EGYPT UNSH@CKLED Using social media to @#:) the System
How 140 characters can remove a dictator in 18 Days
Denis G. Campbell Editor, UK Progressive Magazine
The right of Denis G. Campbell to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 Copyright ©2011 Denis G. Campbell All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. First published in the United States and United Kingdom in August, 2011 by Cambria Books; Carmarthenshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Links to Third Party Websites Websites accessed from this book via print or e‐book using hyperlinks to other sites may be governed by their own privacy policies and practices. The information practices of third party websites linked to this book’s posts are not covered by the author or publishers of this book. You are encouraged to become familiar with the privacy policies and practices of every website you visit prior to disclosing any personal information. Information posted to discussion forums, bulletin boards, chat rooms and other public forums may be displayed publicly. Please consider this before posting. The author, Cambria Books and Lightning Press assume no responsibility for information, viruses, malware or any information transmitted from visiting third party websites. The reader visits these sites under their own responsibility and agrees to hold the above parties harmless for any software or information that may be transmitted or downloaded to any device from by those websites. All care has been taken to ensure links were valid and worked at the time of publication. Twitter, Facebook and Google Twitter is a registered trademark of Twitter, Inc., San Francisco, CA and Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA. Google is a registered trademark of Google, Inc. of Mountain View CA. Google Realtime Mention of these services is neither an endorsement of, nor an assertion by the author or publisher(s) of any intellectual property claim or infringement of their property rights. Participants in the Egyptian Revolution used these social media platforms extensively and the author provides links to individual accounts on their websites to benefit the poster and these organisations with additional visitors. The Tweets and posts are by individual posters are in the public domain and available for all to read on multiple platforms. The author used the Google Realtime Twitter service to research and link to them. The author and publishers provide links to the individual accounts in the hopes their social media profiles are raised. We believe this to be a fair use and beneficial mention of their services. UK Progressive Magazine is a wholly owned subsidiary of Target Point Ltd, PO Box 70 Monknash, Wales, United Kingdom. The author is CEO and Editor of the publication.
To the freedom seeking people of Egypt and Members of the Foreign Press Corps many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice to bring this story to the world, we give thanks for reminding us all of what is really important.
For Brandon, Jennifer, Chris, Tara, Uma and Brianna may you always be blessed with, know and fight for freedom everywhere.
(A donation is made from the sale of each book to Kheir wa Baraka (Peace and Plenty Association) in Cairo improving socioeconomic health & education services across Egypt and the IFJ International Federation of Journalists supporting families of journalists killed or injured covering the story.)
TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION THE REVOLUTION DRAWS NEAR DAY 1 The Day of Rage
6 21 43
INTRODUCTION The Will of Life If the people will to live Providence is destined to favourably respond And night is destined to fold And the chains are certain to be broken And he who has not embraced the love of life Will evaporate in its atmosphere and disappear. - Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi Democracy is messy. As a journalist I lean left because what used to be a logical, independent ‘centre’ has drifted further and further to the right and the right has left the building altogether for a psychopathic wildly intolerant fringe. Freedom is contagious. In every oppressed person’s fight to be free, there is struggle, pain and, when successful, pure joy and celebration in that first penultimate moment when they realise success. History rarely remembers the names of those who fought and died for freedom. It instead romanticise the ‘story.’ And unless one visits the town Squares of Lexington and Concord, Antietam or Appomattox or any European village after World War II and sees the names of the flesh and blood treasure lost etched in stone, we are only left with historical legend… the story. What made the 18 days of the Egyptian revolutionary uprising 25 January – 11 February, was a great story we all witnessed up close and live on television and the Internet. For 18 days the story would not let us up for air. At one point I can remember remarking to fellow journalists as I sat following reports and feeds for 18-hours+ each day, “this is like being on the ground backup crew for Apollo 13.” They worked around the 6
