Entries by Parvez Sharma

Parvez Sharma

"My friend, Mahmoud Maher, a doctor was killed at Tahrir Square"

By Parvez Sharma, Feb 5, 2011 10:47 AM

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At 1:15 am Cairo time on Saturday morning I spoke to my friend Ghassen. His friend was killed at Tahrir Square during the 24 hours of horrific violence we all saw on Feb 1st and 2nd. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time someone has been able to put a name and back-story to a person killed by the regime during this unfolding revolution.



English is not Ghassen’s first language so I have taken the liberty of creating complete sentences from our fragmented conversation, partially in Arabic to enable easy reading. I have no way to confirm the details of this death, but I know Ghassen revealed his friend’s name after some hesitation. (With confirmed reports I have from friends now that the regime is “trolling” the internet, I am also changing his name. Ghassen is not his real name)



Me: How are you feeling

G: I am OK but my country NOT OK, Parvez…I hope people are getting this message about Mubarak Dictator. Mubarak is corrupt and his people are corrupt. I am sad.



Me: Did you go to Tahrir today as well like other days?

G: Yes I did. Ofcourse yaani. Today started after salat elgom3a. It was very powerful. Even the sheikh was crying when he were praying. I prayed too. But I am Muslim, but my Islam are free. Many of my friends are Coptic. They not pray but they protect us.



Me: Every time the praying times end, people seem to feel new energy and start chanting again, right?

G: Yes. Parvez-2 million people say this word in Arabic. ارحـــــــل



Me: Erhal, Leave?

G: Yes. I felt so strong when I pray there today. But also very sad because I remember how friends I lost through this revolution.



Me: Wait! One of your friends died?

G: Yes one of my friends-he is doctor. He was in Tahrir. He was treated patients. His name Mahmoud. People from Mubarak system going to our place, where we standing with horses and Jamel..holding weapons…they hit him on his head many times. He died. But we are peaceful revolution. We did not have any weapons. And through that night also they came from Mubarak system…they want to put us out of Square Tahrir…The fuckn bad system. We lost this night I think 10 people and there were 1000 patients, who hurt. It was night of February 2nd. Night was Magzara. It was massacre night. I donn know if u undersatnd me or not maybe have bad english



Me: I understand. Tell me more about Mahmoud please. It is also important to know his full name because he is already gone, what can they do to him anymore. No one has been able to name people who died you know. Did you go to his funeral? I know this is difficult to talk about. Please forgive me. But it is important.



Me: Are you there? Silence…Can you please tell me his full name…this is important Habibi…



G: His name Mahmoud Maher. I was not there at the moment he killed. I was on my way home. My friends called me to tell. Yes I went to his funeral. It is at Masjed Rabba. It was Mubarak people ofcourse that kill him. They are paid a lot of money to kill us that day.



Me: How are you feeling about all this.

G: I am shock Parvez. I just wake up and go Tahrir and I am shock.



Me: You still live near Heliopolis? Near Mubarak palace?

G: Yes I live in Nozha. You know Masr el Gadida. Near Hosni Mubarak home.

Masr el gadida. Why you asking this question?



Me: Because cameras have been so focused on Tahrir. We have seen no images from that area really. That is all, trust me…



G: OK..yes it is clam place. People have good life so you can see nice car. Calm place, not crowded. No police but you know Mubarak live there so they must save by a lot of Egyptian armys.



Me: Its far from Tahrir. How do you get to downtown everyday?

G: I take taxi. There are taxi when no curfew is happening. I think Parvez we doing the right thing. The Mubarak system are loses. Mubarak should leave now and then in six months we move our system to another in calm way.



Me: Do u think people will give up fighting? Feel exhausted? Tired?

G: Nooooo! There is a lack of confidence in the system lost its legitimacy and Hosni…we have to save our requests if Mubrak will do that or not we dont know yet



Me: How does your heart feel my friend?

