Socialist Worker

Latest updates from Cairo at the heart of the Egyptian revolution

Socialist Worker editor Judith Orr reports from Cairo as the revolution unfolds

Issue No. 2238a


5.30pm, Sunday 13 February

The revolution is facing a new stage.

Millions have been through mass street protests, some have physically defended the revolution from the old regime and its state thugs. In three weeks there has been a profound process of politicisation.

One student studying in Manchester but back in Cairo to take part in the revolution said there were bound to be arguments about the way forward, 'We have just be born as a democracy. It will take a bit of getting used to.'

As people move around Tahrir sometimes a car or taxi will squeeze past and the driver shouts, 'clear the square!'. Some people who rely on the day to day functioning of the city have struggled to survive without daily cash income. Even if they welcome Mubarak's fall they want to earn again.

But one revolutionary socialist told me he was optimistic about the prospects for the revolution to deepen and develop from a fight for political demands of democracy into a struggle for economic justice.

He said, 'To talk about equality and justice for the poor and for workers makes more sense to people now. We can make the case and get a hearing'.

'There was always the demand for a minimum wage and now that the regime's corruption and wealth is out in the open the glaring gap in income between the ruling elite and mass of Egyptians is clear to everyone.”

Final note: As I arrive at airport, there is a mass meeting and protest on the departures concourse. Egyptian air staff are on strike to get rid of a hated boss. They will not move till he goes.

Perhaps some lessons for BA workers?


3pm, Sunday 13 February

The workers' struggles continue across Egypt today.

Transport, steel and postal workers are out. As well as numerous small workplaces.

A revolutionary socialist here pointed out that these struggles have been growing in the years before the revolution so the fall of Mubarak need not stall that process.

In fact the revolution is deepening these struggles, and they in turn can deepen the process of the revolution.

A noisy picket line of women and men on strike at the state owned insurance company is an example of that. There were cheers when someone appeared with a megaphone to lead the chanting.

Their demands are about low pay and their rights as workers. 'We want change!' they chanted. 'We will have our victory,' said Ahmed an insurance underwriter in the company.


2pm, Sunday 13 February

This revolutionary process is far from over.

The army's announcement that they would preside over what is essentially a government filled with the old guard has angered people. It is clear that getting rid of Mubarak was a historic achievement and the joy on the streets yesterday reflected that.

But today when the army started getting rough with some of the protesters still camping in Tahrir Square people did not accept it.

Many people said, 'Why are they so stupid to force people to move after only one day, now many who had gone home will come back.' Indeed that is what is happening.

In the square and surrounding streets people now outnumber cars as they have heard that there have been attacks on people.

The army is still trusted but people are not prepared to let them push them about.

Journalist Jack Shenker tells me even some police came into square this morning chanting, 'We are your brothers. We want a new Egypt'. This led to splits and arguments in the crowd. Most people identify the police as the worst culprits of the violence and murder they suffered before and during the revolution.

People are still demanding demands for a new government, speedy free elections, and an end to emergency laws.

As yet, the army haven't said just how long it will be before they will meet them.


12 noon, Sunday 13 February

When I talk to people all they want to know is, 'What do you think of our revolution? What do people in England think?'.

One school student had seen a protest in London on television and said she felt so proud that what they had done had gone around the world.

They express an enormous amount of optimism about the future saying, 'Everything is possible'.

One 18-year-old school student said women think they are equal now 'with boys', adding, 'We are all one community, we have to fight together'.

But mixed with this optimism is a wariness that if the army strings out the timetable for new elections and the clearing out of the old regime, then they must be prepared to take to the streets again.

One activist tells me they will be symbolic marches on Friday again just to show the military government that the people are still there.


10am, Sunday 13 February

Six young teenage women are sweeping the road. They say they have high hopes for a new politics, new economy, and a new future.

Even as they and others pack up and truckloads of blankets are taken away more people arrive.

The numbers spill across the road again and arguments and mini public meetings break out. They discuss whether everyone should go home and whether they should still occupy the square.

Two young men, both students, are painting and creating political cartoons in a area protected by some string woven through plastic chairs. 'We are not going till all our demands have been met' said Mostafa a commerce student.

'That means no more corruption, that means real liberation. We will not submit. The army has been our protector but they are stressing we have to leave now'.

What happens if you won't leave what will the army do? I ask. 'We will see' they say.

The square is still a centre for public debate about where this revolution is going.

Palestine is a question that comes up when you ask people about the future.

