x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

A people united in anger

Meet six protesters who represent the voices of Egypt's Tahrir Square that have captured the world's attention over the past 11 days.

Rasha Ramzi, 37, graduate student, downtown Cairo.
Rasha Ramzi, 37, graduate student, downtown Cairo.

Since Egyptian protesters organised their first "Day of Rage" on January 25, hundreds of thousands of residents of Cairo have marched on city streets and occupied the central Tahrir Square. In the beginning, the bulk of these protesters were educated young people under 35 who were brought out by e-mail and messages on mobile phones and websites, but as the protests gathered momentum they have been joined by tens of thousands of older people and residents of the poorer parts of the city.

The composition of the crowd has changed each day depending on the risk of violence; on more peaceful days many brought their children and even elderly relatives in wheelchairs. On Wednesday and Thursday, the most bloody days this week, young men with makeshift helmets and shields made up the majority of the crowd. A sizable minority have also been members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's banned but ubiquitous Islamist group.

 

'Our plan is for everyone to be free'

Waleed Mohammed, 35, // software sales manager, eastern Cairo

I live in a good situation, I have no problem with economics, but politically I don't feel clean. I have been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood for between 10 and 15 years, and I've been arrested many times. We need our freedom; we need to be able to say we don't like Mubarak. The regime, as always, is just making us into ghosts for the US, Europe, telling them it's either them or the Muslim Brotherhood, telling them that's why they are not giving the people the freedom. I say: come here and look at the people, we are Muslims, Christians, many kinds of people. We are friends, we have Christian friends. We will not control everything, we are not so strong and that is not our plan. Our plan is for everyone to be free. For sure Egyptian society will be better, from a political point of view, from a social point of view.

But it's been a very bad situation [in Tahrir]. We were for two days in a war really, and they are coming from everywhere. If this happened in any European country, there would be outrage. My family are very worried for my safety.

'This is the Egyptian revolution'

Hisham Madker, 36 /// chemist, Cairo

I am a chemist in a drug trading company. I come from Cairo. In 1997 I was wrongfully imprisoned by the state security. They arrested me with many other people, but it was seven days before they realised I was totally innocent. They hung me upside down with a wooden stick tied under my knees. They also humiliated me in unspeakable ways.

The people in charge are stupid and they are cruel. This here around us is the Egyptian revolution: it's not Christian, not Muslim.

I always come with at least 10 friends to the protests. My friends who come with me come from everywhere, from the Muslim Brotherhood, from the [leftist, secular] Tagammu party. I don't belong to any political party.

This man Mubarak treats us like animals. We want to have an election in which we can actually choose our leader. And it's not going to be ElBaradei; he is not an Egyptian, he has spent too much time outside of the country.

'It's about Mubarak leaving'

Shadi al Hussaini, 24// translator, Maadi

I'm here in Tahrir now because it's about Mubarak leaving, but it's also about what will happen when Mubarak leaves. Many people think him leaving in September is the perfect solution, but when you think about it logically you realise it's the exact same thing as it would have been anyway. Mubarak wasn't going to run anyway. That's absolutely nothing that I've asked for at all, nor any of the protesters.

Logically, all he promised to do won't change anything in the country and we can't trust [Mubarak] at all. That leads us to the fact that nothing has changed politically right now.

Many people are unfortunately thinking just about now, but you don't just need to think about today. You need to think about the impact on your children and grandchildren. That attitude of thinking [about now] has been set by the regime of Mubarak.

I don't belong to any party or any political movement at all. I'm really a normal Egyptian citizen, maybe a bit more educated than the majority, but politically not engaged in anything. Last July the Khalid Said incident happened; it really showed me how brutal and crazy the system is.

'My father supports me, mum worries'

Islam Sayyid Mohammed, 19 // high school student, Helmaytetel Zeitoun

I decided that the regime was bad and should go two years ago because of the bad life conditions, the violations of human rights, the bad relationships between Egypt and foreign countries and Egypt's close relationship with Israel. Egypt was humiliated in front of the other countries. I have a lot of experience in political activity, all in the public street. I demonstrated and distributed fliers, I spray-painted slogans on the walls. I have been arrested several times. [The police] abused me more than once, mostly by battering and insulting me. I hate them not because they battered and insulted me, but because they battered and insulted the people as a whole.

I want Mubarak to leave, but he's very stubborn, he's sticking to the presidential office. I hope he leaves, but I don't know. Right now I am in high school, I'm about to take the final exam. I hope to study mass media at the university. I come from a neighbourhood to the north-east of Cairo that is a mix of middle and working class. My father supports me in the protests, but my mother is very worried.

'This is the Egypt they're trying to bury'

Shaimaa El-Elainy, 33 // conference organiser, New Cairo

What made me turn against this regime was an awful personal experience at a police station. I was harassed and I went to the station to report it; I wanted what was rightfully mine. But they wouldn't listen, they acted like I was the criminal. It turned out that the man who had harrased me was one of theirs. Another personal experience was when I saw policemen beating a child, a little boy who they were taking to the police station.

There are so many injustices taking place in Egypt. You can find an old man sleeping in the streets and a member of the [ruling] National Democratic Party in a mansion, and no one can touch him. I've been here [in Tahrir] the whole time, with a few breaks since Tuesday the 25th. I started out with just wanting Adly [the interior minister] out, but then I wanted Mubarak out, too. Even if he was unaware of the abuses going on under Adly, that makes him a bad leader, the fact that he was unaware. My sister has joined with me at the protests. My father is supportive but my mother is freaking out. In the whole time I've been here I haven't been harassed once, but when I'm out on the street I get harassed all the time. This is the real Egypt, the Egypt they were trying to bury.

'Egyptians are willing to be patient'

Rasha Ramzi, 37 // graduate student, downtown Cairo

We have an old statement: when the fish is corrupted, it's corrupted from the head. We need a totally new system. All Egyptians are convinced that the Mubarak regime is corrupt and a failed regime, but the Egyptian people are very very peaceful, and they're willing to be patient.

The new generation is totally different from the old generation. I'm completely different from my father and mother. They are convinced [the protesters] are right, but they are afraid of what they see on television. They come from Suez, and now my father has gone to the protests.

I've been a protester for 14 or 15 years, but then the protesters were made by the elite people so they weren't very effective. But now the protests come from the people. I think the Tunisian revolution motivated us. If you watched what was happening in the Egyptian society during the last three years, you could have expected this to happen. But I expected this in a few months, not now. Right now there is a collapse in Egypt, it's organised and it's connected with the Mubarak regime.