Sunday, February 27, 2011

Will Egyptians forgive the army's mistakes?

Egyptians love and respect their armed forces. Ever since the Egyptian army reclaimed the Sinai Peninsula from Israel in 1973, the army has been held in high regard by the people.
When military tanks rolled into Cairo on the evening of January 28, they were greeted with cheers, kisses, and flowers. On that Friday, they were received as saviors from the brutality of Egypt’s hated Central Security Forces, who for four days had attempted to put down the Egyptian uprising by using force against unarmed demonstrators. Finally, the army had arrived.
As demonstrations continued in Tahrir Square, tanks were covered with men, women, and children waving the Egyptian flag. Army personnel were greeted with smiles across the city, and they remained true to their word: they did not use violence against the demonstrators.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was charged with the country’s administration on February 11, when Hosni Mubarak resigned from the presidency after thirty years in power. For the most part, Egypt’s people approved. There was some resignation, but the military is one of the few institutions most Egyptians trust.
Around the time of Mubarak’s resignation, there were whispers that the army was detaining people and holding them in the Egyptian Museum, located on the edge of Tahrir Square. The news stirred some talk, but it soon died down.
Over the past few days, however, the army’s relationship with the people has been tested. On Friday night, military police surrounded demonstrators outside the Egyptian parliament in downtown Cairo and instructed journalists to leave. In Tahrir Square, the army took down tents and chased demonstrators from the square with sticks and tasers.
Egyptians were outraged.
The incidents took place well after midnight, around 2am. “Why are they surrounding us, civilians, with weapons?!” asked Gigi Ibrahim, a young activist who has become a recognized and semi-permanent face in Tahrir Square. “The army is the same as the Central Security, just in different clothes,” wrote angry Egyptians on Twitter. Comparing the highly respected army to the hated and feared security forces shows how deeply shaken Egyptians were by the army’s actions.
It was a severe blow to their faith in the armed forces.
The next morning, cafes were buzzing with the news, as were social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Some argued that the army was trying to enforce the curfew – which should run from midnight to 6am, and which demonstrators have mostly ignored – but had gone about doing so the wrong way. Some said the army was unused to dealing with civilians, others said its actions were inexcusable.
On Saturday night, dozens of groups of friends sat in plastic chairs drinking tea or Turkish coffee around small tables at El Boursa, a group of cafes in the financial district in downtown Cairo. Many were discussing the recently announced constitutional amendments, but the discussion inevitably turned to the incident with the army.
“What happened last night is very bad,” commented an elderly artist who had been an activist in his youth. Behind his glasses, his eyes were troubled.
Haitham, a young activist and member of the al-Ghad liberal party, was also concerned. “How could this happen?” he asked.
Many were worried about the incident, fearing it might be the beginning of a new policy of action by the military but hoping it wasn’t. As worrying as the events of Friday night were, many Egyptians wanted to believe the army’s actions were a mistake, and that the army was still on their side. On Saturday afternoon, the army released a statement on its Facebook page apologizing for the incident and saying some people were trying to undermine to goals of the revolution.
Some Egyptians were willing enough to accept the statement, but others remained wary.
The army must be extremely careful in both its actions and its image during this critical time in Egypt, because the people’s faith in the army is just as vital as sincerity on the part of the army if the transition to democracy is to be achieved. If the people’s trust in the army is severely shaken, their trust in the process facilitated by the army will be as well.
Already another video has begun circulating on Facebook and YouTube, showing a group of men detained by the army in Port Said. One man, blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back, is prodded by a soldier with a stick-like taser. Should similar evidence continue to surface, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is going to have a major problem on its hands.
Egyptians seem willing to forgive the army once, but they may not do so twice.
** This post was originally published as an op-ed in Bikya Masr

Friday, February 18, 2011

"I am Egyptian"

Piles of t-shirts spill out of suitcases on the ground. Young men with fistfuls of flags weave through the crowds, looking for buyers. Small groups gather to have the Egyptian flag painted on their cheeks free of charge. Young children are everywhere – in their mother’s arms, on their father’s shoulders, happily waving the Egyptian flag.