Last night among the thousands of Egytian flags were Palestinian ones. 'The Palestinians are weak if left on their own' said law student Ahmed.'They need us and we can't forget them. Israel has America. The Palestinians should now have Egypt '


9am, Sunday 13 February

The cars are back on Tahrir Square for the first time since the police abandoned their posts on the evening of 28 January.

There is an uneasy tension among the thousand or more people who still hold sections of the road chanting and the hundreds still in their tents and makeshift homes that still fill the area.

Army officers in their dress uniforms are trying to move people along but many people argue back.

People dart under and around them and are not intimidated.

One man told me 'Mubarak was a rock in our hearts, now we are free like birds.'

The majority feel the occupation of the square has served its purpose for the moment. Teams of people have swept it and the whole surrounding area clean and piles of blankets line the pavements.

Everyone tells me the struggle is not finished but that it is in a different stage now. They talk about how the police and officials can no longer treat them with contempt as they did before. That all Egyptians deserve respect now they have shown they can stand up for themselves.


Midnight, Saturday 12 February

Curfew has officially begun, but there are tens of thousands still out on the streets.

There are many debates about what happens next. Most see this as the last night of occupying Tahrir Square. But there are still some who argue to stay and make sure democracy happens – to make sure things don't go backwards.

Ahmed, a lawyer from Alexandria, said he came to Cairo a week ago after taking part in the daily marches in his home city. But he knew Tahrir was the centre of the revolution and wanted to see it with his own eyes.

He and his friend, who is an engineer, both said they were prepared to go home tomorrow but they said the revolution isn't finished. 'Half of Egypt is poor”, said Ahmed, 'when the chance came to fight many of the poor came to Tahrir because they want a better life, an education, a job. We all fought together and we can't let it go back to how it was. I saw people getting food from rubbish bins, I saw workers who can't afford medical care. Yet rich politicians fly out of Egypt to have their operations. They and the business men have stolen all our money'.

One of his friends interrupts, 'They won't be rich after now!'.

Several people say they are prepared to trust the army for the moment but if they do anything against the people then as Ahmed puts it, 'We know the way back to Tahrir. We will take to the streets and make another revolution'.


11pm, Saturday 12 February

One woman dressed in black alongside her daughter holds up a photo of her young son, Mohammed. He was 16, she tells me, and he was killed defending Tahrir Square from Mubarak's thugs last Friday.

Bad Friday she called it.

Another man holds up a banner of his friend, Ahmed. He was 30 and was shot six times.

All around the square are shrines to the dead.

Some are small, some are banners as big as the buildings they hang from.

'We learned to say no,' one man told me. 'And we will say no again. We have won our freedom but we want a new Egypt. We have so much wealth but so many poor.

There is no need for anyone to be poor or unemployed. This revolution wasn't just about Mubarak.

“It was about everything. And nothing will be the same again.'


10pm, Saturday 12 February

A doctor guards a doorway pharmacy on the edge of Tahrir Square.

He has been sleeping out in here for over two weeks.

As we talk people come to him for advice or drugs. He cuts out a tablet from a strip and gives to a young guy who has also been here from the start of the protests.

The doctor says he has won his freedom now all he dreams of is a shower.

Everywhere is like a carnival. Men are in fancy dress on stilts, wearing wigs in the national colours. There are smoking stalls and people eating popcorn and roasted sweet potato.

People crowd to get their photos taken alongside soldiers that surround the few army tanks that still sit at the entrances to the square.


8.30pm, Saturday 12 February

I'm in Tahrir Square. Mubarak has gone – and the party continues.

I disappear under a gigantic Egyptian flag carried by dozen young people. People hang off the balconies, music is blaring.

The transformation from less than two weeks ago is unbelievable. Where I had watched pro-Mubarak provocateurs taunt a line of protesters protecting the square, there’s a sea of celebration. Faces are painted, fireworks are going off.

There are banners with young faces depicted. These are the young people who died in the struggle to free Egypt from Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship.

The fact that they didn't live to see this wonderful joyous day will not be forgotten.


8pm, Saturday 12 February

People on the packed flight from London are met at Cairo Airport with cheers and smiles from families and friends waving flags.

Smog fills the air. The traffic is back. Cars have flags taped to their bonnets or flying out the window.

The police pods are upright. Some even have cops in them. The army tanks still dot the roads – especially around the presidential palace.

But there is no sense of threat. In fact ordinary people are still directing much of the traffic.

All of the city is on the streets. It's difficult to believe that, just a week ago, people were being shot in these streets.

The people of Cairo have reclaimed their city.

To read Judith’s previous reports from Cairo go to www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=23731


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Features
Sat 12 Feb 2011, 20:14 GMT
Issue No. 2238a
Share this article


Tags



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.