This mild report by the NYTimes of what happened at a anniversary march by Occupy Wall Street last night sounds like it could be describing exactly what happened in Tahrir Square at the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution… Yes, it is the evidence of a police state on the rise, yes, everyone should be appalled whether you agree with the politics and tactics of Occupy or not! Our freedom can not be trampled on like this when we hold it in front of our troops like a banner as we invade and bomb other countries and sacrifice our young soldiers!
Movement on the streets is becoming easy again and shops are mostly reopened, the attitude of most towards us foreigners who remain is curiosity and welcome. Yet there have been mounting reports of suspicion, detention, and abuse of foreigners, including non-journalists. The situation inside Tahrir is safe unless you are actively aiding the protesters (food, blankets) and are spotted by the plethora of intelligence operatives there. However, I am still uneasy about approaching Tahrir from my neighborhood as there are informants for various groups among the neighbors and this has resulted in problems for other foreigners and Egyptians alike. Armed plain clothes police with uniformed police have been visiting foreigners in their homes (Euro-American) to ask why they are still here and even examine their computers.
I went to the square today after staying away for two days for my own protection and that of those around me. Again I reiterate, it is not about the safety of being there in the demonstrations but of being associated with them when one is on the outside. Returning to the demonstration was like putting salve on a wound. The square resembles a mini-city. They have organized everything, in the organic way that Egyptians do best. The festive atmosphere has been added to by Mad Hatter hats in red, white and black, popcorn vendors, elaborate displays of protest signs, and shrines to those who have been so unfortunately lost.
We seem now to be in limbo, waiting to see in which direction the state apparatus moves regarding security measures. One worry is that they are using this time while ninety percent are out of the country to crackdown on those who “suspiciously” remain here, to keep us afraid and inside our homes or get us to leave. The curfew which has become effectively moot for Egyptians is still being randomly enforced for foreigners and used as a reason for detention. With intelligence and informants for various parties infiltrating every building and present on every street it is hard to know from what angle the next threat may come. While many seem to think that we are steadily sliding back towards normalcy here in Cairo, I feel that life is anything but normal and will continue to reveal many surprises as the situation develops. Keeping my head about me, monitoring and trying to be prepared for whatever turn things may take.
For more information about Cairo Scholarsand the state of its members, please contact Prof. Samer Ali, Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin, email: <email@example.com>.