I just came back from the demonstrations…No, that’s a lie.
I’ve been back almost an hour and a half now, and it took me this long to get myself together, shake myself out of the shock I am feeling, and actually sit down and write this. Here is what happened.
Around 5:15 pm today I was in Talaat Harb square with my friend M. when I called Hosam and asked him his whereabouts. He informed me that he is at 7amadah cafe next to the AUC. So I went there with M. and sat with him, while waiting for the people to gather up. On the road over we counted about 40 state security cars and we saw the deployment of SS troops everywhere. We joked about what awaits us during this demonstration and how if we get beat up we will just start beating up Hosam and pretend to be part of the plainclothes SS thugs, and how it’s not a good sign that Rice is meeting up with Mubarak today and how the US doesn’t give a damn anymore what happens to us. Slowly more people came and joined us, including M’s friend H., Bassem and gemyhood (Mohamed Gamal) and his girlfriend R. Bassem and Hosam started arguing back and forth over which strategy to use: Bassem in favor of small group infiltration, while Hosam for big group formation. I couldn’t care less either way. I just wanted to move. And we finally did.
We got out on Tahrir square and were trying to figure out which is the best strategy to get to the square itself, which was surrounded by SS soldiers. While walking you couldn’t help noticing the ridiculous amount of plain clothed SS agents just standing around and holding walkie-talkies. Whenever someone would stop they would tell them they couldn’t stand where they were standing and that they had to move along. While walking with the group, I got a phone call from Alia, who was one street behind us with two more friends, one of them is Salma. I met up with them and we started to walk together towards the bigger group which was now surrounded with police officers and plain clothed thugs. When we tried to cross the street towards them the police wouldn’t let us, and then they did allow us to cross the street but not get on the other side of the pavement, forcing us to go back and cross the street again. I was holding M’s hand from one side and Alia’s from the other, when I heard Salma say: “Fuck this” and started running across the street towards the square with the other girl, who pulled Alia with her. Alia tried to pull me with them but M. held my hand and said “Don’t you leave us!” so I had to let them go. And right before they reached the square they were tackled by the police who swarmed on them from every direction. Some of the guys from the bigger group went directly to their rescue and pandamonium broke out for about 2 minutes, all the whole the police officers were pushing us to move forward. I could see the girls back in the bigger group, but the bigger group wasn’t moving because it was trapped. And then I saw someone break free and run, and recognized him as Jimmyhood, and also saw 5 plain clothed police thugs run after him and hold him and started to pull him towards the Paddy wagon. One of his friends tried to come to his rescue and was grabbed as well and thrown in the same car with him, and then the car started moving taking them to an unknown destination. That break, however, allowed the other demonstrators to break free and start walking towards Talaat Harb square, while chanting Anti-Mubarak slogans. As people were walking, you could see the police walking behind them, as well as you can see the police lining up on the sidewalk in order to entrap them.
picture by Amr Abdallah
When some of the protesters saw this, they went all hyper and tried to storm the line hoping to break it, only to fail. The Police started encircling them, so I grabbed M, H, and R.- who was pretty shook up after seeing Jimmy getting arrested- and we crossed the street to the other side, and a group of 10 people followed our lead. The rest tried to go to the rescue of those who were held in the police net.
In a matter of seconds, I started seeing the police who were following the demonstrations start to encircle the protesters. They then started to push the protesters together and beat them. On top of the sound of the battle, you could hear distinct female screams. Really loud ones. Overpowering all others. The average Egyptian walking on the street just stood there, some of them took their cellphones out and started using their camera phones to videotape what’s going on while joking about it. I really hated them at that moment. I was yelling the police to let us through, that there were women getting assaulted, and they just looked at me as if I was speaking kantonese. They wouldn’t even lift an eyebrow, as if they were not hearing the same screams we were hearing. And then the Police started targeting us again and tried to push us away again, while we stood our ground and tried to see what was happening with the people on the other side. We could see the police taking people one by one and throwing them into the big Paddywagon, while a group of them SS soldiers started walking towards us, identifying us as their next target. They all formed a line, entwining their arms together and stood behind us for one second, then started pushing us. R. started yelling at them and screaming at them, while H. was tryingt o calm her down and push her away. I decided that the best course of action would be not to allow the police to actually touch the girls, so I stood between them and the girls, and using my body and my arms as a barrier to the constant shoving of the SS line, while urging the girls to move because I wouldn’t want them to even get touched by any of those pieces of scum. The girls moved, although each took a very different way of doing so: R. continued to yell at the police, while H. grabbed her and M. pulled on them both, and Alia was trying to reason with the officers behind us. So you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly making the SS officers happy, so they started pushing the soldiers behind us in order to push us further away from the square. When we finally reached the other side we saw the big Police Paddy wagon leave and move. I looked around me and noticed that besides the 10 people who joined me on the other side, I was surrounded by foreigners. But all the egyptians were gone. The Police, apparently, started selecting the Egyptians from the big mob and threw them and only them into the paddy wagon. Anyone who looked foreign they let go. This meant that Bassem and Hosam, alongside of Malek and Salma a group of other demonstrators were all arrested. This also meant that I had to make some very unpleasant phonecalls, which I started doing. I called Elijah, Hosam’s fiance, Alaa, Gharbeia. Everybody. And then I started paying attention to what’s going on around me.
