Tag Archives: tahrir

Egypt: The Plot Darkens

AUC bookstore, Tahrir: this place got burned a little bit

Classes today took place on AUC’s campus in Zamalek, an island in the middle of the Nile, since the Tahrir campus was busy being mildly attacked and then looted.

In the meantime, I enjoyed sitting on the couches in an environment not unlike a hotel lobby, watching the madness of Tahrir on a big screen television during breaks between classes. Only a five minute walk from that square, one of my friends has been holed up since Saturday, forced to listen to gunshots, finish his homework, and watch TV all day while catching the occasional whiff of tear gas. It’s amazing the difference a couple of miles can make.

I could talk about current situation in Tahrir, about how over 30 people have died and over 1000 have been wounded, about the resignation of the civilian government and the short-lived cheering in Tahrir that was silenced by increased gunfire from police and security forces, about the kind of tear gas being used that is both new and particularly vicious, about the hopelessness I saw in the eyes of my Arabic teacher as she said it was now clear the military has won, about the desperate calls for medical supplies and food down in the square, about the use of live ammunition against protestors throwing rocks, about the contradicting news reports and constant confusion about what’s actually happening on the ground etc. But I’m not really qualified to do so. If you’re interested, Al-Jazeera has a live blog that’s good, though sensational at times. It is not a terrorist organization like I thought it was in high school. The Guardian also has good coverage.

But I can say some things that rely little on fact: A classmate today reminded me that even though (as of then) 20 people had died in Tahrir, about that many die every day in Assad’s continuing assault on his citizens in Syria. It struck me as particularly sad that the value of lives could differ so much in their recognition across borders.

There was a song that Conan O’Brien used to sing on his show during election times and it went a little like this, “Yay boo yay boo it’s lots of fun to do! If you like it holler yay. If you don’t you holler boo.” There’s been quite a bit of yaying and booing going on about whether or not the protestors are doing right or if they’re just messing everything up by fighting for freedom. But regardless of how you feel about that issue, the reality is that people have died and others are injured. Their lives should not be considered worthless, even if you don’t agree with the cause they died for.

I, and many others, hope the violence comes to an end, but I hope it does not come at the expense of the dream of Egyptian democracy, and dignity should certainly not be a casualty as well.

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Perspectives on Life, Courtesy of Facebook

This place, with fire and protestors and McDonald’s, 69 years later

Tahrir square, November 20, 2011, 19:26: It looks like a war zone out there, people scurrying ant-like against a backdrop of sporadic fires, tear gas and smoke covering the entire scene. Gun shots are heard, rumors of live ammunition circulate.

Apartment in Doqqi, November 20, 2011, 19:26: My feet are a little cold.

So stuff is still going down in a big way in Tahrir, but this scene differs dramatically from the life I continue to live in the ‘burbs away from all the crazy action. The main way the protests affect my life is through the interesting variety of facebook status updates on my newsfeed and the fact classes will now be held somewhere else.

For those of you who are familiar with facebook, you know that the newsfeed is a sacred timewaster. I find myself perusing it for hours despite the fact that I care very little about both what I am reading and the people who have posted it. Some people have edited their newsfeeds in order to only include people they actually want to hear from. I have not done so because I can’t decide if I really hate looking at my high school classmate’s photos of her baby girl or not, despite the fact I can’t remember who either of them are. This is just one example out of hundreds.

Recently, because of the quite serious political events that have been occurring here in Egypt and the banality that characterizes the rest of my facebook friends’ lives (or many of them at least), my feed has become an eclectic mix of urgent messages and the same old inanities from some people I love and some I barely remember.

It’s like eating a bag of crushed up tea cookies and spiced peanuts that is either delicious or revolting, but addicting nonetheless. And now you can judge for yourselves. Without further ado, a sampling of my newsfeed and its sources.

“hope i didn’t over spice my chili!” -close friend from university

“Tahrir looks like a war zone, and a couple Molotov cocktails just lit up the air near my building.” –friend here in Egypt living in Doqqi, where there was recently an outbreak of violence

“This is just sad: Baylor scored six touchdowns on the night. The average touchdown drive covered approximately 80 yards in four plays and took 64 seconds.” –classmate from high school; last talked to him 4.5 years ago

“My beautiful 6 month roses from my wonderful boyfriend! I am such a lucky girl to have such an amazing guy that encourages me in the pursuit of my dreams, wipes my tears when I feel defeated, and makes me smile all the time! I am truly blessed.” –best friend from middle school; last talked to her 4.5 years ago

“Dear Comcast, why do you SUCK?!”- peer from university

“Dug and I are watching UP with a Starbucks coffee and Kitty. Best Sunday EVER!” -peer from university; number of times I talked to her: 6

“#Tahrir square is ours again we are 10-15000 if not more”- activist in my current program

(picture of a girl kissing someone’s pregnant belly) – co-worker from 5 years ago; number of times I talked to her: 7

“Day One of our cross country road trip! Here we go!” – peer from university; last talked to him 4 years ago

“The square is under attack. Please be careful #Tahrir huge crowds of people are back they are very brave” – activist in my current program

“I really love my church!!” – co-worker from last summer

“Being chased in alleys with birdshots/tear gas TT: @TaherNagaty:” -activist in current program

Needless to say it’s all a bit confusing. Do I love hearing about my old friend’s happiness in her love life? Do I need to see a stranger’s preggo belly being kissed by someone I talked to 6 times? Should I tell them their lives and my life pale in comparison to what is going on in the world?

Just a bag of cookie crumbs and peanut pieces to munch on.

