Friday, February 04, 2011

The wounded march victorious in Cairo square


CAIRO – Men with freshly bandaged heads marched through Tahrir Square on
Friday, the wounded, victorious veterans of two days of street battles
against supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.

A child made a victory sign with a bandaged hand and stared blankly into
the distance. The men chanted for those killed battling for a few city
blocks with showers of rocks and sheet metal shields on Wednesday and

"Oh martyrs on the door of heaven!" they shouted. "Oh martyrs, rest. We'll
continue the struggle!"

As the afternoon faded, the crowd of around 100,000 walked slowly around
the square. A young man handed out cookies with quiet purpose, as if he
was fueling his comrades for more fighting.

Suddenly, a clanging echoed across the square. Young men banged lengths of
iron rebar against a metal fence and hundreds rushed out of the square and
into a street heading east toward downtown.

Hundreds of Mubarak supporters in nearby Talat Harb Square were moving
down the street toward Tahrir Square.

"Whenever they start approaching, we start giving that alert," said Karim,
a 28-year-old engineer who spoke in English and declined to give his last
name for fear of government retaliation.

Everywhere, the roadway was broken up into fist-sized chunks of asphalt —
and the two sides showered each other with volleys until a mass of
bloodied fighters swarmed back into Tahrir, or Liberation, Square with a
captured pro-government man in their midst.

"They don't hit them, they don't beat them up," said Bahaa Kialani, a
35-year-old employee of a public relations company.

The crowd moved over to a tank guarding the northern approach to the
square, where demonstrators said they were handing him over to the army.

Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said 28 protesters suffered mostly minor
wounds Friday and three more people died from injuries sustained in
clashes in the square on Wednesday and Thursday, driving up the death toll
from those two days to 11. The Tahrir clashes brought the number of deaths
since protests began Jan. 25 to 109 people.

Officials have said about 900 people had been wounded in the two days of
fighting around Tahrir.

Mohammed Awash, a 25-year-old computer science teacher, wore a plastic
construction helmet tied to his head with a scarf.

"We'll be destroyed if we don't fight so hard," he said. "We made the lion
angry. If we give up now, it's going to come back fiercer than it was

Across the square, people threw trash down the steps of the Sadat Metro
station, where it piled up against metal gates that had been pulled shut,
chained and barred with a timber from a construction site to make a jail
for pro-Mubarak fighters captured in the rock battles.

Demonstrators said those captives had been taken away by the army too.

The military presence was heavy around the square. A lieutenant speaking
flawless American English checked IDs at the first checkpoint on the west
side of the Kasr el-Nil bridge. Across the bridge, soldiers with black
riot helmets, bulletproof vests and Kalashnikovs with folding stocks stood
behind razor-wire while hundreds of people filed through a narrow gantlet
formed by dozens more soldiers.

Battered pieces of sheet metal that had been used to haul rocks and shield
fighters from rains of stones lay abandoned on the ground.

Serious-looking young men in civilian clothes checked IDs and bags,
separating women and men for quick pat downs.

Yet another civilian checkpoint, and the crowd dispersed into Tahrir Square.

A group of young bloggers gathered in an area under an ornate lamppost
that protesters have come to call "upper-class corner."

Four words were spray-painted on the green metal gates of the shuttered
Egyptrav tour company nearby. In English, it read "Facebook" and
"Twitter." In Arabic, "Youth" and "Al-Jazeera."

Attorneys Ahmad Fathi, 47, and Osama el-Feyana, 43, strolled through the
square together.

"The hairs on my arm are standing on end. I have goose bumps," Fathi said.
"As lawyers we were always told we could say whatever we want but there
was never any freedom. I owe a lot to the youths. They were able to move
that barrier of fear and allow us to come here today."

The square was filled with members of Egypt's struggling middle-class, men
who said they were educated as engineers and teachers but found themselves
unable to support their families, or even find an apartment and get
married. There was a heavy presence of men with the long beards and shaved
upper lips of Salafis — ultra-conservatives preaching a return to the ways
of early Muslims.

One was Gharib Ibrahim, a 35-year-old painter with worn shoes and a
kaffiyeh wrapped around his head.

He said he had come to help turn Egypt into a country where he could have
rights including "the ability to find a good job, the ability to get an
apartment without having to know somebody who knows somebody."

Another was Alaa Mohammed, a 40-year-old religious studies teacher who
showed the scars on his wrist from where, he said, security forces had
hung him by a rope when he was jailed from 1994-2006 for what he said were
political activities.

"They were just jailing Islamists," he said.

Sometimes, he said, electrodes were attached to his ears to deliver
electric shocks.

"I challenge anyone to bear the torture of having electricity pulsed into
your ears," he said. "Only Allah saved me."


Diaa Hadid contributed to this report.

Interview with an anarcho-communist activist in Freedom Square, Cairo

February 04, 2011 Anarkismo

Can you please tell me your name and what movement you are from?

I'm Nidal Tahrir, from Black Flag, a small group of Anarcho-Communists in

The world is watching Egypt, and even moving in solidarity. However, due
to the internet being cut, information was difficult to find. Can you tell
me about what has happened in Egypt in the past week? What did it look
like from your perspective?