Malek getting arrested. Picture by Nasser Nouri
Surrounding me was a group of about 30 people, comprised of journalists, activists and tag-longs and we didn’t know what to do next. Some people suggested we head towards the Tahrir square to see if anyone else was there. Others suggested starting a sit-in in the middle of the street. Me and Alia suggested we head towards the Press syndicate, where another demonstration was taking place. Everyone agreed on going to the Press syndicate, despite Alaa’s warning to me on the phone that getting inside the syndicate will be almost impossible. We decided to give it a try anyway because, well, what else are we going to do?
By the time we arrived at the press syndicate, a number of phone calls came through with information on what’s going on: 1) Hosam and Bassem didn’t get arrested, both had managed to run away in time, with Hosam heading home and Bassem staying in downtown, 2) Ahmed Droubi got arrested with bthe demonstrators, which was strange because I didn’t see him there at all and 3) The police had decided to release the girls, So Salma and Bassem and this other girl I don’t know jumped in a taxi and started following the Police truck holding all the demonstrators, and they managed to follow them all the way to the Mukhabarat (Egyptian Intelligence agency) prison in the Madba7 neighbourhood, which didn’t spell good news to them. Anyway..
When we arrived at the syndicate, there was about 200 protesters standing on the stairs and chanting, while approx. 800 SS soldiers surrounded them. We managed to get through and join them and met up with other people that we thought got arrested but apparently managed to escape as well. Alia Then came to me and told me to come and help her get Sharqawi in here. It seems that he couldn’t go through on his own or was afraid of getting arrested if he did. Anyway, me and Alia got out of the protest and headed towards the Judges club where he told us he was waiting for us, but he wasn’t there. We tried calling his cell phone but it didn’t pick up. A minute later we saw a figure leave the area that the police was gathered in and walk towards us. It was Sharqawi and he seemed really disturbed. He urged us to move faster and to get him inside the syndicate as fast as possible, so we hussled and we got him in. Once we were in me and Alia noticed that he wasn’t acting like his usual self. He was, for the lack of a better word, sullen. He then teared a bit and then composed himself. He wouldn’t respond to any of our inquiries about what was wrong with him. He just kept silent and sullen the whole time.
While standing there, I started noticing that the number of SS soldiers started increasing, which wasn’t a good sign, and that many of the foreign journalists, now satisfied with the story they had, started leaving the area, which also wasn’t a good sign and then we noticed that the police wasn;t letting their Egyptian companions through, which definitely wasn’t a good sign. I have seen this before. We were being trapped here.
I yelled at the girls to get up, that it was time to go and get out of here, since they started not letting people go. I asked Alia and a group of other people if they wanted to try and leave with us, but they said they were staying, which meant it was me and the 3 girls again. I found a an american journalist friend of mine, Paul (thanks by the way), who was heading out anyway and asked him if we could tag along. I grabbed M, H and R and headed after him. They passed him, but wouldn’t let us go. They told us only the press was allowed out and since we weren’t press, we weren’t allowed to leave. We tried to reason with them, asking them at least to let the girls go, since they will need to be home soon anyway. The soldiers wouldn’t budge. Paul then managed to get a senior SS officer and asked him to come and help us get out. The Officer asked for my hand to get me out and I told him that I wouldn;t leave without the girls and that he has to let them out first. So he orderd the troops to let the girls pass and then let me pass. And we were finally out.
