This is the second part of my diary through the revolution, you can read the first part Here
On the 26th of January 2011, I didn’t know where I should head and when, no one on twitter had any idea about protests near the place where I live so I called Amira Nosier who came to Maadi, we sat at beano’s – a coffee shop – where we were following all the news all around Egypt and how the protests are going so far and the arrangements for the next days to know where to join as there were no announcements of any kind saying the where and when to go in addition to our parents freaking out of the idea of going out anywhere after what happened on Tuesday’s night. We got some information about Suez – a city on the red sea on the east side of Cairo – saying that a lot of people there were detained and others beaten without mercy that is of course beside the shooting and the tear gas. At night got the news that the people there burned the NDP’s head quarters and got really violent till the CSF surrendered. The CSF refused releasing the protesters from the police station so they burned the police station as well and got them out! There were protests at Talaat Harb Square,Cairo near Tahrir square and at night the whole area was blacked out and many were arrested one of them was Nada Ghoniem’s brother – a fellow tweep that I met later –.
On the 27th of January 2011, I was having a coffee early at a café while checking on twitter what is going on although it was blocked I was using a secure anonymous proxy to access twitter and facebook. I found by coincidence that Wael Abbas a very famous blogger who was asking for help as he needed a USB modem to get access to the internet to upload videos that he got from Suez city as he ran out of his allowed GigaBytes. I sent him a tweet offering help and he called me to come at his house which is about 20 mins from where I was sitting. There at his house he was so busy with all the journalists and news channels interviewing him and that was where I met Colin Freeman – journalist from the Sunday telegraph in London -. We chatted a little about the country, he interviewed me for his article and after he was done with the interview, he asked me to help him on the next few days covering the news in down town. I spent the whole night going from Maadi to NewCairo then back to Maadi to do some stuff as I had an accident with my car etc… and ended up at home after seeing the list of the places where the demonstrations will take place on Friday the 28th. The time was after the Muslims Friday prayer at about 1:30 to 2 pm and the places where both mosques and churches everywhere in Cairo – about 40 places– and then it was the time of getting ready for the great Friday as it was arranged on facebook to be called “Friday of anger”.
On Friday the 28th of January 2011, I woke up at about 8 am to get ready for the big day and took a taxi at about 10 am heading down town to meet Mr.Freeman and go out to see where the day of anger will lead us. After reaching the Ramsis Hilton I was at the lobby at about 10:30 am waiting for him while having some coffee and at about 11:50 I got a call from Aya Abdullah – a fellow tweep and an activist who was at the Hisham Mubarak Center – telling me to take care cause all the mobile access points might shut down at about 2 and before she finished talking the line was cut off and all the connections went DOWNL. I swapped my Egyptian SIM card with a Swedish one, it worked for about 15 mins then it was cut off as well. Right after that, asking an Egyptian about the connectivity who was sitting right beside me his name was Ramy and he was like “yea it is working….oops it went out now”. Then I met Mr.Freeman and sat a little waiting for his friend Richard who is a journalist from the daily telegraph in London and the photographer to join us her name was Maya and when she came we decided to go to a mosque called “Alfath” pronounced “Alfat-h” which is a huge mosque in downtown. Before leaving I asked Collin if I can use his room phone to call my parents as it seemed that it will be a very long time till I get the chance to call them again. I couldn’t of course remember any landline numbers as it has been years since I used a landline, I got to remember my grandparents numbers only so I called both of them and asked them to tell my parents that I am with some friends and i won’t be returning home today as I won’t be able to find a taxi.
We went first to Hisham Mubarak Center and ElMasry Center where I met Malek and a lot of other activists; he gave us masks in plastic bags filled with vinegar to be able to stay with the tear gas. I kept the bag in my pocket which later ruined my mobile phone. We interviewed some people there including Mohamed Adel who is the spokesman of the 6th of April Movement. And then while we were moving out of the building tear gas canisters were thrown everywhere so we kept running with the people and it was TERRIBLE! People running randomly in all directions and I was just trying not to breath for as long as possible to avoid the gas but after running till the end of the street without inhaling any air I had to finally breath and suffer the pain of the gas as I had no time to get the mask out.
