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Images of Tahrir Square

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Paul Mason | 09:57 UK time, Saturday, 30 April 2011

Tahrir Square has become a mini speakers' corner, with knots of people constantly forming; sometimes impromptu demonstrations. I met a woman whose son has been snatched by the police; a man who believes his three year old daughter has been kidnapped by members of the former ruling party "to create chaos" and a small delegation of steelworkers from a town in northern Egypt who have come to Cairo expecting a "million man march".

Around the square now, dominated by the dead hulk of the burned out NDP HQ and the very much living concrete building where Egyptions have to go to get various permits, there are stalls selling revolution paraphernalia: t-shirts extolling 25 Jan, Facebook, "proud to be an Egyptian".

And small posters which are variations on a single theme: the desired execution of Hosni Mubarak. There is Mubarak in Guantanamo jumpsuit; Mubarak and the entire former regime on a mass gallows surrounded by a crowd; Mubarak and the regime photoshopped onto a team photo of a football team, with their wealth in billions displayed where the sponsors name would be on the shirt.

One man tells me: sixty per cent of Egyptians would consider their grievances satisfied with the execution of Mubarak. Another thrusts a handful of spent 7.62mm ammunition under my nose, and explains his bandaged arm, which he claims happened when the security forces opened fire on protesters here in the square on 8 April. The steelworker says, and many agree, the revolution is not over and they want the return of the money they believe has been stolen from Egypt by the former regime, and "social justice".

Talking to some of the youth who organised things on 25 January, one theme emerges: they worry about, and are struggling to deal with, the power of political Islam. The ones who feel this the most are those who are still trying to interface with the urban poor: teaching literacy classes, agitating for the formation of new parties etc.

"We can't preach in the mosques" says one, ruefully . During the referendum vote on the new constitution, he tells me, thou the official message from Islamist leaders was conciliatory towards the secularist and liberal youth, in the mosques he alleges local imams spread misinformation.

Paradoxically, though the liberal media in the west has gone out of its way not to overyhype the possibility of an Islamist outcome to the Arab spring, this is now what some of the main protagonists of the secular youth actually fear.

The other paradox is the army: it is slowly racheting a crackdown to the right and left: extending the repression and rhetoric against the Mubarak clique at the same time as banning protests, prosecuting certain activists and, as the people I met on Tahrir testified, maintaining a tight grip on poor neighbourhoods.

On the streets though there is an irrepressible optimism; a lot of cheery banter between people. I know this is normal in Egypt but there are still a lot of common casual references to revolutionary events in people's conversations.

Te key will be the elections in September: various parties are struggling to be formed, old opposition politicians vying for influence. Some of the secular youth seem to be fragmenting into their own concerns, almost psychologically resigned to the probability that they cannot "play the game" of mainstream politics. Some are forming new bands, others learning new languages, forming NGOs etc.

These are my impressions: feel free to add to them, disagree, discuss. So far nobody has asked my about the Royal Wedding.


  • Comment number 1.


    Paul - do you meet any mature Egyptian observers, not caught up in fervour, who know just how corrupt and MANIPULATIVE America, UK, EU, UN are?

    In a world of long-practised subversion, there must be some who ask 'cui bono'?

    The mix of Matrix and '1984' that now prevails, wherein documented history records a range of 'evildoing' by America et al (a world that awaits the addition of 9/11 to the file, plus some not yet exposed) a wave of 'spontaneous uprisings' is highly likely to be of the 'false spontaneity' variety, are they not? Do you meet even ONE Egyptian of this view?

    I suspect there is a 'road map' - but where does it lead, and WHERE WAS IT PRINTED?

  • Comment number 2.

    Though I hope that Tahrir Square will ultimately bring about an elected Government in Egypt, ending military rule forever, I have to say that I am surprised & pleased with the decisions of the current military establishment. Egypt's ruling military allowed two Iranian warships to pass through Egypt's Suez Canal in February, despite loud objections from Israel and open irritation in Washington. A good sign that Egypt is beginning to operate under new and more independent rules.
    Egyptian Foreign Minister, Nabil Elaraby said this month Cairo was ready to re-establish diplomatic ties with Iran. Relations with Iran vs. Israel, seems like the right direction to me.
    Egypt intends to try seven officials including a former energy minister over artificially low-priced gas sales to Israel. Post-Mubarak Egypt has eased the movement of Palestinians from Hamas-ruled Gaza over its Gaza border.
    All of these decisions indicate a shift away from Western imperialism - imperialism that for decades dictated foreign policy in Gulf capitals. The Egyptian shift will likely see problems with Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabia has been central to American policy; it won't like playing second fiddle to a new and surging Egypt.
    Riyadh is no doubt still in shock that Washington's appeared to abandon a trusted ally who put his own neck on the line for American policies, especially in regards to Israel and it treatment of the Palestinians.
    Saudi Arabia is hosting exiled Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Saudi Arabia has chosen a very aggressive approach approach to unrest in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sent troops to Bahrain last month to help suppress a pro-democracy movement. Riyadh also helped arrange $20B in aid from the large Gulf oil producers to help Bahrain and Oman stomp protesters.
    Iran, a non-Arab Shi'ite giant with over 70 million people, seemed to confirm the fears of Gulf rulers when Iran complained to the United Nations of a Saudi "invasion" of Bahrain.
    Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf made conciliatory noises about Gulf security but defended the new era, one of the main signs of which is a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing. Sharaf stated that Iran is a country like any other. Meanwhile the 87-year-old Saudi King Abdullah, who handing out $130B in bribes to Saudis to encourage them not to take part in protests.
    Sharaf concluded that the security of all Gulf States is part of the security Egypt.
    Sharaf is expected to visit the UAE and Qatar (the latter a tiny Gulf state widely popularized by the pan-Arab, Al Jazeera). Egypt is calling for up to $10

