An Anthropologist's Diary of the Egyptian Revolution and what followed.
By Samuli Schielke
Sunday, February 6, 2011
"This is more than I could have ever dreamt of." - the diary of my first two days in the Egyptian revolution, now almost a week ago
"This is more than I could have ever dreamt of."
This is the Diary of my first two days in the Egyptian revolution, peaking in the march of Millions on Tuesday 1 February. I couldn’t post it back then due to the internet blackout. See my other posts for more recent reports and analysis.
(This post concludes my diary of the Egyptian revolution. Great thanks to the many people who have been supporting me both in Egypt and abroad by updating and spreading the news, organising interviews, sheltering me, and accompanying me. Without your help none of this would have been possible. Back in Europe, I can be reached under +49 179 962 96 58 or +358 44 927 57 77, in case you need more information. I will try to get an Arabic translation of this diary online as soon as I find somebody to translate it. If you are a translator, please contact me. My entire Egyptian revolution diary is available in http://samuliegypt.blogspot.com/ Feel free to pass it on!)
Prelude in Berlin, 25 January at midnight.
Big day of demonstrations in Egypt, on massive scale, all over the country, demanding Mubarak and his system to go. Amazing. I wish I were there. Following the news and footage uploaded by the people on the net much of the evening. Chatted with B. who just came back from the demonstration. He told that the police was very brutal, throwing bottles on the demonstrators from the roofs and attacking people in the side streets. He also said that he was very happy he was there, because this may not happen again in his lifetime. Tomorrow he is going again.
How much this changes everything. How completely a day like this can change the image I have been drawing lately of people stuck in the circle of living in a frustrating system that turns every promise into pressure and every subversion of the system into a part of the system. There is a moment when they glimpse hope, the impossible suddenly appears in a hand’s reach, a different step can be taken than could be taken just weeks and days ago, and the world changes a little.
Even if this revolution will be crushed (but I am optimistic), this glimpse of hope, this moment in which a path opens where a wall just stood, is something to hold, much like B. said when I chatted with him. Here an excerpt:
B.: “This is a joyful thing. This is a day one can rarely see.” I ask on Police: B.: "Really, they were brutal, but in a wicked way.” Samuli: How? B.: “They let the big demonstration run, and collected people in the narrow side streets. And the mobile phone networks are offline. They threw lightbulbs on the demonstrators from the roofs, and beat up people in the side streets, and arrested them.” Samuli: But you went out anyway, and in big numbers all over the country. That didn’t happen since 1919. B.: “Yes. The people want to do something real. Instead of letting the Police Day (25 January, a public holiday in Egypt) a day of rest to celebrate the police, the people decided that it would be a day the police never forgets. Really, I was happy that I participated in something like this. Because maybe it won’t happen again in my lifetime.”
Monday 31 January.
On the plane from Frankfurt to Cairo, against all odds, and most of all against my own strong scepticism whether it really is a good idea to go to Egypt now. Returning from the airport and following the news about the previous night’s looting and anarchy, and the terrible death toll of Friday night, when in many cities the security appears to have been shooting to kill at the demonstrators with live ammunition, I became very worried. But when I called M. and J. they were both telling that it is safe to come - M. says that the looting has probably been heavily exaggerated, and at least in Giza things are actually working better than ever without the police, now that the citizens have taken over control of the public order. Young boys and old men are guiding the traffic in Midan al-Mahatta. M. is entzückt. J. reports from Imbaba on a similar note: The previous night was “scary”, with thugs on the streets, but Sunday was fine. She was in the demonstration in Tahrir square but returned home before sunset for fear of looters, but this time it was calm, she said, and children were playing football on the Corniche road because there was very little traffic. Demonstrators had cleaned up their own garbage, the streets were really clean. The police force was announced to returned to the streets, Jenny told, “but we don’t need them.” A European friend of mine flew to Cairo last night on Turkish airlines, and I had made my going or not going dependent on whether he would be able to get out of the customs. It all went fine, he told on the phone, and it was also easy to get a taxi at the airport.
Still, I was undecided, and I was undecided even when I took the train to the airport and checked whether my flight was going - it was, but half an hour earlier than had been announced the previous day, so I had to hurry. I called Daniela, she said go but be really careful, and I made my decision: I shall go but be really careful. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry I might have stayed. But my feet took me to the plane and there I was.
