By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy
“No [political] parties, no Muslim Brotherhood! The Egyptian people are in the square! La ahzab, la Ikhwan! Al-Sha’b al-Misri fi al-Maydan!”
“The blood of the martyrs won’t be wasted,” the crowds chanted.
And variations on chants from the 18 days: “Mish hanemshi elmagless yemshi,” “We’re not leaving, the council is leaving” and “Down with the military rule!”
Considering the surprising lack of American press coverage of the ongoing events in Egypt, I will bring you up to speed here. Days are dense with evolution as Egypt flies through to the next era with the Middle East and the world following in the pull of its momentum.
It was dawn before I returned home from a Tahrir Square still full of men and women and children at 4:30 a.m. enjoying the phenomenon of the people’s revolution territory (and free Wi-Fi). As we passed among the tents and food sellers and stages with revolutionary singers and speakers still going strong, my friends insisted on sitting at a cafe just outside the barrier for a coffee and dialogue. We all checked our Twitter accounts on our BlackBerries and confirmed that Tuesday’s programmed million-person peaceful unified protest and sit-in was another positive achievement.
I admit that I have become a nocturnal participant because I am just not sturdy enough to stand the 105-degree temperature of the day shift at Liberation Square, but there is a crowd 24 hours, people from all ages and social and economic backgrounds. Men and women and children, grandmothers and people in religious garb and girls with free hair and wearing jeans.
Fliers read: “Real cleansing. Real government. Real trials.”
The sit-in tents create a phantasmagorical landscape. People rest there in the daytime, out of the heat.
The Muslim Brotherhood is there during the daytime hours with its banner: It only calls for justice. Some of its members stay on at night, unofficially.
The martyrs’ families were there, speaking to the protesters about the agony they have been living during the last five months.
There are political parties and groups distributing surveys, applications and fliers.
Ramy Essam, the revolution’s foremost singer and chant leader, sings on “the liberal stage.”
Lots of speeches, but no one is imposing a cause, though on one stage “The Islamist” famous constitutional jurist Tharwat Badawy was saying the United States and Israel are the main enemies of the revolution. There are five stages at this time in Tahrir Square: Liberal, Islamist, Wafd party, Nasserist party(!?), and a “whatever” stage.
Of course this is the land of rumor, so it may or may not be true that some Muslim Brotherhood members and Youth Revolution coalition members were forced to leave the stage at some point.
Several potential presidential candidates (not Mohamed ElBaradei, though he said he’d speak on CNN) have shown up. There are so many now, including a woman, Bothina Kamel, it’s exponential. Presidential candidate Amr Moussa attended the Friday prayer at Omar Makram Mosque and stayed for a short while at Tahrir Square.
Once again, the natural cooperative organization of the civilian security checkpoints is effective, polite and friendly, as all submit without problem to frisking, bag examination and ID check by groups of perfectly coordinated volunteers, dedicated to a peaceful revolution; one line for women and one for men. Thousands of Egyptians have spontaneously organized themselves without conflict to protect the square.
Al Nahar TV channel showed footage of two thugs with knives arrested at a checkpoint at Tahrir Square.
El Mogamma El Tahrir started working again by the order of the revolution. The Mogamma is the main government building, which was closed down by the protesters, blocking the perhaps thousands of people who must go there daily to do official paperwork. The main groups like 6th April Youth and the Revolution Youth coalition were against the shutdown of this important administrative building, but it turned out well, and the protesters welcomed the employees back with a revolutionary reception of pro-revolution chants and the national anthem.
We are attaining more and more of the people’s demands as the kaleidoscopic mosaic of Egyptian reorganization advances with the push of the massive united people’s revolution.
There have been daily speeches from the PM and military government with many concessions and promises, fulfilling many of the demands, but the people will hold until all are met. Some sideskipping and vagueness are still fog to be cleared by this crowd’s relentless sun. The people are still there. There was a huge peaceful protest in front of the Cabinet. We are not done yet. This is what our peaceful persistence has accomplished so far this week:
• Mansour Eissawy announced the biggest reshuffle in the history of the Ministry of the Interior. It will include 4,000 police officers across the country. Also, the ministry ended the service of 505 major generals and 82 brigadier generals and 82 colonels (though they will get pensions.) Eighteen major generals and nine colonels involved in the killing of protesters are included in the reshuffle.