A week after the historic announcement that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down as president of Egypt, Egyptians are still celebrating.

Now, members of the military smile and pose for pictures where before they would sternly shake their heads. If families were common in Tahrir before Mubarak’s resignation, now they are everywhere. Even foreigners who have made Cairo their home have started to gather in Tahrir with their families and young children.

Increasingly the feeling in Tahrir Square is like that of a festival. Gone is the underlying tension, the worry that more government thugs will attack the peaceful atmosphere in Cairo’s Liberation Square.
On the other hand, some Egyptians stood in the square looking a bit bewildered. “We’re here… what do we do now?” one commented twenty-something girl to her friend.

Others have echoed the thought: Mubarak has left… why are they still gathering? Some come to honor the memories of the martyrs, whose pictures hang from various points along the square. Others come to visit with friends, for an afternoon out, or simply to bask in the strange freedom of gathering freely in public with thousands of others.

Egyptians are well aware that their struggle is not over. Much work remains to be done if Egypt is to become a democratic state. Even so, they seem intent on enjoying this first victory before moving on to the next battle.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Remembering the past as the future unfolds

For days I have sat here staring at a blank screen with no idea what to write. How do I express what I've seen in the past few weeks? How do I express how I feel, what I think? I have been remiss in uploading and publishing comments, news, anything.

Yesterday I stumbled upon Jehan Sadat's autobiography. Jehan was the wife of Anwar Sadat, the man who made peace with Israel and whose death left Hosni Mubarak in control of the country for the next thirty years. Somehow, the timing seems appropriate.

So far I've only read the first two chapters, where Jehan describes her husbands death, and then goes back to the beginning - growing up in Cairo. Some of the wonders she describes I've seen and wondered at myself: the oldest mosques, Coptic Cairo, Khan el-Khalili, the mix of modern and ancient, European and Egyptian.

Some of her memories are long gone, such as the Nile's annual flood, or watching the British move through the streets in their horse-drawn carriages.

But again, somehow the timing seems perfect. Now, as I prepare to go back to the beginning of what will be a new Egypt, I am remembering the sort of breathless awe with which I anticipated my first views of the city two and a half years ago. Part of me wishes I hadn't left in the middle of the Revolution, even though foreigners and journalists were being targeted. At the same time, I've always argued that one of the best parts about saying goodbye is that you get to say hello again. When I return to Cairo I will not only be saying hello again, to the city and to friends who have become like family, but I will be returning home to the beginnings of a new city.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt’s Revolution: A victory embodied by the Egyptian spirit

No one expected that peaceful protests and perseverance could topple the third-longest ruler in Egyptian history – but they did, and in less than three weeks.

What’s more, Egyptians won their victory as a people, not as a mass following a leader. Throughout history there have been various peaceful revolutions, but each had a figurehead: Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Gahndi in India, Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Each a worthy cause with a worthy leader.

Many images from the last nineteen days will be recorded in history: Egyptians chanting ‘peaceful, peaceful’ before being attacked by State Security; armored trucks turning water cannons on demonstrators as they prayed; Christian Egyptians surrounding their Muslim brothers, protecting them as they prayed; millions of people gathered in Tahrir – Liberation – Square.

These are the images of a people long known as friendly and hospitable, who have shown the world how deeply the Egyptian spirit runs.

In the early days of the revolution, for every young man who wanted to throw a stone at State Security forces there were five others to stop him. They would not instigate violence, but at a point demonstrators did retaliate: Police shot tear gas at demonstrators. The people kicked it away, threw it back, or tried to put it out. Police threw stones. Demonstrators threw them back. Police shot rubber bullets at demonstrators. Demonstrators set police vans on fire.

