|English | Español||May 4, 2016 | Issue #67|
Tahrir Square as It Happened
Egyptian Journalist Namees Arnous Recounts for the School of Authentic Journalism Her Days and Nights in the Revolution of 2011
By Alphonce Shiundu
Namees Arnous at the 2011 School of Authentic Journalism. DR 2011 Terri Bennett
To her, such a huge march to Tahrir, “looked like an impossible mission.” Nonetheless, she made her way to the square. “There were thousands of people, a lot of water in the street, and smoke everywhere,” Arnous recalled. “People were shouting for freedom and dignity and I shouted with them.”
Occasionally touching her red, black and white hairband—the colors of the Egyptian flag—Arnous told her story.
Arnous said that as she sat in the square singing, the police attacked. She bent down to side-step the tear gas canisters flying into the square from all corners. One canister landed right at her feet and exploded, releasing the peppery smoke into her eyes, nose and mouth. She choked.
Gallons of tears later, and with a lost sense of smell, Arnous met another demonstrator who took a scarf, soaked it in water, and dabbed it over her face, relieving her pain. That day ended, but she didn’t leave the square. The following day, the police raided the square again. This time she ran for shelter in her office.
Three days after she joined the protests, the Internet and cellphones went dead. The regime wanted to disrupt peoples’ abilities to communicate and mobilize. “Everything in Egypt was silent,” she said. “Everyone was waiting to see what would happen.” After prayers that Friday, January 28, there was a demonstration. “We walked the street in a peaceful demonstration, shouting ‘Peaceful! Peaceful!’ That way, we felt the police would not attack us,” she said.
She then moved to the front lines and told a police officer, “We want the fall of the regime.” The next thing she remembers is that she found herself face down, with other protestors piled on top of her. Her boyfriend was at her side and pulled her up, held her right hand and together they ran. But there was also a “strange man,” whom her boyfriend suspected to be of one of the secret police, pulling on her left hand. She must have been a candidate for arrests.
Arnous operating a video camera at the school. DR 2011 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky
“Many young people were killed. It’s not the 800 reported in official government records, there were possibly more than 2,000, and over 5,000 injured,” she said.
At Tahrir, a woman mourned her dead son. She wailed as she held up a placard to the demonstrators. The placard read “Don’t give up. Don’t go. The blood of my son is the responsibility of all of you.”
“She wasn’t the only one. Tahrir Square was full of mothers and families of martyrs in the revolution…it became the center of everything,” Arnous recalled.
The protesters chanted, “Brave is brave, courage is courage, and we’re all brave and we’ll die in the square.” On February 2, as she sat in her office, she heard pro-Mubarak supporters saying everyone should do all they can to save the dictator. “It was a nightmare,” she said.
Many regime supporters, some mounted on camels and horses, were approaching the square carrying swords and whips, ready to kick the protestors out of Tahrir. “It was like a movie. I couldn’t believe what was happening. But the protestors defended the revolution very well,” Arnous said.
Fast-forward to February 10, when Mubarak gave what Arnous called “a stupid speech,” saying he wouldn’t step down. This speech gave the protestors the momentum to keep going. A day later, seeing that he hadn’t managed to mollify the protestors, Mubarak stepped down and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took over the reins of power. Arnous was headed to Tahrir and she was met with jubilant shouts of ecstatic Egyptians announcing the fall of Mubarak.
Looking back on those exciting days, Arnous vowed to keep fighting: “I look at my pictures at the square, of the many people crying about those who lost their lives fighting for democracy, and I promise we’ll protect the revolution.”
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism