29 January 2013

25Jan 2011 Egypt Revolution Look Back. Day 2 to Day 9 From My Experience

Across all the television stations, this message was posted into the
corner of the screen about 2 days into the revolution.
5 Days of Internet Blackout

As the subsequent days of the revolution unfolded, the streets of Cairo filled with people marching to Tahrir. Twitter, Facebook and text messaging was the means of coordinating groups of citizens to downtown and Tahrir.



Confusion, chaos and coordination begins.


Confusion: Many people didn't understand the drummings of a revolution, so were confused as to what was happening on the streets and were scared as hell. The upper  class elite, having their share of revolutions, were terrified and supported the Mubarak regime.

Expats were either locked into their apartments making arrangements to flee the country. Or, if long-time residents, were out in the streets taking photographs. Many, if not most, had their cameras ripped from their hands and smashed into the street.

   One of my blond European friends called me, shaken to the core, saying that she had her new Canon ripped from her hands, the card removed, and the camera smashed into the street. She was grateful that she was back in her apartment safe. This became a common experience for many foreigners, as well as Egyptians that were carrying larger cameras.

Chaos: Police and army were mobilizing to crack down on the protestors. As more and more people entered Tahrir square, the police were gearing up for a battle. Riot gear was becoming more and more noticeable.

Curfews were declared. The curfews called for people to be in their homes by 3pm until 7am. Train service into the downtown area was halted to attempt to prevent people from outside the area to get to Tahrir. People continued to mobilize and ignore the curfews. Some of my friends walked 10 kilometers to get to the square.

Coordination: Twitter, Facebook and texting were hot for coordinating efforts between the revolutionaries. Tweets from Tahrir provided up-to-the-second information for anyone marching to Tahrir.


Telecommunications Blackout : The Days the Government Shut Down Internet.


In the midst of all this, the unthinkable happened. Three days into the revolution, our internet and mobiles went dark. The five major telecom providers: Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, Link Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and Internet Egypt all shut down their services, one after the other, just after 12am on Friday 28, January 2011.

I remember trying to log onto Twitter early on Friday morning and I couldn't connect to the internet. I thought it was me, so I asked my husband if I could use his computer. The same issue. The confusion continued when we tried to call friends and couldn't connect. Our text messages went unanswered. When we got into the streets, we discovered that everyone was disconnected from communication services.

Years later it is discovered that the shutdown happened within the space of a several of minutes, not instantaneously. It is suggested that these companies received phone calls one at a time, ordering them to shut down access, rather than an automated system taking all providers down at once.

For five days, (28 January to 2 February) we were without mobile or internet services. The entire nation was left without any electronic communication, except for the propaganda blaring from the television set.

As the rest of the world watched the news out of Egypt in terror, friends and family would not be able to contact those of us in the city and most of the country.
For the citizens marching in protest, they were left standing without any means of electronic communication. Revolutionaries and protestors were being snatched from the streets. Disappeared. No communication to locate them.

It didn't stop the people from mobilizing.

The photo I posted here is a shot of our television screen. Across all the television stations, this message was posted into the corner of the screen about 2 days into the revolution. All of the government run news agencies were playing patriotic programs and propaganda.

The revolution was not televised, unless you happened to have BBC or CNN International. But just as in any country, the masses get their news from the state run agencies. The propaganda was strong.



Recent Article in The Telegraph: Vodafone under fire over unmet Egypt pledges