Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 13th day.. February 6th.

Life started slowly to go back to “normal” in different parts of the city. The thinly observed curfew is out of the window, shops, cafés and street vendors are working into the late hours.
The political games also started. Five youth met with the Vice President today. He said no way to your main demand of the President stepping down. He made no concessions!
One another front, I was asked to join a group of people from the Square in a meeting with a minister in the Egyptian government. They said to me it is not negotiations, we are going to give her a picture about what’s going on in the square and present our demands. In my book this is the beginning of negotiations. I was curious.
We met early in a restaurant to discuss and plan. One of the young men read a list of demands, very well thought of, responding logically and legally to all the claims the media is using to confuse the people. I am impressed by the youth’s knowledge, their level of political awareness, and their determination. Not everyone knows everyone else, but they all come from the square.
The link between them and the minister is a woman, with an attitude. The meeting is a few feet from her house, but she was one of the last to arrive. She spoke English most of the time, though not everyone around the table could follow. She interrupts without apology and her thoughts are presented as the voice of reason. I do not like her tone, or her sentiment. When various people talked about the trouble they had bringing food and supplies in, and how one of them was detained for a few hours, etc. She said with such a nonchalant way “I didn’t bring anything. They have everything in the square; food, water, medicine.” No they don’t! Where does that “everything” come from do you think, Ms Privilege? Someone has to bring it from the outside. She was giving us directions on how to be flexible in the upcoming meeting, and said we can’t get all what we want, but we can start. And after giving some examples, she said “it’s OK to accept a dictatorship for while..” I didn’t let her finish the sentence, I couldn’t. It’s a revolution! You want to accept “dictatorship” (and she said it in English)! I left to go the bathroom, and I felt really bad about what’s going on. This woman is supposed to be on our side. She is our link to this meeting that I don’t really understand the need for. I worried about the meeting. As one of the people of the square I didn’t want to go, but as witness and a chronicler of my times I felt I had to go.
The meeting was worse than I expected. More people from the square were there, totaling 18. The minister was welcoming, and civilized, but she said so many infuriating things, in a very gentle tone. The basic rhetoric was: “We are proud of you. You did something no one could dream of. Now go home.”
The delegation had many things to say. Their message and their passion were powerful, but the responses were diluting the conversation notoriously. When they spoke about how the Egyptian media is tarnishing the revolution, and the misleading coverage of the massacre of Wednesday, and continuous rumors and lies that they spin, the cognizant Minister said “No one watches Egyptian channels!” WOW! What a response! It’s not true, but even if it is, this is not an excuse for the lies and continuous campaign that portrays the demonstrators as traitors. And why does the Egyptian public pay billions of pounds for it.

She tried to assure us that the Prime Minister is making every effort to release the activists captured in the last few days. Many voices around the table shouted “how about Wael Ghoneem?” Her response “we didn’t know his full name!” The activist who worked in google Egypt, who was captured during the first week of demonstrations and completely disappeared since is so well known. His image has been in the papers and on TV, but the current government does not know where is he exactly, because they do not have his full name to track him in their records. UNBELIEVABLE!

The conversation continued in that fashion for a while. Ms Privilege played the role of the facilitators, though she had promised not to talk and to let those designated speak. The atmosphere in the room was really suffocating. I felt they are stealing our souls. Not only did they take our “full” names and ID numbers as we entered the building, but they also have our finger prints on the lemon juice glasses they offered us. The political conversation is very different from the revolutionary discussions. I wanted to get out and go back to the square. Eventually I did. I left early and headed back to the air of freedom in Tahrir Square.
Since businesses opened today and normal life resumed, I was not sure what kind of crowd will be there. I was very pleasantly surprised. Thousands upon thousands. Many families with young children, many many new faces. It shows from the surprise on their faces, and their cameras capturing “Kodak moments” next to humorous signs and banners.
Tahrir square is vibrant. It really turned into a small city. Because of the rain the night before, there are so many tents, and tarp covers. Some of the tents have signs of support from the people of this city or that village to the “January 25th Revolution”! There are also so many street vendors, selling a wide range of things including: sandwiches, hot tea, biscuits, water, juices, popcorn, sweet potatoes, Egyptian flags of different sizes and even socks. Yes, socks. It must get rather cold at night, and warm feet are good for the revolution.
The fresh air of the square gives me back some of the hope I lost during the political meeting. There are so many people here, and they are going to stay. The festival atmosphere lost its urgency, but it acquired another power. Revolution is fun! Come and celebrate life and enjoy yourself. Bring your kids, during midterm break. I know the demonstrators are calling this week “the week of resistance”, but my friend is calling it “Tourism week”. Whatever you’d call it, Egyptians are here, filling the square day and night, and many more are spending the night regardless of the rain. This is a good sign.
A wedding took place in the square. I was invited, but the square was so crowded, I couldn’t cross it in time to attend the wedding. Another is planned tomorrow. The couple knew each other a long time ago, but never really connected till they met again in the square. The last 12 days of conversations made them realize that they care about the same things in life, and they care a lot about each other. Tomorrow they want to do their wedding, on top of one of the military tanks!
Something else is being planned, another meeting with a higher political power. I am afraid none of us are a match to this political fox. I am trying to get people together to prepare those who are meeting him. We’ll see how that goes today.
Have to go to demonstrate, and get some sweet potatoes to warm me up in this windy day. 
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