I am not the only foreigner on the plane, but almost everybody is Egyptian. The plane is half full - there are many more passengers than were standing at the gate yesterday, but still not that many. This is the first Lufthansa flight to Cairo in three days. I also recognise many of the people who were at the gate yesterday. A very varied crowd. Wealthy looking middle aged men, I imagine them to be perhaps businessmen, some maybe also Egyptian diplomatic service, who knows. The young folks I met yesterday are all there, including the young woman who is going to Cairo to participate in the revolution. A couple of men with recognisably trimmed Muslim brotherhood beards were hurrying for the plane along with me - I guess they, too, are going for the revolution. Right now, this an uprising for everybody who wants to join. If it ill be successful, the big question is what shape the new order shall have. Unlike at the gate yesterday, on the plane today there are no political discussions.
On the plane, there are many business class and even first class passengers, so the rich of Egypt are not only escaping, as some did in the past days, crowding at the VIP terminal in the Cairo airport according to international news.
The rest is expectation, speculation, tense anticipation. When I arrive I will know more.
Of course, I can forget about working on my publications this week. I will do it at another time.
31 January 2011, in Cairo!
I can hardly believe it, and I’m very happy I came here. It is amazing, and much better than I expected. I am so happy that I see something like this in my life.
I took a taxi cab to Cairo together with L., an Egyptian artist living in Germany. She decided to go to Egypt after her brother disappeared in the demonstrations on Friday. Since then her mother has been going through mosques and hospitals looking for him, and her father has been completely broken down. She didn’t speak it out, but it seems likely that he has been killed. She was coming to Egypt partly to participate in the revolution, partly to search her brother. She had not told her parents she was coming in order not to make them worry.
The taxi which overcharged us extremely. But we were happy to get to town before the curfew would make movement slow (the curfew is not imposed in a strict sense. Instead, from 3 p.m. the army makes roadblocks where they check the ID of passengers and what the cars carry, and ask where they are going. But they commonly do let the few cars out on the street move in the evening pass.). The taxi driver was at height of the situation, but from a sarcastic distance. When L. asked him: “Did you demonstrate?”He said: “Am I stupid?” He seemed to think that while the demonstrations were legitimate, it would be foolhardy nonsense to participate in them, and he also warned her about going out in the evening, claiming that Saturday night had witnessed not only looting but also cases of rape. She wasn’t impressed.
The city as we saw it from the taxi saw much better than what I had expected from television images that had ben showing destroyed shops and streets covered with wreckage. On the way, we saw three buildings burned down - the police station in Azbakiya burned down by demonstrators, the hospital in Azbakiya burned by looters (luckily noone inside got hurt), and the National Democratic Party headquarters that stood out as a black skeleton right next to 6 October bridge, the most impressive sign of people’s hatred of the system.
The taxi left L. at her place in Muhandisin, and I continued to Giza where I walked from Corniche down the Mahatta street. Here, for the only time, I saw riot debris on the street: broken glass in different colours and tear gas shells. Otherwise the streets were mostly carefully cleaned up after the demonstration (except for burned police trucks that stand at major squares all over the city). It was in fact much cleaner than it is otherwise in Egypt, and all this due to voluntary effort. In Muhandisin, I saw from the taxi three young women with distinctly upper class looks cleaning up the street. In Muhandisin most shops were closed, but in Mahatta Street in old town Giza the shops were open and the streets full of people. I met Y. on the street, we bought me a new simcard because my Egyptian simcard is in Alexandria and walked home where I just quickly left my bags, talked shortly with Y. who told how he was covering for the newspaper he works for the demonstration in Giza where ElBaradei was participating, he got beaten there, had to run, and filmed while running.
At 4 p.m., one hour after curfew, I hail a taxi at Mahatta Street to take me to the newspaper where M works. The driver is first hesitant because there is a military roadblock at the University. But the roadblock turns out very fine. They check papers and look into the trunks but let people pass. Most importantly, they speak to the citizens with a friendly and polite tone that Egyptians are absolutely not used to hear from their police force who routinely insult and abuse the citizens. Also later, when we return from the demonstration on foot, we are twice controlled by soldiers who say: “Excuse me, sirs” and politely check that we are not armed. Some contrast to the “son of a bitch” Egyptians are used to hearing from their police force. No wonder the military is extremely popular and has been very successful in imposing peace and order wherever they are.
There is army all over the city. At every major corner, place or junction, there is at least a tank or an armoured vehicle, sometimes two or three. The soldiers - conscripted young men who might have otherwise been demonstrating - appear very relaxed, and the people treat them in a very friendly and respectful way. Many are getting themselves photographed in front of the tanks, and in Tahrir square the tanks are covered with anti-Mubarak graffiti.
