Jacopo Quaranta


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A night in Tahrir Square

One of the most amazing experiences of my life caught me off my guard. A self commissioned trip to a relatively safe Lebanon ended up with me rushing off to a revolution in Egypt where I arrived with no contacts or even a press card.

February 3: It is the 9th night and the 10th day of rallies.
Protesters in Tahrir square are happy; they have claimed their freedom of expression and are demanding the end of the Mubarak rule; the establishment of a democratic republic.
You can see that the people are exhausted but their determination seems to be unbreakable. I’m walking around people sleeping on the streets, under barricades; anywhere you find a spot you claim it for the night that seems to be the rule. In case of trouble, people signal each other by tapping on the barricades or making a loud noise by hitting stones against iron and a continuous rumor of alarm immediately resonates in the crowd.

This morning, The State Television of Egypt announced that there were no protesters left in Tahrir Square and denied rumors of police affiliates going around in civil disguise.
But a personal encounter I had yesterday indicates otherwise. An overly friendly protester, who insisted on helping me get better shots, dragged me near the Museum, where the army had set base, only to toss me into the arms of officers who in turn escorted me out of the square.

February 7: This time around, the army is asking for the special permission of the Egyptian State Television given only on the bases of your press card; I don’t have a press card. Tahrir square is off limits to me.

My options are the following: stay trapped in the hotel, go out and have my camera confiscated by the army, get arrested, interrogated and scared off by the police or be beaten and robbed by those who supported Mubarak. I choose the lesser of evils; the hotel room and then the airport.

This thought takes me back to the night I spent in Tahrir Square. I was alongside a nation amongst historic changes sleeping with an out for a better future and I wanted to tell their story.