Even so, the overwhelming desire among the people was for everything to be peaceful. When State Security withdrew from Cairo on January 28, the people did not chase them out. On the contrary, I witnessed some demonstrators go to them and congratulate them, sharing the victory.

In less than three weeks Egyptians shattered the wall of fear which had kept them silent for decades. The wall had been cracked already, and the foundation was a bit unstable, but until January 25 that wall still stood. On the evening of January 25 I stood in Tahrir Square as tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered there for the first time, giddy with excitement.

I spoke with a lawyer who had helped found the human rights movement in Egypt in the 1970s, and had been part of the student demonstrations in 1973 and 1977. “I was here in Tahrir in 1977 and I was arrested for that demonstration,” he told me. “And now I am here again and I see all these young people, the age of my son and my daughters.” For him, as for many others, it was an emotional moment.

Destroying that ‘culture of fear,’ as I once heard it called, is one of the single most important victories of Egypt’s revolution. Whatever happens next, Egyptians now know that they can go to the streets and demand their rights.

So, what happens next? This is the question both Egyptians and the world have been asking for nineteen days. Hosni Mubarak, against all odds, is gone. What now?

Many have expressed the fear of a power vacuum. The military is in control, but that makes some uneasy. Others fear the Muslim Brotherhood will take over and impose some version of Islamic rule. Some of the fears are valid, some misplaced, but all seem to have overlooked the most important thing Egyptians have taught themselves and the world over the past nineteen days: Egyptians can take care of themselvevs.

Egyptians can take care of themselves. When the police pulled out of the city, Egyptians took it upon themselves to safeguard their homes and their history. They locked arms in front of the Egyptian Museum to protect it, and when thugs broke in from the roof the people quickly arrested them and turned them over to the army.

Within hours of the disappearance of security guards and traffic police, citizens organized road blocks, checkpoints, and neighborhood watch groups – and all without access to the internet or mobile phones.

Committees were organized to clean the streets and pick up garbage. People took it upon themselves to set up makeshift clinics in Tahrir Square and to bring food, water, and blankets to distribute to the people demonstrating there 24 hours a day.

Egypt did not fall into chaos, and did not fall for the rumors the government was trying to spread. In places where there was violence and looting, the people knew it was government-hired thugs and prisoners who mysteriously escaped from prisons who were causing trouble: it was not the people themselves.

The regime tried to force the people to choose between security and liberty and the people, in true Egyptian fashion, made their own option. They chose both. And it will not be quick or easy, but with more of the perseverance and compassion Egyptians have embodied in the last three weeks, they will keep both.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


As Egyptians and the world waited for Mubarak to make his third (and many hoped final) speech on Thursday night, it didn't take long for hashtag '#ReasonsMubarakIsLate' to trend worldwide on Twitter. Egyptian humor cannot be beaten!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Statement from Tahrir Square to the Egyptian people

A Statement from the protesters at Cairo's Tahrir square

to the Egyptian people

The President's promises and the bloody events of Wednesday February 2

We the protesters who are currently on sit-in at Tahrir (liberation) square in Cairo since January 25, 2011 strongly condemn the brutal attack carried out by the governing National Democratic Party's (NDP) mercenaries at our location on Wednesday February 2, under the guise of "rally" in support of President Mubarak. This attack continues on Thursday February 3. We regret that some young people have joined these thugs and criminals, whom the NDP is accustomed to hire during elections, to march them off after spreading several falsehoods circulated by the regime media about us and our goals. These goals that aim at changing the political system to a one that guarantees freedom, dignity and social justice to all citizens are also the goals of the youth. Therefore we want to clarify the following.

Firstly, we are a group of Muslim and Christian Egyptians; the overwhelming majority of us does not belong to political parties and have no previous political activism. Our movement involves elderly and children, peasants, workers, professionals, students and pensioners. Our movement cannot be classified as "paid for" or "directed by" a limited few because it attracted millions who responded to its emblem of removing the regime. People joined us last Tuesday in Cairo and other governorates in a scene that witnessed no one case of violence, property assault or harassment to anyone.