G: I feel Square Tahrer is here if he lie or something happen wrong we will going there again …but for now feel we have to start work



Me: Wait so you are saying you want to go back to work and not protest?

G: No .... Mubarak know our requests ....and he get the lesson…if he lie or bad thing happen we will back again to square…donn know yet really am so confused…mubarak he lost his legitimacy from 25-1…why he donn leave egypt

why he still…no one support him…no one like him…no one want him…

people talk here he want to save his money till going out …but I do want to go to work…I go to work and then I join people in Tahrir…tomorrow…



Me: I know. My other friends say they also want to go back to work but also don’t know if they should leave Tahrir to go back to work. Listen how did Tahrir feel like today?



G: Tahrir? Heart of Egypt. Really, Heart of Egypt.

Me: That is true. You said it in three words my friend ;-)

G: No, it true…Layers of Egypt and Dr. workers, professors, judges, Muslims and Christians adults and children…Imagine 2 million people say leave mubarak at one voice…2 million voice Parvez …I have lived one year in one week…No…I feel I am born again…I donn know why media from all the world donn send our voice



Me: No they are. They are sending everyone’s voice. You have no idea how much they are sending the voice.



G: Anyhow it is late. I am so tired. I will go to work and will back after work to square…My work in Zamalk near Tahrer square…and Parvez so much happening in rest of country too—even women were raped in villages on that night…and from Alex there is 2 million going out too…in Aswan there's like 200000



Me: Go to sleep now…Yalla…shukran Habibi…stay safe ;-))



G: Yes. I go now. Please send me interview when they publish on my email. I want to see and show my friends.



Me: Promise.

Parvez Sharma

Egypt in My dreams

By Parvez Sharma, Jan 31, 2011 10:41 AM

 
Its lonely and I am thinking (and dreaming) in 140 characters or less. The only people I have spoken to in the last few days are friends in Egypt, friends from Egypt in the US, my boyfriend and a few reporters. I have turned down requests to be ferried between television studios in midtown Manhattan. That job is best left to career pundits whose only moments to shine come at times when countries collapse ad the middle east ofcourse is very fashionable.



Un-showered for three days and with little food or sleep it has even become hard to write these pieces, because all I have really been doing is sending out upto 40 tweets a minute into the ether based primarily on the fragments of conversation which till yesterday were all on landlines when friends like the two Yousry’s returned home to Zamalek and Mohandessin after spending entire days at Midan Tahrir, the ground zero of the Egyptian revolution.



Twitter, fortunately and unfortunately has taken over my life to the extent that the hash-tag of Jan25 is the date my mind is stuck on. I had no idea what day it was today. This second conversation with Yousry brings home a few points that I have stated before but are important to repeat.



· The vast majority of protesters on the streets are not “tweeting”. Approximately seventy percent of them are not regular users of the internet and atleast half of them have never had an email account—in Cairo’s slums like Mashriyat Nasser which more than a million poor call home basics like electricity are stolen from over-ground power cables and even then the supply is infrequent. Phone calls are still made from kiosks in the streets, even though having a very basic mobile phone has become increasingly common. The idea of having smartphones like iPhones and Droids is unimaginable—the idea of what “social networking” means or what Facebook and Twitter are is unknown to most



· Friday is the holiest day of the Muslim week and the first day of the Egyptian weekend. On Friday Hosni Mubarak had successfully wiped off the few Egyptians who do have internet access and social networking savvy off the map of the worldwide web. But the revolution in any case was no longer about any of that. People instinctively knew that if you were in Cairo, you needed to leave home. Taxis were not available anymore (a basic taxi ride in Cairo costs 5 Egyptian Pounds—which to many of the protesters by the way is a lot of money) so if you were near downtown you could walk to Tahrir square.



