Thursday, February 3, 2011

The battle of Tahrir

Identity card of (police) major Ahmed Mahmoud Abdel Meguid who was arrested by the people when he tried to burn down the Egyptian Museum.  (Picture via Wael Abbas)

Seven dead, some 800 wounded, that is the toll of the onslaught by the so-called pro-Murak supporters who yesterday started to attack the protesters on Tahrir Square. They came on camels, horses, in police vans and walking, armed with knives, sticks, molotov cocktails, tear gas and - it also seems - fire arms. Heavy fighting broke out, and the people on the square were also pelted with stones from nearby roofs and, during the evening, with molotov cocktails from the traffic  bridge that runs near Tahrir.Many of the wounced where
treated in makeshift clinics around Tahrir by the protesters themselves.
Some were amazed that this amount of  violence could be mustered by Mubarak and his NDP-party members. In fact, however this is nothing new. I myself witnessed as a correspondent in the late eighties and early nineties in a few cases the results of raids by the Central Security on mosques where islamists preached. One such a case was an attack on a mosque in Nasr City in Cairo, which was described in the newspaper Al-Ahram as a mini-revolt by the islamists (in that case the islamists of the Gama'at al-Islamiyya, a more militant islamist  organisation than the Muslim Brotherhood). When I went there to look for myself, the neighbourhood, however, explained that the opposite had been the case. The Central Security came in several vans, immediately went upstairs, to the clinic the Gamaat al-Islamiyya was running on top of the  mosque, and destroyed it thoroughly and completely. At the same time they shot tear gas through the windows into the mosque itself and laid siege to it, as they wanted to arrst the imam and some other people. In the end a fight broke out, in which the neigbourhood participated. Shots were fired, a police van was burned, one man was killed and many people were wounded.
Inside the mosque I met the official spokesman of the Gamaat al-Islamiyya, a veterinarian called Ayman Mohyeddin, who some days later visited me at my place and gave me a list of at least 17 other places throughout Egypt were similar attacks had taken place. It was useful information for a better understanding of the reasons why the Gamaat Islamiyya not long after that resorted to the killing of police officers,  and somewhat later also started to target tourist sites. One other reason why, by the ay, was that the Centrakl Security also started to practice a policy of 'targeted killing'. Spokesman Mohyeddin, was one of the first victims. A few months after he visited me at my flat, he was killed in broad daylight on Pyramids Street in Giza by two men, who first verrified his identity and then put a pistol against his head.
The official liars at work. The main headline of the goevernment newspaper Al Ahram of tnis morning: Millions demonstrate in favour of Mubarak.

Back to Tahrir. The situation is dangerous. Dangerous for the people who risk their nlives by continuing to protest peacefully, and dangerous because the continued provocations by the dying Mubarak-regime might trigger a reaction from the army.
But in the meantime, I have to tell, on a personal note, that  I'm proud of the role two dear women friends played in the 'battle of Tahrir'. Soha al-Naqqash quit her job as a reporter and presenter at Nile tv after this station refused to report honestly about the violence of the Mubarak thugs. And Noha Radwan, who once worked with me as a translator and who is now an assistant professor at the university of California from where she rushed to Cairo as soon as the protests began, was beaten and sexually harassed by the hired Mubarak-thugs at Tahrir. She needed 12 stitches in her forehead.
Soha and Noha, I admire both of you greatly.     

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