clock to find a solution for the stricken spacecraft. There was one astronaut who upon being urged to take a break replied… “They don’t get a break up there; we don’t take one here, let’s run it again.” We became modern day Paul Reveres studying Google satellite maps, newsfeeds and working together to help those in Tahrir Square in whatever way we could. We all relayed information across a modern day bush-telegraph; we were the missing link the Mubarak regime did not plan on, all working together to support revolutionaries and journalists on the ground fighting propaganda to support those giving, at times, the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom. Revere’s lanterns hung in a church steeple and the message was delivered via shouts from horseback. Ours were passed along an unseen network of electrons, cell phones and satellite links. He rode through the streets on horseback in darkness to warn the colonists. We helped CNN and Al Jazeera producers communicate the latest to field reporters. A ragtag citizen’s brigade of fighters crouched behind rocks, trees and picked off columns of advancing British soldiers. We let those in the Square know from which rooftops the next assault was likely to come because we had access to BBC live pictures that they did not. Revolutions are ultimately epochal battles of good vs. evil. That inherent tension creates the drama every good story needs to keep one’s interest. It is why the young wizard Harry Potter’s battle with Lord Voldemort inspired seven books and eight movies. The crusty troll-like 30-year dictator Mubarak went up against the youth of Egypt reluctantly personified by the dashing young Google executive Wael Ghonim. Where else but in the battle to hold Tahrir Square would you see men on horseback and camels rushing to attack peaceful protestors? Where else could one see rocks cascade like so many dangerous snowflakes upon the heads of those fighting to be free? Broken bones and bruised skin did nothing to diminish their heart or resolve to break free. Middle ground evaporates in times of revolution. Yet the US government attempted to walk a dangerous tightrope supporting both sides in the dispute which angered both Mubarak, who felt abandoned and the students who felt betrayed after his Cairo speech in 2009. The crisis as it unfolded (and in some cases continues to unfold) placed nation states in a diplomatic no-man’s land. Israel was worried about its security without Mubarak. US right wing neocons feared a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the government. Freedom and democracy demonstrations broke out in countries across the region. Depending on your side, the result and SPIN of the story can be completely different. The UK described the late 1770s as a period of 7
‘difficulties’ with their colonies. The victorious Colonists called it the ‘Revolutionary War.’ Many times over the 18days Mubarak tried to condescendingly calm his ‘children and grandchildren.’ The youth movement members were students when they started 10-years prior but were now in their late 20s, jobless and had seen decades of privileged corruption and demanded change. The Arab Spring of 2011 continues to spread into a messy summer across the Middle East. And nothing replaces the original great, epochal story that began with the fall of Tunisia emboldening an angry Egyptian youth and 18 days that will live forever. It remains a great story. And most of us know exactly where we were when we heard the news that Hosni Mubarak had been toppled. It was as breath-taking a moment as the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center falling, the assassinations of Kennedy and King, man’s landing on the moon or the Shuttle Challenger’s explosion. You always remember exactly where you were and also realised life would be forever changed for so many by these events.
The Spark Basboosa was a young Tunisian man who’d known tragedy and strife for most of his 26 years. His real name was Mohamed Bouazizi and he struggled daily to raise enough money to feed his family. As an illegal fruit and vegetable vendor on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, he was a constant target of police crackdowns. Having spent $200 to buy fruit to sell the next day, he was bracing himself. As the cold December morning dawned he set out upon the city’s streets. Once there, he was harassed by two local polices officer, one a woman, who allegedly uttered a slur against his long dead father. The officers claimed he had no permit and sent him packing… without his cart. He went to the local Governor’s Office to lodge a complaint and to get his cart back. There he waited most of the morning, frustrated by a man who would not even see him to hear his complaint. Despite becoming increasingly and visibly agitated and repeatedly threatening to set himself on fire in front of the building, the government workers simply laughed. Basboosa walked out of the Governor’s office, doused himself in either gasoline or paint thinner and lit a match. His self-immolation ignited a fuse that began a fire which continues to rage from country to country across the Middle East. 8