· If you were in the further outposts like Madinat as Sādis min Uktūbar (6th of October City) it became harder to get to Midan Tahrir. If you were in Mohandessin (literally means Engineers) which also now goes by Dokki or its enclaves of Mo'alemeen (Teachers) Ateba'a (Doctors) or Sehafeyeen (journalists) you can walk. It’s a longer walk than walking from the island of Zamalek or other areas where Cairo’s rich live like Garden City or Maadi. Heliopolis where Mr. Mubarak is probably camped out in the Presidential Palace is pretty far from ground zero Tahrir. To walk to Tahrir from the outer areas of this sprawling mess of a city like Helwan, Boulaq, Muqatam, Nasr City or 6th of October city.



· To walk from Manshiyat Naser takes a great deal of courage. Manshiyat means garbage in Arabic and Manshiyat Naser, the biggest slum in Egypt is literally Garbage City. Cairo’s garbage is sorted in Manshiyat by the industrious zabaleen or garbage collectors.





· I now know that Zabaleen from Manshiyat have joined AUC students and journalists/bloggers from Sehafeyeen and Dokki and Zamalek hipsters every day at Tahrir and even the “beards” (as my friends call members of the Ikhwan or Muslim Brotherhood) and in other parts of Cairo. This has never happened before in Egypt. This uprising and this revolt is an unprecedented popular uprising never seen before in Arab lands.



Most importantly—these different classes of people don’t usually talk to each other. They certainly do not tweet at each other or send texts to each other and they would have few if any common Facebook friends (The Zabaleen and the other poor do usually have smartphones)



To me it’s simple, really. In Egypt this is almost entirely a very popular uprising and revolution, not orchestrated by social networking. But outside Egypt this revolution has definitely been tweeted like nothing else in history, and certainly Arab history. (And a very small but critical number of “tweeters” manage to send the most important updates via Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, email and text messages)



Here is a remarkable conversation with Fouad after he returned home at 11:30 pm Egypt time on Sunday night. I have so many friends in Cairo and thankfully I have now spoken to most of them, but Fouad really who does not tweet or speak in camera ready soundbites seems like the most articulate of them all to me.



Me: Have been worried-managed to speak to a few others on their mobiles while they were at Tahrir, but they got cut off



Y: Yes, some mobiles had signal today at Tahrir. I just got home. Today I took the Qasr al Nil bridge instead of 6th October. You know—now all the burnt police vehicles have become garbage cans! And someone had uprooted a stop sign and placed it in the middle of a burnt police car and it said basically-We the people are not the ones who are destroying, please keep the revolution clean, please keep it peaceful…I took a picture but cant email—still have no internet

Me: I have some numbers being passed around for dial up—gave them to your wife earlier

Y: Cool man. Now everyone knows that when you get up in the morning you need to walk towards Tahrir-its instinctive-no one needs to text you or tweet you to tell this, and in any case most of the people anywhere in this amazing country don’t have tweet or Facebook or all that shit. So I got there by 11 and there were army checkpoints…and the men were in one line and families were in another-very organized-the men were being frisked and I asked this soldier why and he said that they did not want police or security forces in plainclothes who might be armed to disturb the “peaceful” people

Me: Fucking unbelievable!

Y: Yup. You know thugs who are probably cops anyway have been looting abandoned or partially burnt police stations and stealing weapons, man. How else would 20 year old boys get Kalashnikovs?

Me: Mubarak wants you all to know that this is what will happen if you get rid of me…

Y: Absolutely…yaani..and then we heard that Baradei was coming…and people got really excited—Parvez this is very important to understand—people are tired and impatient—so many have not slept and have been living there—there is not much food shops open or water around…so they were excited…everybody sat down…and waited…5 minutes…maybe more…no Baradei…and then we started walking away…

Me: Yes, that’s because he was on Al-Jazeera talking to TV cameras

Y: Fucking bullshit man. He lost a huge opportunity—to show leadership. Why talk to TV and not to us? I don’t think he gets it! He has been gone too long to know how really impatient and angry we are…I mean I would probably choose him over Ikhwan but he needs to really talk to people---and this is really important Parvez—he needs to show the people that he, Baradei is as determined as they are. He has been so fucking bland—I had walked away but then someone said that he did speak…I have no idea what he said.

