Jan 31,2011

Amazing messages and stories our members and friends have sent us from Cairo. Some details have been altered for anonymity.

___________________________

Dear all,

Thank you all for your messages in the past few days. I was very touched by how many of you thought of me and reached out.

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. We have seen Egypt in all its glory and all its despair.

Tuesday, January 25th, (Police Day – a national holiday) was the beginning of a revolution. That day, my friends and I for the most part, did not participate in any demonstrations. Wednesday and Thursday were normal working days, although some people continued to demonstrate, and huge demonstrations were planned for Friday. When we saw what happened that day, many of us became determined to participate in the demonstrations on Friday. (The weekend in Egypt is Friday and Saturday). Friday morning we woke up to find that all mobile telephony and Internet had been cut. Many of you probably do not know that since Mubarak came into power 30 years ago, the country has been operating under emergency law which makes any form of assembly illegal. Until last week, most people shied away from any anti-government demonstrations because the consequences were undoubtedly severe punishment by the brutal Egyptian Police Force.

Inspired by the events that took place in Tunis, and the sheer number of people who were moved through Facebook and other social media websites, people were no longer afraid to engage in peaceful demonstrations on Friday. As a girl, I was discouraged by my friends from participating on Friday. The protesters that day were brutally attacked by the Police with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Police used indiscriminate force to try to disperse the crowds, but the masses – who mostly have very little to lose, put up an enormous fight. The stories from that day are incredible. Many of the shops in the streets stayed open and provided water and juice for the protesters who were being attacked. The protesters were determined that it remain a peaceful demonstration. One man with a Dodge Ram took it upon himself to pick up injured protesters in his truck, drive them to safety, and then come back with drinks for the protesters. The army, who is very much loved and respected by the people moved in that evening, and all the Police in Egypt mysteriously disappeared. They were ordered by a higher force to leave so that chaos would ensue, and the people would call out for them to come back.

Friday evening, Mubarak addressed the nation. His speech was a slap in the face. No concessions were made except that he dissolved the Cabinet of Ministers, which was perhaps the only thing he had going for him. He even went so far as to say that he ‘made the demonstrations possible’ on Friday, and blamed the corruption in the government entirely on his cabinet. His speech added more fuel to the fire.

Saturday, the number of protesters grew as people became more determined to remove him from power. The newly appointed cabinet was a joke, and included many corrupt people from the ‘previous’ regime. Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman as his first VP. This gave a certain amount of hope as he is generally respected and people would accept him as the leader of a transitional government. The mobile service was restored for phone calls, but no messages or instant messaging and no Internet. That day, it became known that thousands of prisoners were released from prison. Prisons and police stations were emptied of their fire arms by thugs. They began looting Friday night, and continued throughout Saturday. It is believed that many of the looters were actually members of the Police Force who were still MIA. Late Saturday evening, the military moved into the neighborhoods to start providing protection. Also on Saturday, a neighborhood watch began where all the men in the neighborhoods began working in shifts using any weapons they had, ranging from kitchen knives and golf clubs to fire arms, to protect our homes. Luckily, through the protection of the military, and our own brave men who patrolled the streets, safety and order were restored, and I believe the media played a major role in enlarging the magnitude of the threat. Thank God, no one I know was attacked or had their homes broken into.

Saturday-Tuesday were amazing days of hope for our country. In the neighborhoods, in addition to the neighborhood watch, people took it upon themselves to collect trash in the neighborhood, and direct the traffic. Demonstrations took place every single day. The message was clear, Mubarak and his regime should step down. I myself participated in demonstrations on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. People from every walk of life were there, rich, poor, old, young, Christians, Copts, Muslims, men, women, children. The atmosphere in the demonstrations was one of true camaraderie. Great emphasis was placed on the peaceful nature of the demonstrations. Civilians volunteered to search all entrants to the demonstrations to ensure no weapons entered. People passed out food and water to the people around them. We all felt our country was truly united. Tuesday, the million man march was planned. The turnout was outstanding. People were hopeful. It is important to note two things: 1) The demonstrations had no political or religious agenda – The only request was for Mubarak and his regime to step down. 2) No clear head or direction for leadership had emerged which worried many people, including myself, that we simply didn’t (and still don’t) know what will happen on the other end if and when Mubarak stepped down. We are fearful of chaos and any Islamist movement through the Muslim Brotherhood – long the boogey man used by the Egyptian government to discourage any shift of power.

