Faces of Tahrir square

Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Lina El-Wardani , Wednesday 16 Feb 2011

Who were the protesters whose 18-day occupation of Cairo's Tahrir Square captured the imagination of the world and helped bring down a 30-year long presidential reign? Ahram Online samples some of the faces of liberation square

Nada Abdel Megid Photo by Hala Nammar
Nada Abdel Megid 20, Unemployed
Abdel Megid finished high school, but her family couldn't afford to send her to university, and she couldn't find a job either. She walked with her family from their house in the neighbourhood of Shubra, some 15 kilometers away from Tahrir, to join the protests to say no to what for them had been an unjust regime. They brought food and water with them but when they ran out after two days of stay, residents of the square sent them bottles of water and food. Other protesters also shared food with them. Abdel Megid is very happy to be part of this successful revolution. She believes a better furture awaits Egypt.

Ramadan Hassan, 23, Unemployed (BSC in Commerce)
Hassan comes from the upper Egyptian governorate of Beni Sweif. He took part in minor protests in his home town but believes nothing can equal the spirit that existed in Tahrir square. Hassan believes that for the first time he can smell freedom and equality in the air. He feels Egypt is very close to a new regime that realizes his demands - "freedom, equality and social justice; a government that we elect and doesn't stay forever; a real democracy about to evolve." Hassan believes that his life has changed and Egypt has changed. He described his life in Tahrir square as a beautiful dream.
 
Everything was organised and clean without someone handing down orders. 'You could feel the love and cooperative spirit. It was unbelievable," said Hassan. He slept in the square, sometimes covered by a blanket and sometimes not. He was hurt on Wednesday when pro-Mubarak protesters attacked people in Tahrir. Volunteer medics used four stitches to seal his wound, though he needed five, because they were short on medical thread.

Ehab El-Kharrat, 50, Physician and church deacon
El-Kharrat was outside Cairo when the protests broke out on 25 January. His three children, aged 19, 20, and 22, were in the protests and he joined them on 28 January along with his wife. They witnessed the tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. His son was arrested and released, but they still joined the protests as a family.
 
Last Sunday he prayed together with Muslims and Christians for the martyrs of the revolution. "We are all against corruption and as a family with no political agenda we are all here for a better Egypt. We are here to say that we are ready for democracy and we deserve it. We are here to say that no to this regime which has long sought to terrorize us with the prospect of sectarian violence, and with the cliam that without it, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) would take over the country and deprive Copts from their basic rights," El-Kharrat said. "But it is very clear that the Brotherhood are now more ready than ever for a modern secular state. This is a very important moment, there is no sectarian tension at all. We are witnessing a change in culture, but the state media continues to try and brainwash the people."

Basma Abdel Rahman, 32, MD at the Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
Abdel Rahman was at the protests since 25 Janurary. She came to help put an end to the emergency law and the current regime. She has witnessed a lot of violence, tear gas bombs and live bullets. Talking to Ahram Online before Mubarak stepped down, She was concerned about life going back to normal outside the square, and worried that the regime was playing for time, while launching a propaganda campaign to alientate the people from the protesters on the square.

Hani El Metenawi, 39, Theatre director
El Metenawi only previous experience with politics was when some of his performances and scripts got censored. On 25 January he joined protests for the first time in his life, and on Friday his left eye was badly injured by a rubber bullet, as was his arm. He lost his eysight temporarily, but was able to regain 50 per cent of his sight in that eye in the following days, and doctors say he is improving. El Metenawi believes this is a small price to pay for the freedom he and other Egyptians feel they deserve.

Marianna Botros, 33, Artist
Botros had also never been interested in politics, she was only concerned with the arts. She joined the protests on 25 January at night, when she saw the police brutally beating protesters and firing water cannons and tear gas bombs at them. She decided that she must stand against this regime and joined the revolution. "We have been silent and tolerated a lot of corruption, injustice and lack of transparency by this regime, but when it comes to the brutal killing of innocent civilians, no, this can't be tolerated," said Botros. She is no longer bothered with sectarian issues because she believes there are more important issues to consider now. Yet she expressed her fear of some Muslim Brotherhood groups. "I am not ready to accept either a religious or military state," added Botros.