I pick up M. at his work, we drive with the taxi through almost empty streets to 6 October bridge next to the burned-down NPD headquarters. M. picks up a flattened Pepsi can and gives it to me as a souvenir. Washing your face with vinegar or cola helps against the effects of tear gas. M.: Just before they cut the internet we got really good advise from the Tunisians on Facebook how to handle tear gas and other police techniques.
We walk towards Tahrir square and find the place in a very joyful and peaceful atmosphere. On the bridge, someone is flying a kite in the colours of the Egyptian flag. As we walk past army control posts, everybody has to show their ID, in order to prevent police or state security officers from entering the demonstration to cause havoc. This is great: the Egyptian government has developed the ID card to be a perfect window to “see” the citizen. It tells not only the citizen’s name and date of birth but also her/his address, marital state, religion, and profession. And by telling the profession it makes it possible to identify plainclothes police and state security officers.
The demonstrators dominate Tahrir square ever since the army entered on Friday night, and they haven’t left since. It is an amazing atmosphere, something I have never seen in Egypt before, and would have never expected. It is very joyful and peaceful, there is no central stage for speeches but a number of spontaneous groups chanting improvised slogans, which rhyme well in Arabic, and some of them are real poetry.
There are in my estimate some 10.000 people in the square at one time, but since people are coming and going, it is likely to be more in the course of the day. The crowd is extremely mixed, but politically active people are clearly best presented. There are lots of left wing activists, smart upper middle class folks, Salafis and Muslim brothers, many with the entire family, all chanting against Mubarak: Salafi families with beards and face veils next to left wing activists and artists, old-fashioned intellectuals, and many many more. There is space for everybody in this revolution. There are also really a lot of women, young and old.
No group dominates. The religious currents are strong and visible, but at the same time there are also lots of slogans that emphasise the unity of Muslims and Christians as Egyptians. The strong presence of the Muslim brothers is something that Mirette had expressed some concern about while we talked on the plane. She was not very trusting towards the Muslim Brothers and hoped that the Egyptians could be made a little more secular. But that’s the nature of popular revolution and democracy: It comes from the people as they are, not the way they should be. There is little question that a democratic Egyptian government will be a more religious one, and a more confrontational one towards Israel. As far as I’m concerned, however, I think that it’s less the question who is going to govern Egypt, but how it is governed. And today gave me a lot of hope in this regard. The spontaneous organisation of Egyptians in demonstrations and in residential areas alike is for me the most powerful proof that Egyptians are capable of having a democratic rule. It is really amazing, and many people I speak with are extremely proud of this. Garbage is continuously collected at the demonstration and on the main streets by volunteers in a country that until now has been full of garbage anywhere you turn. People are guarding the streets where until recently they were dependent on and subject to a brutal and inefficient police force. If this momentum can be held, and turned into a constant dynamic, it will radically change Egypt.
In Tahrir square I meet my European friend who arrived this morning on Turkish Airlines, and also J. who - like everybody else - says that he wouldn’t have expected this. He tells that even in small towns in Upper Egypt the police station has been burned and people have taken over the public order, and unlike J.’s fears this has not lead to confessional tensions but, at least for the moment, unity and cooperation. His only worry is that the system may still resort to brute force, even bruter than on Friday, when they feel cornered by the people. This is also a concern expressed by Y., although everybody is relieved and reassured by the declaration of the army that they will not use force against the demonstrators. But there is still the President’s Republican Guard.
On the square, some men who look like working class from the popular districts, show me mobile phone footage of the storming of Qasr al-Nil bridge by demonstrators on Friday (which I saw on television but from the distance of a hotel balcony where an American tourist was filming), where a man is shot into his face with live ammunition and killed immediately. M. tells that he was going with a big group of demonstrators through Zamalek where they gave a special honorary visit to the Tunisian embassy, but afterwards on the bridge they were attacked very violently by the police, and M. saw one man dying from bullets of the police, and many others wounded.
The cutoff of Egypt from the internet is a trouble - only people who can pay for accessing foreign dialup servers with a mobile phone have any connection at all - and people have difficulties to stay informed. In the absence of internet, al-Jazeera plays a key role, and after its hesitation on the first day of protests it has shifted fully to the side of the demonstrators, and has become the most important source of critical information in Egypt. Yesterday, Al-Jazeera was cut off on Nilesat, and since then Egyptians have realigned their satellite dishes to another satellite that continues to show Al-Jazeera. On Tahrir square three television sets have been set up for the people to view it, and there is a tent where some leftist activists collect digital video footage and photographs. M. laughingly tells that when Al-Jazeera was disconnected his son turned to a serious opponent of the president because Mubarak disconnected him the Cartoon Network which could only be seen on Nilesat.
