Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Tahrir Square Siege

Those up to date with Egyptian news would probably know that during this past week there have been intensified tides of protests and marches by Europeans, Americans and a few Egyptians/Arabs washing over the country. The point of their protests? The "Egyptian-Isreali" Gaza siege.
Personally, I only found out about this entire "current event" when I myself witnessed the "event" itself "currently" taking place across the street.

It was a regular work day. And by "regular" I mean frustrating, seeing that the typical tasks I've been assigned recently mostly entail trips to governmental institutions all over Cairo, in order to request data and official papers.  Anyone, anyone, who knows Cairo the least bit would know that this entails the following: ugly traffic, ugly bureaucracy and ugly sizzling weather in the middle of December.
That day (31.12.2009), it seemed like the world was making me pay for the kindness it had been offering recently- traffic was a living nightmare and it took me about 45 minutes to move 100 meters downtown. As imaginable, by the time I got to the next traffic light I was practically banging my head against the steering wheel. But then something caught my eye and I had to stop doing that. No, it wasn't the staring guy   in the next car; it was more of what was going on on the sidewalk next to his car.

They finally revealed themselves to me. The reason behind my misery. The people who unknowingly almost entirely ruined my day. The protesters and the security forces tightly surrounding them.

It took me a couple of seconds to realise what was going on. After it sunk in, I immediately thought three things:

  1. "I'd like to murder every single person behind my getting stuck an hour and half in one block"

  2. "This is emotional"

  3. "I should take a picture"

The first thought disappeared about a second later, as a consequence to the second thought that actually brought tears to my eyes.
Personally, and in all honesty, my interest in the Palestinian issue is limited and relatively irrelevant. The issue has so many sides to it, is so protracted, and depressing to think about to the extent I actually trained my mind to not care about it that much. I do have opinions though on the Egyptian position and policies concerning the Gaza situation though, and they can be summed up in that I am totally with the government on its decisions to build the wall across the border and to block the borders last January (issues of sovereignty, territorial integrity, weapons smuggling and Israeli ploys are only some of the points I would bring up. However this is neither the place nor the time).

But you see what got to me right then and there, when I saw what I saw, was not the topic they cared about, it was the fact that they cared about something to begin with. That they cared so much they organized themselves, booked those plane tickets, flew all the way to Cairo and stood in the face of security forces with genial faces and determination in their hearts.

Now that is humane. That hones my faith and belief in humanity. It tells me that even though so many act like robots a big part of the time, human feelings, emotions and collective care do exist. That brought tears to my eyes.

As for that third though, I acted on it immediately. I fetched out my phone from my bag when I realised I do not have my camera on me, operated the camera application on it and started zooming in for the picture.

As I snapped it, a man in civil clothes yelled from across the street. I didn't bother at that moment and I didn't even begin to consider he might be yelling at me. I was two lanes away! Turns out I was the target of the loud words he produced, and when he noticed I wasn't even going to look at him, he decided to make his way through the sea of traffic and reach my car. He forced his head into my window and started talking.

""يا انسة، ممنوع التصوير"          
"ليه يعني؟"                             
"هو كدة، ممنوع التصوير. ممكن يأخذوا التليفون منك"   
"أيوة بردو ليه؟"                      
"هو كدة، دي التعليمات"           
"تعليمات مين؟"                       
"تعليمات مدير الأمن"              
"هو فين ده؟"                          
"بقولك ايه، اخلصي أحسن..."      
"خلاص خلاص متزعلش نفسك" 

And I took off.

Yes, I was totally playing dumb. I did know the dude was an informant, but I just wanted to see where this could go. My mom, on the other hand, thought it was the stupidest thing I could've ever done and almost forbade me from going out ever again. They say things could get ugly. They say in situations like those, things could get out of hand. They say those people wouldn't care what I look like, who I am nor where I'm from.
I don't know about that, they seemed rather tame to me.

The picture that created a "security" issue

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