  • Comment number 3.

    Off-shoot of Tahrir Square: reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Since the government of Israel has declared Hamas a terrorist organization with whom there will be no dealings, Netanyahu can now stop any talk about peace negotiations.
    Netanyahu wanted to prevent Palestinian unity at all costs. He does not want peace because peace would prevent Israel from achieving its occupational goals: a Jewish state in all of historical Palestine, from the Nile to the Jordan River.
    As a matter of fact, the very emergence of Hamas was influenced by this goal. The Israeli authorities deliberately encouraged the Islamic movement, which later became Hamas, as a counterweight to the secular nationalist Fatah, which was then conceived as the main enemy.
    Later, the Israeli government deliberately fostered the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by violating the Oslo agreement and refusing to open the four “safe passages” between the two territories provided for in the agreement.
    When Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian elections, the Israeli Government declared that it would have no dealings with any Palestinian government in which Hamas was represented.
    Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority – with some justification – of cooperating with the Israeli government against them, urging the Israelis and the Egyptians to tighten the brutal blockade against the Gaza Strip. Many Hamas activists suffer in Palestinian prisons, and the lot of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip suffer in Palestinian prisons. Yet both Fatah and Hamas are minorities in Palestine. The great mass of the Palestinian people desperately want unity - a joint struggle to end the occupation. If the final reconciliation agreement is signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Meshaal, Palestinians everywhere will be jubilant.
    Meanwhile Netanyahu made a solemn speech: “You have to choose between us and Hamas,” he told the Palestinian Authority. That would not be too difficult – one the one side a brutal occupation regime, on the other Palestinian brothers with a different ideology. Netanyahu reinforced there would be no dealings with a Palestinian Authority connected in any way with the “terrorist Hamas”.
    He has been invited by the new Republican masters to address the US Congress next month. What can he say? Nor had he anything to offer the UN, which is about to recognize the State of Palestine this coming September. Peace is impossible, all Palestinians are terrorists who want to throw us into the sea. Ergo: no peace, no negotiations...
    Actually, Hamas is not quite as

  • Comment number 4.

    Hamas is the true voice of Palestinian opposition all the others are collaborators...

  • Comment number 5.

    The big question is will Egypt become islamist?

    Will the muslim brotherhood be in the driving seat after the elections?
    Will they be the main challenge to the army?
    Will it become a confrontation between them & the army?

    When people discuss democracy, do they mean representative or direct?
    Are there any calls for direct democracy?

    Here's what I wrote in February:

  • Comment number 6.


    David Cameron's connivance at and manipulation of the AV referendum, as a vehicle for dissent, and the final solution to Nick, floated into my mind as I read of Israeli Schicanery above.

    Boiled down: governance - across the globe - generally falls into the hands of unscrupulous manipulators of truth and reason. Soon the fortunate Egyptians will learn to attack some arbitrarily chosen Johnnie Foreigner, instead of each other.


  • Comment number 7.


    First it was arab nationalism - Nasser & the Baath parties, Yasser & the PLO.

    Now its Islam.

    But this is a reaction against western imperialism & its worst consequence - the zionist state of Israel.

    Do not encourage Islamists but condemn the western goverments that support the existence of a jewish state.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Egypt is still a military dictatorship despite the revolution. We will have to wait for the September elections. If, as expected, the Muslim Brotherhood becomes the largest party in the parliament I wouldn't be surprised if the West imposes sanctions. The West only likes democracy if it produces the result it likes. For example, our media very rarely mentions the fact that Hamas was democratically elected in a 'fair and open election' according to election observers; they use terms like Hamas 'took over' or Hamas 'came to power by a coup' (despite the fact it was Fatah that tried to take over Gaza by force). The Gazans are being punished by the West for voting the wrong way.

    I concur with Bluesberry, Israel does not want peace - it never has. All the genuine overtures to peace have come from the Palestinian side. The modern state of Israel represents a vile type of colonialism called settler-colonialism (look at how the European settler-colonialists dealt with the native populations in North America). And just like the colonialists of years ago they use God as the excuse for their imperialism, but God couldn't be any further away. For a balanced view of the occupation I recommend these websites:

    Peace is with enemies, speak to Hamas


  • Comment number 10.