Tomorrow is the next big demonstration, named the March of Millions. As M and I leave the demonstration and walk all the way to Giza for the lack of taxis or minibusses, we join a group of people coming our way, lead by a woman wearing a colourful variant of niqab, accompanied by another woman in jeans and open hair, and shouting in very loud voice: “The people - want - the removal of the president!” We join, and M. starts chanting (I never knew he has such a loud voice): Tomorrow at nine! Million tomorrow! Million tomorrow at nine! Peaceful demonstration tomorrow!
We walk a long way through Dokki and Giza. In Dokki there are some few policemen here and there - the police force returned to Cairo last night, but in small numbers, it seems - but they are still looked at with utter suspicion. The streets are remarkably clean, but here and there stand burned police trucks, in Giza at least five or six of them in a long line.
The most amazing thing is that nobody expected this. Just two weeks ago someone asked me whether Egypt could experience a revolution like in Tunisia, and I said no, Tunisia may be followed by Yemen, but there won’t be a revolution in Egypt. I couldn’t have been more wrong. M. says that he , too, didn’t believe in it. On Tuesday, he didn’t even want to join the demonstrations, thinking there was no point. But he soon changed his mind. We walk to Giza with a young man from old Giza who is very excited about the new situation. He tells he also didn’t believe in the demonstrations of Tuesday - he went there not believing that others would go. He describes the feeling: Until few days ago I felt that I live in a nightmare, and suddenly I could dream freely. M Things became possible that I couldn’t have imagined. Suddenly we can make a difference.
This is the revolutionary moment, the same “psychological state” L. described when I talked with her on the plane to Cairo. Egyptians have so long lived in a sense of oppression, a sense of frustration and pressure, they have hated the system but felt that there is nothing you can do. They have subverted the system by being chaotic and lazy, diverting the system to their ends, but all this has in turn become the system, encapsuling them in a highly frustrating state of suffering from a corrupt system and at the same time being a part of it. Suddenly the revolution in Tunisia opens a door of possibility, rejecting the system becomes something that makes sense, there is a point to it. In one night, the country changes.
The future will show how successful and deep this change can be - not everybody shares the euphoria, and some problems Egypt suffers from are not solved by changing the government - but even the mere existence of this trust in the possibility that one can do something and it will make a difference has been enough to fill the squared with demonstrators, to burn down the police stations known for torture of prisoners, to clean the streets afterwards and to put a quick end to the looting.
But not everybody is sharing equal enthusiasm. I also meet people who are either more modest in their demands, or more sceptical about the possibility of getting rid of Mubarak and the system. The guy at the mobile phone shop where I got my phone card said: Isn’t this what we wanted - we got a new government. A customer says no, we want more, he must go. Tomorrow we all go to the March of the Millions! And at night as we stand for a while at Giza square, I talk with a man who gives the government full blame for the whole looting and chaos and hates the system, but still believes that Mubarak won’t go, he will stick no matter what we do. “It’s now worse than ever. Now we are forced to fight Egyptian against Egyptian, check each others on roadblocks, what way of living together is this?”
After a long walk, we reach old town Giza, and go to buy vegetables at the market which is still partly open at 7:30 p.m., with groups of men guarding the streets and shops with knives and sticks in their hands - the same scene that can be seen all over the city. As we are buying beans and macaroni in a shop, screaming women run past us on the alley, followed by adolescents with sticks and knives in their hands. Looters have been sighted, there is commotion, all the adolescents are about to run after them, but the older men stop them and say: Don’t all run the same way! Idiots, half of you must stay at the other end of the alley! The women return and say that one thief got away, the other was caught. But is not clear whether this really happened. A vegetable vendor says: There were looters here from the first night, but mostly it’s false alarms, people see someone running, scream “thief” and then everybody screams and runs.
We arrive at home, greeted by M’s son enthusiastically shouting “The people! want! the removal of the president”. I talk with Y. about his participation in the demonstration on Friday, his first one so far:
“This feeling of dignity was something I wanted to write about to everybody on Friday, but there was no internet. That as the first day in my life I felt that I live a natural human life. I got up, I had breakfast, I prayed, I went out to the demonstration and said “no!” even though I got beaten up, I called my sweetheart, I went home and slept. This was the first day in my life that I had nothing missing.”