Me: I know. I have been tweeting non-stop about it—and how people may not be imagining him as their saviour right now you know! This guy I spoke to briefly said that he was feeling unwell so I tweeted that and said maybe he should have joined the protestors for Isha or Fajr prayers and they are guaranteed to cure nausea if you pray with true niyat you know…with good intention and focus…

Y: That’s fucking funny! Anyway I think now more than any other day people know what they want. I spent the whole day talking to people—even Zalabayeen from Mashriyat who I have never spoken to! Its like –you know we want this guy to go—we are so glad that the Ikhwan has not been able to piggy-back on this and who the fuck is Baradei anyway—you know they are all saying…lets have a transitional government for 6 months or 1 year and only the army has charge of security in that time—and fire parliament and hold fresh elections and a leader will emerge FROM the elections…the people will decide…

Me: Wow…that’s so true…I just wish Al Jazeera was not focusing so much on pundits and on analyzing every word Baradei or someone says—their cameras even are all on very wide shots of Tahrir, which to me almost looks like the Kaaba sometimes with people circling around…I wish their reporters would climb down some more and walk amongst the people with their cameras…

Y: So true man! So true! Anyway I have barely seen TV. You know you can either sit and watch TV or keep on fucking tweeting or you can go out there and chant slogans! And this is very important the slogans have been changing man! First it was Fall of government-then it was Fall of President…today it was Trial of President…they want him to be punished and not to run away…sorry its hard to translate these slogans in English for me…and then also they were saying Illegitimate Soliman! Illegitimate Shafik! And then they were chanting The People want a civilian government and not a military government! You know I went to a foreign school and so did so many of my friends who are also there…but you know everyone is chanting the same things…Egypt has never been like this before…I am so proud of my country…so proud man



Me: What about all the Salah and all the beards being there? Is this about Islam?

Y: La la la not at all! Its amazing—usually the beards are so righteous and expect you to pray with them and be a good Muslim and all that bullshit…but those who want to pray at salah time, pray…others don’t…yes, when someone chants a slogan then people ask you to repeat it…but everyone respects each other—Muslim, Christian, religious, Niqabi, non –Hijabi…everyone man…There was the big charter of demands in Midan tahrir also today…and also you know that slogan from yesterday…Muslims! Christians! We are all Egyptians! Fucking amazing man…that too all day today…



Me: This really is a peaceful uprising

Y: Yes totally…all the violence is caused by them and their people…this is a peaceful revolution…it’s a revolution of the people…not of the Ikhwan, not of Baradei, not of Soliman, not of Facebook and Twitter…no this is a people’s revolution…that’s it really yaani that’s it…



Me: OK you need to sleep now…but before I go—let me give you all these numbers and things which may help you guys to get online…it will have to be dial up…and there is some tweetspeak thing as well…



Y: No man…no tweet bs for me…I don’t even know how to do it…but getting on internet and putting up my photographs would be fucking amazing…let me get a pen…shit man! Haven’t even written with a pen in so long! So used to typing…thank you Mubarak for teaching me how to write with a pen and for giving me a day off, maybe this whole week off in such a long time!...

Parvez Sharma

On the Phone With an Egyptian in the Middle of It All

By Parvez Sharma, Jan 29, 2011 8:49 PM



My friend Yousry is in his late twenties. He and his wife would be considered affluent because they live in Zamalek. But like so many others, because all barriers of class have fallen away—he has been on the streets for the last 48 hours. He just returned home in Zamalek after patrolling the streets of the neighborhood with his prized Syrian sword that used to just hang up as souvenir in their living room. He had never thought he would have to take it off the wall and actually try to use it to defend his neighbors and his family. He did like to show it off at our late night parties in his apartment.