Tuesday night Mubarak addressed the nation in a speech riddled with emotion. He announced he would not be running in the next elections, and that he never intended to (although just a few months ago he made a speech saying he would ‘serve’ Egypt until his dying breath). He also said that he would oversee amendments to articles 76 and 77 of the constitution which would 1) Limit the number of terms any President could stay in power, and 2) Change the terms that restrict pretty much anyone for becoming a presidential candidate. There were several holes in his speech. 1) The people overseeing these changes are all part of the old guard and no one trusts them. 2) He provided no guarantees of how the coming elections would be secured freely and fairly. 3) Nothing was mentioned regarding restricting his son from coming back to run for Presidency. 4) How can anyone trust a President who over the past few days allowed the Police to attack its own people in plain view, not to mention over the past 30 years? The same evening, the Opposition Parties formed a coalition and announced they were all in agreement about steps that should be taken, and were willing to engage in a dialogue with the Vice President, but they would only step in once Mubarak left. We were torn last night between relief that he had agreed to step down, and fear that, in fact, no change would take place, and no true concessions had actually been made. We thought that perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

I woke up this morning feeling hopeful. The Internet service was restored. I started thinking of ways to form groups with my friends to come up with our own agenda of things we could do to serve our country. I felt that we needed to quickly capitalize on the sense of unity that had been achieved in the past few days to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. It was no longer enough to sit idly on the sidelines and wait for things to improve in Egypt. Every single one of us had participated in this movement for change, and we needed to see it through to the end at every level.

Now, it is clear we have been deceived. This morning we went to Tahrir square to see what the word on the street is. People continued to demonstrate peacefully. On our way in, we were searched as usual to make sure that no weapons were coming in. However, aggressive ‘pro-Mubarak’ supporters began flowing in. Another demonstration with a large number of ‘pro-Mubarak’ supporters was happening nearby, and was resolved to march into Tahrir square and force the demonstrators out. We felt the situation would become dangerous and took a taxi to a friend parents’ house. Within half an hour, we saw on TV large crowds of ‘pro-Mubarak’ supporters storming Tahrir square with sticks and knives to attack the unarmed demonstrators. Men on camel and horseback rode into the square armed with clubs to attack.

We are now convinced that Mubarak and his regime did not intend to change anything. The scenes on TV now are of Molotov cocktails being thrown at the protesters. Tahrir square is turning into a blood bath. One of our friends was caught in the middle of Tahrir. The ‘pro-Mubarak’ supporters had closed off all exit points to the square. (Thank God he has since been able to escape.) There are reports that many of the ‘pro-Mubarak’ supporters were paid to attack the demonstrators, and also that many if not all of them are actually from the secret service. These attacks are clearly being perpetuated by Mubarak’s regime.

This is a very sad day for Egypt. Throughout the week, many people felt the need to leave the country for safety reasons. I felt the need to stay and show support. And I felt safer than ever because of the way everyone banded together. Now, I don’t know what will happen next. I feel truly betrayed. Who will save us?

I hope we are able to receive enough support and pressure from the United States and every other country to force this cruel regime to step down for good.

______________________________

TechWadi,

My name is ___. We met at Techwadi in Sf.

Please forward this message to everyone you know in Egypt. We need help.

Egyptians are being killed right now!

Mubarak, the dictator of Egypt freed all the worst prisoners and paid them to scare the protesters in Tahrir Sq.

The brave Egyptians would not turn back so he ordered his thugs to attack. They were on horses and had Molotov cocktails and guns. We fought back with just rocks.

500 Egyptians are wounded and many have been killed! I escaped and spent the night dodging Mubarak’s gangs in the streets. I got very lucky and met some freedom fighters who took me to safety. They managed to get an internet connection up and this is the only way I can write this.

Our only chance to save those still trapped in Tahrir Square is to gather enough people to storm past Mubarak’s thugs. The brave Egyptian freedom fighters are holding their ground in Tahrir Sq. They are bleeding to death right now.

Mubarak’s gangs are patrolling the streets and stopping anyone from bringing them food, water or medical aid.

All I can do now is to beg for your help.

Please

1. Reach out to anyone you know in Egypt and beg them to tell everyone they know in Egypt about our march to save the freedom fighters trapped in Tahrir Square.

2. Lets meet at 1:00 pm tomorrow at TALAT HARB Mall in TALAT HARB street next to ALabbd pastry shop in Cairo. From there it is less then a mile to Tahrir Sq and we can march together strong. We can bring food, water and medical supplies to those still trapped. If you know any doctors or nurses then please ask them to come.

Be brave, this is our only hope to save them.

___________________________

TechWadi.. We truly need your support.

We the Egyptian people who want freedom and democracy are urging every free person in the world to help us against the violence that is currently used by the Egyptian regime.

There are many thousands of very sincere, peaceful and brave young people who are now IN TAHREER SQUARE subjected to real slaughtering from security forces DISGUISED under civilian dress.

I TRULY ASK YOUR HELP BY ALL MEANS. THE LEAST BY SPREADING THIS MESSAGE TO EVERY BODY YOU KNOW

_____________________________

TechWadi,

I’m sending this message out from the middle of an executive meeting in the board room of the company I work for. The unfolding events are throwing me out of balance and I had to step out and feel obligated to write this message to your daughter and everyone in Egypt. In the past few days I’ve been merged in happiness and joy, I live in the SF Bay area and haven’t been sleeping for the last week.

For the first time in my life I’m able to stand up with dignity in the middle of my diverse set of peers and describe how proud I am to be an Egyptian. I was born and spent a large part of my life in Egypt. I went to college there and during my professional life realized how Mubarak and regime have managed to corrupt, spoil and suppress every positive aspect of life, innovation, creativity, whatever, you name it, for the interests of “I don’t know who”. I don’t normally get involved in many social communications and some people may view me as an introvert but I’m obligated to speak up, it’s now or never. While in college I felt helpless, depressed, oppressed, can’t really do much towards improving anything around me, so I decided to focus my efforts on technical excellence. Realizing that there’s no hope in the short term I decided to actively pursue opportunities to leave Egypt, grow freely and hope that “some day” in the unknown history I can return and be able to change something or contribute. We all know that the will for most (or all) Egyptians who immigrate to the west stems from the oppressed need to feel human, having the utmost basic rights of being able to speak, change, build, contribute, find a better life. When I go to the airports in Europe or USA I envy the citizens there, having their expedited lines for immigration paper processing, when I go back I still see that the Egyptian citizen receives second class treatment and respect in his own country, everywhere, in all government service offices, police force, you can even clearly see that foreigners are respected more than citizens.

I have a wife and two beautiful kids, I can spend the rest of my life away, financially successful, but at the end what would I’ve achieved? luxury cars? Houses? Gadgets? My offspring will fuse and dissolve in a different society and my Egyptian legacy will slowly vanish over time. I really wish that I’m down there in the streets right now helping the people block the thugs, I could be injured or die, life will go on no matter what but we need to advance this revolution through its different phases. I want to feel the dignity of defending my freedom from that insidious, treacherous and cruel regime. The transition may be painful, with economic consequences, but the return is invaluable, we are doing this for the generations to come, to become proud of doing the single best act since the invasion of the mongols in the thirteenth century.

I have a firm belief that no one will ever help the Egyptian people, no one has interest to, we have to do it ourselves. I’d never rely on any external political pressures even though I’ll do my best to push them abroad. That regime is a chronic malicious mole in the body of Egypt, treatment will be hard and will cause a lot of pain. Like any medical treatments you have to go through the pain, but you know that you will feel relieved later. I really urge the people to stand steady, hold tight, the sun will rise no matter what. That regime has completely lost its legitimacy, even if by any miracle mubarak gets back he simply cannot rule a country where the 6-year boy is stepping on his face, cursing him with the worst words you can ever here. His security police and national democratic party are gone, we have already changed, please hold steady in the face of the calamities to come. I have confidence that the Egyptian people will learn, they will figure out how to face the thugs the same way they figured out how to protect themselves and their properties during the absence of police. We will fight, I will fight as much as I could, I want my country back. This is clear evolution going on blazing fast in front of our eyes, people have broken the fear barriers and are free to be creative.

