Saturday, 12 February 2011

Letter from Cairo 12th February 2011

Singing, Dancing and Fireworks in Liberation Square

This is a truly historic moment and last night’s explosion of emotions was beyond words.
The last 24 hours of this revolution was a roller coaster, beginning with the crushing speech by Hosni Mubarak and ending with a very short speech by Omar Soleiman.  Mubarak tried to pull a fast one but the will of the Egyptian people prevailed, they simply did not give up and after his oh-so-humiliating, haughty and patronising talk they were back up on their feet and swelling in the millions all over the country.  Although there were ominous signs throughout the day, the people were more defiant and more determined than ever.  This man had ruled with an iron first and with draconian measures and he had to go.

One question remains, to which we may never know the answer, and that is ‘What happened between Mubarak and the army in those 24 hours?’  What went on behind the scenes?  I wish I had been a fly on the wall!

And, what a party there was in Liberation Squarelast night!  People were crying, cheering, laughing, hugging and kissing each other and were hysterical and beside themselves with joy.  We were speechless and no words can really describe our elation.  We fought for a great victory but, although it is the beginning of the end, it is only the beginning.

My hopes wavered enormously over the past few weeks but my husband was absolutely sure, from the moment that the army said they would not use force on the people, that that this was the end of the regime.  His faith never vacillated and he remained calm and full of hope throughout.  He is also convinced that the army will continue to do the right thing even though there are contradicting voices, some of which say that the Higher Military Council does not inspire confidence.  However, the Egyptian people have lost their fear and will continue to speak out.  In fact, enormous crowds have gathered in Liberation Square again today and I can hear such chants as ‘We are Muslims and Christians together, we are all Egyptians’.  However, they do want reassurance that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will meet all their demands and requirements.  They also ask that a committee of five people be formed to run the interim period and that this committee be comprised of one military official and four civilians. 

Above all, however, they want the lifting of the Emergency Law which has been in existence for thirty years.  The emergency law is a tool which has been in the hands of the regime to storm many basic rights and freedom guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution. Since the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat in October 1981 , the emergency law was renewed by a temporary resolution for one year and then has been extended many times again until today.  In other words, total suppression of human rights! So many Egyptians over the years have been jailed for no apparent reason and with no trial.

Another demand from the people is that investigations be carried out.into the corruption and the amassed funds of various former government ministers.  However, as I understand it, the Egyptian Public Prosecution has already started legal inquiries on several former government ministers and a former ruling party leader.  In particular, they are scrutinizing the former Trade and Industry Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid, the former Minister of Tourism, Zoheir Garana and the former Minister of Housing, Ahmed El-Maghrabi.

Also among the accused is Ahmed Ezz, the former Organization Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Party, and a close confidant of President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal Mubarak.  These charges will include the encroaching on state-owned properties and the graft and embezzlement of public funds.  Last week, The Public Prosecution in fact ordered to ban the four, together with former Minister of the Interior, Habib Ibrahim El-Adly, from traveling abroad and froze their bank accounts pending the end of investigations.

Meanwhile, never in my lifetime has a revolution been witnessed by so many people; never have so many questions been asked with so little ability to predict what would happen. Questions which we continually asked each other were – ‘Will Mubarak leave?’ or ‘When will he leave?' or ‘Has he already exited, stage right?  Now we know, he has finally resigned.  At least we are almost sure, some people feel that this is a scam and that they army and the regime were in cohoots in order to create a situation whereby the demonstrations and the people would go home.  What a horrible thought!

There is an amazing clean up going in Cairo today and this is being carried out by people from all walks of life including the middle and upper middle classes.  They are out there with brushes, pans and  rubbish bags.  This was the result of a request on Facebook for all hands on deck.  One of my friends said ‘I filled 10 bin bags with Tahrir rubbish this morning, and there was a huge crowd of volunteers’

An enormous tribute must be paid to Al Jazeera International television channel. At the beginning of the uprising, while there was a total blackout on Egyptian state television, Al Jazeera was with us day and night and was our only access to the ongoing events. But, on Sunday 30th Januray, the Egyptian authorities revoked the Al Jazeera Network's license to broadcast from the country, and shut down its bureau office in Cairo.  If ever we needed proof of the regime’s wish to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting and the freedom of speech, this was it! We all panicked as, at that point in time, the coverage by CNN, BBC, Euronews and others was scanty, to say the least.  But two incredibly courageous reporters were not intimidated by the authorities, or by the fact that several international journalists had been detained and one or two even beaten and threatened with their lives.  Hoda El Hamid and Ayman Moheydin brought unparalleled reporting from the ground in the face of much danger and were unremitting and tireless in their work which went well beyond the call of duty.  Hoda is a personal friend and when I saw her on 11th February in the apartment in Liberation Square, where much information was being received and sent, she was only able to talk for a few seconds as she was glued to her laptop.  Later next day, when the revolution was at its end, we exchanged amusing messages and she expressed a desire for a hot shower, a cold drink and a change of underwear.  I remarked to her that on Friday morning, she was wearing the same clothes as I had seen her in the previous day, a crumpled pink jacket.  Proof indeed that she had not slept all night!  

I will be returning to work and although I might not write my Letter from Cairo every day, I will try to write it at least twice a week in order to keep my readers au fait with developments.


No comments:

Post a Comment