Monday, July 25, 2005
(scroll down for updates)
Today was a great day for me. I feel very satisfied with myself. Today I felt that I really did something against the terrorists even if what I did was not so huge and lasted for 20 to 30 minutes.
Sandmonkey and I joined 5 other young Egyptians in a protest against terror. We stood on top of one of Cairo's busiest bridges and carried large placards with the words "No to Terrorism", "Islam Against Terrorism", "Egypt Against Terrorism" written on them in bold letters.
We stood on the pavement facing the passing cars and held those placards. I felt as if I looked like the guy who carries the "The End is Near" sign!!
Well, carrying and displaying the "No to Terrorism" sign made me feel soooo good. At last I did something. I felt as if I was poking my finger into the eyes of an ugly terrorist.
People started looking and reading what was written. A number slowed down just to read what we were displaying. Others sounded their car horns. I felt we were getting a very positive response from the people until Egypt's "do-not-disturb-the-peace-whatsoever" police destroyed our utopia and our ecstasy the same way Samson destroyed the temple.
A soldier came up and told us that his officer demands to know what we're doing. After informing him about what we're doing, he asked us to speak to his boss or get off the bridge. Yet he said something that really touched my heart. "We were all affected by what happened. We lost a lot of comrades." It is true, many policemen perished in Sharm el Sheikh. It was clear that the polite soldier was very fond of what we were doing.
Two of our team went to speak with the big guy, the officer. After failing to convince him to allow us to carry out our silent demonstration, he disclosed a top secret. "We received info that the bridge will get bombed" he said. Yea yea, nice try Mr. officer.
We then decided to get off the bridge and continue what we were doing in Zamalek, an affluent part of Cairo. Suddenly, two police vehicles came after us. It appeared that we got on the police airwaves and they were looking for us! A police officer carrying a walkie-talkie approached us and asked about what we were doing, blah blah. We told him that we were normal young Egyptians who just wanted to demonstrate their anger at what happened in Sharm.
The guy told us that he respected what we were doing and that he himself is so affected by the terrorist attack because he lost colleagues. Another officer looked at the placards and said "an exciting way by a group of excited youth." Yet we were still not allowed to protest even in Zamalek. "Someone might not like what you are doing and engage you in some violent manner" he said.
The officer talked to his superior, the very big guy, on the walkie-talkie and the orders came piercing through our ears. "Get them out of there" the very big guy said. "OK sir, I will carry out your orders" the officer responded.
I knew that we had to call it a day. The guy got an order and he had to obey it. There was no point in arguing with him. He told us that if we wanted to demonstrate then we had to get a permit from the Public Relations department of the Interior Ministry (our FBI and homeland security department).
Even if we did get this paper, it won't mean anything. Egypt is a lawless country. We can still get arrested even if we had a paper with Mubarak's signature on it. The only way we can carry out any future activity is by getting this permit and bringing a high rank police guy with us. He will be responsible to talk to the police when they show up.
Anyway, the experience was worth it. And I have to admit that the policemen were themselves very supportive. They just followed the usual rule of Egypt's police force: do not allow anything to disrupt the peace no matter how good or bad it is. I just don't understand the logic behind this rule. Why would we allow only the terrorists to be the ones who "disrupt the peace"?
Update: Check out MSNBC's story on the protest.