Dawn has already come and very soon the sun will be high in the sky

Sherif

____________________________________

TechWadi,

Please help us to get organized and have our voice heard

Enough negativity – those standing in Tahrir without weapons and being harassed by thugs and other undercover police soldiers reminds me with Saad Zaghlol and Ahmed Orabi who stood for freedom against armed men for the sake of every Egyptian, Egyptian dignity and our children’s future.

At least make something for your children’s future to have better country.

Our country deserves real democracy and fair election – enough is enough

Stand for those who are taking the risk on your behalf in Tahrir.  I am not scared and I am not alone, I do not want to insult anyone or hurt anyone, I need to stand for my children basic rights –  enough is enough.

If you are one of the businessmen who are supported by the National Democratic Party (NDP), it is time to redeem yourself and stand for what is right.

Stand for Change and stand for Freedom, stand for Victory

If it was not for those standing in Tahrir, Mubarak would not ever say that he is not running for a next term.  Egypt will be inherited by his son Gamal and none of your children will ever dream to be a president of this great country. Ahmed Orabi, Saad Zaghlol, Gamal Abdel Naser, and Sadaat never had their sons in line to inherent a democratic country and humiliate the Egyptian man and insult their dignity.

After Habib El-Adely left, nothing has changed.  Corruption and manipulation remain.  We saw camels and horses with police soldiers and thugs who were armed and aimed to turn the peaceful demonstration to a war zone.  Whoever is coming from Mubarak’s government will continue with the old and the same policy will be applied. The Police are to protect Mubarak and scare the Egyptian all around Egypt.

I only have few questions for those who supporting Mubarak:

–          Were you scared (like the rest of the Egyptians) and worried about your family when Mubarak’s Police decided to leave their job and let you face prisoners and thugs steeling your house and your business and causing chaos? The only protection was offered from the police was to the American and Israel ambassadors and their teams.

–          Do you want Mubarak to rule Egypt for another unknown period? If not, then do not call for him to come back.

–          Do you think Mubarak will ever appoint a vice president and make change in the current policy if it was not for those who stand in Tarhrir? We all have to thank those who did it.

–          Do you think that the police will kill anyone who stands against Mubarak? If not , then look at what happened on January 25 and how many people were killed by the Police force in Suez, Al-Arish and Cairo.

–          Do you believe that the previous Egyptian Parliament election was fair and was not manipulated by the National Democratic Party under Mubarak’s authority?  In return, what was our president and his son’s response to such cheating and manipulation?

–          Do you believe that Israel and American will support Mubarak because he is being good to the Egyptian? If you believe so, then why are they not supporting free and fair elections that would please the Egyptian and keep their dignity?

–          Do you believe that the absence of the Police in our street was not organized by Mubarak’s administration to scare us and send all those who stand in Tahrir back to their homes and families to protect their basic rights? The administration said it very loud; choose between your freedom and your family safety.

–          Do you think that your children have a chance to dream to be president of this country if Gamal inherits the postion from his father?

Omar Suliman is an American agent and we all know it.   I am not calling for any one; I am calling for a regime change.  Do not tell me that of 80 million Egyptians we only have Al Baradei, Amr Mousa, or Gamal Mubarak.  We need serious reform and change and we need to get together to submit the right agenda.

Even if we respect Mubarak, we still need change for better and we know that they had 30 years to make Egypt great.  Nothing significant happened and we need to be a great country and stand for our history and our future.

Stand for Egypt, Stand for change, do not allow the thugs to kill those who standing in Tahrir.

Please move and stand for those who are standing for your right.

Do it for your children and grandchildren and Egypt.

Make February 4 a day for all Egyptians to remember.