We then took a cab and headed to M’s car, which we took to drive R. home while promising her that if we hear anything about Jimmy we would let her know. The poor girl just had her face platserd on TV cameras and digital pictures, was in a demonstration without telling her parents, which means if they find out they will crucify her, and yet the only thing she was worried about was Jimmy. Whether he was ok, whether he would get tortured, whether they would release him soon or keep him for a while. I honestly felt really bad for her.
On the way back to downtown I started receiving another set of phonecalls, which gave me some really disturbing news: The police was still surrounding the Press syndicate, and since the foriegn press was almost gone, they weren’t letting people out at all (Alia managed to get out by a miracle). Also, we found out that the police had attacked the Ghad Party offices, which is right on top of the greek club and staretd beating people up. The whole thing seemd insane. And it wasn;t until we got home that we found out the entire story: There was two women demonstrators who , escaping arrest and beatings, ran into the building and tried to hide inside the greek club. The Police follwoed them both up there and dragged them out. The Ghad Party people tried to intervene so the police started beating them up as well. They then took the two women and started assaulting them (some reports claim sexually) inside the Ghad Party. The loud sound of female screams I mentioned earlier? That was them. The people inside of the greek club were not allowed to leave it or leave the building, and the Police crowded the enterance of the buidling to stop anybody from going in or out. The people inside the greek club had to endure hearing the sound of the police beating up innocent people, the shrieks and screams of the men and women that the police assaulted, with no recourse or escape. And as far as I know, this is still happening while I am writing those words. And the worst part? There is nothing any of us could do to help. Who do you go to when it’s your police that’s assaulting, kidnapping and raping? What can you do to stop them, when they are the law? What do you do when you need protection from those who swore to protect you? Where exactly do you go?
Anyway, when I reached home 2 things happend: My phone suddenly died, which has all my numbers. It’s practically my lifeline, and until it gets fixed I am screwed. The second thing was that as soon as I put them sim card into another phone, I got a phone call from sharqawi, who informed me that droubi called him from the police car and gave him some of the names of the people arrested with him. Here they are: Adham el sabty, Omar Mustafa, Ahmed Droubi, Karim El Shaer, Sherif Ragab, Mohamed Abdel Kader, Ahmed Samir, Khaled Mustafa, Mohamed Gamal, Malek Moustafa, Omar el Hady and Medhat Shaker. If you know of anyone else, please add their name to the comment section of this post. Also, check out Hosam’s post for updates!
So, that’s what happend. Now what? How do I end this? Do I tell you how depressed I am at the moment? How this signals the end of the dream of a democratic Egypt? No point there. Anyone who has been following this blog knows that democracy is dying around here. The truth of the matter is, I am really mad, really really fuckin mad, at the egyptian people, whom we risk our lives for. I am mad at them for not caring, for accepting the roles of sheep, for not fighting for their rights and not doing anything while they see what we go through in order to fight for those same rights that they know they need and lack. I am mad at them for just standing there while they could hear the screams of women getting beat up in front of them, and not even voice an objection. I am mad at them for the looks of fear in their eyes while we passed by, as if they are afraid to be tainted by us or something.But, between you and me, none of that is the main reason why I am really hating them right now.
The real reason is simple: Where does the government, the corrupt ministers, the ruthless SS officers and their soldiers come from? Aren’t they egyptians? Don’t they come from egyptian families and households? Aren’t they born and raised here like the rest of us? Well, what does that exactly say about us? Whether we like it or not, the government is a reflection of the people. So if the government is ruthless, corrupt and dictatorial, what does that say about the people? What does it say about the parents of the police officers that order their soldiers to beat up and sexually assault women? What does it say about the families of those corrupt government officials who sign away our future and that of our children for a bunch of dirty money? What does it say about a nation that produces such a government, and accepts it, even as it plunders the country and enslaves its people?
Maybe the government is right: Maybe we don’t deserve Democracy. Maybe we don’t deserve our rights. Maybe we deserve everything that happens to us. We, as people, seem to lack the sense of self-respect and dignity that makes the human being demand his/her right, so how do we expect the government to respect us or give us those rights? We clearly don’t deserve them. We clearly deserve to have our rights stolen, our friends imprisoned, and our women assaulted. Cause, otherwise, how would you explain how accepting we are of those things?
Maybe we don’t deserve any better.
For the first time ever, I will go to sleep feeling utter hatred and disdain for my countrymen, while my heart weeps silently for my country!
I hope that none of you, ever, gets to experience that feeling!