By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy
“One hand” still holds.
This morning before dawn, the tents and blockades were up: The people had been gathering since the previous night, preparing for a long stay. As the sun rose, there was a moment when the Muslim Brotherhood arrived with a truck of materials to build their stage—a big crowd blocked them and put up obstacles to prevent their access. We were worried, saying “the people want no religious agendas,” but after long discussions between several groups the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed in and put up their stage. It is the biggest of the four big platforms in the square, but it is not a problem. They are keeping their promise to not rally for their own agenda, and the people are not particularly reacting to their presence. So far, there is only a good feeling around them. They are only urging unity and peaceful construction.
All political movements were invited to participate, including the Salafi youth movement, which received permission to take part in the protests.
People from the Muslim Brotherhood Youth Revolution Coalition, April 6 Youth Movement and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party were passing out a questionnaire today about participants’ reasons for coming and their evaluation of the military’s performance and opinions of today’s protest, which, finally, has come to be called “Friday of the Revolution First” (instead of the other name previously circulating: “Friday of Persistence”).
There are many issues and demands and divisions, but the agreement in this demonstration was that there would be no diversifying issues, no partisanship, in order to unify demands and slogans. No violence or controversy would be allowed in the square. The recent conflicts have proved that the old regime and its old techniques of division are still there.
The people are united in demanding: the quick prosecution of Mubarak, his hated former Minister of the Interior Habib Al-Adly, a number of other officials accused of corruption, and those responsible for the killing of the revolution’s martyrs; civilian trials for civilians; dismissing the Minister of Interior Maj. Gen. Mansour el-Issawi and dissolving all governmental institutions among the remnants of the former regime and the National Democratic Party (whose office was bombed in February on the ground floor of my building); minimum and maximum wage; justice.
Some conflict was anticipated today—the Egyptian Ministry of Health canceled doctors’ vacations in all hospitals. Forty ambulances and three camp clinics are prepared at Tahrir Square and all over Egypt’s main squares.
The 25 members of the Egyptian Museum Youth are protecting the Egyptian Museum, along with the administration and military. But, happily, they have been unnecessary today. Once again the amazing organic organization of the civilians happened without a glitch; the printed signs and graphics are almost totally nonpartisan, and the crowd will not allow anyone to provoke discord. The people chant slogans of Egyptian pride and unity together. There are as yet no “thugs” to be seen.
Friends and activists and plugged-in Egyptians began tweeting and SMS-ing feverishly again after the last week’s conflicts with allies of the old regime in the protests. Among rallying messages, suggestions about tear-gas protection techniques and pre-admonishing the usual opportunist butt-grabbing, was the now familiar rumbling tone of pack adrenaline.
“I will be in the square, and I will do everything to protect our people so we find again our peace and unity and shared love of Egypt, because i missed you so much since then, Egyptians, my brothers and sisters,” my friend Ahmed tweeted last night, expressing the common feeling. We missed each other and that sense of belonging to a great people—great and beautiful and pure—that we had found and had given us our pride.
We have struggled against losing the cohesion and our steam to natural friction and resistance, the entropy of things falling apart and falling back into the old inertia of least resistance. But we have proved that we will not have our power and victory stolen away. We are still here and conscious. And not willing to give up the responsibility for our own future again. We will not let our revolution be hijacked.
After four weeks outside of Egypt, returning to sweep the dust out of my home and twist the wires back to get my telephone and Internet working again, I plunge back into the dusty, hot, passionate heart of the people.
A couple of young Salafi activists stopped by yesterday with my friend Mohamed. A dead, dusty mouse fell off someone’s shoe sole as the person took them off before entering. Though the streets are arguably a fraction cleaner, they are still mostly dirt, and I saw this as a sign to remind my Western readers to not judge this country’s values and interests on the basis of their own cultural criteria. Try to make the leap of understanding.
This is not your G-8 country inheriting a bad economy after a mandate change. This is not a mindlessly submissive mass following a fanatically misogynist dogma, or a materialistic value system. This is a deeply rich culture based on emotions, and a pervasive sense of moral duty, cultural identity, having a new high spike in its globally epochal history, full of unifying religio-ethnic ritual and cohesion.
There are 2 million people in Tahrir Square now. The sun is going down and the air is cooling, the people are starting to move a bit more. I have come here to write this, and I will return tonight if I can. Many are staying in a sit-in, as in the 18 days.
It is true that all numbers and information here are imprecise and everything is unpredictable, but one thing is sure, that here the populace practice brotherly love andsalam aleikoum. Egypt is the center of the Arab Spring—it is not the head, or the legs or the arms or the body. It is the big beating, passionate, emotional, pure, but undisciplined heart.
Through my open window, a coolish twilight breeze carries a call to prayer and a verse of the Quran amid the honking car horns. A friend calls from the square; I hear heated voices in the background and then multiple voices quickly calming a conflict. “All still good?” I ask. He says, “Yes, but we have to keep on it. There’s 2 million and more coming in, and you know how people get hot at night when it gets cool.”
Insha’allah this night it will stay cool.
May the good people perservere.