- We’re the embassy people
- The Egyptian army and the police: one hand
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had their minds set: the solidarity movement for the Palestinians has to be completed halted. Northern Sinai had intentionally weakened mobile coverage. The Mubarak El Salam bridge crossing over the Suez Canal became blocked for all passengers. The tunnel near Suez rejected through traffic. The active ferry going between Port Said and Sinai parked for an exceptional 12 hours and dubiously reduced daily trips.
Back in Cairo every single bus company had received explicit orders from representatives of the Egyptian army to not send any buses anywhere near Northern Sinai, cancelling reservations that were prepared weeks beforehand.
I highly doubt the aging men at the round table of the SCAF meeting room had ever put as much thought and strategy into any sort of battle (except for maybe trying to make sense of the Internet and how it helps revolutions happen). Sure enough, not even a determined group like the one I was part of could overcome the tough hurdles. Consequently, on the 15th of May, I drove back from Port Said straight to the Israeli embassy in Cairo where I was with Karim Salah, Hossam Osama, Mohamed Effat and Heba Azooz.
We didn’t arrive to the embassy area until about 1am and for the most part, we stuck together. The following is one of the videos I broadcasted:
By 1:30 or 2am we witnessed negotiations taking place between 3 officers and a couple of dozen protesters across the street from the Gamaa Bridge that is next to the building with the embassy. From what we could tell, a truce had been agreed which resulted in the group (no more than 200 by that point) standing ground near the Giza Zoo, keeping the distance from the police forces (themselves at least double in numbers).
The saying goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Minutes after demonstrators held ground the other side of the street from the bridge (meaning a significant distance from the embassy’s building), the police forces started popping those tear gas bombs like they were about to explode if not used. I’m not sure if I were angered more by the fact that this came minutes after the truce, or that more than half these bombs landed straight into the Giza Zoo suffocating the already miserable animals who had given up on life.
Consequently, my friends and I retreated as far back as the KFC and Pizza Hut locales, just before the Four Seasons hotel, waiting for the gas to settle. Then, and out of nowhere, an older lady standing amongst us began to scream “they’re coming, they’re coming! The army’s approaching!”
I looked over, and surely enough, from the other end of the street (coming from Giza square), there were army soldiers running towards us with their rifles pointing to the air and non-stop bullets being fired. We immediately turned to the other side (towards the actual embassy) to escape the attack (remember this is our army, attacking us – like you do), and we were greeted with tens of policemen running towards us. Ambushed.
At that moment, we were left with no option but to run into the side street going towards the Nile. We did exactly that and as soon as we were through, I was able to send out a tweet to let everyone know we’ve been ambushed by the army and police. Problem was that all soldiers were still running at us, which meant we had to take the side street to the very end and escape from there. By the time we reached the end, we were confronted with army soldiers closing off the street and themselves joined the ammunition galore and fired shots in the air without stopping.
Now that’s an ambush. You have to recognize when the opposition has successfully pieced together a master plan that has completely outclassed you. In this case, the Israeli authorities…or rather, the Egyptian army and the police forces, had managed to ambush close to 200 young, unarmed Egyptians. This is an achievement that we should all be proud of. Now we know that if we were ever attacked by a foreign army, just as long as they’re a couple of hundred unarmed civilians, we will always win it.
“On the ground! Facing down! Get on the floor you sons of whores!”
I got on the floor near a parked car and had just enough time to pull up my cell phone from my pocket and start a Bambuser stream:
When we were ‘asked’ to get up and go over to the other sidewalk and get down on our knees, I hid the phone in my pocket and left the stream going hoping to catch some audio. All the gunfire heard in this clip comes after the soldiers had actually calmed down a bit – poor neighbors.
“You’ll be biting the sidewalk and shitting blood you faggots!”
I was fully cooperative, certainly not willing to risk being the punch doll of socially and sexually frustrated military and police personnel. Others weren’t as smart, and have to had to pay the price. In fact, even by the time we were all released, a handful hadn’t still recovered from the injuries suffered during the arrest.
“So you think you’ve made a revolution? We signed for this country and its ours you sons of whores!”
As I was on my knees, head down, hands wrapped around my head, I glimpsed and saw a handful of riot police soldiers approach. At which point the army official gave them direct orders to stop, and take a few steps back, and then ordered his own soldiers to get closer to us instead. It was like an emotional scene from Bridges of Madison County where the army and the police showed unconditional love towards each other, and in a beautiful love story, worked hand-in-hand against the people. All what was left was for both parties to strip of the colors that separate them (and perhaps get a room while they’re at it).
I wasn’t worried. Deep down inside I was sure I’d be on my way home within a couple of hours. I was a little confused as to who exactly is arresting us, and why. There could’ve been 3 or 4 divisions from both the army and the police that ganged up against us, but nothing was clear.