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Not This Again

This McDonald’s is currently (Nov. 20) a war zone

I could blather on about my vacation in the Sinai Peninsula where I gazed for hours across the cobalt waters to the rocky mountains of Saudia Arabia, land of the free, but some stuff has been going down in Egypt that it might not hurt to mention. As such, I’ll save the blather for later.

First of all, let me state that I get most of my news from one person in our program who posts things on her facebook to the tune of one article/video/link every minute. Since she’s a self-described revolutionary socialist, much of this media leans slightly towards the left, but it’s more informative than the only website I read daily, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Other sources of news include hearsay, rumors, eavesdropping, and the occasional article I read online in order to confirm or debunk the current event foam I pick up throughout the day.

That being said, I do know that there were violent protests today in Tahrir square, far away from where I live but right next to where I go to school. Whereas the most interesting thing I did today was drink coffee with only milk instead of milk and sugar, one of my friends described to me a scene of protestors building barricades and being shot at by security forces that he saw from his roof. I said, “Oh that’s really interesting.” and went on to describe a cheese sandwich I had eaten earlier.

But seriously. Tahrir has once again been scented with blood and tear gas only 9 days away from parliamentary elections. Police forces entered the square last night to try to clear out the remnants of protestors from the million man march that was held earlier, but instead of everyone going home and straight to bed, violent clashes broke out and have continued today.

What does this mean? Well I’m not sure, but based on my limited knowledge of politics, elections, and democracy I would say that violence is not a great sign, especially not in addition to the general atmosphere of confusion and depression that has characterized the public sphere as of late.

Personally, I expect more tension and violence as we approach the election date. I don’t expect the situation to improve, and I foresee increasing disillusionment and growing apathy. I don’t mean to sound overly optimistic, but this is just my general feeling.

On the other hand, I probably won’t be going to Tahrir to protest anytime soon so I think I’ll stay pretty safe. My real wish is for a delicious Thanksgiving feast in addition to the flowering of Egyptian democracy and a peaceful brunch tomorrow.

P.S. Same source said that as of 12:51 Cairo time, things are still pretty crazy in Tahrir.

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Current Obsession > Egypt’s Future

My cool Swedish friend, also brother.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

There’s this song that I’m OBSESSED with and you’re going to love it too! Give me your computer and I’ll find it on YouTube so you can listen to it! It’s only 6 minutes long, and with loading time that makes a total of 10 minutes you’ll have to wait to hear it! It’s not very mainstream but the lyrics are really ethereal. The true essence of the song only hit me on about after the 18th listening but I remember the first one being really awesome too.

Oops I closed all your windows…you didn’t need those open did you? Here, we can share headphones. Or I could just watch you while you listen to it? Okay I’ll stand in front of the computer and you can either look at the screen or directly into my eyes for the full six minutes while you decide whether or not you like the song and I decide whether or not we can remain friends. Remember this is one of my favorite songs so it’ll really hurt me if you don’t like it. Think about that as you’re trying to avoid eye contact with me. Also, you can’t just say you like the song; you have to say something profound, like “The music really brings together the disparate thematic elements in the lyrics” or “it’s like he described the feeling of almost remembering a childhood dream in a completely new way.”

Do you mind if I sing along? I don’t know all of the words but I can hum to fill in the blanks. What? There are violent clashes going on between the army and protesting Copts near Tahrir? 19 dead and 150 wounded? Tear gas and the sound of gun shots floating over the Nile? Okay fine we can look at Al-Jazeera after we listen to this song and then…oh wait! There’s another one that’s really awesome and I bet you’ll love it. You like “noise” music right? It’s music that makes a statement by purposefully avoiding any kind of melody, tune, rhythm, or order. It’s really big in Scandinavia right now, and my super cool Swedish friend is really into it. This one’s only 9 minutes long but it’s totally worth it, and then after that we can look at the “news.”

Say, I hope we don’t have class tomorrow…it would be so awesome if this post-revolution violence paid off for us!

(should my belabored writing have not made it clear, this post was facetious. I don’ t mean most of these things, but you’re left to guess which ones).

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The lone cowboy of Tahrir

I see him standing there, above ground or below, standing or wandering in his area, that general area that is the now urine perfumed American University exit of the Sadat metro station. Since he started coming around a few days ago, I feel a greater level of personal safety when walking in the thirty yards he patrols on the daily during the late afternoon, though he cleverly disguises this patrolling as chatting with friends or aimless meandering interspersed with standing.

Though I do not know what his job is, I am confident he has been charged with very descriptive tasks such as “maintaining a presence” or “keeping the peace.” It is equally likely that no one else knows what his job is or has purposefully not given him any tasks whatsoever, and yet he continues to be a “presence” and remain “active.”

His political activity of choice: wearing a cowboy hat. He undertakes all real or imagined missions with the easy confidence of one wearing ridiculous headgear, in this case a black cowboy hat like the outlaws of old and the pop country stars of today. His slim fitting jeans and tight white t-shirt with a black faux vest sewn on the front complete with contrasting buttons only confirm my initial impression that this is a shab (young man) of the shabbab (young men) that the people of Egypt can firmly place their trust in.

Was this one of the shabbab that wanted the foreign press to know they won’t be leaving Tahrir until their demands are met?  If so, may the foreign press also be aware that the shabbab demand more ridiculous fashion trends and to be taken seriously while wearing them. If this appears to be a conflicting request, then let it be known that the shabbab are completely capable of ignoring said contradiction and increasing the impossibility of their demands. Should the foreign press desire to know more details, the lone cowboy of Tahrir awaits them somewhere in the area around the AUC exit of Sadat. He will be wearing a hat, and he will not be messing around.

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