February 6, 2011
Things are starting to reopen in Cairo today. Supplies like phone cards are in full supply again. The banks were open for 3 hours today, from 10:00 until 1:00, and the lines were out the door. Some businesses have started to remove the graffiti, while Giza governance just sprayed black sprain paint over their defaced welcome sign. It would be difficult to say that normalcy is starting to return, when the protesters have done a good job at making sure their message is hard to miss visually. They are also preventing the bureaucratic monolith, the Muga’ma, from reopening. With the press and government officials repeatedly bemoaning the loss of income from the over one million tourists that left Egypt in one week, it is important to mention that visas are among one of the many things that is processed there. A major card in the protesters hands as the government starts making concessions.
As I walked through Doqqi, I saw two Central Security patty wagons drive by, on two separate roads. If they are returning, they are doing it slowly to avoid causing a stir. The military is still the main, official security, along with the police that have started to reappear on the streets. Because of this, the neighborhood checkpoints have started to disband in my neighborhood.
Today was “The Day of the Martyrs” and despite things reopening there were long lines to enter Tahrir. The military has now started wearing riot helmets as they run checks in front of the square. I took two trips to the entrance, and saw more people coming the later the day got. Despite businesses reopening, it appears that it just changes the time at which people gather—today most likely based on the banking hours. The line as I left around 2:00 pm went back onto the median of the Qasr el-Nil Bridge. Around them were tables where people where selling drinks, flags, phone cards, and cigarettes, the latter two, goods that were among the hard to find items for the last week and a half. Last week I could only find phone cards when I was actually in the square and saw a teenager selling them from a tray he was carrying. The people in line were a diverse group and were continuing to bring needed supplies into the square.
There was no apparent counter protest, but there was a line of people opposite the line of people trying to enter who had video phones and were filming the people in line. Perhaps they just didn’t want to enter, but I suspect they were secret police. I don’t have evidence of this and I didn’t want to go up and ask, with journalists continuing to be kidnapped. There is a sound bite circulating on al-Jazeera of an activist saying, “If we go home now, they will hunt us one by one.” Sadly, she is correct. If they are continuing to detain journalists, there is no reason they won’t go after every single person in Tahrir, with absolute impunity.
As businesses reopen, this is a time of a change in tactics by the protesters to get people to continue to go to the square. They have already called for a Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday mass rally this week. I also expect that you will see people taking shifts there, as businesses reopen. The government is betting that they can out last the will to hold the square, but I see little evidence of this. We will have to wait and see.
February 7, 2011
The last thing I saw before I went to bed last night was protesters lying in front of tanks and sitting on the treads to keep them from entering the square. While the military, may have vowed not to fire on protesters, this seems like a step towards allowing thugs—I doubt Central Security could enter without risking another defeat and adding extra favor to the protesters—to start terrorizing those inside easier than they already have. It was wise not to allow the military to take the barriers down over the weekend like they had tried to do. It looks like Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi is a little upset his request for people to go home was ignored. This morning the protesters made a human chain to keep the Muga’ma from reopening, despite the military trying to intervene.
Robert Fisk talks about Frank Wisner’s connections to Mubarak:
The Arabist has a little tidbit on the suspicion of the Military as it continues its role as peacekeepers: