Eye witness report from Cairo

Img_4014 Posted by David Gough on Wed, 02 Feb 2011 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

It seems that Egyptians have finally reached the limit of their tolerance with the oppression, corruption, increasing poverty and hopelessness that they having experienced under President Mubarak’s rule, and with living in fear of the police and the authorities.

“Cairo is a mess; all of Egypt is in a mess. It needs prayer!” shares Nelly, an ex-apt living in Egypt, who has been speaking with CMS Ireland about recent events. Nelly reflects that recent events may be an accumulation of 30 years of President Hosni Mubarak’s controlling rule, or perhaps an answer to 100 years of diligent prayers by the Christians for their own country, Egypt.

“When we came here to Egypt in 1996 nobody dared to talk about the government or the president. But over the years, people began to complain and dared to say what they felt. Life has become intolerably difficult. Satellite TV seemed to help to open things up, but there hasn’t been any improvement for the people – the rich are richer and the poor much poorer… to the point that they can’t take it anymore.”


Nelly has shared about the escalation of events with me, I have put her reports into a timeline…

Tuesday 25 January

A ‘holiday’ day called Police Day. Thousands of people decided to protest against the Egyptian government, ‘inspired’ by the protests that happened in Tunisia recently. The police arrest many people. This resulted in incensing the crowds and the people spilt onto the streets in even larger numbers.

Word was being spread far and wide via email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter and through the mobile phone calls. At some point midweek the phone networks, internet and even some TV stations were blocked.

Police stations were set on fire, and prisons have been broken open. Shops and other places were targeted and also set on fire. Looting by protestors (and now gangs of troublemakers) broke out, and is now out of control. Protestors have been throwing molotov cocktails at the police but also attacking shops, and residential buildings.

Nelly reflected, "It’s a mess with demonstrations everywhere.”

Another contact, Yacoub, said, "It’s like all of Cairo is burning and so are all the main towns and cities in Egypt, not just Cairo!” Yacoub was outside of Cairo with his family at the time. His apartment was broken into, messed up, and looted. A neighbour contacted him and the family quickly returned to their home. Thankfully, the thieves only took two old laptops, some change and small items, but no large amounts of money.

Wednesday 26th January

Nelly almost ended up in the middle of the clashes on her way home from work.

“Suddenly, I thought, ‘Huh? There are lots of people… there is a cameraman!, a lot of stones are being thrown, oh no, a fire!…’ I couldn’t even get home my normal way, so I tried another way and I couldn’t as all the roads were closed. Finally I took the Ring Road outside the city; it took me 4.5 hours to get home!”

Nelly reports how the looting continued with two large department stores being plundered and burned.

“Here where I live, there’s a sports/social club and it has been robbed and burned twice now – I saw boys running down the streets with stolen things. I saw someone throw a Molotov cocktail at the police, but they didn’t aim it right and a tree caught on fire. I thought, ‘I need to call people to pray for this craziness’ but the mobile network wasn’t working. So I thought, ’I’ll just pray’.

At one point the police were trying to control the crowds but then they seemed to disappear. Nelly tells us, “Even last night, the police were shooting: at the crowds of troublemakers, and also into the air. But shots fired in the air killed innocent people. A 30-year-old man on a balcony, and a 10-year-old girl who just looked over the balcony, were killed by shots fired by the police.”

But now the police are gone. "In 14 years, there was a policeman on every street corner in Cairo; now, there’s not a single one! The news network, Al-Jazeera, reported that 63 people died, but I’m sure it is more” says Nelly.

Friday 28th January

Friday – the day for prayer and people go to the mosque. Yet this Friday was named by Egyptians as the “Day of Rage”. There have been tens of thousands of people demonstrating in the streets and not only in Cairo.

The population is now joining together to protect each other against the troublemaking gangs in the streets; apparently, people are using sticks and knives to protect themselves and their homes against the intruders.

Nelly shares that despite the unrest she personally feels safe. Her neighbours are protective of her and invite her to eat with them and stay with them if she needs to. Her building is secure: nobody can climb onto their roof, and there are iron doors on the ground level which are locked. She said she won’t go to work until things have settled.

Yacoub tells us, “We are not leaving our apartment building. But we will have to go out during the day to try to get some food. The looters stole the food in our refrigerator – about EGP300 worth!” (£30 – a lot for his family)

A curfew is imposed with people banned from the streets from 4pm to 8am. The army has been called in (the situation is a “national security threat”); there are tanks on the streets. However, it seems they are not acting against the people – and in some cases they are celebrating with the people.

Nelly said, “I hope it’ll end – there has to be a solution, but I can’t see it stopping soon.”

President Mubarak spoke to the people on Friday evening, 3 days after protests began, to announce the dissolution of his cabinet and their replacement by new ministers. But the people do not seem satisfied with this and want him to go as previous shuffles of the cabinet have made no significant reform.

Saturday evening saw the first Vice President in decades.

Much has developed since we received this information with President Mubarak deciding to step down in September and the recent clashes of pro Mubarak supporters and protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo. What the future holds is indeed uncertain but let’s join with our brothers and sisters in prayer for peace…

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