06 February 2013

25Jan 2011 Egypt Revolution Look Back : Day 10 to Day 13 My Experiences

3 February to 6 February, 2011

Over the course of days of protests, the crowds in Tahrir would ebb and then grow again. Suddenly our apartment became our place of retreat, as well as a place of uneasiness. Tear gas and violence, a mere five minutes away was leaving us on edge.

After internet services were restored, tweets and texts were coming through frantically seeking information about specific people. Missing. Disappeared. The hash tag #jan25 and #tahrir provided crucial information about who had gone missing and what was happening in the Square.

Prisons were being opened and burned down, on government orders as a way to terrorize protestors. Prison inmates were "escaping" and out on the streets, not only in Cairo but other cities.

At the same time, Police forces were suddenly withdrawn from the streets, leaving communities to fend for themselves. Looting and gangs were running rampant in neighborhoods. Suddenly citizens were left to defend their homes and neighborhoods with nothing but kitchen knives and make- shift weapons. The average, ordinary citizen didn't have a gun, The men in our neighborhood did what they could to keep looters from burning down certain buildings. Neighborhoods were setting up local patrols and only allowing residents to gain access by showing identification.

Curfews were being declared daily from 3 pm to 7 am, but everyone going to Tahrir Square ignored the curfews.

In the thick of all this chaos, the most unbelievable confrontation happened which has now been dubbed the "incident of the camel." We were not in the square, but we were glued to the live BBC broadcast. It was late afternoon on February 2nd, when Mubarak supporters, rode camels and horses through the crowds of protestors. Wielding clubs and swords, they bludgeoned anyone that was in their path. It was horrifying to watch. It was terrifying to think about going out to the street. Yet, thousands of more people took to the streets.

Rethinking Documenting What Was Happening Around Me

During this time, I had become extra cautious and no longer walked around with my SLR camera. Citizens, journalists and reporters were being beaten, having their cameras taken, or themselves being physically taken from the streets. Since I didn't have a news entourage to protect me, I decided I didn't want to risk my safety. After the camel incident, my husband and I went shopping for a new camera, which turned out to be a Nokia E6. That became my way to record the events around me.

Peace and Love Fill Tahrir Square

On Day 13, the 6th of February, people of all faiths called to gather for an interfaith Sunday mass. Christians and Muslims gathered for prayer. One couple decided to go ahead with their wedding plans, and had their wedding in Tahrir, with hundreds of thousands of wedding guests. It's one of the sweetest memory I have of this time.

During the 18 days of the revolution, sexual harassment was nonexistent. Men and women occupied the square day and night. Whenever I was in the square, I never had one incident of harassment or fear of sexual violence. I can't remember hearing any comments from other women during that time talk about harassment.

6 February Today

Fast forward to 6 February, 2013. This Wednesday afternoon in Tahrir, hundreds of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to stage a protest against sexual harassment and violence against women. Protestors had to form lines to block any potential harrassers from harming those marching against sexual violence.

 The level of violence against women over the last few months has increased to unbelievable levels. This is far beyond the typical calls, noises and small advances that men usually make towards women on the streets of Cairo. Women are openly being attacked with such violence, day or night.  This violence against women must be addressed and can no longer be pushed aside. Punishment must be taken against the aggressors.