All eyes on Tahrir tomorrow, Friday

Greetings from a subdued Cairo. Remember that "still waters run deep". Egypt is calm, which doesn't mean it's at ease or fully secure.

Egyptians went to the polls yesterday (Wednesday) for the second round of Parliamentary elections, and Tahrir Square was quiet. However, a friend of a friend of mine was killed in Tahrir the night before, having been shot by live ammunition. He was shot in the stomach and by the time he got to hospital, they could do nothing for him. He bled to death. The young man was a student at Ain Shams University, an athlete, and a huge fan of Ahly, the national football (soccer) team.

Today (Thursday), Egyptians of various walks of life tell me they will go to Tahrir tomorrow - first, to protest last week's brutal crackdown, which lasted at least 5 days and resulted in at least 13 demonstrators killed, and which targeted women in particular. Young men (teenagers and 20-somethings) and "older dudes" (50+) tell me they are going; women also are telling me they "must go" after the brutal beating of several women this week.

About that brutality, the army commanders in control of Egypt issued a statement saying: that it "respects and appreciates Egyptian women and their right to protest and fully participate in political life." And a general said that this was an "isolated case and under investigation."

Still others - in the military and, more sadly, among the general population - call the demonstrators a bunch of "thugs" (baltagiyeen), and thus deserve the rough treatment; but in fact it is the army and pro-Mubarak holdouts who plant the thugs into the midst of the demonstrators to promote the image of a violent mob.

And so we wait for Friday, after the prayer (12:30 or 1 pm Cairo time). I'm staying away from Tahrir - as much out of safety concerns as respect for the Egyptian demonstrators. An American (or at least this American, with my Irish complexion) would look wholly out of place in Tahrir, as I know from experience having been there many times since the "Revolution" in February. This is not my country, even if Egypt is indeed my second home, and this is not my battle, even if I want this "revolution" against the corrupt regime to continue. This is an Egyptian fight that must continue - hopefully without violence, through ballots and through peaceful demonstrations and marches and campaigns of song, humor, and massive force of will on the part of Egyptians.

I am hopeful, but not optimistic, that this is how the Revolution will end.


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