May 21, 2013
Dispatches From Cairo: Return of the Revolution
Posted on Nov 22, 2011
Another, a grown man, Mohamad, told us it was his privilege to be a martyr, that he intended to die for the Egyptian people and it was for the educated ones to build the country.
Tahrir’s main holding station for fatalities said it had run out of coffins.
On Thursday, before all this began, the following was circulating on Facebook and on Twitter (via a hyperlink):
A boy who seemed about 15 was telling me his 18-year-old brother Mahmoud had been shot dead this week, hit in the chest and neck. He showed me the metal shells in his hand. He had blood all over him. He spoke with pride for his brother, but tears formed in his eyes and he had to wipe them. For the two brothers it had been their first time at a demonstration. The boy excitedly said that he hoped he too could be a martyr, but that now that would be hard for his mother and smaller siblings. Even so, if Allah willed it he would be happy.
I asked, “You are fighting for Egypt? You want to die for Egypt?” remembering how less than a year ago a common sentiment was hating Egypt and wanting to leave. “Yes,” he said fiercely. “I will die for freedom for my country.”
I wonder how much he understands outside the terrible violence of the police, how much he comprehends besides slogans like “The people want the fall of the military government!” He doesn’t know about the elections. He does know the SCAF leaders want to stay and we want them out and they are imprisoning and killing us.
Though the assistant director of military police claims his officers didn’t give the orders to evacuate Tahrir Square and that those who acted violently against the demonstrators did so on their own, it does not matter even if it is true. He tried to explain to the people that the police acting in the square answered to the minister of the interior, but the people don’t care.
At one point tear gas was fired by the security forces into a makeshift field hospital off the central plaza, forcing volunteer doctors and wounded protesters to flee. Nearby mosques and churches opened their doors to the injured. The medical personnel are trying to keep count of the wounded. The police have been aiming at face level instead of shooting low, and there have been a large number of head and facial injuries and fatalities.
One placard reads, “Execute Tantawi, killer of youth, leader of counter revolution.” An effigy of commander-in-chief Mohamed Tantawi hangs from the same Tahrir lamppost that held a Mubarak effigy in January. The enemy is clear. As one protester said, “We want the military council to leave immediately, so we can continue our revolution, and have a civilian government that comes from here, the people’s Tahrir.”
Many liberal and leftist parties have demanded a delay in the elections and have canceled their campaigns. The Islamic parties have suspended electoral activities, if not yet canceling their campaigns.
Any self-declared civilian authority would have to have the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose stable and established Freedom and Justice Party’s experienced and well-organized strategy is thought likely to prevail in the elections. Also, the El Nour (“the light”) party, a Salafi organization that covers the nudity of Greek statues and rejected the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance over the inclusion of secular members, is showing a growing following.
The Salafis have taken over a big part of the roundabout and in an unusual turn of events are actually using wood to build a temporary hospital there.
It is 1 a.m. Monday. Tahrir Square is full, proud and confident ... but the streets of Cairo were otherwise very empty tonight. The people are either at Tahrir or inside their homes.
As usual, in every automobile Egypt state radio was telling people that foreigners were behind the events, but only the most hopelessly gullible believed that. Inshalla, we will not have the usual spy-hunt period of propaganda during “disturbances.”
In fact, since the Maspero disaster there has been a subtle change in the tone of national media, whose propaganda against the revolution had dirtied them beyond forgiveness in the eyes of many. Things are slightly different now that a Nile News reporting team has been shot at in Tahrir Square by the police of the Central Security Forces.
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