Stop for the killing of innocent Egyptians who are standing un-armed calling for basic democratic rights and free election rights on your behalf.

We appreciate Mubarak services , however, as Egyptian we are demanding the following – We demand that Mubarak and his current government adhere to the following timeline and action items:

  • Repeal the Emergency Law
  • Dissolve the current Egyptian Parliament
  • Bring those responsible for rigging the Egyptian Parliament election to justice
  • Hold free and fair elections for a new Egyptian Parliament in the next 60 days
  • The new elected Egyptian parliament  discuss the following changes to the constitution:
    • Selection and qualification of the Egyptian President
    • Independence of the judicial system from the executive branch
    • Enact a presidential term limit
    • Vote on the new Egyptian Constitution
  • Allow others to submit their presidential program in preparation for the new upcoming free and fair Egyptian Presidential elections
  • Hold free and fair election for the new Egyptian Presidential Election in June of 2011
  • Request Turkish government representative along with the current Egyptian opposition representative to monitor the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections

___________________________________________

Dear friends and family,

Thank you for all of your emails and messages over the last few days. I was able to leave Cairo yesterday and arrived in England late last night. I am well and intend to return to Egypt within a couple weeks.

The last few days have been very exciting and at times nerve-wracking. I am sure you are all following the news, so I’ll try to share some personal insights. Apologies in advance for the length – it’s fresh in my mind and I’m trying to get these thoughts out quickly.

My apartment is in an area about 30 minutes from downtown Cairo, an area with a lot of expats. When the police were sent out of the city we began to hear reports of looting in the area and a nearby prison break. The army had yet to secure the area, so we were quite worried. My roommates and I (one of them Egyptian) went down to the street just after “curfew” to check things out and found all the men from the neighborhood gathered, armed with clubs, metal pipes, rocks, and Molotov cocktails to protect the neighborhood by any means necessary. They even set up vehicle checkpoints to make sure that no suspicious outsiders entered the area.

I am extremely impressed with the Egyptian people – both their ability to turn out in millions and express their anger with Mubarak in a largely non-violent way and how they have banded together to protect their homes and families from looters. As a society, they are now more organized, efficient, selfless and focused than I have ever seen. Individually, they are hungry, tired, and are sacrificing personal income in order to continue this effort until their demands are met. Through it all they have maintained their good humor and camaraderie.

These protesters are indeed from all walks of life. This is NOT an Islamist movement but rather a secular, populist movement. Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood has many members participating, but all are united in their desire for a new government based on democratic principles. There is much uncertainty but I have no fear that whatever comes out of this will be an improvement over the Egypt of just more than a week ago.

From my perspective of a foreigner, I have honestly felt no prerogative to participate directly in the daily events. It has been and continues to be impossible not to be swept up emotionally, but at no point do I think anybody but Egyptians should play a hand in the outcome of this movement.

I think that the best outcome for the West would be if Mubarak resigned and left Omar Suleiman in charge with Mohamed ElBaradei as his Vice President. This interim government would write a new liberal constitution and new elections set for the end of this year. The military would obviously have to support this outcome every step of the way.

There’s currently a joke circulating Cairo that Mubarak wants to leave but can’t find a country to take him. There may be some truth to this though as any Arab country that hosts him risks popular unrest and any Western country that receives him risks attracting anger from the Egyptians and other Middle Easterners.

One of the most frustrating elements of this experience was the degree to which I felt cut off from the outside world and from friends in Egypt for several days. The internet was systematically blocked by the government and cell phone networks forced down for long periods of time.

I hope to return to Cairo in a week or two. As my job depends on a functioning economy, whether or not I will still have one is a uncertain. Ideally, I am able to return and stay for the remainder of the year, as I had originally planned.

Again, thanks for thinking of me. Feel free to write back with any questions you have and share anything you have read. Also, if you urgently need to contact anyone in Egypt, I will do my best to help as I have many friends still there and can skype their cell phones.

Best,
Mark Bonney

P.S.
Here’s a related video I liked and an interesting article in Foreign Policy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsonm95G9Dg
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/02/three_decades_of_a_joke_that_just_wont_die

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