We arrived at the mosque while the people were getting ready to leave and as soon as they started leaving the mosque a hell of tear gas canisters were thrown again and one of them went inside the mosque chocking people who weren’t technically in the demonstration!! After a while when the CSF blocked the street in front of the mosque from both sides and people were trying to get out from any side we saw the most courageous act ever. A middle aged girl left the crowd while they were all on the right side and went to the other side in front of the CSF and started chanting and shouting for freedom and against Mubarak all alone, even two men tried to hold her back but she refused and kept shouting “ you are Egyptians just like us why are you hurting us? Don’t you want to be free?”!! Mr. Freeman had the chance to interview the girl and there was an answer that was really fascinating when he asked her how did you get all the courage to face hundreds of security forces alone without being afraid of getting harmed and her reply was simple “I’ve got no courage at all compared to any Egyptian I’m the least one but they just got frustrated and lost hope after 30 years of indignity and humiliation under Mubarak’s regime”. On my way leaving a guy grabbed me asking me to take a souvenir from him, he gave me one of the sticks the CSF use to hit the protesters, once he put it in my hand my face turned into red and I kept looking around to see if anyone saw that he was the one who gave it to me as it may lead to me getting arrested or charged that I killed an officer or some kind of a serious charge as I had this determination that we were just peaceful protesters. I kept telling him no thanks I don’t want it and when some people noticed how freaked out I am they took it from me and hid it in the shop right next to the mosque.
One of the things that got me really upset when a sheikh came out of the mosque pointing fingers at Colin and his friend Richard saying “oh, here are the Americans who are against us who wants us down” , so I had to reply and tell him that he was totally wrong cause they are not American and they are not against us. He asked me about their nationality and I told him they were British; he shouted again saying that they are also against us same as Americans!! So I shouted at him as well saying “so all the communications are blocked, and they are risking their lives to get what is happening to us out of the country and you are telling me they are against us!! I was really so mad at him to the extent that I if I had the guts I would have punched him, but unfortunately I can’t cause we live by the law of the jungle where the person with more followers and power gets to be the “untouchable”.
We left the mosque running from the tear gas that filled the air and got me semi blinded so we ended up on a bridge for people to cross the street and on our way a friend of Maya who was a photographer for the New York Times joined us to watch more than a hundred of those expired canisters being thrown at the people. After we totally left the area I got really dizzy and totally blinded to the extent that I couldn’t even walk and they had to take my hand so I can cross the 6th of October bridge – I’m not sure if that is it but it was a bridge near by –. After a while we took a taxi to go back to Tahrir square to get some rest at the hotel as we were blinded from the gas it was about 5.30 pm. When I entered the hotel it was filled with people at the lobby who left the square from the tear gas. A lot of cops went inside and forced them to sit on the floor and they were getting ready to arrest them. I had no idea about what was happening as the pain in my face was increasing each minute even though I went away from the gas, when I knew that they are arresting everyone I totally pretended being a foreigner entering the hotel heading upstairs – acting as if I belong – they security asked me for my room number I said any 4 numbers so that he would let me to the 2nd floor that contains the buffet and the business center. I tried to make a call to tell my parents that I was ok but even the landlines weren’t working. I went to the restroom to wash my face and once the water hit my face it was more of a pain as if I poured sulfuric acid on my face!!
The brutality of the security forces was indescribable!! watching people dying in front of me was the last thing i imagined witnessing ever, once i got out to go to Tahrir square i saw a man under the bridge suffocating i ran towards him to give him a can of pepsi that i had, once i gave it to him a gas canister was thrown beside me and i got totally blinded.. i kept walking while my eyes were closed and all what i can remember is 3 men spilling fizzy drinks on my face till i was able to open my eyes again, i can remember kicking the pavement as hard as i could from the pain of this gas. i watched the security forced shooting the gas canisters towards us instead of throwing them in the air as usual… it was as if they were shooting bullets towards a running criminal but they were shooting the canisters instead.
I saw Richard and Collin again by coincidence and they wanted to find a place to send their stories as there was no way of communication available except satellites, we went out in this war again asking journalists on a way to get a satellite connection, we reached a company near Tahrir square which was literally abusing the journalists to send videos for over $1000 each and they told us they can’t send any data except audio and video. While we were on our way back I remembered that while I was in Collin’s room making the phone call I saw some reporters on the top of a building near the hotel installing cameras and a satellite transmitter. So I asked Collin and Richard to go check upstairs and see if they can help us, we got up and met them, I found the reporter greeting me, I didn’t see him well as I was blinded and it was dark but it appeared that we met the other day at Wael’s, they were a team of correspondents from the local TV – BFTV- in Paris, his name was François Xavier, they agreed to send an email for Richard and Collin and we promised that we won’t tell anyone about them as all the journalists would ask them for the same favor but they actually saved us by sending the story. After sending the email for us François had me on the news live asking me about 3 questions about the situation I can only remember him asking me if the protests will continue after what happened and I was definitely sure that we won’t give up after all what the CSF did specially that the army started taking over the streets.
On the streets at this moment it was my first time to see tanks moving in the streets and everyone was chanting “The army and the people are one hand”. Suddenly it looked like as if everyone forgot about the torture and the war we’ve went through once we saw a rescuer from the massacre that was in Tahrir square!
More to come soon 🙂