I’m staying in the Square, half of which is a tent city at night.
I’ll try getting some pictures up, but most likely it will have to wait until I get back.
The Square was harder work yesterday morning. The Government television station is pumping out propoganda about the revolution being manipulated by the US and Israel through foreign spies – converse of the truth of course as Mubarak is a direct proxy for the US and Israel and has been from day 1. I knew this before I came, so was to some extent prepared for it. There was one situation with about 50 people around me getting more and more heated about whether or not I should be there – majority with me, but a very angry three or four against. The people on the outside of the circle of course can only half hear what is being said, and the whole thing is fairly jumpy. There was a heated debate with kind help of people who translated. I stuck to my ground that Mubarak wanted to isolate the Egyptian revolution from support and that they should face this down. They know it isn’t true, I think but some are anxious, under pressure from Mubarak, to appear more than 100 % + Eygptian. In the end, something, I don’t know what, flipped angry man over and he was suddenly all smiles and thanks and we exchanged Irish for Egyptian flags.
I have to explain why I’m there to people and state my case over and over again each day.It’s made easier as it’s normal here for people to hold up a poster of some kind – a slogan or qu’ran quote or cartoon. Sometimes there are 1-20 people with mobile phones taking pics of my poster at once and recording my explanation. In almost every case, when people have heard and /or read my poster, they’ve welcomed me and thank me for coming. I haven’t needed to buy any food since I came (and have given out the food I brought with me) and have to turn down kind offers of food and help all the time. People are very concerned for my safety in a practical way, and kindly translate or ‘escort’ although so far inside the Square I’ve had no bother at all (apart from the above occasion, when I did wonder for a minute or two if I might get my head ripped off )
The Square is about the size of Clonmel – it takes more than half an hour to walk around it. Youngdan had better get his calculator out.
There was no trouble at all from police or army yesterday although they are there, armed and with tanks the whole time, and there are huge posters of people killed in the protests all around the edges of the Square. Definitely not all the military are on side with Mubarak. There are groups of young men and some older workers who operate on a constant alert for security issues/ attacks. A young Egyptian who grew up in western Europe told me about his early days with the protest – he flew out the day after it started on 25th. A man close by to him was shot in the head and killed on 27th and he was hit on the head ‘fortunately, on the back of my head’ with a rock. He said his whole life had been changed by coming out here, it a positive way, but he has absolutely no idea what he will do when its over.
There’s a big process going on of thrashing out ideas and options, but with no formal co-ordinating body, and a very delicate balance of unity among all the groups based on getting Mubarak out. All around the square there are meetings and debates being held and people writing out their wishes on sheets of paper and arranging them on screens or on the ground, where people read and photograph them. I hope that all of these ideas will be collated to help find some further steps that can be taken without the unity being broken at this crucial stage.
Very few people are buying in to Mubarak’s Fianna Fail style wage increases for public servants and so on…but they are being talked about.
The Wikileaks cable posted by Sean Ryan in the context of Gaza is very useful in understanding the situation in Egypt. The US clearly had its provisional plans in place to replace Mubarak with Soliman and/or Gamal – this is now seriously disrupted by the cross-class consensus in Egypt that the regime itself should be changed.
My sign is very basic but it explains why I have come out to Cairo – it says “Egypt leads the world’s fight against poverty and injustice – Down with Mubarak ! No more fear!” in English and Arabic.
Extract from the blog itsapoliticalworld.wordpress.com.