Identity Magazine: Marwa Rakha's Special #Jan25 Revolution Coverage
Ramy Raouf – Cairo
Human Rights Defender and blogger
My work with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and my deep involvement with human rights breeches in Egypt were the main reason I participated in those demonstrations! I wanted tojoin the people of Egypt in changing our current situation and improve our living standards. We all wanted a better Egypt. We were not going home unless Mubarak stepped down!
The most personal painful moment in those 18 days was on the 2nd and 3rd of February when I was in the frontline in Tahrir Square and NDP thugs and pro-Mubarak demonstrators were attacking us, shooting live ammunition, and throwing Molotov bombs at us. It was very painful to see many people around and beside you falling down with injuries or dropping dead!
My happiest moments were all the times when Egyptians were able to maintain their unity and strength against the corrupt regime, when we were all strong in the face of attacks and bombs, and when Mubarak finally stepped down!
Those 18 days taught me that people shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people. Governments can't prevent facts from showing-up whatever they do. I believe solidarity between Egyptians and from our friends worldwide was very important and it was one of the best things I felt.
Identity Magazine: Marwa Rakha's Special #Jan25 Revolution Coverage
Sarah El Sirgany – Cairo
Journalist and blogger
Over the past few years, protests never attracted more than a couple of hundred people at best. There were tens of thousands on streets on Friday. The scene of chanting protestors filling main streets was euphoric. Change was near.
The violence started early on January 28. Yet, in the midst of the teargas, water cannons, the rubber bullets and the pellets, it was the friendly spirit, the intent on keeping it peaceful and this never-seen-before fearlessness that shined through.
Protesters were offering vinegar and soda – said to reduce effect of tear gas – to strangers, now their brethren. Aside from chocking on teargas which left burning sensations in eyes and skin, the main fear was of having a canister fall on someone’s head; my head! Police had no issue firing canisters right in the middle of any crowd. Few moved from the front lines with blood-covered faces. It became clear it wasn’t just a concern.
At times, taking a photo seemed like a hefty task. Run for your life if you are the front; leave any other thoughts for later. Fearless young men picked up canisters and threw them away as soon as they hit the ground. It was those who led, who took it upon themselves to clear the way off the continuous flow of teargas for the thousands behind.
Alas, teargas wasn’t doing the trick. Water cannons, rubber bullet and pellets were the new weapon against protestors chanting “Peaceful” as they marched on. The anti-Mubarak chants were abundant, but that was a peaceful demonstration. Those who wanted to attack the riot police conscripts were prevented throughout the day.
These ‘peaceful’ intents ended with the first baton landing on my head and others’ as they turned back and ran. Panic reigned as people, drenched in pouring water, tried to retreat. I got tangled up and fell, luckily in a clear spot or I would have been fodder for shoes.
The scene of the pellets covering the bellies of other protesters and the man having his head stitched on the streets made it clear. This wasn’t a peaceful demonstration. It was a battle to reclaim back a country withering under the 30-year-rule of an autocratic regime. Egyptians were there to stay.
The fear that might have stopped them from confronting police or even demonstrating was overpowered with anger. They were now armed with stones. They took over armored vehicles and now they seem to be taking their country back.
On Saturday morning (January 29), it seemed that Friday hasn’t ended. Not because of the possible historic nature of a day that could be marked as the start of the revolution, but there was no point where it ended and Saturday began.
The army was deployed on Friday and it wasn’t clear if it would support the regime or protect the people from police brutality. Egyptians had vowed to return to the streets after the President said in a Friday speech he’d form a new government, instead of stepping down as they demanded.
Sunday (January 30) started with a dead body; we got a tip through twitter that a dead body was thrown out by a police car in Mounira. A man who identified himself as a top executive in a multinational bank told us about the dead body. A sliver Toyota without registration plates threw it at checkpoint and ran. The body had a gunshot wound in the abdomen. It wasn’t bleeding, the men stressed. The man must have died earlier and was later shot to cover up the cause of death, they theorized.
The body that was thrown outside the Mounira Police Station was left there for 3-4 hours. The Mounira Hospital refused to come collect it, saying it was the responsibility of the Morgue. Their hands were already full treating the wounded. A resident in the area told us later that a car from the hospital took it.
Residents had covered it in a bed sheet, in a sign of respect for the dead.
The opposition has called for a million man march on Tuesday. By Monday night, tens of thousands have flocked to the central Tahrir Square. They plan to stay the night there, waiting for their brethren to join them.
I can’t speculate what Mubarak was doing meanwhile, but I don’t think he was watching TV. Otherwise, he would have heard the same word over and over again on all channels except State TV: Leave.
The president’s speech late Tuesday night created a split that was evident on Wednesday morning. Those in Tahrir said that lives lost prevented them from leaving. Mubarak gave promises, not decisions. But for others outside, the president has made unprecedented concessions. Life should go back to normal.
“Yes we want the demonstrations to end but I would never chant for Mubarak,” a man told me on the bridge overlooking central Cairo.
I saw a truck carrying pro-Mubarak protesters heading to downtown. The scene was reminiscent of elections, when state-run businesses send their employees to vote for the ruling party’s candidates. But what I thought would be merely provoking demonstrations turned to be an organized attack of plain-cloth police and thugs on those camped in Tahrir for 8 days.
It was brutal, more than Friday and Saturday. Tahrir has been kept free of any weapon-like material; protesters wanted to keep it peaceful. Unarmed, they were belted with rocks but eventually responded to fend themselves. It turned ugly as the Pro-Mubarak people, at one point on horses and camels, used Molotov cocktails.
Hundreds were injured and people died.
By the next morning, the target wasn’t simply people with cameras, but anyone who looked remotely foreign. State TV and phone calls aired live by private satellite TV have been blaming “foreigners” for mobilizing the Tahrir protesters and turning them against their country.
Activist Wael Ghonim, administrator of the Facebook group that helped mobilize demonstrations, was released on Feb. 7 after a 12-day detention. His emotional TV interview, which saw him break in tears when seeing pictures of some of the 300 killed in protests, revived hope in the nation. But most importantly, it unified it.
The Friday of Victory is my Friday of Disbelief. It took me a few minutes to process the seconds-long announcement. It was short enough to fit in a tweet. But it was mighty. President Mubarak has stepped down. I broke into tears when it downed on me. Protests worked. Peaceful street action worked. Egypt is free, for the first time in my life.
I was born in 1982, a year after Mubarak assumed power. For 28 years, he was the only president I’d lived under. On Feb. 11, 2011, this changed.
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