Secondly, our movement is accused of being funded from abroad, supported by the United States, as being instigated by Hamas, as under the leadership of the president of the National Assembly for change (Mohamed El-Baradie) and last but not least, as directed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Many accusations like these prove to be false. Protesters are all Egyptians who have clear and specific national objectives. Protesters have no weapons or foreign equipment as claimed by instigators. The broad positive response by the people to our movement's goals reveals that these are the goals of the Egyptian masses in general, not any internal or external faction or entity.

Thirdly, the regime and its paid media falsely blame us, demonstrators, for the tension and instability in the streets of Egypt in recent days and therefore for damaging our nation's interests and security. Our answer to them is: It is not the peaceful protesters who released the criminal offenders from prison to the unguarded streets to practice looting and plundering. It is not the peaceful protesters who have imposed a curfew starting at 3 o'clock PM. It is not the peaceful protesters who have stopped the work in banks, bakeries and gas stations. When protesters organized its one-million demonstration it came up in the most magnificent and organized form and ended peacefully. It is not the protestors who killed 300 people some with live ammunition, and wounding more than 2,000 people in the last few days.

Fourthly, President Mubarak came out on Tuesday to announce that he will not be nominated in the upcoming presidential election and that he will modify two articles in the Constitution, and engage in dialogue with the opposition. However the State media has attacked us when we refused his "concession" and decided to go on with our movement. Our demand that Mubark steps down immediately is not a personal matter, but we have clear reasons for it which include:

  • His promise of not to run again is not new. He has promised when he came to power in 1981 that he will not run for more than two periods but he continued for more than 30 years.
  • His speech did not put any collateral for not nominating his son "Gamal", who remains until the moment a member of the ruling party, and can stand for election that will not be under judicial supervision since he ignored any referring to the amendment of article 88 of the Constitution.
  • He also considered our movement a "plot directed by a force" that works against the interests of the nation as if responding to the demands of the public is a "shame" or "humiliation".
  • As regards to his promise of conducting a dialogue with the opposition, we know how many times over the past years the regime claimed this and ended up with enforcing the narrow interests of the Mubarak State and the few people who control it.

And the events of Wednesday proved our stand is vindicated. While the President was giving his promises, the leaders of his regime were organizing (along with paid thugs and wanted criminals equipped with swords, knives and Molotov bombs) a brutal attack plot against us in Tahrir square. Those thugs and criminals were accompanied by the NDP members who fired machine guns on unarmed protesters who were trapped on the square ground, killing at least 7 and wounding hundreds of us critically. This was done in order to end our peaceful national popular movement and preserve the status quo.

Our movement is Egyptian - Our movement is legitimate- Our movement is continuing

The youth of Tahrir Square sit-in

February 3, 2011 at 11:30am

بيان للشعب من معتصمين بالتحرير - الرجاء النشر والتوزيع

بيان للشعب

أول القصيد: وعود الرئيس وأحداث الأربعاء 2 فبراير

نحن محتجون منذ 25 يناير الماضي، ومعتصمون في ميدان التحرير، ندين بشدة الاعتداء الغاشم الذي نفذته مرتزقة الحزب الوطني علينا في مقر اعتصامنا يوم الأربعاء 2 فبراير تحت غطاء المظاهرة المؤيدة للرئيس لمبارك ويستمر العدوان يوم الخميس 3 فبراير. ونأسف لدخول البعض من شباب مصر مع البلطجية والمجرمين ممن اعتاد الوطني تأجيرهم في الانتخابات، وساقوهم علينا بعد أن أشاعوا اكاذيب عديدة يروجها النظام وإعلامه بخصوصنا وبخصوص اهدافنا المنادية بتغيير للنظام السياسي يكفل لنا ولجموع المواطنين الحرية وكرامة العيش والعدالة الاجتماعية، والتي هي ايضا من اهداف هذا الشباب، ولذلك نريد توضيح الاتي:

أولا، نحن مجموعة من شباب مصر مسلمين ومسيحيين، أغلبيتنا الكاسحة لا تنتمي لأحزاب سياسية ولا لها نشاط سياسي من قبل. حركتنا ضمت شيوخا وأطفالا، فلاحين وعمال ومهنيين، طلبة وموظفين على المعاش. حركتنا لا يمكن تصنيفها على أنها مدفوعة أو محركة من قلة بحكم الملايين الذين استجابوا لشعاراتها باسقاط النظام، وانضموا اليها يوم الثلاثاء الماضي في القاهرة والمحافظات، في حدث لم يشهد حالة عنف واحدة أو اعتداء على الممتلكات أو تحرش من أحد بأحد.

ثانيا، حركتنا متهمة بأنها ممولة من الخارج، وتمدها الولايات المتحدة، وأنها قامت بتحريض من حماس، وبأنها تحت قيادة وبتنظيم رئيس الجمعية الوطنية للتغيير محمد البرادعي، وأخيرا وليس آخرا، بأنها موجهة من قبل الاخوان المسلمين. وتعدد الاتهامات بهذا الشكل في حد ذاته يثبت زيفها. المحتجون كلهم مصريون أهدافهم أهدافا وطنية واضحة ومحددة. المحتجون ليس لديهم لا سلاح ولا معدات أجنبية كما يدعي المحرضين. واستجابة الناس الواسعة لها تكشف أنها هي ذاتها أهداف جموع المصريين عموما، وليس أي فصيل أو كيان داخلي وخارجي.

ثالثا، يلقي النظام وإعلامه المأجور زورا وبهتانا بالمسئولية عن التوتر وعدم الاستقرار الذي شهدته شوارع مصر في الأيام الماضية، وبالتالي عما يسببه ذلك من أضرار لمصالحنا ومصالح أمتنا ولأمننا جميعا، على الشباب المتظاهر. فليس المتظاهرون سلميا هم الذين أخرجوا المجرمين من السجون ليخلقوا حالة السلب والنهب في شوارع المحروسة. ليس المتظاهرون هم الذين فرضوا حظر تجول يبدأ من الثالثة وأوقفوا العمل في البنوك والمخابز ومحطات الوقود. وحين نظم المتظاهرون مظاهرتهم المليونية خرجت في أحلى حلة وأفضل تنظيم، وانتهت سلميا. المتظاهرون ليسوا هم من قتلوا 300 شخص بعضهم بالرصاص الحي، وجرحوا أكثر من ألفي شخص في الأيام الماضية.

رابعا، خرج الرئيس مبارك علينا مساء الثلاثاء ليعلن عدم ترشحه في الانتخابات الرئاسية المقبلة وتعديله لمادتين في الدستور، وخوض حوار مع المعارضة. وقد هاجمنا الاعلام الرسمي عندما رفضنا "تنازلاته" وقررنا المضي في حركتنا. إن مطلب التنحي الفوري لمبارك ليس مسألة شخصية. لكننا نستند في ذلك على أسباب واضحة من بينها:

الوعد بعدم الترشح ليس جديدا. فقد وعد مبارك عندما جاء رئيسا في 1981 بعدم الترشح لأكثر من فترتين، ليستمر بعدها لأكثر من 30 عاما. كما أن الخطاب لم يضع أي ضمانات لعدم ترشح ابنه جمال، الذي يظل حتى هذه اللحظة عضوا في الحزب الحاكم، ويستطيع ترشيح نفسه في انتخابات لن تتم تحت اشراف قضائي، إذ تجاهل الخطاب الاشارة الى تعديل المادة 88 في الدستور. كما اعتبر الخطاب حركتنا مؤامرة من قوى تعمل ضد مصالح الوطن، وكأن الاستجابة لمطالب الجماهير عار وعيب. وأما فيما يتعلق بالحوار مع المعارضة فكم من حوارات ادعى النظام انه سيقوم بها خلال السنوات الماضية وانتهت بمضي دولة مبارك في طريق المصالح الضيقة لمن يسيطرون عليها.