I have spent the last half an hour with him talking fron his landline at home. This is his powerful account, unedited by me, of each and every moment of the last 48 hours as he experienced it. For a moment I wished that he was live on air on Al-Jazeera or CNN saying all of this—but then I realized that it is better for him to talk to a trusted friend and he perhaps would not say all of this to mainstream news media hungry for sound-bites. I am not going to provide his phone number or his real name to any journalists. He needs to get up in the morning, if he can sleep tonight and go back out.

His wife and he and all his family members have smart phones. They are not tweeting, because they cannot and because no media organization is offering them backing or information on proxy servers to get online.

To me, what he describes is more powerful than anything I have heard on television, with the endless parade of pundits or the unfortunate tendency of even Al-Jazeera (which is doing some great reportage, no doubt) to have their reporters climb up high in tall buildings to show us wide shots of the immensity of the Egyptian revolution.

Yousry is one of those citizens in the middle of the chaos who reporters are not talking to as much as they need to.

Here he is in his own words, unedited and certainly not talking in soundbites. (I have spent some time cleaning up my hurried notes and correcting grammar/punctuation as much as I could.)

His voice sounds very hoarse—I feel guilty but press him on anyway. It sounds like he has inhaled way too much smoke and tear-gas.

Me: Yousry how are you and please if its not asking too much can you just start talking about everything you saw and are feeling. Pretend that you are on my couch or something and that I am some New York shrink.

Y: Ha Ha! That is funny. OK here goes. BTW I am having some Scotch now. I think I need it Yaani. I was in the protest all day yesterday and I started at 6th of October bridge—you remember? You were here so many times—it’s just a short walk from Zamalek?

Me: Of course, I remember, and btw yesterday all day the Al Jazeera reporter had his cameraperson focused on the bridge—so we basically saw it all live. He had a running commentary throughout.

Y: Ha ha! He should have come down and talked to us Yaani. But I am glad that they showed it to the world. I have had no time to watch TV. It’s a luxury—you can either stay at home and get drunk and stare at the TV or you can join everybody out there!I was shocked at how diverse the turnout was. There were so many people from Zamalek and you know how people from Zamalek usually are.

Me: Ha! Like drinking and having all-night parties?


Y: Yes yalla! No one from the Ikhwan was there or any of the organized political parties. It was about 1:30 pm or so I think. Even if any of us picked up a rock to throw at the police everyone yelled Selmya! Selmya [*Selmya means peaceful] and Parvez believe me that till before this bastard gave his speech yesterday that was the word I heard most often on the streets. We were peaceful till 4 or 4:30 I think. Then these police fuckers started shooting these pellets and it suddenly became very difficult to control the injured protesters or their friends. I think the violence must have started around 5 pm—I was not keeping track of time—was not wearing my watch and phone was in my pocket, not working anyway

Me: Were you hit?

Y: Almost, but Inshaallah it just went by me. And then these guys pretty close to me and hurt started throwing molotovs. I didn’t even know till then that they had them. They started stopping cars…

M: And the police?

Y: You must understand this…its important because its been a mix of these thugs and cops since yesterday—most of the thug types who are doing most of the attacks are prisoners who have been released by that bastard Mubarak in return for their services to beat up civilians.

Me: And the army?

Y: Till then there was no army—and then when finally they came and people cheered this one tank—it looked liked they were hesitant to use force. I actually came back home after the violence started—just walked back on 6th of October past these guys setting a police van on fire. I have a wife, family to think of.

Me: I know. I am so glad you are still OK man…today?

Y: I went to tahrir today with other friends at about 11 am and by 2 pm or so we were by the TV station near the Corniche…

Me: Yes, I remember that. I once stayed at the Ramses Hilton right next to it. There was also a small shopping mall there. That’s the one right?

Me: Hey, a lot of guys here have been saying that this revolution is all about the success of social networking? I mean I guess up to a point they are right because someone like me sitting here is tweeting obsessively with updates I am getting from anyone I can reach on a landline really—but is this true?

Y: It's bullshit…I mean, I agree that in the beginning, around the 25th. Twitter did play some kind of role because people were able to throw around ideas on it. But come on—even that! How many fucking people in Cairo you think would know how to use the damn thing or even the damn Internet—and even if they knew how many do you think would have easy access to a computer with a reliable internet connection? I mean, it's bullshit…

Me: I am so glad you are saying this. I thought I am the only fucking idiot repeating this like a fucking parrot.

Y: You said it? Great man! I have no fucking idea anyway about what you are saying? I haven’t bloody seen Facebook or Twitter in a fucking while now…

Me: Man, this is all so fucked up.

Y: Tayyib of course yaani—you see now since yesterday and even Thursday actually after they shut it all down—it is self explanatory—it doesn’t matter anymore—Twitter and all that shit—no one has it anywayI guess maybe some journalist types can still do it? I have no idea on how to get on the fucking internet and I am pretty good at this shit—so if I don’t know—how can others be tweeting--so everywhere u go, Parvez, today there are thousands of people now its come to that…All of Tahrir has been filled with so many people—I have never seen so many people—Tanks were standing at the entrance of Tahrir facing each other as I walked towards it today—All I could hear was this amazing chant that made me so fucking happy—“Alshab Aldesh Eid Wahada” you know…it means “The people and the soldiers are one…”

Me: Alhamdullilah

Y: You still haven’t given up your religious bullshit, I see…and then as we walked closer these soldiers on these tanks were holding like these small bouquets of tube roses I think…some of them were giving like a thumbs up to all of us…I even took photographs which ofcourse I cant fucking email you—but some of the tanks had “Yasqut Hosni Mubarak” spray painted on them…You know Yasqut is like Fall…

They were holding small bouquets of tuberoses

Me: I don’t remember if I saw any images of that? But I am sure there must be…


Y: Yes and then people started clapping in Tahrir and as we walked deeper into this crowd—and Parvez it was amazing…they were people who were carrying an army officer on their shoulders he was holding up his fist…the soldier and people started chanting….because the army officer was chantin

Me: What was the soldier chanting?

Y: I couldn’t hear him…there was just so much noise and smoke and then we started chanting you know the slogan of the last few days…The people will the fall of the government…and we were chanting that and this group of older guys stopped us! And said no the chant has changed now it is The People will the Fall of the President. Amazing man, do you get it? They are making sure that there is no ambiguity anymore after his scam speech from last night…and his fucking new “government” lies…

Me: wow…

Y: and ya today you know I felt Muslim Brotherhood presence for first time—these are what we call the beards you know—they made their way to the front of the protest near me where students were leading—and this elderly man in his 60’s was holding up a flag–he started chanting Allahu Akbar—and the students started

“Muslameen Mesiheen Kolina Masreen” you know… “Muslims Christians we are all Egyptians”

Me: I cant believe it—everyone is saying that the Copts have been looking after the backs of the Muslims when they are praying in mosques, man…it's just fucking unbelievable especially after all that drama a few weeks ago…

Y: yes! And then we heard fire shots from a distance— and these two bodies covered in shrouds were carried in like a ganaza procession, you know…

Me: I think I saw a YouTube video of that…ya they were reciting the Salatuljanaza…the funeral namaz…

Y: Yes. And then this ambulance kind of pulled up and the guy in it yelled out…that he had another martyr and that all three had been killed while they were at that fucking Ministry of Interior which you know everyone has been trying to occupy…you know Parvez how much that bloody MOI is hated in this country…

Me: I know…I know and now second only to Mubarak, I guess.

Y: And, yes, then all these guys were carrying 3 bodies through the crowd and everyone was praying the Genaza…literally everyone….even me…

Me: Ha! So you know the Genaza and you are calling me mr. religious bullshit!


Y: Ha ha! Well I was taught well man…anyway I left Tahrir by 4:30 or 5 I think…You know Parvez…you must understand this…people were initially happy it was Omar Soliman who was going to be a vice president you know…he does have a lot fo respect…you know…but then after he made that bloody Ahmed Shafik the PM…you know…I think we realized then you know…that something is very fishy…its like he has appointed these two guys who are very close to him you know…there is so much anger….

