the neighborhoods, in addition to the neighborhood watch, people took it upon themselves to collect trash in the neighborhood, and direct the traffic. Demonstrations took place every single day. The message was clear, Mubarak and his regime should step down. I myself participated in demonstrations on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. People from every walk of life were there, rich, poor, old, young, Christians, Copts, Muslims, men, women, children. The atmosphere in the demonstrations was one of true comraderie. Great emphasis was placed on the peaceful nature of the demonstrations. Civilians volunteered to search all entrants to the demonstrations to ensure no weapons entered. People passed out food and water to the people around them. We all felt our country was truly united. Tuesday, the million man march was planned. The turnout was outstanding. People were hopeful.
It is important to note two things: 1) The demonstrations had no political or religious agenda - The only request was for Mubarak and his regime to step down. 2) No clear head or direction for leadership had emerged which worried many people, including myself, that we simply didn't (and still don't) know what will happen on the other end if and when Mubarak stepped down. We are fearful of chaos and any Islamist movement through the Muslim Brotherhood - long the boogey man used by the Egyptian government to discourage any shift of power.
Tuesday night Mubarak addressed the nation in a speech riddled with emotion. He announced he would not be running in the next elections, and that he never intended to (although just a few months ago he made a speech saying he would 'serve' Egypt until his dying breath). He also said that he would oversee amendments to articles 76 and 77 of the constitution which would 1) Limit the number of terms any President could stay in power, and 2) Change the terms that restrict pretty much anyone for becoming a presidential candidate. There were several holes in his speech. 1) The people overseeing these changes are all part of the old guard and no one trusts them. 2) He provided no guarantees of how the coming elections would be secured freely and fairly. 3) Nothing was mentioned regarding restricting his son from coming back to run for Presidency. 4) How can anyone trust a President who over the past few days allowed the Police to attack its own people in plain view, not to mention over the past 30 years? The same evening, the Opposition Parties formed a coalition and announced they were all in agreement about steps that should be taken, and were willing to engage in a dialogue with the Vice President, but they would only step in once Mubarak left. We were torn last night between relief that he had agreed to step down, and fear that, in fact, no change would take place, and no true concessions had actually been made. We thought that perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.
I woke up this morning feeling hopeful. The Internet service was restored. I started thinking of ways to form groups with my friends to come up with our own agenda of things we could do to serve our country. I felt that we needed to quickly capitalize on the sense of unity that had been achieved in the past few days to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. It was no longer enough to sit idly on the sidelines and wait for things to improve in Egypt. Every single one of us had participated in this movement for change, and we needed to see it through to the end at every level.
Now, it is clear we have been deceived. This morning we went to Tahrir square to see what the word on the street is. People continued to demonstrate peacefully. On our way in, we were searched as usual to make sure that no weapons were coming in. However, aggressive 'pro-Mubarak' supporters began flowing in. Another demonstration with a large number of 'pro-Mubarak' supporters was happening near by, and was resolved to march into Tahrir square and force the demonstrators out. We felt the situation would become dangerous and took a taxi to a friends parents' house. Within half an hour, we saw on TV large crowds of 'pro-Mubarak' supporters storming Tahrir square with sticks and knives to attack the unarmed demonstrators. Men on camel and horseback rode into the square armed with clubs to attack.
We are now convinced that Mubarak and his regime did not intend to change anything. The scenes on TV now are of Molotov cocktails being thrown at the protesters. Tahrir square is turning into a blood bath. One of our friends was caught in the middle of Tahrir. The 'pro-Mubarak' supporters had closed off all exit points to the square. (Thank God he has since been able to escape.) There are reports that many of the 'pro-Mubarak' supporters were paid to attack the demonstrators, and also that many if not all of them are actually from the secret service. These attacks are clearly being perpetuated by Mubarak's regime....