The Revolution Changed Journalism Because this story was told by real journalists and citizens wanting to get it right, the events told the story vs. the pundit-ocracy. I write about Politics and Business and am daily stymied and, frankly, disgusted by manipulative SPIN ruling most dialogues. The dean of American Journalism, Bill Moyers, commented recently during an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: “We're lost in the mere smoke of opinion. People don't want to keep their opinions hidden; they want to keep the facts hidden. The media no longer do any reporting, they rely on opinion and that undermines journalism. It's all about entertainment.” (To Jon:) "You do a splendid job of juxtaposing. Good journalism is comparative not declarative. Media today are narrating their impression of the world not reporting." "I don't like to interview politicians because their language is designed to conceal, I want to interview people who will reveal what they are thinking. Newt Gingrich got into trouble for speaking the truth. "You can't speak the truth on television today because someone will find a way to turn it against you." That someone can craft a clever marketing phrase like ‘healthcare death panels’ is bad enough. That someone else can repeat it one hundred times and it is allowed to become fact is disgusting at best and criminal at worst. This story was always real, live, factual and never changed. It was about a group of people wanting to breathe free. It played out in real time over 18 days and was mostly uninterrupted by a commentariat trying to explain what it was THEY thought you just saw. This epic unshackling was reporters asking those on the ground for their live impressions, reading social media Tweets live on-air, fighting for good information and when any network tried to SPIN it, viewers simply changed the channel to find someone covering hard news, as it was happening, live. It was the type of journalism we grew up with when there were three television channels and reporters and news writers had to do their jobs. They filled twenty four minutes each day with absolutely their best work and very rarely failed the test. Today, 24-hours news stations fill entire days without saying anything of value or worrying if it is their best work. As a 2:00 minute segment inconclusively ends, they throw it live to the Charlie Sheen or Paris Hilton bureaus. 9
Instead, we watched stunned as two existing regimes propped up for decades by US and EU military and economic aid fell most ignobly with other western supported dictatorships under stress. They became used to committing brutal atrocities against their own people knowing the West’s crack habit (aka access to oil and gas), was the sword of Damocles hanging over their complicit heads. In 18 days it crumpled like the bar’s glass jawed bully sucker knockout punched by the new tough guy.
The Dictator’s Playbook Middle Eastern Dictators were used to lives of luxury earned by plundering foreign aid budgets, lavish military weapons contracts and corruption. They did not pay attention to the most basic of technological change and were genuinely surprised by these uprisings. They relied on State television to spread their disinformation. During uprisings in the 80s and 90s, rebels would rush to take control of State TV and Radio headquarters knowing that he who controlled the airwaves controlled the message and the nation. But as the 90s marched onward, satellite dishes sprang up everywhere bringing citizens uncensored access to 24-hour news and commentary from CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera into many households. The Internet soon followed but computers were expensive and only the students and intellectual elites owned or knew how to use them. As social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter came into being, suddenly like-minded groups could speak with each other when assembly and organising on the streets would subject them to arrest and/or detention. It became an organising and message conveyance tool. Then when these social networks could be accessed from the one necessary piece of technology everyone had and needed, a mobile cellular telephone, it was ‘game on’ across the region. Whilst regime leaders followed their same tired playbook for years, the world slowly changed around them. Organisers using Facebook Tribute pages channelled the most dangerous of commodities… rage. These regimes held power through fear, brutality, indiscriminate detention and torture. That kept most people in line. If one had too big of a mouth, became a troublemaker or was perceived as gaining a following, they simply ‘disappeared’ from their home or off the streets without a trace. Human rights’ activists and civilised governments would lodge protests but with little effect. The dictators knew they could get away with almost anything because their tight control meant peace across the region, free-flowing oil and a greater internal market for arms and other war services. 10
The dictator’s playbook was simple: use your secret police to stop dissent dead in its tracks. Terrorise or kill entire families if someone got out of line (including women and children) and keep the people cowed, dependent on the State and under control no matter what. From Saddam Hussein in Iraq to Mubarak in Egypt and everywhere in between the template worked. Power was centralised, money and arms flowed and only the people suffered. As the Arab spring of revolt spread across the region throughout 2011, they all followed the same 12-step programme. It was referred to there as the “damage control” template by everyone from Foreign Policy magazine to NGO’s to the protestors themselves. And it was eerie how they all followed this same playbook. The order of play never mattered but they all followed these same steps.
