I have begun and discarded half a dozen entries since my last post. It’s hard to know what to blog about when the situation is changing by the hour, and after a certain point things become too complicated to explain them in real time. At first, I followed the violence in Tahrir so closely that it became my full-time job. Then I hit a saturation point, in which I literally could not look at one more news article or twitter update without feeling that I might go mad. Ignorance was starting to seem like bliss.
I spent almost two days trying to ignore the news as much as possible, meaning that I only checked my news feeds and twitter 2 or 3 times a day, instead of hovering over them constantly. It was American Thanksgiving, and I decided that the holiday meant taking a break from the real world. The real world, however, was impossible to shut out. Even though I wasn’t physically present in the square, Tahrir was the only thing that really existed.
I tuned in to find news of a police officer called the “eye-hunter” deliberately blinding protesters and American-made tear gas (plus nerve gas of unknown provenance) being used against protesters in the square. Even the news itself became suspect. One of my favorite news websites, Al Masry Al Youm (to which I refer positively in my post about Egyptian news sources) was taken offline for 48 hours. When the site returned, it was full of state propaganda: “who will protect the people if not SCAF?” So much for freedom of the press.
Things are quieter. The first phase of elections is complete.
I went to stay with a friend in Alexandria during the elections, and we were prepared to hunker down under self-imposed house arrest in case of riots. But everything was calm. The day dawned rainy, and I took it as a good sign. Men and women lined up peacefully in separate lines and waited their turn to vote. They even managed to agree to disagree sometimes. There were questions, among those who had been in Tahrir, whether the election as overseen by SCAF was legitimate; whether voting was or was not the next manifestation of the people exercising power as they’d done in Tahrir. A 62% voter turn out rate so far indicates that more people than not decided voting was a good idea.
Since the days of voting, we’ve returned to a semblance of calm. Which is not to say that there haven’t been protests. Just that they’ve been smaller, and the police and army haven’t seen fit to attack. Yesterday, protesters wearing eye patches marched to express solidarity with protesters who lost their eyes in the last week. Today, more protesters marched with coffins to symbolically represent those who died. The marches right now are about mourning and acknowledging the sacrifices that people have made to free their country from military rule. Inshallah those sacrifices will not have been in vain.