TV reports indicate things are peaceful in Tahrir Square today. The hundreds of thousands that were there yesterday (see photos below), are not there today, but reporters say there is still a core group of thousands of protesters there today, many of who camp in the square all night. As promised by the Vice President two nights ago, there was no violence against the protesters coming from the military or the police yesterday or today.
Yesterday, everyone entering the square had to pass through several checkpoints, where military soldiers and civilian volunteers checked all bags coming in to insure there were no weapons. The active presence of the military helped insure there was little, if any, violence inside Tahrir Square itself yesterday.
However, I did hear reports of violent clashes outside of Tahrir Square where the military was not present. Reporters said Pro-Mubarak forces were not allowed to enter the Square, but they came to the periphery and there was violence where they encountered anti-Mubarak protesters.
A couple days ago, I saw a pro-Mubarak protest in our community of about 100 people. It was peaceful with chanting and marching. I took a video to post on this blog, but for the past couple days I haven't been able to upload anything from YouTube so I can't show it to you now. Once I'm able to use YouTube again, I'll post that video.
For anyone interested in viewing the last video I posted on this blog, here's the link to that entry:
Overall, the sense was that yesterday's mass protest was fairly peaceful, particularly compared to that awful night of violence in the Square two days before.
Many of the protesters entered the Square by way of the bridge over the Nile and had to wait in line for hours to pass through checkpoints to be searched.
One of the TV networks showed a couple maps to give viewers a sense of where Tahrir Square is in relation to the Nile and the Egyptian Museum. Below are the areal shots shown on TV.
From the bridge to Tahrir Square, it's about a 15 minute walk. From Tahrir Square to the Egyptian Museum, it's about a 5-10 minute walk.
I did not go to the Square and will not be going to the downtown area in general at this time. Being a Western person used to be something that gave me added protection in some ways, but not now. The treatment of journalists (see article at link below) has changed the dynamic for foreigners generally, so we will be staying in our own community, a good distance away from the downtown.
I did want to say that I have always been treated well by Egyptians personally. The everyday people here are some of the most hospitable and generous people I have ever met, even to strangers and perhaps especially to foreigners. I was talking to one man who works at a bookstore and he was asking us if we felt safe. We said we thought our community was safe. He said, "You know, we would give our lives to protect you." The 'you' he meant was referring to foreigners in general. His comment may sound like an exaggeration, but it wasn't. He really meant it. My sense is that the Egyptian character includes a deep sense of honor and respect that includes protecting those who are strangers and visitors to their country. It's like being the host of a home and making sure your guests are well-cared-for, but on a national level.
Meanwhile, evacuations of foreigners has been in the news for the past week. Below is one photo from CNN of some people at the airport about to leave Cairo. Many U.S. companies, as well as non-essential U.S. Embassy employees have left, as have many people from other countries. Of our foreign friends here, about half have left.
Meanwhile, the sun has just set here (6pm) and the curfew will begin in one hour. Curfew hours have been extended to starting at 7pm and ending at 7am. (Yesterday, the curfew was all day; other days the curfew has started at 3pm or 1pm or 4pm, depending on what is announced on TV.)
The army in Tahrir Square has said that the curfew will be 'rigorously enforced' tonight. But they have also said that they will not use force against protesters. The protesters have been in Tahrir Square for one week now and have said they will not leave until their demands are met. I wonder what will happen tonight after the curfew hour. Maybe the army will just urge them to leave.
As a final note, I just got a call from an Egyptian man and his adult daughter who I met this past week. They wanted to make sure my family and I feel safe and wanted us to be sure to call them if there is anything we need. They also want us to come to dinner at their house when things settle down so they can serve us some Egyptian food.
Breaking news (Feb. 5, 6:30pm): CNN just announced that the National Democratic Party leadership has resigned their roles in the ruling party. This includes Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak's son, which means he would not be allowed to run for President in the next election under the terms of the current constitution.
Note: This doesn't include President Mubarak resigning his role in the National Party or his role as President.