Send in secret police thugs on foot (horseback or camel) to beat and scare protestors into submission or make them ‘disappear.’
Attack, beat, and confiscate cameras, phones & equipment and arrest journalists trying to cover the story.
Shut down access to the Internet to limit their organising ability.
Organise paid demonstrators to rally boisterously in counter demonstrations in support of your regime.
Have snipers and police shoot protestors.
Promise (emptily) to investigate and bring to justice those who just shot your people.
Conduct (with great fanfare) a meaningless political cabinet re-shuffle.
Call Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC and all foreign press ‘biased’ instigators who do not understand the fragile and impressionable nature of the country.
Make a condescending, rambling and incoherent speech about how much you love the youth of your country, promise reforms, tell them to trust you, stop now and go back to work.
Threaten that if you leave now, the country will slip into chaos and destruction without your loving fatherly hand to guide it through the changes you ‘promise’ to make (with your fingers crossed behind your back).
Blame outside foreign agitators who want to see the nation fall so they can then implement their radical (Islamist, Western, Secular, Christian…) agenda.
There is one last step. And that is where the dictator is forced by events to leave. No dictator after 30-40 years in power ever wants to go. Indeed they will go to extraordinary lengths to remain in control. Tunisia and Egypt were the two places where the dictator’s playbook went horribly awry leading to them being forced to leave after 30+ years. Both Mubarak and Ben Ali followed the brutalisation and state media misinformation playbook, but the youth and the population changed as did the playbook. Mubarak and Ben Ali were doubly unfortunate that the government and army were two separate and distinct entities. In Syria and Libya, they are intertwined, thus the higher level of brutality during their uprisings. Some would argue there is another step used by the House of Saud: buy off your people with cash payments to ensure you remain in control. That is an option when you have the oil and wealth of Saudi Arabia but not when you sit atop largely barren and oil-less lands like Egypt or Tunisia. The dictators lived in a secluded, protective bubble far from the people whose lives they impacted. They did not pay attention to the world around them. This gave them plausible deniability when it went wrong. There was always a subordinate officer who could be blamed, found to be out of control or otherwise took the fall. The other regional leaders learned and the playbook changed dramatically when Mubarak and ben Ali were toppled. The leaders of Libya and Syria knew that if they ever made their first condescending speech to the protestors, by the third one… they would be out. So they doubled down on the early steps and brutalised their people even further. They chose to follow predictable steps to quash revolution leading all sides to a very long, dug-in summer. 12
The Revolution Was Televised and Tweeted As a youth during the Vietnam War, there was an iconic magazine photo of a young Buddhist monk who doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the Diem regime. His body was consumed in flame as he knelt in silent prayer. It was an image that stayed with me for 40 years. Why would someone willingly put his own body through so much pain? As was the case with Bouazizi in Tunisia, living caused him even greater pain because no one was listening. The 18 days of the Egyptian revolution was so enveloping, the world listened and watched this ongoing and compelling story for hours every day. Nothing could push it off the front page because the drama of a people wanting to breathe free held the world in its thrall. The world knows Mohamed Bouazizi because his act of desperation was broadcast globally across the social network Twitter. In January and February of 2011, Twitter also came of age as a bona fide journalistic tool because people were willing to go into the streets under daunting circumstances to let the world know what was happening via their cell phones. While the revolutions were extensively reported upon, Twitter, Facebook and social media gave the world a new news vehicle that also created history. Willing eyewitnesses used it to tell and show the world what it was they were seeing in real time. Where journalists once had to physically be present to try and interview people about their experiences, Twitter provided multiple eyewitness accounts to history. Those accounts revealed how fragile a totalitarian regime can be in the face of a widely used simple communications technology. In 18 days, Twitter went from a tool used primarily by and for selfindulgent techies, to a powerful counter-block to a repressive regime’s attempts to shut down all opposition. Nobody had ever seen Tweets used this way and it represented a sea change in the way news is gathered and history recorded. A repressive Egyptian military dictatorship, in power for almost 60 years, with a well-equipped modern army and other accoutrements of power, was brought to its knees because the army refused to step in and repress peacefully protesting Egyptian people. The Egyptian government’s thuggish response exposed it for what it really was and led to its collapse. Between 25 January and 11 February 2011 the government of former President Hosni al Mubarak attempted to violently hold back the 13
tide of independence racing towards the sea. The 18 days will live forever in minds of Egyptians and news-watchers worldwide. We tell a modern history as seen by those in the street. Each Tweet represents a live person stripped to their essence and, in its own unique way, harkens back to an original communication innovation not seen since Gutenbergâ€™s printing press. The Egyptian Revolution was to social mediaâ€™s coming of age as television was to JFKâ€™s assassination coverage; radio to the 1955 failed Hungarian revolution; newspapers to World War II and house-to-house messages passed along the barricades of the French Revolution.
