Throwing rocks stones Tahrir Square Cairo.
(photo credit: AP)
CAIRO – Devastation was the word to describe Tahrir Square on
Across the cement expanse, men lolled in bloodied shirts with
bandaged heads and limbs, trying to regain their strength after a savage 16-hour melee that involved thousands of men lashing out with rocks, metal rods and
their bare hands.
In the aftermath of the vicious battle that broke out
on Wednesday and rolled into Thursday morning between anti-Mubarak protesters
and the supporters of the Egyptian president, makeshift field hospitals were set
up to deal with the thousands of wounded.RELATED:Mubarak: I'd resign, but Egypt would descend into chaos
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“Everyone that stayed here last night was
wounded in one way or another, so we’re talking about thousands of injuries,”
said Alaa S., a Cairo pediatrician who normally performs research for a health
and environmental development NGO.
He had arrived at the aid station
nearest the center of the square, one of three stations, in the early hours of
Thursday morning, and was preparing to work through the night.
definitely expecting more violence; we don’t know what they have up their
sleeves,” he said.
Tahrir Square was like the eye of a hurricane on
Thursday – humming with tension from the side streets and the 6th of October
Bridge, which saw scattered skirmishes involving rocks and the occasional live
But the square itself was mostly quiet, the men sleeping in
crumpled heaps, gingerly supporting injured body parts, or slumped against trees
and curbs drinking tea and coffee provided by volunteers.
A mosque in the
square provided temporary shelter to hundreds of sleeping men.
the side streets leading to Tahrir were cut off from the rest of Cairo by giant
barriers made from sheet metal stolen from a construction site and burned-out
As rumors swirled around of possible breaks in the barricades,
some men would start beating the metal fences with poles, waving their arms and
encouraging people to run toward the side streets where the break was thought to
be. Men in soiled business suits bent down to grab stones from huge stockpiles
of broken pavement as they ran to the site of the break. This scene was repeated
over and over on Thursday.
“I am very happy to have lived to see this
day,” Alaa said, as he stood over dirty white canvas on the ground that marked
the firstaid area, with bottles of iodine and a mountain of cotton and bandages
behind him. “This is the price we have to pay for freedom.
Last night was
a heroic battle.
The Egyptian people are being reborn. They’ve always
said Egyptians are disorganized, we can’t do anything, we’re lazy.
this shows our solidarity, our respect for each other and the dissolving of
“All of the sectarian violence is dissolving – Christians,
Copts and Muslims are all working together,” he said. “It makes you wonder where
all the hatred came from; maybe it was just created by the regime.”
said he had also treated two “infiltrators,” undercover police officers who were
captured by the crowd and savagely beaten.
This was possibly the worst
example of the mindless explosion of violence: mobs of 50 or more surrounding
and raining down punches on one man caught in the middle. A few foreign
journalists were similarly manhandled.
For the medical workers in Tahrir
Square, the day was spent dealing with a few people wounded in the skirmishes,
as well as continuing to treat yesterday’s injuries and thousands of bandages
that needed to be changed.
More moderate Egyptians have shied away from
these violent protests.
“Why should I come? I already got what I asked
for,” said one blogger, referring to Hosni Mubarak’s announcement on Tuesday
that he will not seek reelection.
The mood in the square was no longer
optimistic, but one of fatalism. Talk of martyrdom and heroism was rampant as
the men revved up for another night of fighting.
“We were quite
outnumbered yesterday,” Alaa said, though the opposite seemed true from a
vantage point above the square.
“It was really a historical drama, like
300 with the Spartans and the Persians. It’s a day that will always be
remembered in our history as a day of heroes, not of martyrs. Yes, there were
martyrs, but it was about heroism.
“Egyptians wanted to defend democracy
and push for social justice, and they were willing to give their lives for
that,” Alaa said. “If people don’t take a stand and we’re massacred, it will be
the responsibility of the world.”