They fought tooth and nail Wednesday night and defended al-Tahrir Square after a long day during which the last Pharao played his last card by unleashing his hired dogs to attack unarmed protesters who shook the earth in Egypt under his throne. When darkness fell, those heroes persevered despite a rain of rocks, Molotov cocktails and sniper bullets. They barricaded themselves and sealed the entrances to al-Tahrir. Their real barricades, however, were their hearts and spirit and those supporting them. Hundreds were wounded and some lost their lives. Their spirits were hovering over al-Tahrir, waiting and looking down at their comrades who were determined to defend the popular revolution and its legitimate demands.
Last night there were some more attacks by the regime’s thugs, but all of that and the blackout imposed on the media couldn’t do much to reverse the tide. The heart of al-Tahrir swelled with Egyptians who kept coming to nurture their revolution and participate in the Friday of Departure demonstration that swept Egypt to say it loud and clear to the last Pharaoh: Leave!
If Tunisia was the lung through which the Arab world breathed freedom, Egypt, always the heart of the Arab world, has risen. It beats with a young heart, confident of its rhythm. It gives Egypt and millions a new life and a horizon full of hope and light.
In addition to the new political space it has created, what distinguishes this revolution is the wonderful and sublime example it sets in terms of solidarity among protesters and citizens at large. The spontaneity and cooperation in managing their daily affairs without a hierarchy is what the state didn’t expect as it deprived the people of basic services and tried to spread fear and chaos to terrorize the citizenry.
The sight of barricades around al-Tahrir and the moving stories about steadfastness and solidarity among those who volunteered, guarded, protected, fed, detained the thugs, and tended to the wounds of comrades defending al-Tahrir reminded me of the Paris Commune (1871). I know the historical context and the dynamics are quite different (but I have poetic license). The Paris Commune lasted for 71 days and didn’t end in victory, but it became a potent symbol and produced a new political form. Al-Tahrir, too, was "working, thinking, fighting, bleeding -- almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the cannibals at its gates -- radiant in the enthusiasm of its historical initiative.” Those heros in Cairo “were ready to storm the heavens.” The earth they shook will suffice for now as they stand at the heart of (l)iberation, surrounded by millions.
Our hearts are with them today.