Small change

The atmosphere in Tahrir Square is such that when you’re there you think that Mubarak has no choice but to resign at some point in the next ten minutes. Then you go outside the square’s perimeter and feel Egypt will be lumbered with him, or a version of him, forever.

Yesterday was advertised as the gom3a el ra7eel [“Friday of departure”], the day when Hosny would go. Today was jokingly referred to as sabt el transit [“transit Saturday]. It’s the jokes that keep us going.

Tahrir Square was, as usual, full of similar witticisms, on giant banners, placards and demonstrators’ anatomies. One of my favourites was ctrl+alt+Mubarak. The sense of optimism and joy in the demonstration is almost crushing it’s so intense. Like being informed that you have just been promoted, you are expecting a child and that Tamer Hosny has lost the ability to speak, all while at your best friend’s wedding.

I spent a happy 2 or 3 hours there before suddenly feeling famished, and so we buggered off to get food from a Koshary shop, only to find it was shut. As a result we wandered away from Tahrir Square in search of sustenance just as dusk was falling and the public defence committees were starting to appear.

We procured sandwiches, from a restaurant underneath the Hisham Law Mubarak Centre which the military police raided on Wednesday, arresting 23 human rights activists in the process. As darkness fell the mood changed and downtown became increasingly more tense. Men and boys with clubs and knives appeared on the empty streets. A sort of malignant, angry, sense of waiting permeated everything.

Moftases, a friend called Shady ended up at one of these public defence committee checkpoints. I won’t go into any details because there are currently more accounts on the Internet of foreigners and Egyptians being manhandled than there are of Justin Bieber’s fringe. Suffice it to say that the cunt and his 25 assistants who run this particular defence committee are off my Christmas card list.

A word on the xenophobic hysteria: a friend asked whether there had been similar attacks in Egypt’s second biggest city, Alexandria. Another friend made a few phone calls and we were told that there had been one or two incidents. Compare this with the situation in Cairo where at least six of my friends have been beaten up, or intimidated or detained, and all of my acquaintances also know people to whom this has happened.

This led us to conclude that 1. Alexandrians don’t watch state television or 2. Alexandrians know better than to believe its hysterical bear-baiting crap unlike their central Cairo brethren or 3. the targeting of foreigners is mostly restricted to the areas surrounding Tahrir Square and conducted in an organised – i.e. orders from above – fashion, rather than some xenophobic mass panic.

I read Arabist’s post this evening and lapsed into a dark mood at his suggestion that the uprising may have been usurped somehow by an inner NDP pensioner massacre/reshuffle, that perhaps the booting out of the old guard had been on the cards for some time and that 300 Egyptians will have died for nothing.

I try to ignore people who suggest that the Tahrir sit-in must end because Hosny has made concessions and he’ll be out in September. Other than getting rid of dead wood and a promise that Hosny has somehow been persuaded to uncurl his withered fingers from the reins of power at some point later this year what exactly has changed? The police are slowly sliding back onto the streets from the gutter they disappeared into, the NDP remains in power albeit with a New Look and Mubarak is not yet in Saudi Arabia. The door opened on a better future on the 25th, but I feel like it’s closing again. But then there is still hope in Tahrir.

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