At first, I was at home yesterday, worrying about sexual harassment (sexual frustration is very high in Egypt and large groups are not always a good place to be). But finally I could stand it no longer and walked through thick lines of police onto the main square (Tahrir) to meet X and his friends, who had marched there to come together with a couple of thousand more demonstrators. I thought: if my children later ask me what I did that day and I say 'I was sitting at home watching it on TV'...that just won't do!
We are all very nervous, because it looks like the police will be more ruthless today. They threaten to break congregations up even before they can develop. They are doing checks all over downtown Cairo. I went for a walk earlier: every rat seems to have turned into a policeman. But I also looked into people's faces last night: their will is stronger than ever and they have seen that they can break through. I don't think they will be deterred easily anymore. This is the first time in modern history that the Egyptian people stand up for their rights, that they said 'NO!'. Their minds have opened to the existence of a possibility of change at THEIR hands.
The most important thing last night was that people from all backgrounds - social and religious - were in this together. Some went to fetch drink and food and distributed it among the group. People chanted and embraced. Everybody and friendly and supportive and took care of each other. When a group of policemen was surrounded by protesters, they pledged to let them go. And the protesters did - without touching them. The protesters here are really very peaceful, which is something that the media doesn't seem to represent very well. When someone picks up a stone, some others will come and tell him to stop it.On the last point, the same thing happened with the student protests here. Endless replays of the idiot dropping a fire extinguisher - very little coverage of the students chanting 'stop dropping shit'.
I really hope her optimism is well-founded. My worry is that there isn't any strong western support. The Americans and the British aren't offering anything stronger than wishy-washy platitudes about listening to the population. If you remember the various Colour Revolutions of the past ten years, they were all funded and supported by the CIA and various front groups - and all staged in countries opposed to US and UK foreign policy interests. The old saying is true: our governments only wish democracy on our enemies. They're more than happy to support dictatorships like Egypt and Tunisia (big fans and supporters of torture, the 'war on terror' and the like, and good sources of slave labour).
New media allows the motivated few over here to offer our good wishes, but that's not much help. We need to remind our governments that they if they claim to believe in democracy, it has to be a universal principle.
Incidentally, I asked my previous MP, Rob Marris, about why the UK support democracy-through-regime-change in Iraq but not Saudi Arabia. He replied that it was 'completely different', though he couldn't elaborate why. Can you? (Without mentioning oil?)