Conflict & Justice

Tahrir swells up


Women protesters marched onto Mohamed Mahmoud chanting "Women are here! where are the men?"


Omnia Al Desoukie

Violence continues to play out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a fourth day of clashes with security forces. Tuesday’s call for a mass demonstration brought people back to the square, chanting in unison of the downfall of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. And the uproar was reminiscent of this January.

Mostafa Sheshtawy, 23, says it is like January again in Tahrir, estimating tens of thousands there Tuesday amid high spirits and generous supplies of food and medicine flowing into the square.

“People were having snacks in the front lines, and volunteers distributed flowers to protesters,” Sheshtawy says. “It’s really beautiful.”

But still, clouds of tear gas suffocate fervent protestors. “They fire tear gas to blind us, and then fire live ammunition at random.” The toll of injuries, now in the thousands, continues to soar.

After four days of silence, Field Marshal Tantawi spoke to the people. He voiced a decision to accept the cabinet’s resignation and plans to go ahead with elections planned for next Monday, but made no further concessions. Tantawy’s speech was not well received in the square. The masses had one demand: the immediate transition to civilian rule.

“The speech was bullshit,” says Sheshtawy. “It was exactly like one of Mubarak’s appearances.”

Hussein Fakih, who was also in the square as the speech was broadcast, echoes that the speech was déjà vu. People in the square regarded Tantawi’s words as insincere and insufficient. Chants of, “We won’t leave, you should leave,” erupted in the dark.

Coming back from the square, Fakih was exhausted, but smiling. “It’s gorgeous, it’s full, and solidarity is everywhere.”

Fakih was transporting medical equipment to one of the field hospitals in the square. Although it was completely packed, as soon as he shouted that he was bearing supplies, the crowd parted. “Faces I don’t know just helped out in great solidarity, everyone is working for one cause.”

“I am Lebanese, but I felt like I was Egyptian, I hope it lasts. Even if you were from Mars, you’d still feel like an Egyptian in Tahrir.”