In the evening, as we eat and sit with al-Jazeera running on TV, important announcements follow in rapid pace. First the army declares that they recognise the legitimate demands of the demonstrators and will not use force against peaceful demonstrators. Half an hour later Omar Sulayman makes a declaration that in effect means that the current parliament that was based on completely false elections will be dissolved and new elections will be expected, and that the president has given him the authority to negotiate with all political powers. After this news, the moderators on television 1 become really nervous, one phone call with al-Ahram is abruptly interrupted as the person at the other side of the line says that this means that the project of hereditary rule is definitely over. One can really see how the pressure is growing on the system - interestingly always late in the evening. The revolution won’t happen in Egypt while Obama is still sleeping...
Late in the evening, at M.’s place, exhausted, waiting for Mubarak to speak on television shortly. Since an hour we are back from the biggest demonstration in the history of Egypt so far [note afterwards: it was only the second biggest. The biggest was the Friday of Anger on 28 January, but I didn’t know it at the time of writing]. It not only filled Tahrir Square completely - the people did not even all fill into the square, and the demonstration extended to much of downtown Cairo around it. News speak about one or two million people, how many there really were is guesswork, but they were so many more than either I or anybody else could imagine in their wildest dreams.
This day was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. It was perfectly peaceful, perfectly organised by spontaneous volunteers who took care of order, security, cleanliness. The people behaved in a very peaceful and reasonable way, and there was an amazing shared sense of dignity and power. Whatever will come after this will fall short of the expectations today (because the people demonstrating have completely different political views, and because reality is always trickier than the revolutionary moment), but whatever political system, whatever government Egypt will have, it will face citizens who share the experience of going out and making the unimagined reality. This is what this day has taught to me and millions of Egyptians demonstrating in Cairo and all major cities around the country - and also their families and friends to whom they are tonight telling about their experience: The moment people have the trust and the power to cross the limits of the possible, they may get further than they ever dreamed of. This is what F. whom I met at Talaat Harb square told me: “This is more than I could have ever dreamt of.” And he is a long-standing communist activist who has had some lofty dreams. Such pride, such determination, such sense of dignity, such sense of power, and such joy prevailed today in the centre of Cairo that I cannot write about it tonight without becoming very emotional. Not a moment for detached analysis.
So, and now the events of the day:
I got up early to go along with Y. to pick up his girlfriend A. from a southern suburb where she lives. She is going to the demonstration with the hesitant agreement of her mother, against the will of her brother and without asking her father. But she has promised to come back before curfew, so Y. is responsible for picking her up and bringing her back. In the metro there are few people, most of them men past 40. Young men and women conspicuously few. Almost all of the men talk about the demonstration. There is no other topic of discussion, and spontaneous debates evolve constantly between the passengers. Their views differ: Some consider the demonstration unnecessary or dangerous, others support it, but almost everybody (with the exception of one apparent NPD member) agrees that Mubarak and his system are rotten and must go. We walk through a a residential suburb where, like all over Cairo, Citizen’s guards (in arabic ligan sha’biya, “people’s checkpoints”) stand at every street corner, with stones and low barricades on the streets to prevent anybody from driving through without being checked first. On the way, I buy newspapers. The newspaper stand has almost only independent or opposition newspapers: Shorouk, Wafd, Al-Masri al-Youm, Al-Youm al-Sabi‘, and those are the papers people read.
We pick up A. who is equipped with an Egyptian flag and lots of elan and determination. We take the metro back, but it doesn’t stop at Tahrir, and we get out at Gamal Abd an-Nasir and walk. There is a beginning stream of people heading towards Tahrir, the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful morning. In Ramses street we see burned police trucks with graffitis like “down with the tyrant” sprayed on them. As we approach Tahrir the crowds quickly increase, and we walk down Champollion Street where cafes are open and full of demonstrators having a break.
At the entrance to Tahrir we again have to show our ID and our we are controlled for weapons. There is a separate row for women with women volunteers checking women, there are several lines of control, and everybody is very polite, they say excuse me, sorry about this, and everybody is very happy about this measure. They feel that it is a great contribution to their safety (and a necessary one, if the report by al-Jazeera is true that later this evening a car loaded with automatic weapons was stopped at one of the checkpoints). Where there is army, they do a part of the controlling, but mostly it is entirely volunteers. And as the demonstration grows in the course of the day, new checkpoints extend out to the streets, as far as beyond Talaat Harb Square, with men forming human chains to guide people to the checkpoints. Although there are possibly more than a million people (it is all guessing - nobody knows) out in downtown, these controls work well throughout the day and the evening.
