Friday, 11 February 2011

Letter from Cairo 11th February 2011

None of us got much sleep last night but no one can be as exhausted as the demonstrators who continued their chanting all night and the reporters who are covering the situation 24 hours a day.  We were all absolutely shocked by Mubarak’s statement last night; he and his regime just won’t give up!

We woke this morning to a deathly hush and an almost tangible, sinister atmosphere.  The street is totally silent outside my window and we await the Friday prayers.

Thousands camped out in Liberation Square and hundreds camped out in front of the state television building.  The Square has, with its tents and blanket covered bodies, become a small town in its own right, a mini community so to speak.  The tension has been building up all morning as thousands again make their way to various spots in Cairo. 

The supreme council of the armed forces made a conditional offer to lift the emergency rule and promised free and fair elections, but they set no date.  So many questions are being asked, especially with regard to the protestors who are making their way to the presidential palace.  IF the presidential guards fire on the protestors, will the army protect them? In which case, a small battle would be won. Reportedly, Tantawi and Suleiman cannot stand each other.  Therefore with his new expanded powers, Suleiman could technically fire Tantawy and order his replacement to open fire. This could be difficult to pull off, but is it conceivable?  This is an army of conscripts – a people’s army!

The Friday prayers have begun, after which we expect the most massive demonstrations yet.  I pray for the safety of these proud heroes as there is no accounting for what will happen today.

The crowds all over Cairo are multiplying by the minute.  The state television building is now surrounded and there is great tension between the army and the protestors outside the presidential palace.  I remember a friend, whose father is an important technocrat and who had an interview with Mubarak some months ago, saying that much of the time Mubarak is not informed of what is going on in his country and that his advisors deliberately keep information from him.  Could it be possible that he is unaware of the enormous number of protestors?  Could it be possible that he is not fully conscious of their demands?

As usual, we can hear a variety of chants one of which is ‘Illegitimate, illegitimate’; one presumes that they are referring to the regime and not to Mubarak’s mother’s marital status.

My son and his wife have just left to join the protestors, leaving us to babysit.  It is their turn today.  It is a day for the youngsters, the upwardly mobile!  The word ‘Yuppie’, which has bandied around for the past few days, does not really fit the Egyptians as it was originally used to describe someone who is (1) young, (2) possibly just out of college, and (3) who has a high-paying job and an affluent lifestyle.  The first two apply to the youngsters here but definitely not the third and that is their main problem; that is why they are taking a stand, that and a desire for freedom and dignity. 
I am copying the following quote from a friend, which I find an amusing analogy: John Cleese on Basil Fawlty: "He thinks that he could run a first-rate hotel if he didn't have all the guests getting in the way." Suddenly, Mubarak's presidential policies make so much sense!
We became so used the helicopters flying overhead that I have only just realised that I have not heard them for the past few days, perhaps they have run out of rotors.  The diamond rotor heads are extremely expensive to replace, perhaps Mubarak and his cronies could take the money from their private fortunes to replace them. 

I spoke too soon, one just flew over several times – the coffers have been raided!

Why, in fact is Mubarak not stepping down?  Is he worried that his assets will be frozen?  Is he worried that the tribunal will try him for acts of inhumanity?  Is this a typical Egyptian hard-headed trait “I will not back down.”?  Is this sheer stupidity and does he think he can continue to lead his sheep?  Are they still sheep?  Has he lost all sense of reality? 

4.15 p.m. – my son has just returned from the square and has become disillusioned.  How sad!  He is one of the millions who have fought for so long.  He says the dynamics have changed once more and that some people seem to have accepted that Mubarak has given over his power to Omar Suleiman and that they are a little appeased and want to get back to work. But, this is definitely not an acceptable situation as Soleiman was the head of the Secret Service and was obviously given the go ahead to torture political prisoners and anyone who was a threat to the regime.  Not only is he a poor replacement for Mubarak, but the regime could become even more ruthless.

6 p.m. local time – OH MY GOD!  He has stepped down.  I was on the phone to the BBC in London and whilst they were interviewing me they suddenly stopped and said ‘He has stepped down!’ I yelled to my husband to watch the news and he confirmed it.  This has somewhat interrupted the phone call but they have taken my blog address and may not find it necessary to finish the interview!

My liver and lungs have suffered over the past 18 days and I am so emotional that I cannot write anymore this evening.  Tomorrow, I will reflect on this momentous, historical occasion.


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