Tahrir Square Witness: The Final Crush Is Coming

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This post also appears as Update 134 in our Egypt explainer:

I just spoke with Khaled Abou El Naga, an Egyptian filmmaker who lives in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. Khaled has participated in the protests since they began on January 25 in Tahrir Square. Just back from the square, a feverish Khaled fears the worst is yet to come. “This regime is trying to hijack the country by spreading chaos, and terror, and lies,” he says. And he thinks that Mubarak and his army of thugs are preparing “for a total crush” of the protestors still in the square. “The plot is very clear. They will have messages that things will be under control, we will investigate who started the violence—they know who started the violence!”

Pro-Mubarak thugs have been streaming into Tahrir Square since yesterday, attacking protestors from its main entrances. They’ve also been targeting the press, taking out video cameras and chasing away reporters. Some even climbed to the tops of buildings overlooking the square, armed with sniper rifles. “With snipers, you just find people dead,” Khaled says. “You don’t hear anything. That’s what happened.”

Khaled believes that the police have been given orders to sow chaos by driving into neighborhoods, firing guns in the air, and looting stores. “The police have become a tool to terrorize Egyptians,” he says. He says that he has seen ambulances, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, bringing tear gas into the square. Doctors haven’t been able to get into the square; one of Khaled’s own friends, a doctor, was accused by thugs of being a CIA agent when he tried to approach Tahrir Square.

Egyptian state television, meanwhile, has continued to maintain that the anti-government protestors were responsible for the violence. “State television has agitated people more and more,” Khaled says. “They kept saying these are looters who went into Tahrir Square, they’re trying to break stability in Egypt, and they said that they started the violence. All of these are lies that agitated people.”

But Khaled fears that many Egyptians are buying the spin of Mubarak, Vice President Omar Suleiman, and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq: that order and calm will soon be restored by the government. “People think, ‘oh see the government finally is trying to do something about it and take control.'” he says. “Well at the same time, the violence is still there, the circling of Tahrir Square [by pro-Mubarak forces] is still there—the plot is right there….Unfortunately, a lot of Egyptians are confused now. They think maybe we should just wait until he leaves in September. He will never leave.”

The regime’s plan, as Khaled sees it: disseminate misinformation, violently disrupt the protests, and then purge. “I’m telling you,” he says, “with all the singals I’m reading from the state’s people, they are preparing for a complete crush of Tahrir Square.”

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