A Twitter Primer Twitter was born in 2006 in San Francisco as a communications service amongst those in the technology community. Its founders saw the success of cell phone SMS Short Text messaging across Europe and the rest of the world, but were, to that point, slow to be used in the USA. They wanted to create an online service for one to share their thoughts that could also be used following the protocols of existing cell phone text networks.
Key Symbols When one composes a Tweet, you are answering the question: What’s Happening? For those who do not regularly use the service, here are some of the more frequently used terms and characters in a Tweet and throughout this book.
Whenever you see the @ or “at” symbol followed by a name, it acts a direct link to that person’s Twitter account. For example, @Ghonim is the Twitter account of Google executive, Wael Ghonim, one of the Revolution’s organisers. @UKProgressive is my account. Most people use a variation of their name, business or some other reference. Mine is the name of the magazine we publish in the UK. If using an accessible e-reader or iPad device with a built-in browser, click on @Ghonim or @UKProgressive. You are then taken to the most current page of this person’s active Tweets. The search engine Google offers a service called Realtime which allows one to search by date, keyword and/or time the history of any Twitter accountholder on any day. If reading a paper or Kindle version of this book, please visit the website: http://www.twitter.com/ghonim with or without the @ symbol. We encourage you to open your own Twitter account. Then you can use their search function to find anyone’s name listed here. By clicking the ‘Follow’ button their Tweets will appear in your timeline where you can stay up-to-date on all new developments as the story continues.
Many on Twitter use a shorthand search and grouping system called hashtags. These are the # (number or hash) symbol followed by a bit of 15
text. Some of the more prominent hashtags used during the Revolution were: #Jan25 #Egypt and #Cairo. The tags make it easy for those in a group to find others talking on the same subject and communicate amongst themselves. Hashtags are also searchable on Twitter and the broader Internet via Google, Yahoo!, Bing or other search engines. Many people also use a ‘deck’ or console programme like Tweetdeck (just purchased recently by Twitter) to follow Tweets, individuals and hashtag subjects in real time.
Means this message is a Re-Tweet. Someone is passing along a message to their followers that someone else posted because they like it or think the news contained therein is important. MT means this was a Modified Re-Tweet. The original Tweet was modified slightly changing its context.
These letters are a request asking everyone who reads this to Please Re-Tweet this message across their inter-connecting networks so as many people as possible are made aware of the issue. This is how stories and issues become ‘viral’ meaning they spread quickly, like a virus (without the consequence of falling ill). Everyone’s followers have several followers of their own. If sending an important message, one can exponentially reach a massive audience.
The Shorthand One is limited to 140 characters in the body of a Tweet so there is this shorthand system created by users. Some of the more recognisable terms used in the Egyptian Revolution included: Ya Rabb
This Muslim phrase appears often, means: ‘Oh My God!’
Come on! Let’s Get Going!
Means: The Truth of God
Means: Hey Guys
Non Egypt-specific Shorthand: 2, R, &, U 16
To, Are, And, You
Continued, More (more to say in a second Tweet)
Laughing out Loud
Oh My God
Rolling on the floor laughing
Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off
Quite a rude putdown: Shut the F*** Up
Obvious and just as rude: What the F***?