Jihan Fadel, Actress
Fadel says she is not interested in politics, but joined the revolution because she had strong feelings against the regime, corruption, and injustice. Most of her family and friends were there too. Fadel believes that on Friday the protests changed from demonstrations to a real revolution unexpectedly, when everyone joined and the police reacted violently. "From Tuesday to Friday the police dealt with the protests with the usual arrests, beating and kidnapping, but on Friday 28th they declared war on us, the peaceful unarmed civilians, with everything they have from tear gas bombs to live ammunition," said Fadel, who is still angry that the Egyptian media totally ignored the revolution intially, especially the more than 300 martyred and over two thousand injured.
 
Mohammed Anwar, 28, Technicial support at a private power company
Anwar comes from the Delta's Sharqeya governorate, and joined the revolution on 25 January. He is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but says he attended as a young Egyptian man who wants real reform. As an activist from an organization barred from political activity, he feels marginalised and deprived of democracy. He doesn't aspire to a religious state, and insists on a modern state where Muslims, Christians and everyone lives together in peace. Anwar is alarmed at the term "secular state" and prefers the word "civic state", his favourite example being Turkey. "I would love Egypt to be as free, modern, and democratic and diverse as Turkey," said Anwar.
 
Nora, 32, Unemployed
Nora comes from the Delta province of Zaqazig. She joined the revolution on Saturday 30 January and slept at the Omar Makram Mosque in the heart of Tahrir. Mona suffered from injustice and prosecution. She has been unable to find a job because her husband is a Muslim Brotherhood activist. In Tahrir, she feels she could blend with everyone. AUC graduates along with people who are below the poverty line came together in Tahrir for one reason, to bring a corrupt and unjust regime to an end, she says. "I am not from the Muslim Brotherhood, but I do feel the opression,: said Nora, "The Egyptian people are very tolerant. They have taken a lot, but now they are bringing the dictator down."

Riham Tahawi, 22, Student
Tahawi studies cinema. She joined the revolution on 25 January and like many her hope and energy continued to built up every minute. She used to attend small protests concerning raising minimum wage, but she was excited when people chanted that they want the regime out. She is a Muslim but is very concerned that Christians, Bahais, those of other faiths, as well as non-believers, don't have the same rights and aspires to a true secular and democratic state. Tahawi's parents don't know she joined the protests because she didn't want them to worry about her. "On the first day of the protests I asked them and they said don't go, you will get beaten or killed, so I decided not to tell them again," said Tahawi. "The media brainwashed people and scared them. If you are scared you can't do a revolution," added Tahawi from behind her large fashionable sunglasses.
 
Adel Nour, 55, Financial manager and music composer
Nour camped out in Tahrir square for 10 days while his family waited at their home in Mokattam Hills. He was excited that the youth were not afraid anymore. Nour suffers from colon cancer, which he believes he got from polluted water and food, and holds Mubarak's regime responsible for his deteriorated health. Nour's family were extremely worried about him, especially when they saw images of police attacks on peaceful demonstarators and thugs on horses and camels weilding swords and guns. But he insisted on camping in Tahrir square for a better future for his family and country. Nour has no political affiliation and comes from a middle class family.

Ahmed Gharbeia, 34, computer expert and activist
For the past six years Gharbeia has been politically active. He took part in circulating invitations to join the 25 January uprising but wasn't directly involved in organizing the various events. Gharbeia camped out in Tahrir square for over two weeks. He was there because he had immediate demands, namely, putting an end to the regime and the notorius 30-year-old emergency law, dissolving the police state security apparatus and the freedom to constitute political parties and establish newspapers. Gharbeia is very hopeful because people in Egypt have realised that peaceful demonstrators are very powerful and that they can change their governments.
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