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Telling the story of yet another momentous day in Egypt's history

Ahram Online reporter describes her experience of the "Day of Departure"

Friday 4 Feb 2011
Views: 2136
Views: 2136

The second Friday prayers were over, and after a special prayer for the martyrs of over 300 killed by police and thugs since the January 25 protests, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Egypt's Tahrir Square erupted into synchronised chants calling on the President to step down.

"People want the regime down", "People want Mubarak down," "a modern, a modern state, neither religious nor military", they cried.

Despite the brutality of the past two days, and the sentiment of fear it had created ahead of today's designated "Departure Day", the mood on the ground was a hopeful one. "I feel very optimistic, we will continue what we have started," said Hoda El-Sada, a civil society activist and professor of literary studies. Standing beside her young daughter, she said: "Mubarak will definitely leave soon, he needs to leave, we still need to rearrange the house and deal with a lot of problems." 

El-Sada was not the only one with her daughter today -- thousands of people turned out with children and whole families - in a spirit of something of a family day out. Despite the crackdown over journalists during the past 48-hours, journalist Mona Abdel-Radi also came with her family. She expressed her gratification at the level of awareness of Egyptian people gathered, saying, "They are not naive to be satisfied with the little changes he made in the government, they want to change the regime, to creat a modern state, not a police, or a military state." She also affirmed that "people finally understood that this regime is responsible for 30 years of torture and corruption."

Standing near Abdel-Radi was a group of people playing percussion instruments and chanting often rhyming slogans such as, "national unity against the thugs', and looters' regime", and "I am a soldier in Tahrir square". Indeed, Tahrir, or LIberation, Square was like a battlefield in the past few days when "pro-Mubarak" hooligans broke through army barricades and attacked what untile then had been a remarkably disiplined and peaceful protest. A peaceful week-long show of protest turned bloody. The violence left at least 13 dead and over 1500 injured.

From early on this Friday morning and until late in the day, the energy of the square was calm, light, joyful. On the outskirts and in corners of the square, however, the lingering reality of yesterday's brutality was felt -- several make-shift clinics were still treating the injured. 

Dr. Mohamed El-Sayed joined the protests Thursday as a volunteer after he heard there was a shortage of doctors and medical equipment in the square. Despite being  stopped and attacked by a gang of thugs while en route to the designated clinic points, the doctor went to the military and asked them to help him reach Tahrir square. "I showed them my medical card and told them I have to treat serious injuries there, and asked for their help, they took all the medical supplies and asked me to go home," El Sayed said. Like many committed to the peaceful spirit of the days before, the doctor told Ahram Online that he persevered, trying alternate routes into Tahri until, eventually, he managed to get in. He said he has been awake for over 24-hours now, treating the dozens of injured who are coming in for help.

"The injuries are critical and unjustified, they focus on the head and chest, this is where we have taken most of the bullets, but some splints remained in their bodies, and some have lost their lives, others have lost arms or legs, or eyes," El Sayed said, adding that he believes that the number of doctors doesn't match the needs of the injured. 

Standing beside the doctor was one of the victims, Saber Mohamed, a computer engineer who was shot by a sniper. Although not in critical condition, El-Sayed was worried. "He is diabetic, it makes it more difficult for me to treat him," he explained El Sayed, who went on to add that today, Friday, he was in Tahrir as both a protester and a doctor.

El-Sayed, though a doctor, shares many of the problems and grievances of millions of other  Egyptian young people. The young doctor, 29, who works at the public Kasr El Aini hospital, is paid LE240 ($40) a month. His hospital is the closest to Tahrir Square, and he explained that it had received hundreds of the critically injured protesters over the past week.

Although the night is yet long, the hundreds of thousands gathered at Tahrir Square today felt somewhat victorious, having overcome both violent police and brutal thugs. All those gathered today agreed that the psychological barrier they overcame to come out again today following yesterday's brutality, was a significant one. And indeed, that spirit was felt. But still, many of them insist, no-one is going home until Mubarak goes.

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