herald

Wednesday 22 August 2018

I want to live with democracy and peace says teen protester

Ahmed Sami choked back tears as he explained why he and his father joined tens of thousands of protesters in central Cairo to force President Hosni Mubarak from power.

"I want to live in a democracy, in social justice. I want to choose my parliament," the 16-year-old said.

Flush with idealism, he added that any Egyptian, including himself, should have the chance to run for president.

Up until a week ago, when the largest protests ever challenging Mubarak's 30-year rule began, Mubarak had been widely expected to try to pass power to his son, Gamal, in a continuation of his autocratic rule.

After the protests brought a change of government, Mubarak's first appointment of a vice-president who could succeed him, and promises of reforms, there was cautious hope at downtown Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the focal point of protests.

But there was also frustration that they had not yet achieved the one goal that unites the men, women, young, old, poor, middle class, secular and religious demonstrators: Mubarak's departure.

The determination to see their efforts bear fruit was palpable.

Some protesters carried pictures of Mubarak with a Hitler-style, clipped mustache.

As military helicopters buzzed overhead almost constantly throughout the day, those on the ground formed a human chain to spell out the word "Go" in Arabic for the benefit of the crews above. Others painted their message in large, black and white Arabic letters on the pavement: "Leave, coward. We're not leaving the square."

Still others shouted angrily at the skies: "Down, down, Hosni Mubarak."

The protesters haven't left Tahrir Square since Friday, maintaining a round-the-clock vigil undisturbed by the soldiers and tanks that ring the giant traffic circle and barricade every entry point.

The square had been the site of fierce clashes up until Friday, with police trying to drive out protesters with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and beatings.



peaceful

But since the government ordered the military into the streets Friday night and the police vanished, the protests have been peaceful and the army has not intervened.

Animosity toward the police is on display in the square.

Police cars charred in Friday's riots have become garbage dumps, filled with black bags of trash. One has a handwritten sign that says simply: "I hate you."

Farida Jawad, a 43-year-old Arabic teacher and translator whose three-year-old son, Jalil, slept in a friend's arms, expressed the hope of many in the crowd.

"I brought my son to make him a witness to the day that his life became better than ours," she said.

hnews@herald.ie

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