There were a million people in Tahrir today. High volume of cellphone and wireless internet users caused a temporary shutdown today, which was reported by Egyptian cell phone service providers as unrelated to any government restriction.
The numbers are now 33 dead, almost 2000 wounded. Makeshift hospitals in Cairo reported seeing 80 injured an hour today and have started photographing cases and putting the pictures online.
There was a dramatic scene of women yelling in Tahrir, something along the lines of “You Egyptians doing this to your countrymen are worse than Israel in the 67 war, worse than Mubarak.” This is especially in reference to the snipers who are now aiming for people’s left eyes and to the mistreatment of the dead.
There are reports that the tear gas being used in Tahrir square is expired, most by 3-15 years which is toxic and more potent than its non-expired counterpart. Tear gas (formally known as lachrymatory agent) stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes, which causes crying, pain, skin irritation, and temporary blindness with continued exposure. It irritates mucus membranes in the nose, eyes, mouth, throat, and lungs, which causes coughing, restricted breathing, blurred vision, headache, mucus overproduction, vomiting, chemical burn, disorientation, dizziness, prostration (you fall onto the ground), and sometimes temporary seizure. If someone is exposed to tear gas over a long period of time, especially the expired stuff, severe pulmonary damage can be expected and there are even links between long exposure to tear gas and liver and heart damage. There is also a rumor that some of the canisters have Hebrew writing on them, but this may be an effort to scapegoat Israel and equate it with the interim government. It has been confirmed that many of the canisters are US-made, too, but this does not constitute US aid to the Egyptian interim government as the source is a private company, Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Important distinction for all of us foreigners! Not that people here would listen to that argument if they were already convinced otherwise…
The military is still vague on when it will hand over power, even though the prime minister, Essam Sharaf, and the cabinet submitted their resignation to the military council. I have not heard whether their resignation has been accepted yet.
We are safe, but we are constantly being told to be careful and to stay away from the action. The protests started around 4 today, so earlier on we drove by the Qaid Ibrahim mosque near downtown, where a lot of the protests start after midday prayers. There was a crowd already forming there at 11 am. There were also protests right next to the center where we study, but we were ushered home before they began. Here is the view from the window, as taken by our guide: