Notes from Egypt – An Inside Look

The following is one of a series of emails shared by “L” whose parents are still in Cairo, Egypt. “L” began sharing email updates about their parents, how they are doing and what they are experiencing in response to safety concerns as the situation in Egypt deteriorates. This is the latest update. [See earlier emails here.]

Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2011 1:20 PM

Hello Friends and Family,

I just spoke with my parents and here is what they are saying. Yesterday was a pretty phenomenal day for Egypt – the million man march seemed to go off without a hitch.

My parents went to brunch with friends that morning and saw that there were numerous security stations set up by the protestors to check people for weapons before entering Tahrir square and there were even restroom facilities set up for both men and women, as well as cleaning crews and ample security.  My parents were optimistic when they heard that Mubarak agreed not to run in the upcoming election, and they said that most of the Egyptians they have spoken with thought this was enough and wanted to allow him to hand over power and leave with dignity.

However, all of that has changed today.  My parents want to make sure that you all understand that there is not actually a faction of the Egyptian people that want Mubarak to continue to run the country (other than maybe the government officials themselves) – what the news is referring to as “pro-Mubarak” protestors are actually those that just feel that Mubarak should remain president in the short term and then peacefully hand over power after the elections in September.

Today there were two groups of protesters – one was the group supporting Mubarak staying in power until the September elections, and the other (in Tahrir square) was the group that wants Mubarak to step down immediately.  Both of these protests were
peaceful (my parents had friends at both of them).

However, my parents told me that they saw what appeared to be government trucks bringing in large groups of men armed with molotov cocktails, bottles of acid, rocks etc. who then ran into Tahrir square under the guise of “pro-mubarak protestors” with the sole purpose of causing violence.  In fact, most of these people appear to be police officers (though not in uniform) and are widely believed to have been sent to Tahrir square by Mubarak with the sole purpose of causing chaos and riots (to try to cause
the impression that the country will be divided and chaos will rein if Mubarak gives up power).

Some protestors successfully brought these men down and pulled out their ID cards to show to the newscasters that these are actually police officers, not protestors. Some also arrived on horseback and camels armed with sticks and whips. The rumor is that the police officers were told that if they did not participate, they would not receive their

My parents were right outside of Tahrir square when all of the above started to happen and were pulled back by a security force and told that they should go home – which they did. Thus, they personally witnessed some of these events. My parents emphasized that the protestors include women, children and families, while the violent group that attacked the protestors were ALL armed young men in their 20s and 30s.

Rumor also has it that the army was ordered by Mubarak not to intervene – though it was also clear that they were not equipped to deal with the situation as they did not have riot gear, shields or anything they could really use to control group of people.

Now that the Egyptian people feel that the government has mobilized groups of people to attack unarmed protestors with the purpose of harming them and giving the impression to the rest of the world of violence and chaos in Egypt, the people are even MORE convinced that Mubarak needs to leave immediately. Everyone is worried about what Friday will bring – as this is the muslim holy day and is generally when the populous gets the most riled up.

My parents still feel safe and do not yet have any plans to evacuate. I’ll keep you updated.

All the best, L

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