We arrive at Tahrir Square around 11 a.m., and it is already much more crowded than it was yesterday. In the course of the next three hours it becomes so full that it becomes difficult to move although it’s a big square. We stand, watch, chant with the crowd, I make many photographs, and many Egyptians ask me about my opinion, and I tell them what I think, and add that I am here to demonstrate against the European governments that support dictators while talking about democracy. Y. hopes that people would agree on chanting one slogan, but it is impossible due to the huge size of the demonstration. And at two occasions I see heated discussions between demonstrators around the issue of the slogans. Later my European friend tells me that last night there was some disagreement on the same issue. All groups have agreed to suspend the use of any slogans of particular parties or movements, but sometimes people are tempted.
(While I write this, we are tensely waiting for the announced speech by Mubarak. The expectation is that he will either say that he will not run for the next elections, which will mean the next big demonstration on Friday, or he will resign. We switch to Egyptian television where they show a small group of people with signs saying “Yes to Mubarak” and actually claim that there were two million in the streets of Alexandria demonstrating in support of Mubarak. No wonder everybody in the demonstration was calling home and telling that the situation is completely different from what is shown on television.)
For half an hour, Y. starts to collect garbage, and he does with extreme dedication and determination. Then Y. and A. leave early to take her home (but they accidentally take my sandwiches along and spend almost an hour searching for me, eventually find me on their way out but by then they have distributed the sandwiches already, and they head on so that A. can get home). I walk down the sidewalk that is separated from the square with a fence towards Talaat Harb street. The fences around the square create some difficult bottlenecks, and it gets very crowded at one moment, so crowded that I start to worry how many people the square can take. I stand for a while next to the armoured vehicle parked at the entrance of Talaat Harb street, and then walk down Talaat Harb street where shortly a rumour is spread that Mubarak has resigned, but it is quickly debunked. I meet my European friend, and we go around Tahrir Square and then walk around in downtown, have coffee, and on the way meet many friends. Joyful encounters in an exceptional mood of hope. At last I meet M. again, he had to go to work in the morning, and he had arrived at the demonstrations in the afternoon. He was exhausted. We went together to the apartment of a friend in downtown to go to the bathroom, and stayed shortly for a drink, very welcome. M. was exhausted so we headed home, expecting that we will have to walk all the way. But luckily we got a ride by a man who was driving his car as an illegal taxi with his wife and daughters along with him. Good mood, and everybody is happy and proud about the good manners and politeness of the citizens’ guards.
Much more than a revolution of Facebook or Twitter, this is a revolution of mobile phones. All day long, people at the demonstration keep talking to their mobile phones, telling to their friends or family that the situation is completely unlike what Egyptian television tells (in the afternoon, they apparently tried to scare people with warnings about clashes and new looting), that the demonstration is huge and peaceful. The government is trying to keep the citizens in the dark at all means possible. Internet is down since Friday. Al-Jazeera has been repeatedly taken off Nilesat, and today also Arabsat. Egyptian state television is running a heavy campaign of disinformation.
While I wrote this, Mubarak spoke on television. He will not run for the next term, but otherwise he is defiant and makes no real concessions, on the contrary, he promises a change of the constitution but by the current parliament, and he says that the parliament will only be dissolved after courts have decided whether there must be new election the challenged seats (400 out of 420 - and this is the same what Omar Suleyman promised yesterday, even less). And he tells that all the people who have been resp0nsible for looting and for causing chaos will be caught by the law. M.’s interpretation: If he doesn’t go on Friday, our blood will be shed, everybody who participated in the demonstrations will be persecuted. He says: It will be Friday now - that is, that’s the next big demonstration against Mubarak. Actually what Mubarak said was pretty much exactly what John Kerry had demanded in the US senate just an hour or so earlier. He seems to act under foreign pressure, but he is not moving one step more than he absolutely must.
M. is really angry. The sense of tense expectation gives way to anger, and he is going out to join the demonstration right now. Y. would go as well if he could but he has to stay behind to watch for the safety of M’s son and mother. Al-Jazeera shows the people in Tahrir chanting loudly against Mubarak. This will continue. And maybe it won’t wait until Friday.
M. just walked out of the door to go back to Tahrir. Y, their mother, M’s son and I stay behind, watching television. What will tomorrow bring? This is a critical moment. But I will find it out after getting some sleep.
(For what happened afterwards, see my reports posted from Wednesday 2 February on).