Reflections from Tahrir square tonight

Unpublished Blog notes

I am currently in Cairo. Over the years, I have come to love this country and it's people with all of it's complexities. And the experiences of tonight brings home all the good and the bad.

When I heard the news that Copts were protesting by the television studio near Tahrir square, I thought about how much things have changed here. Copts protesting was unheard till very recently. The church leaders have always refused it, mostly out of fear and Copts never thought their exclusion will end anyway.

As I walked towards the area, it became clear that the protests have turned violent. Smoke was everywhere, and people were running and shouting. Then came the military in their riot gears, firing rounds and tear gas. Soon, I had my own share of the gas and joined running crowds.

Muslims were marching with Christians, defending rights and protection for all Egyptians. A Muslim told me that he is here to defend Christians. Then picked up empty shells on the road and showed them to me.

Protesters grouped by Tahrir square, and the military police sent more troops. More rounds.. More tear gas.. Then, a water cannon truck got stopped by crowds and torn down.

A young girl ran to me and asked me if I was a foreigner, I said I am. In perfect English, she asked me to run and go to any hotel I can enter. She said its not safe. And when I asked "what about you?", she said "this is my country. I will be here." Her genuine concern for me but disregard for her own life moved me deeply.

Eventually, I walked away from the area as my eyes burnt and I kept coughing.

Tonight, I saw first hand what I have been writing about and researching in Egypt for years now. Coptic youth are even coming against the Church's demands for calm and are now demanding a life equal with their Muslim compatriots. Since the impeachment of Mubarak, their situation only got worse. You can watch a TV debate I partook on the topic here!

But tonight, I was also reminded that the deep human longing for freedom and dignity are universal and inherent to all of us, whether Muslims or Christians or atheists. When it is denied, people will eventually raise their voices.

Now, the Egyptian media is playing a dangerous game and some army officials are asking Egyptians to defend their army. The reports make it look like only soldiers got killed and wounded, so as to signal the blame on protesters for escalation of the problem. It just goes to show, the Revolution is not done yet, but it is in the making.