The situation in Egypt is so crucial right now. It began with an
invitation to the day of rage against the Mubarak regime on January 25th.
No-one expected that an invitation to a day of rage from a loose group, a
Facebook page, not really organized, called "We are all Khalid Said"
(Khalid Said is a young Egyptian who was killed by Mubarak's police in
Alexandria last summer), it was that Tuesday that began everything, it was
the spark for the whole fire. On Tuesday there were big demonstrations in
the streets in every Egyptian town, on Wednesday the massacre began. It
began with trying to finish the sit-in in Tahrir Square late on Tuesday
night, and continued into the following days, especially in Suez town.
Suez has a special value in every Egyptian heart. It was the centre for
resistance against the Zionists in 1956 and 1967, in the same district. It
fought Sharon's troops back in the Egyptian-Israeli wars. Mubarak's police
carried out a massacre - at least 4 people killed, 100 injured, gas bombs,
rubber bullets, flame throwers, a strange yellow substance thrown above
people, maybe mustard gas. Friday was called the Jumu'ah of Rage - Jumu'ah
is Arabic for Friday, it's the national weekend in Egypt, in many Islamic
countries also. It's a sacred day in Islam because of the big prayers on
this day, called Jumu'ah prayer. It was planned for demonstrations to go
on after prayers, at noon, but the police tried to prevent the marches
with all of its power and violence. There were many clashes in Cairo,
(downtown, in Mattareyah, east of Cairo), all over Egypt, especially in
Suez, Alexandria, Mahalla (in the delta, one of the centres of the working
class). From noon to sunset, people marched in Cairo to Downtown, for a
sit-in in Tahrir, till Mubarak's regime was removed, chanting one slogan:
"The people demand the removal of the regime". At sunset, 5pm CLT, Mubarak
declared a curfew and brought the army into Egyptian towns. This curfew
was followed by a police-planned breakout, letting out the criminals and
thugs called Baltagayyah. The police planned a widescale breakout of
criminals in many Egyptian prisons to scare people in Egypt. No police,
many army troops couldn't control the street, people were scared. It was
followed by a news jam on Egyptian TV channels, radios, newspaper about
luddites in many towns, about thieves firing at people. People organized
"popular committees" to secure every street. This was welcomed by the
regime to make people more scared about instability in the country, but it
is also a point we could start from to build workers councils.

As of Wednesday, there are clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak people.
Is that the correct way to describe it? Who are the "Mubarak supporters?"
How are these clashes affecting the attitudes of average working-class

It's absolutely wrong to call it clashes between anti- and pro-Mubarak.
The pro-Mubarak demonstration consisted mostly of Baltagayyah and secret
police, to attack the protesters in Tahrir. It only began after Mubarak's
speech yesterday, after Obama's speech too. Personally I think Mubarak
feels like a slaughtered ox who is trying to throw his blood over his
killers. He feels like Nero and wants to burn Egypt before his removal,
trying to make people believe he's a synonym for stability, safety and
security. In this way he's really made some progress - a holy national
alliance has now been formed against the Tahrirites (Tahrir protesters)
and the "Tahrir Commune". Many people, especially the middle class, are
saying that the demonstrations must end because Egypt has been burned,
famine has begun, but it's not true at all - it's only an exaggeration.
Every revolution has its difficulties and Mubarak is using fear and terror
to stay longer. Personally, I'm saying that even if the protesters were
responsible for this situation, even IF, Mubarak must leave, he MUST go
because of his inability to deal with the situation right now.

What do you see happening in the next week? How much is the position taken
by the US government affecting the situation there?

Nobody can figure out what will happen tomorrow or next week. Mubarak is a
stubborn idiot and the Egyptian media is making the biggest media campaign
in its history to detain the protests planned for next Friday, 4th
February. There are calls for another million-person march to Tahrir,
called the "Jumu'ah of salvation". The position taken by the US government
affects us more than the demonstrations. Mubarak is such a traitor,
capable of killing the whole people, but he couldn't say no to his

What has the participation of class-struggle anarchists been? Who are
their allies?

Anarchism in Egypt is not a big trend. You can find some anarchists but
it's not a big trend yet. Anarchists in Egypt have joined both the
protests and the popular committees to defend the streets from the thugs.
Anarchists in Egypt put some hope in these councils. The anarchists'
allies in Egypt are the Marxists, of course. We are not now at a time of
ideological debate - the whole left is calling for unity and then argue
about anything. The anarchists in Egypt are a part of the Egyptian left.

What forms of solidarity can be built between revolutionaries in Egypt and
revolutionaries in the "West"? What can be done immediately and what
should we do in the long term?

The most difficult obstacle Egyptian revolutionaries face is the cutting
of communications. Western revolutionaries must put pressure on their
governments to prevent the Egyptian regime from doing this. That's for
now, but no-one can say what will happen in the long term. If the
revolution is successful, then Western revolutionaries must build
solidarity with their Egyptian comrades against the expected aggression
from the USA and Israel. If the revolution is defeated, then it will be a
massacre for all Egyptian revolutionaries.

What will the main tasks be, once Mubarak leaves? Has there been much
planning about this on the street level? What have anti-capitalist
revolutionaries proposed?

The main task now, speaking about the street demands, is new constitution
and provisional government, and then new elections. There's much planning
about this issue by many political trends here, especially the Muslim
Brotherhood. Anti-capitalist revolutionaries are not very numerous in
Cairo - the communists, democratic left and Trotskyites are calling for
the same demands about the constitution and new elections, but for us as
anarchists - anti-capital, anti-State too - we will try to ensure that the
committees that have been formed protect and secure the streets, make them
stronger and try to turn them into real councils.

What do you want to say to revolutionaries abroad?

Dear Comrades all over the world, we need solidarity, a large solidarity
campaign and the Egyptian Revolution will win!

Audio Interview:

Interview edited by

No comments: