The View From Cairo

Global Integrity
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The first message began like dystopian science fiction: “We have a short time on the net. Therefore I am writing to you to pass our pleas…”

Field reports from Cairo, in the form of messages via our Indaba fieldwork platform to Hazel Feigenblatt, our Media Projects Director, working with the Global Integrity Report team. The most recent news (scroll down) is a few hours old.

These are spellchecked but unedited. The views and facts are those reported in realtime by a Global Integrity author in Cairo, and for obvious reasons are difficult to verify.

On Wednesday…

From: [redacted]
To: Hazel Feigenblatt
Subject: appeal

this is [redacted]
We have a short time on the net. Therefore I am writing to you to pass our pleas to international organizations specially Journalists Without Borders and Doctors Without Borders because our youths are currently under fire in the streets by the government’s gangs and the peaceful protests turned suddenly into a war where young people are killed, shot with live ammunition in the heads and hearts for days under the eyes of the army officers. Egyptians are in bad need to almost all sorts of support political, medical, and the media coverage. Free people should also appeal to the American public opinion to exercise some pressure on president Obama who has been doing nothing but listening to the voices of pains and suppression.

Editor: This warning of escalating violence and press intimidation was sadly accurate.

On Friday morning…

From: [redacted]
To: Hazel Feigenblatt
Subject: Re: Friday demonstrations

Today (Friday) there are millions in the streets of Cairo and despite of the massacre that took place on Wednesday when a hundred young people were killed by snipers. Foreign correspondents were kicked out and the cameras of Arab channels were confiscated. There is a million protesters at Tahrir Square chanting slogans against the regime but they are also singing national songs especially those aired during the war to remind our armed forced that they are here to protect our youths and not to stand passively while pro-government thugs kill the protesters.
The government security authority and thugs are still trying to stop the march of protesters trying to reach Tahrir square from all part of the country.
This is, according to many, a peaceful revolution against a suppressive regime which has been in power for thirty years. For the first time in Egypt there is a civil revolution and not a military coup.

If there are millions of people in the streets there are certainly millions at home who wants to get rid of this regime.

For the first time both Muslems and Copts pray in the streets of Egypt. Copts stood in guards while Muslem pray and Muslems protected the Copts during their prayer. The Imam of Tahrir mosque decided to lead the prayer though he does not belong to any political faction but he believes that ‘this is the most noble revolution in Egypt. It is worth noting that the spokesman of Al Azhar (the biggest religious authority in Egypt and the Arab world) resigned yesterday saying that he joined the protesters because he believes that they are on the right track. Those people are not from the Muslim Brotherhood but they feel the pulse of Egyptians.
Muslim Brothers form less than five percent of the political powers involved in these demonstrations but they are well-organized and because of the tensed situation many protesters need this religious feelings of god’s support.

Protectors have been shouting to Mubarak ‘get out’…’the blood of our martyrs is not for the thugs but to free our land and for our revolution’.

They believe that Mubarak is still in power because of a subtle support from the US administration and the Israelis. Many hinted that the Israeli government asked for three days to help the Egyptian regime suppress this revolution.

On Friday evening…

From: [redacted]
To: Hazel Feigenblatt
Subject: curfew

It is 5.20 pm in Cairo now. Twenty minutes ago was the time for curfew imposed throughout Egypt by the military ruler and the high commander of the armed forces Hosny Mubarak. When protesters reminded that they should leave the Tahrir Square (Liberation sq) they chanted ‘we are not leaving…he is the one to leave’.

During the long day of Friday, protesters managed to attract more than two million Egyptians of all walks of life a the square, prominent thinkers, artists, politicians, judges, religious figures and ordinary Egyptian. The secretary general of the Arab League – Amr Mousa – joined the protesters at the square. Mousa was the most popular minister of foreign affairs in Egypt who is also promoted as a presidential nominee in Cairo now. All of those insisted that Mubarak should leave
the country before any dialogue is to be launched.

Slogans varied from “get out” to “go to hell”.

At the square there are many groups some of them chanting political slogans, others dancing, playing country music and singing lyrics about their movement. It is noticed that a very big number of them were injured in the head and their faces covered with bandages.

Throughout the country there were demonstrations from the north to the south and thus there were also several scenes.

In Luxor, the well- known city that embraced most of the pharaohs heritage, protesters formed human shields to protect the pharaohs temples though confronted by the pro-government thugs trying to stop their march towards the capital.

In Mahala; one of the major industrial cities in Egypt, specialized in weaving and spinning, protesters were surprised to see that pro- government thugs joined the demonstrations. a well- known businessman in the city paid LE 200.000 ($30.000) for the thugs to ‘cover the city with the protesters’ blood’ as they were quoted. However, well-known figures from Al Azhar talked to the thugs’ group leaders who finally decided to join the protesters.

In Alexandria, the head of the criminal court, Fekry Kharouby, is said to have joined with many other judges the demonstrations because Mubarak regime had done away with all the basis of justice and therefore they want a serious change in the regime to maintain a sound and solid base of justice among Egyptians.

At the canal cities (Ismaylia, Port Said and Suze), known among Egyptians as the front line cities where the military confrontation between Egypt and Israel took place, veteran leaders of popular resistance movement led the demonstrations. In Suez which offered the first victims of this revolution (ten were killed on the first day),the whole city went out in protest leaving behind popular security
groups formed when the security forces left the city for thugs and under cover security individuals.

There were many calls for the demonstrations to march towards the presidential place in Heliopolis (couple of miles away from Tahrir Square) to besiege the president but many rejected the call especially that Mubarak might not be there and some said that the military might not be able to protect them.

So far, there are four hundred killed during the demonstrations, one hundred of them killed this Wednesday. More than five thousands injured.

For further reading, see the Global Integrity Report: Egypt.

–Text: Global Integrity field staff, posted with permission by Jonathan Eyler-Werve
–Image: Mahmoud Saber (cc by/nc)

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