Dark Days in Tahrir Square

By David Cortright 11-21-2011
Images captured Sunday 11/20/11 in Tahrir Square. Courtesy of Karen Jacob.

Images captured Sunday 11/20/11 in Tahrir Square. Courtesy of Karen Jacob.

We saw people severely beaten right in front of our eyes yesterday (Sunday 11/20) in Tahrir Square. We were horrified later when the news reported that several were killed.

As we watched from a balcony overlooking the Square we heard the boom of military cannons, saw contrails from tear gas canisters hurtling across the Square, and felt clouds of stinging gas wafting up to our landing. Panicked crowds frantically rushed from the police. The news reported that several people died from the stampedes.

Just below us we saw soldiers in black uniforms savagely beating an already prostrate demonstrator, clubs repeatedly pounding his motionless form.

Was he one of the fatalities?

Nearby a young man struggled to wrestle out of the grip of soldiers, staggering under the blows of continuous whacks to his head, arms and shoulders.

We had entered the square a couple hours earlier from the subway, where we could smell the lingering tear gas from clashes on Saturday. We walked into the gathering crowd without incident and made our way to a nearby bookstore, only to find it closed, windows broken and boarded, apparently damaged during previous street clashes.
All along the sidewalk and nearby street the pavement was torn up to provide paving stonesand bricks for protestors to fling at the police and military.

When the melee started we were in the midst of an interview with the learned Dr. Nadia Mostafa, former chair of Cairo University’s political science department. Suddenly we heard shouts and screams from the crowd and sounds of military attack. We rushed to the balcony to survey the unfolding carnage.

As we gazed in shock at the battle below, Dr. Nadia quietly stepped back from the balcony.

We turned and saw her sitting alone in her office, hanging her head, shaking it from side to side in dejection. She had just said that the continued clashes were harming the revolution, that unknown forces were at work among the activists and in the military to undermine the revolution and prevent the transition to democracy.

No good can come from this, she said. Little could she have imagined that her words would be so quickly and horribly confirmed.

This post originally appeared via David's web site.

David Cortright, a Sojourners contributing writer, is director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. His books include Ending Obama’s War: Responsible Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan

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