Continuing Protests: Update 11/20

Since Friday, there have been huge protests going on in Cairo and all over Egypt.  There are a lot of rumors; some say it might turn into Part 2 of the Egyptian Revolution (don’t know what the January 25th Revolution was about? check out The Revolution: an overview).  We are safe and Rushdi is quiet now, but everyone is on high-alert.  Here is what I know about what is going on.

Why people are protesting:

  1. SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been running the interim government since Mubarak stepped down, refuse to comply with the people’s wishes to submit a date when they will hand over executive power to a civilian council.
  2. SCAF also are still trying civilians arrested during the Revolution in military courts.
  3. Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Silmi’s draft constitution includes a provision that grants the army exclusive power over the budget and interior affairs.
  4. People are fed up, seeing that little has changed since January 25th.
There are rumors saying that SCAF, the police, or those who benefited from Mubarak’s tyranny may be behind this as an excuse to postpone or otherwise interfere with the parliamentary elections scheduled for November 28th.  There is also a rumor that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis are using the clashes as personal advertisement, showing up in support of the protesters in order to win votes and gain sympathy.
I heard there were 70,000 protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday, but officially I have seen anywhere between 5,000 and 50,000 reported and the number is expected to keep growing in response to police brutality. All sorts of people showed up, most notably a strong contingent from the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood.  Three people have been confirmed killed, one in Alexandria, and almost a thousand are injured.  The Musabiyeen, those who were injured in the Revolution earlier this year, were targeted especially.  They are considered honorable by protesters for their sacrifice, some having lost eyes, broken bones, or suffered permanent scarring or debilitation, like this man who lost his eyes to the cause (apparently the military and police are aiming for people’s faces en masse).
The phrase at the bottom says: “Ahmed Haraara… lost his right eye on 28 January… and lost his left eye on 19 November”
In much of the Egyptian media, the norm is government-controlled information, blatant misinformation, or willful misrepresentation of the truth.  It is very hard to choose who to believe in this situation.  For example there are 3 reported dead, but I keep getting photos and stories like this on my newsfeed ( this one posted 20 November 9:30 PM Egyptian time, a street corner in Cairo):  
The unity from the 25th of January is somewhat broken.  Before everyone wanted an end to Mubarak’s regime and the suffering many Egyptians were (and are still) going through, but now the situation is considerably stickier, as each group has its own concerns and agendas. It is still unclear whether SCAF will relinquish power without a struggle and whether the rampant corruption of Mubarak’s era will end. From Friday there has been a sense of “Here we go again,” especially reading the posts of Egyptian friends on Facebook.
“Ok guys. Don’t panic. You know the drill. We have been through this before. If you are joining the demonstrations, then take Coke or Pepsi and a mask for the tear gas, sunglasses and a hat for rubber bullets, a light first aid kit, water bottles, candy and a blanket. If you are staying home, then lock up and stock on water bottles and dry food. And you better look for that club or whatever makeshift weapon we used in January defending our neighborhoods. And for God’s sake, get some cash from the nearest ATM before some clown decides to turn off all kinds of networks. And, since they might cut off the internet, don’t waste the last minutes of your cyberlife playing games on FB.”

We foreign students have been warned to stay close to home in case things should escalate.  Our neighborhood is very quiet, as usual.  I wonder often whether I hoped for this kind of suspense when I decided to go to Egypt, despite a revolution in progress. I am inspired by the incredible possibility of a people raising their voices in the pursuit of a greater good.  January 25th therefore only solidified my drive to come here.  But this morning, our guide rang our doorbell at 7:30 to tell us the news.  Lying in bed in my groggy state, I calmly assessed whether I would be able to pack everything within an hour to evacuate.  This was definitely an overreaction, but in this country and in this state of affairs things can change by the minute.  I hope at least by spreading the word (a teeny-tiny part of this social media revolution!) I can hold on to what inspired me to come here in the first place.

أنا أقف معك، يا مصر

I stand with you, Egypt


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