FTW Minds out of the gutter please. There are three usages for this term: For the Win, For the Weekend and yes F*** the World… user chooses. Gam3et el Dowal (an area in Cairo, one of the fake meeting locations) Oftentimes in Tweets people wrote Arabic words in English which included numbers for hard to decipher letters. The numbers are part of an Arabic chat network and represent letters or sounds in Arabic. They are special notations to transliterate some of the letters that do not exist in the Roman alphabet that cannot be expressed as a letter. Too, for most of the protestors, English was their 2nd or 3rd language. Therefore we have kept all spellings as they appeared in the Tweet. We have taken the liberty to insert spaces to help the reader understand where some words may run together. Twitter has more than 200 million users around the globe sending out thousands of Tweets every second of every day. Ironically Egypt had only about 20,000 subscribers or 1/100th of 1% of the globe’s users. They were though part of an interlocking web of interconnected users who took Egypt’s Revolution ‘viral.’ Soon the whole world was watching.
Dramatis Personae Everyone who Tweeted from and supported those in Tahrir Square was a hero and part of this Revolution. Several were seen globally as catalysts and key organisers. They provided leadership and ongoing, onthe-spot coverage throughout the event. Some of the most prominent characters we followed were: @Ghonim
Wael Ghonim is the young Google executive who was held captive for several days and upon his release became the public face of the revolution.
Writes a much read blog by those in the Revolution Egypt: Manal And Alaa's space.
Based in Washington, this Egyptian man provided invaluable contacts and back story information. His Tweets were
1st female Egyptian correspondent reporting from outside of Egypt for several publications and a key voice of the revolution.
Ayman Moyeldin is a key correspondent for Al Jazeera English. He spent much of the 18 days broadcasting from rooftops and balconies avoiding arrest and detection. He was the network’s face in Tahrir Square.
Sally Sami is a human rights defender and key voice in the revolution.
Dan Nolan is an Australian journalist and member of the Al Jazeera English team. His most important reporting was from a Cairo morgue showing Egyptian youths clearly shot and brutalised.
Is an internationally known blogger at Misr Digital (Egyptian Awareness) he was one source everyone could rely on for the latest information.
Andy Carvin is an npr senior manager for online communities, he provided real-time tweets from DC and continues working sources across the region.
Editor of this book, was actively Tweeting throughout the 18 days. Coined the phrase and hashtag #WeAreAllEgyptians.
Ben Wederman is CNN’s veteran foreign correspondent, he was on the front line of the conflict providing continuous feedback and information to those on the ground
Ram Ramgopal is a senior exec. producer at CNN in Atlanta. He was constantly Tweeting throughout the revolution to ensure the back story was correct and their reporters safe.
Egyptian blogger and (his words) ‘minor celebrity,’ he was a driving force of support to those in the Square.
Sand monkey’s partner, their relationship and constant communication Tweets caused great embarrassment to the Mubarak regime. Omar Hamilton is a documentary film producer who was on the ground for several days in Tahrir Square. He was very gracious with his time, contacts and interviews.
A prominent Egyptian blogger, very well connected across the Democracy movement.
The authorâ€™s personal Twitter account, he followed the 18 days live for hours each day.
If you have an interest in following the continuing fight for a new democratic government in Egypt, they are all worth following. Also if you want to read all of the articles and photos listed in each day, use your search engine on the title of an article, or please also consider buying the e-book which has embedded links to all pf the Web pages listed here. Please also remember that most Egyptians speak English as a second language and therefore their tweets may take a few pages to get used to. We debated whether or not to fix typographical errors and decided to leave the Tweets as they originally ran as long as you, the reader, knew their intention in the communication.
