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My January 25 revolution memoirs, Part II

March 3, 2014 at 11:14 am

I could not believe my eyes when I saw camels and horses running on the Nile Corniche heading to Tahrir Square. I was a witness to the battle which lasted until the next morning against attempts to break up the protest in Tahrir Square. I witnessed the shooting by snipers, the burning of trees as I was in the square at noon and watched the battle in the evening from my Hilton hotel room which overlooked the square.

The next day, thugs broke into the Ramses Hilton hotel and looked for Al-Jazeera journalists. The hotel took over our hotel rooms, which overlooked the square, and asked us to leave. Security forces stormed our rooms and warned us about photography from the windows.

The army and the intelligence agencies occupied most hotel rooms, along with a number of journalists. One day I decided to see my son Yousef who I hadn’t seen for days. At that time, all the Al-Jazeera English team were arrested and taken to the Egyptian museum where they were beaten and had their equipment confiscated.

The US Secretary of State at that time, Hillary Clinton, called on authorities to release the journalists and indeed they were released but their equipment was not returned until after Mubarak’s resignation.

Because of what had happened most of us left the Hilton Ramses in two armoured vehicles belonging to the army after the chairman of the State Information Service (SIS) interfered deporting us. First we were moved to the Marriot hotel, then the Cairo Sheraton.

While Mubarak’s remnants and his institutions showed increasing animosity towards Al-Jazeera, Tahrir protesters set up huge screens to watch it, as did many cafes in the vicinity of Tahrir.

In the meantime, the famous CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour conducted an interview with a number of journalists, including myself, on the crisis in Egypt. I felt proud to express my opinion, which has not changed, that democracy and respecting the outcome of elections is the solution. This was on February 6, 2011.

I met with Dr Hossam Badrawy (who replaced Safwat El-Sherif as Secretary General of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) during the revolution) in the Marriot that day. He believed that there was no need for more protests and that Gamal Mubarak’s resignation from his post at the NDP would be enough.

On February 10, 2011, we were attacked by a number of thugs inside the Al-Qasr Al-Einy School of Medicine. They stole all our equipment and were about to kill us had the police not intervened. It was a miracle we escaped thanks to the help of a police officer who helped us take a taxi and leave the place.

That night the taxi drove me to Salah Salem Street as roads to Heliopolis were blocked. I walked from there to the Ittihadiya Palace where thousands of demonstrators gathered. That night, I saw the end of Mubarak in sight.

After Omar Sulaiman announced that Mubarak surrendered power on February 11, 2011, I went out with my family to celebrate at the Ittihadiya Palace first and then to Tahrir.

We were lucky to witness and live in the Tahrir utopia during the 18 days of the revolution and to experience the happiness of Mubarak’s ouster. However, we were naïve to think that Mubarak’s regime had fallen. It was only put aside to allow it to come back later to take revenge, as we saw on the July 3, 2013, military coup and on the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

The road and battle for freedom and democracy in Egypt is still long and costly, but it’s worth the struggle. The revolution is continuing.

Read part one of this blog here.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.