Fighting intensifies around Tahrir Square as thousands gather for million-man march

Sherif Tarek , Tuesday 22 Nov 2011

Doctors struggle to treat victims of powerful new tear gas that causes extreme suffocation and epilepsy, as numbers swell in the square as calls for the SCAF to go intensify

Tahrir square.
Protesters transport an injured fellow protester during clashes with riot police along a road, which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square in Cairo November 22, 2011. (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


The non-stop battle between protesters and Central Security Forces (CSF) in Tahrir Square seems to be intensifying on Tuesday as thousands of people congregate for a million-man march scheduled to begin at 4pm.
The square’s once-grassy central island is surrounded by banners, most calling on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to hand over power to a civilian administration immediately.
However, no political parties or movements showed their logos and slogans as per the protesters’ agreement, with only Egyptian flags flying high.
There are many tents on the central island, with a huge one in the middle. The scene suggests a third huge sit-in will be staged after the million-man march.
The first historic sit-in in the square began during the popular uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.
The second one began on 8 July and was forcibly dispersed on 1 August. It was held to call for the fulfilment of the revolution’s demands.
For a while afterwards, joint military and police forces prevented protesters from gathering on the central island. Later, however, it hosted other million-man marches.
New tear gas: Causes epilepsy and is more lethal
Today, Mohamed Mahmoud Street and others leading to the Ministry of Interior have seen most of the fighting.
Although it was rarely visible, the characteristic smell of tear gas hung about the central island, and this reporter and other protesters suffered some minor effects, such as running noses, sore throats and chest irritations.
“Since this morning the police have been using a new, stronger tear gas. I can tell after some of those who inhaled it arrived in our clinics,” Dr Amr Zakaria, a volunteer doctor at Tahrir’s main field hospital, told Ahram Online.
“It’s severer than the regular one and causes extreme suffocation that in some cases leads to epilepsy … I think if you hear of any new deaths, it will be due to this new tear gas.
“It also requires new methods of treatment. The medication we used to treat the effects of the normal tear gas is much less effective against this new gas.”
On the bright side, however, the field hospitals have more than enough medication, thanks to donations.  
“We keep telling people what we need and they keep sending it to us,” Zakaria explained. “We have enough supplies for a full-scale war,” he added sarcastically.
Others have been donating their blood on a medical bus in the square.
Zakaria went on to describe some of the other injuries he had seen: “Police are not firing rubber bullets at protesters, only metal ones. Many sustained numerous wounds and lost their eyes because of the gunfire.
“I would say the injured are estimated at around 2000 since Saturday, and it’s hard to tell exactly how many people were killed,” he concluded.  
The casualties, often unconscious, are being constantly transported from near the Ministry of Interior by protesters, motorcycles or ambulances.
The current confrontations have escalated since Saturday when security forces tried to disperse a small sit-in in Tahrir.
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