A cross-section of Cairo residents formed a human chain on Saturday to help guard Egyptian antiquities at a national museum. (Photo: Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse via The Lede)
My friend Yousry is in his late twenties. He and his wife would be considered affluent because they live in Zamalek. But like so many others, because all barriers of class have fallen away—he has been on the streets for the last 48 hours. He just returned home in Zamalek after patrolling the streets of the neighborhood with his prized Syrian sword that used to just hang up as souvenir in their living room. He had never thought he would have to take it off the wall and actually try to use it to defend his neighbors and his family. He did like to show it off at our late night parties in his apartment.
I have spent the last half an hour with him talking from his landline at home. This is his powerful account un-edited by me of each and every moment of the last 48 hours as he experienced it. For a moment I wished that he was live on air on Al-Jazeera or CNN saying all of this—but then I realized that it is better for him to talk to a trusted friend and he perhaps would not say all of this to mainstream news media hungry for sound-bites. I am not going to provide his phone number or his real name to any journalists. He needs to get up in the morning, if he can sleep tonight and go back out.
To me what he describes is more powerful than anything I have heard on television with the endless parade of pundits or the unfortunate tendency of even Al-Jazeera (which is doing some great reportage, no doubt) to have their reporters climb up high in tall buildings to show us wide shots of the immensity of the Egyptian revolution. Yousry is one of those citizens in the middle of the chaos who reporters are not talking to as much as they need to.
Here he is in his own words, un-edited and certainly not talking in soundbites. (I have spent some time cleaning up my hurried note taking and as much grammar/punctuation corrections I could make to that). His voice sounds very hoarse-I feel guilty but press him on anyway. It sounds like he has inhaled way too much smoke and tear-gas.
Me: Yousry how are you and please if its not asking too much can you just start talking about everything you saw and are feeling. Pretend that you are on my couch or something and that I am some New York shrink.
Y: Ha Ha! That is funny. OK here goes. BTW I am having some Scotch now. I think I need it Yaani. I was in the protest all day yesterday and I started at 6th of October bridge—you remember? You were here so many times—it’s just a short walk from Zamalek?
Me: Of course I remember and btw yesterday all day the Al Jazeera reporter had his cameraperson focused on the bridge-so we basically saw it all live. He had a running commentary throughout.
Y: Ha Ha! He should have come down and talked to us Yaani. But I am glad that they showed it to the world. I have had no time to watch TV. It’s a luxury—you can either stay at home and get drunk and stare at the TV or you can join everybody out there!I was shocked at how diverse the turnout was. There were so many people from Zamalek and you know how people from Zamalek usually are.
Me: Ha! Like drinking and having all night parties?
Y: Yes yalla! No one from the Ikhwan was there or any of the organized political parties. It was about 1:30 pm or so I think. Even if any of us picked up a rock to throw at the police everyone yelled Selmya! Selmya (*Selmya is peaceful) and Parvez believe me that till before this bastard gave his speech yesterday that was the word I heard most often on the streets. We were peaceful till 4 or 4:30 I think. Then these police fuckers started shooting these pellets and it suddenly became very difficult to control the injured protesters or their friends. I think the violence must have started around 5 pm–I was not keeping track of time—was not wearing my watch and phone was in my pocket, not working anyway
Me: Were you hit?
Y: Almost but Inshaallah it just went by me. And then these guys pretty close to me and hurt started throwing molotovs. I didn’t even know till then that they had them. They started stopping cars…
M: And the police?
Y: You must understand this…its important because its been a mix of these thugs and cops since yesterday—most of the thug types who are doing most of the attacks are prisoners who have been released by that bastard Mubarak in return for their services to beat up civilians
Me: And the army?
Y: Till then there was no army—and then when finally they came and people cheered this one tank—it looked liked they were hesitant to use force. I actually came back home after the violence started—just walked back on 6th of October past these guys setting a police van on fire. I have a wife, family to think of.
Me: I know. I am so glad you are still OK man…today?
Y: I went to tahrir today with other friends at about 11 am and by 2 pm or so we were by the TV station near the Corniche…
Me: Yes, I remember that. I once stayed at the Ramses Hilton right next to it. There was also a small shopping mall there. That’s the one right?
Me: Hey a lot of guys here have been saying that this revolution is all about the success of social networking? I mean I guess up to a point they are right because someone like me sitting here is tweeting obsessively with updates I am getting from anyone I can reach on a landline really—but is this true?
Y: Its bullshit…I mean I agree that in the beginning around the 25th twitter did play some kind of role because people were able to throw around ideas on it—but come on—even that! How many fucking people in Cairo you think would know how to use the damn thing or even the damn internet—and even if they knew how many do you think would have easy access to a computer with a reliable internet connection? I mean, its bullshit…
Me: I am so glad you are saying this. I thought I am the only fucking idiot repeating this like a fucking parrot
Y: You said it? Great man! I have no fucking idea anyway about what you are saying? I haven’t bloody seen Facebook or twitter in a fucking while now…
Me: Man this is all so fucked up.
Y: Tayyib ofcourse yaani—you see now since yesterday and even Thursday actually after they shut it all down—it is self explanatory– it doesn’t matter anymore—twitter and all that shit—no one has it anyway. I guess maybe some journalist types can still do it? I have no idea on how to get on the fucking internet and I am pretty good at this shit—so if I don’t know—how can others be tweeting–so everywhere u go Parvez today there are thousands of people now its come to that…All of Tahrir has been filled with so many people—I have never seen so many people—Tanks were standing at the entrance of Tahrir facing each other as I walked towards it today—All I could hear was this amazing chant that made me so fucking happy—“Alshab Aldesh Eid Wahada” you know…it means “The people and the soldiers are one…”
Y: You still haven’t given up your religious bullshit I see…and then as we walked closer these soldiers on these tanks were holding like these small bouquets of tube roses I think…some of them were giving like a thumbs up to all of us…I even took photographs which of course I cant fucking email you—but some of the tanks had “Yasqut Hosni Mubarak” spray painted on them…You know Yasqut is like Fall…
They were holding small bouqets of tube roses
Me: I don’t remember if I saw any images of that? But I am sure there must be…
Y: Yes and then people started clapping in Tahrir and as we walked deeper into this crowd— and Parvez it was amazing…they were people who were carrying an army officer on their shoulders he was holding up his fist…the soldier and people started chanting….because the army officer was chanting….
Me: What was the soldier chanting?
Y: I couldn’t hear him…there was just so much noise and smoke and then we started chanting you know the slogan of the last few days…The people will the fall of the government…and we were chanting that and this group of older guys stopped us! And said no the chant has changed now it is The People will the Fall of the President. Amazing man, do you get it? They are making sure that there is no ambiguity anymore after his scam speech from last night…and his fucking new “government” lies…
Y: and ya today you know I felt Muslim Brotherhood presence for first time—these are what we call the beards you know—they made their way to the front of the protest near me where students were leading—and this elderly man in his 60’s was holding up a flag–he started chanting Allahu Akbar—and the students started
“Muslameen Mesiheen Kolina Masreen” you know… “Muslims Christians we are all Egyptians”
Me: I cant believe it—everyone is saying that the Copts have been looking after the backs of the Muslims when they are praying in mosques man…its just fucking unbelievable especially after all that drama a few weeks ago…
Y: yes! And then we heard fire shots from distance— and these two bodies covered in shrouds were carried in like a ganaza procession, you know…
Me: I think I saw a youtube video of that…ya they were reciting the Salatuljanaza…the funeral namaz…
Y: Yes. And then this ambulance kind of pulled up and the guy in it yelled out…that he had another martyr and that all 3 had been killed while they were at that fucking Ministry of Interior which you know everyone has been trying to occupy…you know Parvez how much that bloody MOI is hated in this country…
Me: I know…I know and now second only to Mubarak I guess
Y: And yes then all these guys were carrying 3 bodies through the crowd and everyone was praying the Genaza…literally everyone….even me…
Me: Ha! So you know the Genaza and you are calling me mr. religious bullshit!
Y: Ha ha! Well I was taught well man…anyway I left Tahrir by 4:30 or 5 I think…You know Parvez…you must understand this…people were initially happy it was Omar Soliman who was going to be a vice president you know…he does have a lot of respect…you know…but then after he made that bloody Ahmed Shafik the PM…you know…I think we realized then you know…that something is very fishy…its like he has appointed these two guys who are very close to him you know…there is so much anger….
Me: I know…I almost feel its like he will step down maybe by tomorrow but then make sure that he can run the country by proxy through especially this Soliman guy and maybe long distance…because god knows he will not be safe in Egypt!
Y: I cannot believe that President Mubarak is still so tone deaf and clueless trying his same old tricks you know…
Me: Hey Yousry–Why are you still calling him the president, man?
Y: Parvez–Because he has not left the seat yet—its important that people are reminded he is not gone yet…it is important to say President before his name constantly….he is NOT gone yet man…I am so worried Parvez….people cannot feel tired… they cant feel they somehow won and maybe we should settle for this…because really man none of the demands of the people have been met man…at the end of the day President Mubarak needs to go… this-because this was none of the demands that people were met
Me: I should let you go soon man….you’ve had enough of this shit already…but quickly what about all this looting now?
Y: The looting in my view is so fucking disappointing man…and then to see how quickly the cops who are still wearing uniform disappeared…I mean, you know that so many of those bastards are now pretending to be civilians and walking amongst all of us…bloody traitors….My theory is simple really…The Army and Police have left the country wide open you know—I feel it was deliberate—they are proving that if you guys want democracy and you want the President to go— then this is what will happen without us…only we have protected you all these years…without us and him you are not safe and will never be safe…This is political blackmail…Everyone is sure that the police is doing all the looting…Egyptians are not stupid and I know that there are so many rumours…I hear a new one every 5 minutes…but I am sure that the police are behind the looting…
Me: So fucked up
Y: You know about the secret service police guys were citizen arrested at the museum and handed over to the army? You know so many of the protesters held hands man and formed like this long cordon around the museum so that these police pretending to be looters could not go in and destroy our history…and then they found out that these secret police guys were already inside and even damaged some Mummies…I mean people were so furious and they just handed them to the army… and handed to army
Me: Yousry it must be getting fucking late there man…what time is it…
Y: Maybe 12 or 1? I don’t know…its ok…I feel better saying all of this man…its like just letting out all this negative shit man…Parvez tell me this…In the 80’s revolt you know…military could secure Egypt in 2 hrs—here it has taken them 2 days and they still have not—Is it because they are protecting civilians or are they proving that this is what will happen if you want the President to go
Me: Listen man…its really fucking late…what about Zamalek?
Y: Well at 10:30 when I was out with my sword…remember the sword?…a few army commandoes came to protect the American embassy compound you know…you know its just walking distance from here…it was a fucking joke…here we are all walking around barricading ourselves…and these guys arrive to the American compound to save the Americans? And guess what… I was standing there so I asked the guard outside if there were any Americans inside…and guess what man…he said they had all left between Thursday and Friday! What a fucking joke! There are no Americans left to protect and they show up to protect them while they have abandoned us?
Me: Disgusting…so fucking disgusting…
Y: I know man…so I asked the commandoes…whats up guys? And one of them says…don’t worry Zamalek is secured…there are so many neighbour guys out there you know…everyone is doing it in shifts…none of them are going back home…I mean what is this one mini van of stupid commandoes going to do?
Me: Hey Yousry…please sleep man…and if phones are still working please lets keep calling whenever you are awake and before and after you go out man…sleep now man…if u can…have any pills?
Y: Well you are the pill supplier usually! I think this Scotch will help…My father in law only keeps the best Scotch..ha ha!