Saturday, 5 March 2011

Tahrir Square: Days of Elation and Doubt

Tahrir Square: Days of Elation and Doubt

Who would in their wildest dreams have imagined that an Egyptian Prime Minister would have to tender his resignation as a result of condescending comments he made during a televised debate, in which he essentially apologized for not preventing the bloodshed by offering to send flowers and chocolates to the victims or their families? Faced with the indignant “he just doesn’t get it” reaction of the January 25th generation, the PM resigned. The new man, Essam Sharif, demonstrated that he got it the very next day of his appointment by going down to Tahrir Square and addressing the protesters directly, promising them that the day he would not be able to fulfill their legitimate demands would be the day he would be in Tahrir himself protesting.
Curfew is now midnight to 6 am, so Cairenes are finding that they must change their routine to socialize over brunch and lunch rather than dinners that start at 10 pm and go on till whenever. The army enforces curfew strictly.
On the other hand, the police are still not patrolling the streets, and the army is not or cannot always be responsive to calls for intervention: incidents of abuse are multiplying, magnified by rumor. A school bus was held up by robbers- none of the children were hurt, but parents are now terrified. A bank manager was roughed up and forced to sign his resignation by the employees he had tried to terminate. And so on.
Many of the people who demonstrated or supported their children demonstrating, have much to lose in the new Egypt they helped bring about. Business people are losing money. People who had nothing to do with the greed and corruption of the Mubarak regime, indeed who suffered from it, find themselves likely to be tarred by the same brush. Many are victims of fraudulent claims to redress non-existent past wrongs: one victim is a woman whose country house sits on land she inherited from her grandfather; she found it overrun by the neighboring villagers who are building shacks on the grounds and claim that she took this land from them by force.
The alarmists are beginning to evoke the French revolutions, both 1789 and 1848. But most Egyptians are willing to set their doubts aside, for now, and trust in the bright new day, the brave new world.  

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