• There seems to be some serious splitting of cohesion in Egypt’s “transitional” government, between the ministers and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as various officials contradict each other on television, apparently unaware of the promises, concessions, denials and refusals made by the others.
• Vice Prime Minister Dr. Yahia El Gamal has resigned and his resignation was accepted.
• The Supreme Judiciary Council issued a historical decision: In coordination with the head of the appeal court, there will be a court assigned to trials stemming from the shooting of protesters, and to corruption trials including Hosni Mubarak’s, regardless of the judicial summer vacation. The trials will be shown on screens set up outside the courts.
• Former Minister of Agriculture Youssef Wali was arrested and detained for 15 days pending investigation.
• The PM ordered the immediate release of a martyr’s brother who was arrested after attacking a police officer who kicked his mother during the June 27th protest.
• Mubarak crony Hussein Salem, who fled with hundreds of billions in currency, is being held in Spain, which was refusing to extradite him. He currently is accused in three cases: exporting gas to Israel illegally, bribing Mubarak, and illegal arms deals. Now there is a dispatch saying the Spanish Cabinet decided in its weekly meeting to hand over Hussein Salem to the Egyptian authorities. Egypt gave Spain the following guarantees, according to Al Masry Al Youm: Hussein Salem will get a just trial; representatives of Spanish judicial authority will attend the trial of Hussein Salem in Egypt; Hussein Salem will not get a death sentence. Hussein Salem is still in Gregoria Maranon hospital in Madrid and allegedly he has not pay the bill yet. So someone must pay it—“27 million euros”! Sounds like a ransom. Well, well.
The people of Suez have a reputation for being fiercely nationalistic, loyal and reactive, brave and combative—they will not take injustice lying down. There was a huge outcry after a number of policemen being tried for killing peaceful protesters were released on LE 10,000 bail in Suez earlier this week.
“How could the officers accused of killing martyrs be released on bail for LE 10,000?” 41-year-old Azza Mansour from Ismailia said. “The martyrs who died are not chickens, they are humans.” As stories emerged about families of the Suez martyred victims of the revolution being pressured and paid to drop charges, hundreds of protesters in Suez joined by the families of martyrs cut off the highway, and the workers of the Suez Canal Authority-affiliated companies who are currently on strike gave a warning to SCAF that if their demands are not met “concerning the rights of the martyrs,” there would be civil disobedience in the city. There was some small violence, and the military forced the blockade to disband. Suez is not satisfied.
For the fourth time since the revolution some unknown group in Al Arish blew up the gas pipeline. This time it was at Sheikh Zowaid, and masked men were the perpetrators. No one has claimed responsibility. Another group of masked men blew up the gas pipeline last week at Beir El Abd and stopped the gas exports to Jordan.
Now, after this new explosion, the gas exports to Israel and Jordan will be stopped indefinitely, according to GASCO. Of course this shutoff may or may not occur, but our Egyptian youth would welcome the action. With all respect to Jordan and Israel, there are millions of Egyptians who need gas in their homes. The masked men who set off the blast became five-minute revolutionary heroes before other news took the spotlight. We read now that Israel is thinking of using other sources of gas.
More and different news will come tomorrow. As we say now, wait and watch carefully ... don’t blink.
Egypt’s successes come in laying aside differences and power struggles. Obviously outside powers will try to destabilize the movement to be able to control it when its concerns do not benefit their own agendas. Egypt knows this and is wary, but unsure of where the next menace will come from besides the usual suspects. But the people realize now that the reason we did not achieve our goals in the last five months was our loss of unity, which we foolishly continued to widen with useless dialogues.
These are not cynical, jaded, corrupt power players (except the deposed National Democratic Party, which allowed no opposition for 30 years). All the new political powers may be green, but they truly love Egypt and want the best for the country according to their ideologies. It is natural that they each seek to rule in one way or another. But this power race must wait—the old regime is still lurking to reconquer, outside influences poised to possess. The new Egypt must first be born and survive.
AP / Amr Nabil
Egyptians—seen from above through camera lens distortion—wave a giant national flag in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on July 8.