    The Old Testament Jews had some good prophets. Did they launch the Bible on an unsuspecting world, via the false flag operation of the Crucifiction (sic) and ensuing Christianity, knowing they had best part of 2000 years of wilderness-wandering coming? That would explain the anomalous rush to embrace Gentiles,

    Now THAT'S style!

  • Comment number 11.

    Kulture Vultures.


    To-con-vey one's mood
    In sev-en-teen syll-able-s
    Is ve-ry dif-fic

    John Cooper Clarke

    I don't know about Tahrir Square but everything here is Beasley Street and Evidently I'm living in Chicken Town.

    Apart From The Revolution, it's another working day.

    'Poet Clarke awarded Queen's medal'

    Not That Clarke, This one
    (no.22 is TB :)

    BBC R4 Tuesday 3/5/11 and Saturday 7/5/11

    Did someone get married ?

  • Comment number 12.

    Crazy people seem to have taken over this discussion forum. There are too many examples to bother to address all of them. However to quote a couple of insanities from above:

    "And on 9/11 they were doing some Jewish Jig - supposedly - as the Towers came down." and

    "Netanyahu .... does not want peace because peace would prevent Israel from achieving its occupational goals: a Jewish state in all of historical Palestine, from the Nile to the Jordan River."

    Israel gladly gave up the Sanai to Egypt as part of a peace treaty - and anyway, who in Israel would be mad enough to want full responsibility for Gaza and its exploding population growth?

  • Comment number 13.

    Actually, re-reading the above quote, from #3 above:
    "Netanyahu .... does not want peace because peace would prevent Israel from achieving its occupational goals: a Jewish state in all of historical Palestine, from the Nile to the Jordan River."

    It's even madder than I suggested before. "From the Nile to the Jordan River" would suggest that the writer thinks that Netanyahu would want all of the West Bank of the Nile! That probably would take in around 40 million dirt poor, badly educated Egyptian Arabs! On what planet would Netanyahu or anyone else in Israel want that?

  • Comment number 14.

    #12 gce

    Relax, we're all cuckoo on here!


    Bad timing for ‘WSJ’ author who says Arab spring won’t leap the Sinai

    'The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. . . . They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons -- in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar.'

  • Comment number 15.

    This part was left out from the quote above...

    ' If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.'

  • Comment number 16.


    A couple more insanities for gce: Britain is docilely accepting of a PRIME MINISTER who knowingly displayed a FALSE SELF-IMAGE (at great cost) as an icon of the Conservative Party, believing his false-face to be a vote-winner IN 2010. The same PRIME MINISTER has connived at a 'NO2AV' leaflet, with a string of devious falsehoods in it, demonstrating a cavalier arrogance that would not be tolerated in The Nags Head, or in any decent family.

    Yet there he was at The Wedding! And off he goes (with 'incredible' frequency) to REPRESENT BRITAIN ABROAD. How did this happen? While we squabble over AV 'angels on a pin', our BASIC SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE delivered a PRIME MINISTER OF manifestly disgraceful conduct (and a DEPUTY of equivalent ilk). In short:


  • Comment number 17.

    'ENDURING CAMPS' - US 'code' for permanent bases. (#15 link)

    I forgot to report, I observed the Obama 'head swagger', most notably seen in Bill Clinton at his most hubristic (also in Hazel Blears) when he approached the podium to announce his birth. A proud day?

    I suppose the link is 'enduring camp'?

  • Comment number 18.

    Paul you're lucky to get to go to these places if you get a camera that will shoot 6 fps plus - a leica V-Lux 2 will do it nicely or a Nikon D700 (but the shutter sound is a problem) and just point and shoot . The key is to keep moving quite quick and use a fast shutter speed over 1000th of a sec

    Like so -

    and so -

    and so -

    I wanna see what these places look and feel like close up.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think Egeptians should kiss good bye to their spirit of revolution. They have lost it the day Mubarek gave it to army and old clict. Since the power, unity and sanity of the people couldn't see the danger and power of manipulation that holds for the future, They have lost the momentum. Of course some sugar coted changes will happen and election with multi so called parties will be able to express view for a while. However the ultimate power will remain at the hands of the paymasters and their accomplices and will be done subtly. I really feel disturbed and pity for all those dead and those that are placed into the tourture cells even now.
    Great triumph to ABD and Israel (even if it doesn't seem so)

  • Comment number 20.


    The idea that Britain is safe and settled - 'bedded down', thereby releasing our serial 'Good Shepherd' PMs to take their crook, and rescue the odd lost lamb of undemocracy, is beyond laughable.

    Here in the fold, a bunch of multicultural sheep are brewing up for serious trouble CAUSED by the self-same shepherds, who now send their Attack Dogs (in lieu of Sheep Dogs) to molest Larry Foreigner Sheep into a better life.

    Might the crook be emblematic?

    Nuff sed.

  • Comment number 21.

    isn't Mubarak up on a murder charge?


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