The army official closest to the group I was on the floor with yelled, “grab each one of those faggots from his neck and drag him with you.” I expected to be roughed up, but the army soldier that picked me up was kind enough to avoid being aggressive. As we were being escorted towards the trucks, I spotted some of my friends ahead. Then the soldier commented “we haven’t slept in four days because of you.”
You know when someone tries to pretend like they’re angry but they’re naturally too kind to fake it?
“I’m sorry to hear that, may God recognize your efforts,” I responded.
I think the soldier was expecting a bit more of a verbal fight, and wasn’t sure how to deal with his pacifist victim. After a bit of an awkward silence he spoke again.
“So where are you from?”
If it weren’t for the traumatic situation, I would’ve laughed my ass off. But instead, I went on to tell him of my origins. And what do you know? Turns out the soldier is from the same province of my dad (Kafr El Sheikh), and from a town nearby ours. For a second I though he might be able to get me off the hook, but I soon realized he was as powerless as I am. He did, however, assure me that the Game Plan was to scare us for a few hours before releasing us.
We were rounded up by the trucks (the trademark ones belonging Central Security Forces). While being handcuffed, a police office saw me and said, “you look clean, what’s your degree?” I answered by saying that I had graduated from a university abroad. His response was “what are you doing around these people? Let me tell you, and I’ve lived with Palestinians and know them well; they are very happy to have Israel be there and do what they do!” I somehow managed to give a response that didn’t involve pointing out how much of an ignorant douche bag I thought he was. “I disagree with you and I’m here to take part in the peaceful demonstrations in support of our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”
I guess he realized our conversation wasn’t really going anywhere.
I was on my knees, handcuffed behind my back, face down and waiting to see what happens. At that point a couple of police officials were roaming us with the serious look of anger. I would’ve loved to squeeze out a comment like, “I’d be careful if I were you, you wouldn’t want a repeat of the 28th now, would you?” That would’ve been sweet. Instead I kept my mouth shot and therefore my body in tact.
One buff police officer was enjoying his beatings and slaps towards us. As he came up to me, he said, “what’s with the side burns?” I tilted my head up to look to him and asked, “what?” And out of nowhere, he threw a punch with the palm of his hand against my jaw.
What was that for?
I refused to be intimidated and just looked back to the floor. Minutes later some guy not in any uniform took my ID as well as my cell phone. And that was the end of a beautiful relationship that I shared with my very first Android phone, lasting about a year, and ending by the University bridge. Our love will last forever.
We were then handcuffed to each other (and I ended up with my friend Hossam) and were stored into the trucks like sardines. My claustrophobia kicked in for a bit, but I guess there was enough going on around me to keep my mind off it. Not to mention that everyone around me was freaking out, and so it became my unofficial responsibility to calm the crowd and assure them that we’ll be fine. I managed to do so with a straight face because I was still under the impression that they army/police had no interest in throwing us behind bars. Yeah, I’m cute like that.
As if the situation was not bizarre enough, out of about six trucks loaded with mostly young Egyptians, ours wasn’t moving as it broke down. We heard soldiers being called to push the truck (with about 24 of us inside) and felt the effort they exerted, but no dice. They gave it two hours’ worth of efforts and techniques to get the truck moving before finally giving up. However, instead of just letting us go like I thought they would, they spread us out across the remaining trucks, meaning we were suffocating even more.
We were taken to C28 (the Military Police headquarters in Nasr City) but weren’t taken out of the truck. It was like an unnecessarily long rest stop where we remained trapped and handcuffed inside, before we were taken to the military prison by the Hike Step and got to see light again. As soon as we arrived and were taken out of the trucks and aligned into groups on the floor in front of the cells, it became obvious that my theory of an immediate release was just as accurate as that of the army and police being two separate entities carrying out their jobs in different ways.
Over 150 young men, many of which are university students, were peacefully demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy in moral support of the oppressed Palestinian people. To an army as loyal to the Israeli authorities as the Egyptian one, that is a crime with heavy repercussions. To a police force as loyal to torture and brutality as the Egyptian one, that is a golden opportunity.
They say Israel’s survival relies on having a common enemy, otherwise the difference within would stand out and be to drastic for the ship to sail. Likewise, the Egyptian army, lead by Tantawi, Anan and the rest of the SCAF, is united with the police force and state security with a shared enemy: the Egyptian people. With 80 million of us, there will be enough enemies to strengthen their love affair. But with 80 million of us, there will be enough to take them down and make them pay.
Victory, as always, is ours. We’re just keeping the best till last – holding out for the last laugh. And when that day comes, I’ll stream it live and share the link with the Israeli authorities.