Saturday, February 19, 2011

Victory Day in Cairo, February 18, 2011

Today, Victory Friday, there were hundreds of thousands of people, maybe a million, in Cairo's Tahrir Square.  We went to the Square in the afternoon and met a few Egyptians on the metro ride who spoke English and said it was ok if we walked around with them.  Here's a picture of Cameron with our new friend Salma.
We were able to take the metro all the way to Sadat, which is the metro stop right in the Square.  This was the first protest in which the government (now the military) has left that metro stop open.  The metro was absolutely packed when we got off.  Coming up the stairs from inside the metro was jammed but people were patient waiting for their turn to get up the stairs to the Square.
Once in the Square, we saw masses of people.  This was my 4th or 5th time to Tahrir Square with the other visits on the other big protest days and this seemed like the biggest crowd yet.  We couldn't even get into the center of the Square because the crowd was so dense.  

There were soldiers on tanks stationed at the entrances to the Square.  They were just observing and some people were having their pictures taken in front of the tanks.

The feeling in the crowd was joyous, loud, and very, very proud.

People seemed very happy to see us.  In a time when so many foreigners have left and tourists are almost an endangered species, I think our presence is a sign to some that things are slowly returning to 'normal' in the sense of Egypt being frequented by tourists and inhabited by many foreign residents.  We didn't see any other foreigners downtown while we were there.

As I was taking photos of the crowd, there were several times when people wanted to take photos of me and my son.  They especially loved having their photo taken with Cameron.  He must have been asked to pose with Egyptians in about 10 different photos this afternoon.
One man even handed his baby to me so he could take a picture of me holding the baby!  Here's a photo of him as he's handing me the baby.
The crowds were so dense in the Square itself that I ended up taking most of my photos in the side street next to the Square where there was a little more room.  I also took quite a few videos that I will be downloading over the next couple days to post to this blog.

Here are some more photos I took of Egyptians at Tahrir Square on Victory Friday.

Many people had the Egyptian flag painted on their cheeks.

Many people were wearing these necklace cards with photos of 12 of the more than
350 protesters who died during the 18 day revolution.

In the conversations I had with Egyptians in the Square, people were jubilant, optimistic and in general seemed content with the way things are being handled in the one week since Mubarak resigned.  There were a couple people who said they wanted the 'whole government' gone, which I assume means they are not happy that the Cabinet of Ministers appointed by Mubarak are remaining in power.  

I heard on television news reports that some protesters still have concerns:    
* The Emergency Law, in effect since Mubarak took power almost 30 years ago, has not been lifted yet by the military.  (The Military has said they would lift the Emergency Law at some point but didn't say when.); 
*  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of political prisoners who are still detained; 
*  Some people want a new constitution, not just quick revisions in 10 days; 
*  The police system remains the same; 
*  The problem of low wages has not been dealt with and workers have now been told not to strike in the future. 

I heard an interview with Mohammed ElBaradi this evening on CNN and he was critical of the military remaining in power, preferring instead for there to be a presidential council that would include a member of the military as well as civilian leaders. 
Nobel Laureate Mohammed ElBaradi
Meanwhile, as Egypt celebrates, we watch the violence, killing and mass arrests continue in Libya and Bahrain.  Many Egyptians are hoping Arabs in these neighboring countries can also get their freedom.  We have a Libyan friend and I asked him what he thought after Egypt's revolution succeeded.  He said, "Two down, many to go."  

On this same topic, here is a link to a 3 minute video from EuroNews called Tunisia's Domino Effect that offers a good summary of all the countries in this region where there are pro-democracy protests occurring.

Here's a very short video showing a small corner of the crowd at Tahrir Square today.

Here's the link to this video:

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