Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Khamsin sandstorms come quite abruptly. All of a sudden, it gets hot, and hard to breathe. You smell the sand in the air.
Sunday was one of those days. As the sky turned yellow, only 3 of my students showed up for class. The rest had taken the day off.
The ones I did see at school were quite shaken.
"Three of my friends were standing on the sidewalk and were arrested."
"I don't know where my friends are."
"A riot cop told me to keep walking or face the consequences."
It started out as a day of protest by underpaid textile workers, against rising food prices and low wages. But it quickly became a storm of resentment against this country's government. People talked of organizing mass gatherings in public places across the country.
The Egyptian constitution permits protests. But according to the law, any gathering of more than five people could be considered illegal. And consequences can be brutal.
So, pop quiz: Wages are in the toilet, bread is becoming pricier by the day, your people are upset about it, and they want to let you know. What do you do?
Go here to read blogger Hossam El-Hamalawy's report.
All day Sunday, Cairo was crawling with riot police. Mind you, this is one of the most over-policed cities on the planet. But yesterday, they probably broke some police presence record. Many protests were shut down before they began. The ones that did begin were gassed and beaten out of existence.
Many bloggers were pre-emptively arrested.
By the evening, the khamsin sandstorm had blown over, leaving behind a dust-coated city, a horrible aftertaste, and millions who still can't afford bread that still costs too much.
Update: It's not over yet. More here and here.