Me: I know…I almost feel its like he will step down maybe by tomorrow but then make sure that he can run the country by proxy through especially this Soliman guy and maybe long distance…because god knows he will not be safe in Egypt!

Y: I cannot believe that President Mubarak is still so tone deaf and clueless trying his same old tricks you know…

Me: Hey Yousry--Why are you still calling him the president, man?


Y: Parvez—because he has not left the seat yet—it's important that people are reminded he is not gone yet…it is important to say President before his name constantly….he is NOT gone yet man…I am so worried Parvez….people cannot feel tired… they cant feel they somehow won and maybe we should settle for this…because really man none of the demands of the people have been met man…at the end of the day President Mubarak needs to go… this-because this was none of the demands that people were met

Me: I should let you go soon, man….you’ve had enough of this shit already…but quickly, what about all this looting now?

Y: The looting in my view is so fucking disappointing, man…and then to see how quickly the cops who are still wearing uniforms disappeared…I mean, you know that so many of those bastards are now pretending to be civilians and walking amongst all of us…bloody traitors….My theory is simple really…The Army and Police have left the country wide open you know---I feel it was deliberate---they are proving that if you guys want democracy and you want the President to go--- then this is what will happen without us…only we have protected you all these years…without us and him you are not safe and will never be safe…This is political blackmail…Everyone is sure that the police is doing all the looting…Egyptains are not stupid and I know that there are so many rumours…I hear a new one every 5 minutes…but I am sure that the police are behind the looting.

Me: So fucked up

Y: You know about the secret service— Police guys were citizen-arrested at the museum and handed over to the army? You know so many of the protestors held hands man and formed like this long cordon around the museum so that these police pretending to be looters could not go in and destroy our history…and then they found out that these secret police guys were already inside and even damaged some Mummies…I mean people were so furious and they just handed them to the army… and handed to the army.

Me: Yousry, it must be getting fucking late there man…what time is it…

Y: Maybe 12 or 1? I don’t know…it's ok…I feel better saying all of this, man…it's like just letting out all this negative shit man…Parvez tell me this…In the 80’s revolt you know…military could secure Egypt in 2 hrs—here it has taken them 2 days and they still have not—Is it because they are protecting civilians or are they proving that this is what will happen if you want the President to go

Me: Listen man…its really fucking late…what about Zamalek?

Y: Well at 10:30 when I was out with my sword…remember the sword?...a few army commandoes came to protect the American embassy compound you know…you know its just walking distance from here…it was a fucking joke…here we are all walking around barricading ourselves…and these guys arrive to the American compound to save the Americans? And guess what… I was standing there so I asked the guard outside if there were any Americans inside…and guess what man…he said they had all left between Thursday and Friday! What a fucking joke! There are no Americans left to protect and they show up to protect them while they have abandoned us?

Me: Disgusting…so fucking disgusting…

Y: I know man…so I asked the commandoes…whats up guys? And one of them says…don’t worry Zamalek is secured...there are so many neighbour guys out there you know…everyone is doing it in shifts…none of them are going back home…I mean what is this one mini van of stupid commandoes going to do?



Me: Hey Yousry…please sleep man…and if phones are still working please lets keep calling whenever you are awake and before and after you go out man…sleep now man…if u can…have any pills?



Y: Well you are the pill supplier usually! I think this Scotch will help…My father in law only keeps the best Scotch..ha ha!

Parvez Sharma

Egypt in 140 Characters or Less

By Parvez Sharma, Jan 29, 2011 9:36 AM

 

American television networks and an endless parade of mostly white men pundits (brought out and dusted off with their cobwebs) should take lessons from Al-Jazeera in live reportage, in not having pundits talk over the chants of a mass of humanity, in having Arab reporters covering what they know best, in remarkably evocative and courageous camerawork and in just being able to cover history like no other television network has ever been able to do before. And yes, I also mean that CNN during the first Gulf War was not as good as this.