وجاءت أحداث الأربعاء لتثبت صحة موقفنا. فبينما كان خطاب الرئيس يوعد، كانت قيادات نظامه ترتب مع البلطجية والمسجلين خطر من المأجورين مؤامرة الاعتداء الوحشي في التحرير بالسنج والمطاوي وقنابل المولوتوف، يصاحبهم أعضاء الحزب الوطني بإطلاق الأعيرة النارية بالبنادق الآلية على المتظاهرين العزل المحاصرين في الميدان، الذي أدى إلى مقتل سبعة على الأقل وإصابة المئات، منهم بإصابات بالغة، وذلك لإنهاء حركتنا الشعبية الوطنية والتمهيد لبقاء الحال على ماهو عليه.

حركتنا مصرية – حركتنا مشروعة - حركتنا مستمرة

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Police brutality on Qasr el-Nil Bridge, January 28, 2011

This footage shows the violence of police forces against demonstrators on the Qasr el-Nil bridge leading into Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt on Friday, January 28, 2011, Egypt's 'Day of Rage'.

Notable time markers:
00:33 - videos from Jan. 28 begin
01:34 - police trucks drives through demonstrators
03:41 - police use water hoses against praying demonstrators
04:45 - police fire tear gas in man's face

Looking back: Gameela Ismail speaks on January 25

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Looking back: Abdelmonem Riad Square on January 28

This video was captured on Friday, January 28, 2011, Egypt's 'Day of Rage,' from Al-Jazeera's offices overlooking Abdelmonem Riad Square in Cairo, Egypt. In it can be seen the battle between police and demonstrators, including tear gas, stone throwing, and rubber bullets.

Looking back - Tahrir on February 1

The following is an article I wrote at midnight last night Cairo time, before Tahrir Square turned into the madness it is in now. Please, read and reflect on what the government is sanctioning here in Egypt.

