Identity Magazine: Marwa Rakha's Special #Jan25 Revolution Coverage
Tarek Amr – Cairo (Egyptian Blogger and Engineer)
I didn't participate in the first day of the revolution. I was a bit scared, a bit unconvinced that it will change anything, and I prefer to follow such events on twitter and facebook instead of participating in them.
Then protesters were killed by the security forces even though the protesters insisted that it will remain a peaceful protest. Two days later, the government switched off the mobile phones, the internet, blackberry, and all other means of communication. They thought that they might prevent people from communicating and arranging for further demonstrations. But the truth is that such information blackout made me – as well as thousands of other people – more eager to get down to the streets and participate in the "Friday of Anger".
Again, the police brutality didn't stop. Rubber bullets, tear gas bombs, and even lethal bullets were used in different places in Egypt. They were doing their best to prevent the protesters from crossing the bridges and going to Tahrir square. We tried different bridges in different areas, but we faced the same resistance from the police, till a curfew was announced and I preferred to go back to home, along with many others. Later on, on news channels, we found out that the police was defeated and people succeeded in reaching Tahrir square.
Later on, news from here and there claimed that the police left their locations on purpose, they unlocked the prisons for looters to go to the streets and terrify people, and some people on TV even claimed that the police and (NDP) National Democratic Party's militias participated in terrorizing people. With the high death toll, the pressure of the United States as well as many other international entities on the government, we expected the president to resign. They announced that Mubarak will give a speech in a while, but it was delayed for hours. And during those hours every one was sure that he was preparing himself to resign. Then came the speech, and he said nothing but changing his prime minister!
In the following three days, all security forces and policemen dissipated from the streets. Protesters stayed in Tahrir Square calling for a million-person protest/march on Tuesday. People at homes lived in a state of terror, where they carried sticks and knives every night and spent their nights in the streets protecting their homes and businesses. People also cleaned the streets by themselves, and protected some governmental and national buildings. During those three days, every visit you paid to Tahrir Square made you believe that Mubarak should be now packing his stuff to leave the presidential palace, then a single glance on the national TV made you believe he was getting himself ready for thirty more years inside the palace.
Then came Tuesday, and at least million persons went to demonstrate in down town. After seeing those huge numbers in the streets, people were sure that Mubarak will give another speech. Lots of them were expecting him to finally resign, yet some others were suspicious. And once more, I experienced Mubarak's roller coaster. I was happy with his promises after a while, I found myself wondering, isn't this just another maneuver by the president.
Also, after the speech, we found demonstrations everywhere in support for the president and asking him to stay in charge. Such kind of suspicious pre-organized demonstrations along with those suspicious people who started calling the different TV shows, weeping and asking the president to stay infuriates us more in Tahrir square.
A few hours after his speech, the regime sent their thugs to attack the peaceful protesters. One day, I was taking some medical supplies to Tahrir Square, as the Ministry of health doesn’t give a damn about the wounded people there, and on my way Mubarak’s police officers stole the medical supplies and told me it’s either to give them the bag or they will arrest me. The officer also called the protesters, traitors and that we shouldn't offer them any help.
Finally the magical moment came and the president responded to the demands of the street; he stepped down! Nothing is certain yet about our future, but I am just sure of one single thing, Egypt has changed. I still remember that poor lady I met in Tahrir who said something that summed the whole thing in few simple words. She told me, "A couple of days ago I was so scared of every single police soldier, and today I am here protesting against the head of the state".
Identity Magazine: Marwa Rakha's Special #Jan25 Revolution Coverage
Nadia El-Awady – Cairo (President of world federation of science journalists)
Nadia narrates the details of her experience on the Friday of Anger:
Egyptians, angry at the police brutality used against protesters on January 25, called for a Day of Rage after the Friday noon prayers on January 28. Several mosques all over the city were named as mosques where demonstrations would begin. I went to Al-Azhar Mosque. No one had expected the extent of the January 25 protests; neither protesters nor police. This time, the police were ready for the protesters and were determined not to let them reach Tahrir Square.
Police barricades were set up all over the city to keep the protesting groups dispersed and to prevent any protesters from reaching Tahrir. The Azhar march was met by police at Ataba Square by a large police force that almost immediately started using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters to prevent them from progressing forward. My friend Arwa and I were caught up in this for awhile and eventually slipped through the police barricade to meet up with another group of protesters.
We marched with this second group for awhile and then decided to see what was happening in Tahrir. It was completely empty except for a very large police presence. We passed through Tahrir, claiming to police that we were trying to make our way home. Once on the Corniche, we saw a very large police force occupying Qasr El-Nil Bridge, preventing protesters from crossing the Nile to reach Tahrir. For two successive hours we heard gun shots and saw billowing clouds of tear gas. We could not see what was happening on the other side. We decided to make a long detour on foot to reach the other side. On our way, we stopped by Cairo University Hospital where we saw a man critically injured with bullet wounds in his chest.
The doctor who brought him to the hospital told us that two other people had been taken to the hospital dead. We rushed out of the hospital and joined a large marching protest heading in our same direction. By the time we reached Qasr El-Nil, protesters had made some major ground and had overtaken two police trucks. Several protesters died in the process, however, and many were injured. We joined the group as they attempted to cross Qasr El-Nil Bridge into Tahrir.
We were heavily tear gassed. Eventually, Arwa and I broke away from this group, needing fresh air, and went behind Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel where intense fighting was going on between protesters and police near the Ministry of Interior. In the meantime, protesters managed to break through to Tahrir Square and occupy it. Arwa and I spent most of that night filming the fighting at the Ministry of Interior. Protesters – with us in their midst – were tear gassed and shot at continuously. When we eventually slipped away from the area of fighting, we found Tahrir Square completely occupied by protesters, the National Democratic Party building up in a blaze, and several army tanks trying to enter the downtown area.
With the exception of the Ministry of Interior area, no police presence was to be seen. Police trucks and cars were in flames on the outskirts of Tahrir Square and the NDP building was being looted. Arwa and I walked home, dark having cloaked the city completely, feeling quite safe. We were to find out later that many parts of Cairo witnessed similar events, police stations were attacked, the complete police force had disappeared overnight, and jails were witnessing breakouts. Looting and torching of some businesses began.