The January 25 Revolution: lest we forget - Day 9: the battle

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Internet blockade is finally over, we're back to the 21st century, or so we think...

The "emotional speech" that Mubarak gave had a powerful effect, even in Tahrir Square. Especially since the reconciliation dialogues were attended by several groups, including parties, popular figures and the Muslim Brotherhood. Having no leaders, protesters don't necessarily listen to what they're being told, except of course for the Muslim Brotherhood. Nevertheless, after a million-man protest, The sun rises on the Good Land to relatively empty Square.

Outside Tahrir people say we had enough gains, protesters should end their sit-in. They say Mubarak's an old man who should be respected. They say that these "kids" have nothing better to do. They simply turn against the Square. The Internet brings more discussions and disputes between families and friends, those with and those against the Revolution.

Mubarak's supporters decide to make their own demonstration and it's in tens as opposed to the thousands who are still resilient in Tahrir. Media try frame things differently; screens are split into two, and on the supporters' side the camera angle is so narrow. Conversely, on the protesters' side the angle is much wider. Yet, it is clear, that the numbers on both sides are very different.

In the Square the spirit is far from festive; rumors of Mubarak supporters coming to Tahrir are more worrying than usual. Small numbers arouse a fear of being attacked, they make some doubt if they'll be able to oust Mubarak, they make them doubt this being what people want. Discussions are angrier than the usual, on one side people talk with rage and disappointment and on the other people's words are filled with the hope they're trying to linger to.  At the entrances some try to get in and are stopped by the committees; they're either thugs or supporters of Mubarak who try to pick up fights. In Abd El Monem Riad Square several fights take place, right next to the army personnel who do not interfere. Those who succeed in getting through the committees, then turn out to be supporters of Mubarak, or circled by protesters and taken out of the Square. No one is chanting, everyone is anticipating, several times people run to the entrances ready for a fight, and several times some come back badly injured, and inside the Square we're not sure what is going on. Everyone is waiting for something to happen, but no one can imagine what is going to take place.

Things change in just a few minutes, when camels enter the Square. We call it the Camel Battle, but it wasn't just camels. It starts with thugs on camels and horses going fast in order cause a stampede, and it ends with Molotov cocktails, and some even say snipers. When the camels enter everyone is bewildered, no one knows what is actually happening, it is hard to believe that in 2011 someone would use camels to disperse a sit-in. But once people register, the fighting starts, and the Square that was becoming empty is filled again. People use anything they could find to fight back the thugs, and they quickly regain ground. Meanwhile, the army is watching...

Protesters then find themselves pulled out to Abd El Monem Riad Square. Molotov cocktails are thrown at them from over 6th of October Bridge, and people start talking of live ammunition. The injuries keep increasing, until they reach over a thousand, and in the process eleven lives are lost. Meanwhile, the army is watching...

We spend a dark night, not knowing what happened or why it happened, and to this day, five  years later we still don't know. By midnight, the fight is over and Tahrir Square is cleared from all who do not belong. It is full again, and the sit-in continues, but this night, not a person inside or outside the Square is able to sleep.

A camel is killed in the process...


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