It is so important to remember that the vast MAJORITY of those on the streets around the country do not have the time, the ability, the resources (including smartphones) and certainly no access to working mobile phone service. This revolution is JUST NOT BEING TWITTERED by the people who are actually protesting.



The only people tweeting are either reporters with huge bureaus and live cameras to back them or people like me reporting from the cyber-frontlines talking to the few friends in Cairo we can reach on their landlines.



To tweet this revolution and Egypt’s complex back-story in 140 characters or less is impossible.



Interestingly Al-Jazeera which is doing a stellar job is also more interested in covering the revolution (amazingly) in what is essentially wide-shots to show the extent of the chaos. Ayman’s camera is focused on the thousands in Tahrir. Not many correspondents are able to get to neighborhoods like Rihab, Mohandasin, Zamalek, Maadi—which cyber-reporters/tweeters like me are able to do by talking only on landlines (mobiles are not working) to our friends—ordinary citizens. Hopefully this below, is an example of that.



I must mention that some amazing independent reporters like Ahmed Moor (who is writing for Mondoweiss and sometimes Al-Jazeera English) and Sharif Koudouss (of Democracy Now—who just flew into Cairo) are doing remarkable reportage, even though they are not necessarily backed by major news bureaus



My friend Fouad was able to get on the landline again. His body and soul are still bruised and yet he has never been more hopeful. His severe anger at Hosni Mubarak’s speech full of lies and his ambivalence about the appointment of Omar Soliman, the head of intelligence as the new vice president.



It a fragmented conversation on a still functioning landline. And as bullets do rain all around him, here are his bullet points. The thoughts and experiences of an ordinary citizen, not a reporter.





· Mohandaseen is burning—we are surrounded by looters, and the army is just watching

· They are looting houses and we have no idea who these looters are

· My parents asked army tank guys and they said we cannot intervene!

· Everyone here is saying that Mubarak is being spiteful-he wants looters so that he can say-Look I gave you calm for 30 years? OK now you want to get rid of me? Well see the chaos my going can bring-Enjoy the unrest and the looting. Only I could have protected all of you!

· I was driving and 3 men with knives attacked me near Sudan street—I had to sort of run them over

· Big rumor that Mubarak is releasing prisoners and arming them so that they can infiltrate neighbourhoods and loot them

· Maadi, Street number nine-huge vandalism happening—There is looting everywhere in Rihab city, in Mohandasin, in Shubra. In Heliopolis there are plainsclothes police

· My parents are organizing all the baobabs in our street and making blockades to stop the looters

· There are Balkageyah (thugs) everywhere—all rich neighborhoods are being attacked

· I think he is fucked up yaani--He didnt resign---his speech instigated the violence---now looters and the poor think that when you know there is no hope you might as well get as much as you can as long as the chaos lasts--people were hopeful that he would go

· Maybe in other governates--people are more organized and closer to each other as community members...so they will organize better, perhaps—In Cairo it is difficult to control the chaos and disorder—there are 19 million people in this city who often don’t talk to each other and are so separated by class and money—I am wondering how they can organize together?

· The people in Cairo are fighting two things--they are fighting police forces but also now fighting looters

· People prayed the Salat ul Genaza, the funeral prayer after the evening prayers in Tahrir—we carried a body through the crush of thousands—I was crying, so many of us were crying

--

Parvez Sharma

Egypt Burns--But Not Because of Facebook

By Parvez Sharma, Jan 28, 2011 4:30 PM

Cairo is burning. So is Egypt. Twitter is exploding. Everyone seems to have an opinion—many who have never even been to Egypt but feel a strong sense of solidarity with the most remarkable revolution in a
generation, perhaps. A revolution which importantly is not really caused by Twitter or by Facebook—as much as the self-congratulatory social networking types in the West would like to believe.

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