Egypt Continues to Protest

Internet service in Egypt has been cut almost entirely since midnight Thursday. The government undoubtedly cut service to disrupt coordination among would-be demonstrators in an effort to dissuade Egyptians from protesting.
Two days earlier, on Tuesday, January 25, Egyptians went to the streets in numbers not seen since the 1970’s.
For human rights lawyer Amir Salem, the massive turnout of Egyptians demanding political change is something he never thought he would see. As a young man, Salem participated in the student demonstrations in Egypt in 1973 and 1977.
On the evening of January 25, Salem sat in Cairo’s Tahrir – Liberation – Square. “I was in prison for that demonstration in Tahrir Square” in 1977, he told me. “Now after thirty years I’m here watching the young people, and most of them are the age of my son and daughters. I am very, very happy.”
Wednesday saw a number of violent clashes between police and demonstrators across Egypt and a call for a major demonstration on Friday, January 28, nicknamed the 'Day of Rage.'
Activists frantically made phone calls late into Thursday night in anticipation of the government’s closure of mobile phone service, which indeed occurred around 9am on Friday morning.
“We arranged everything from yesterday because we knew what they would do,” prominent opposition figure George Ishak told me outside a café early on Friday morning. “We are now ready. The plan is ready.”
Some activists worried the lack of communications would stop Egyptians from going out on Friday.
It didn’t.
Egyptians braved tear gas, government thugs with sticks, water hoses, rubber bullets and buckshot-like live fire. In Abdelmonem Riad Square, behind the Egyptian Museum and steps from Tahrir, the afternoon saw a back-and-forth battle between demonstrators and police.
Police shot tear gas at demonstrators. The people kicked it away, threw it back, or tried to put it out. Police threw stones. Demonstrators threw them back. Police shot rubber bullets at demonstrators. Demonstrators set police vans on fire.
As dusk fell, demonstrators stopped retaliating. They lined up and began to pray, meters from where riot police with shields and guns stood in a ragged line. Shortly thereafter, a line of police trucks began moving out of the square and reports came that the army was moving in.
Watching from above, long-time opposition activist Gameela Ismail had tears in her eyes.
“I can’t believe what happened today,” said her teenage son, Shady. “The people beat the police. The police gave up.”
Student Sara Abed participated on Friday in Nasr City and then on the Qasr el-Nil bridge, which leads into Tahrir Square. “I think we made a clear statement to the government, although they are still denying it,” she told me in a café in Cairo's affluent Zamalek neighborhood on Saturday morning. “It’s our right to call for our demands. All the people will protest and they are willing to do it peacefully.”
“We’re not responsible for any damages,” she added. “It started by the government.”
Reports of looting and violence around Cairo had surfaced throughout the night. Downstairs in the café, the cashier was writing out orders and holding the cash in his hand because the cash box had been stolen during the night.
Egyptians have been extremely frustrated with the sporadic violent events. They stress that it is not the demonstrators or the Egyptian people who have been responsible for such acts, but government-hired thugs and plainclothes police officers attempting to convince the people to ask the police to return.
Al-Jazeera reported over the weekend that citizens had arrested a number of government thugs who had broken into the Egyptian Museum. The men, reportedly carrying secret security IDs, were then turned over to the army.
Abed reported seeing citizens standing arm in arm in front of the museum to prevent anyone from entering, something I also witnessed.
Since Friday, demonstrators have congregated in Tahrir Square under the watchful eye of the army. The army was greeted with relief by Egyptian citizens. While officially remaining politically neutral on the situation, the army has maintained the respect and appreciation of the people.
Around 5pm on Tuesday, February 1, two taxi cabs filled koshari, a typical Egyptian fast food dish, pulled up outside the military checkpoint leading into Tahrir Square. One of the cab drivers said the food had been paid for by the army and was to be distributed among the people.
Over a million Egyptians took to the streets across Egypt on Tuesday.
As night fell, Tahrir was still full of people. For the fourth night, people made fires, set up tents and other shelters, and settled in for the night. Groups continued to congregate. Posters with slogans in Arabic, English, and a dozen other languages remained scattered around the square.
Around 11pm, President Hosni Mubarak made a speech announcing he will not run for reelection this fall. As with other attempted concessions, such as dissolving the government and swearing in a Vice President, the statement was received with anger and disdain.
After eight days of protesting, Mubarak has made no indication of stepping down, which is foremost among the demands of the Egyptian people. The people are determined to continue their demonstrations until he does so.

Update on Egypt's Revolution

Currently it is almost 5pm here in Cairo. To be utterly honest, I have no idea where to begin writing. For the past four days I have witnessed an incredible sense of community among Egyptians. In Tahrir square, people have been taking care of each other: bringing food and water to distribute, bringing instruments, gathering together. There has been no sexual harassment. There has been no violence.

Just two hours ago I was in Tahrir, and the mood was tense, but still peaceful.

In the past two hours all chaos has broken loose. Pro-government "demonstrators" charged horses and camels into the peaceful crowd. The groups are throwing stones, Molotov cocktails at each other. The beautiful sense of peace of the last four days has been utterly shattered. I have friends in Tahrir, and I am terrified of their lives.

Last night, Mubarak had caught the attention of many demonstrators. Some believed that because of his statements made to an international audience, he would actually take steps to bring more freedom to Egypt. Many believed he would actually step down peacefully when presidential elections are held later this year, and were asking their friends to stop demonstrating so things could go back to normal.

And then this happened. Mubarak has proven himself for what he is.

I will try to update you all more later. For now, check my updates on Bikya Masr at:

And please, please, pray for Egypt.