Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January 31, 2011

The nights here have become a time of anxiety, listening to Al-Jazeera. Reports that police are returning filled me with fear that there would be violence today. This was not the case. Some police have returned, but it is the common people directing traffic. No Central Security personnel have returned as Al-Jazeera is reporting. I doubt that those men could even leave their trucks before being surrounded at this point. As I entered Tahrir Square I witnessed peaceful celebration and focused demonstration in the street. There are more families out today than yesterday and more people in general. There were also more women leading rallies. The sheikhs from Al-Azhar were also there again today. Egyptians from every sector of society are represented. While the TV reports are nerve racking, when I go out during the day I see nothing but peaceful protests; jubilation of collective will that has been demonstrated.

The people here have been maintaining order. Average people are sweeping the streets. I witnessed one man picked up a juice box he saw thrown in the street. The burnt out shells of police pickup trucks have been put to good use as dumpsters for the trash swept from the street. Shop owners have been rationing bread to make sure it gets distributed. It is a stark difference to the reports of looting that the state owned media loops. Case in point, today an individual fired blanks in the air near Tahrir Square, with the army fired warning shots in the air, but other protesters stopped him before problems could escalate. Afterwards the crowd started shouting, “The army and the people are one hand.”

The people however are still unsure of what use the military might be ordered to do. A man on the street was telling reporters that the high officers may be with the government, but “the soldiers are the people and the people are the soldiers.” A message meaning that the people are suspicious of the high command and the possibility of a power grab but the ordinary soldiers on the street are seen as brothers. People, again, today would throw their hands in the air and yell “Leave!” every time the helicopter flew overhead, but there were no jets today.

There have also been signs out today against “U.S. Hypocrisy” but not threats against the the American people, as western media seems to have been saying, from the very limited access I have had. Egyptians want this to be about Egypt and its future, not outside states. This was demonstrated when a few people attempted to hold an Israeli flag with slogans written on it. Fellow protesters tried to take it away the crowed in front of them gave hand signs signaling not to hold it up. The unifying message is about one cause and that is “the fall of Mubarak.” When I asked people what they want after Mubarak they talked about free elections, democracy, higher wages, and cheaper food. Here is what I have heard from people I talked to. I have attempted to keep the statement as close to what they said when looking over my short hand:

“We want Mubarak to leave. Obama and Hilary Clinton should not pick a side but remain neutral and stay out of our affairs. I love the American people but not the American government” (Egyptian youth with relatives in the US).

“I want freedom, justice, and cooperation of the people. 80% of people are under the poverty line. I am an Engineer but make 1500 L.E. a month. $200 a month! I have been an Engineer for 20 years. I want free elections in the Magles Al-Sha’ab (Peoples’ Assembly) and a change of the Constitution. Change to article 76 to permit free elections” (Engineer in Tahrir Square).

“We suffer from rising prices, no democracy, and many thieves in Authority. Any one in the government media says things are good, but the poor suffer from rising prices. We want protection of main foods like rice, loafs [of bread], sugar, oil, and salt…[some joking from nearby people about other foods like macorona]… Koshery costs 5 L.E. How Come? It costs 30 L.E. to eat with my family. Salaries are low. There is no chance for employment. Businessmen take all the resources, not the men in the factories. We are against this corruption.” This man had his one hand in a cast and told me about the skirmish where it was hurt. “We lost four youths, victims, on Rehan street, near the Ministry of the Interior. They are dead! We lost people and resources in the markets and the malls. [If] I saw that my country doesn’t want me I would leave. We don’t want a loss of resources like buildings [he points to the burnt out NDP Headquarters]. Why did security forces withdraw? Prisoners have escaped, leaving old people afraid at night.

The former U.S. Ambassador was asked why the bombs [tear gas] which were made in the U.S. were sold to Mubarak and he said we sell them to anyone. Why? Why do they sell these to any government who wants to use them on the people?”

Why did they cut the communications? They thought the people wouldn’t be able to communicate, they could; to other cities: Suez, Alexandria.

The security used the big weapons and dealt with us with big force. The revolution must be continued! I don’t want cantaloupe, I just want main foods.” (English Teacher)

While getting the previous statement a man chimed in saying, “Children in schools have a low level of education,” a grievan.ce I have heard voiced in the media the past couple of days

There were also pamphlets handed out today calling for a general strike, as people were shouting about having a million people in the square tomorrow. The pamphlets said “Invitation for a general strike in all corners of Egypt.” It went on to call for “a guarantee of a free life, a stop to privatization and wages tied to prices, and rights of independent syndicated organizations.” As I left ,the crowd was getting dense. There were people bringing in boxes of food, sacks of fruit, and piles of blankets. The military searched the bundles, but not confiscating anything. They are in no way enforcing a curfew.

As I was sitting in a cafĂ© near Tahrir Square, with a man and two youths I met on the square as the announcement of the new cabinet was broadcasted. Everyone just talked about how it is the same people as before, but just reshuffled. I’m sure it won’t prevent a million people from showing tomorrow.


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