THE REVOLUTION DRAWS NEAR 2005 – January, 2011 Tweet of the Day: @StopFraud Egyptian police kill whistleblower at internet cafe: Khaled Said posted video to the Internet that showed police sharing drug deal profits
The Egyptian Revolution of January-February 2011 was the result of a perfect storm of corruption, privileged nepotism, revolution in nearby Tunisia, people tiring of iron-fisted emergency rule, youth unrest at their own financial hardship and a seething anger at Hosni al Mubarak’s 30year rule. Since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, Egypt lived under permanent “emergency” law. Both Anwar Sadat and Hosni al Mubarak were military men as were their predecessors Gamal Abdel Nasser and Mohammed Naguib. The military overthrew the monarchy in 1952 and 2011 marked 59-years of unbroken military control of 80 million people. Mubarak’s nine-year long efforts to have his son Gamal succeed him as President struggled. He was now 80 and wanted to retire but the economy of Egypt was in free-fall. The military was solidly aligned against Gamal, a non-military leader bent on economic and free market reforms. That policy change would not set well with a military controlling 40% of Egypt’s businesses. Youth unrest already led to draconian police control under the Interior Ministry of Mahmoud Wagdy. There was also a highly feared cadre of secret police under the control of Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. Together they terrorised most opposition groups and individuals into submission. Indeed after the Revolution demonstrators broke into and took control of the State Security building, Amn Dawla, discovering 6-subterranean levels of interrogation cells. A complacent and powerful military coupled with a brutal police force and an unhappy, poor youth movement comprising 60% of the population, were an explosive mix of ingredients. Revolution in neighbouring Tunisia and the overthrow of their military leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was the ignition fuse. 21
Egypt’s Disgruntled Youth The revolutionary movement grew largely out of anger at a permanent state of emergency law, rampant police abuses, the 30 year Mubarak regime and a 60% unemployment rate across the country. The median age in Egypt is 27, yet a group of elites and military opulently controlled most of the nation’s wealth. More than half the population earns less than $2 per day and the youth were angry, educated, but disorganised. Police emergency law bans made certain they would stay that way. The police were known for arresting people without charge and subjecting them to brutal, torturous interrogations and detentions. According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International more than 18,000 Egyptian youth were held in prisons across the country on trumped up charges. The government banned all political organisations and made it illegal for more than five people to gather anywhere in the country without a government licence. Newspapers were heavily monitored by the Ministry of Information, so most refrained from directly criticising Mubarak. If one looks back just 15-years, there was only one source of information inside the country, Nile (or State) Television. It allowed the Mubarak regime (as well as regimes in Iran, Syria, even North Korea and Burma) to send out their wholly formed story without dissent. Indeed whenever a revolution struck, rebels would head to the State television HQ to broadcast their message/demands. For the most part people knew nothing else. The explosion of satellite television across the Mideast and in Egypt exposed viewers to other points of view around the globe. Suddenly State television had to compete with the uncensored views of CNN, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. As the Internet grew it exposed people to websites and other information. But a computer was too expensive and beyond the reach of many Egyptians. This led to the rise of the social media networks Facebook and Twitter across Egypt. These social media platforms allowed large groups of people to speak freely and they encouraged the users to form groups. That made them irresistible as a platform not only for social interaction but also for dissent. And they were accessible on a cell phone, an essential tool for everyone in the Mideast and the rest of the developing world because it remains far easier to erect a mobile signal tower than to string land-based lines. The protestors used these platforms to great success organising revolution: 22
@GSquare86 Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria...let the revolution drums roll down North Africa !! Down with all dictatorships @Sandmonkey Guys, the egyptian revolution has a Facebook event, so that even the government can participate #KossOmelGhaba @khaledfahmy @Elshaheeed please spread London’s protest on the 25th event: @DJAmenRa RT @GSquare86: we will all take to the streets ... 2011 WILL be different #Jan25 #Egypt
Seeds of Revolution Planted in 2005, 2010: Sham Elections As early as 2002 Mubarak wanted his son Gamal named as his successor. He promoted Gamal to head the NDP’s (National Democratic Party’s) High Council for Policies. That group, mostly made up of business and economic leaders, wanted Egypt to adopt a more free market economic system. Since the military comfortably controlled 40% of all businesses and corruption was rampant, they rejected calls for change. The global economic crash did not spare Egypt. With it Gamal’s free market leadership fate was sealed. It did not help that he was not brought up in the military leadership, rather educated at top Universities around the globe. Finally, Gamal’s grandfather on his mother’s side, Egyptian paediatrician, Saleh Thabet marrying Welsh nurse, Lily May Palmer meant he was not 100% pure Egyptian and, amongst the hardliners, was a further basis for his disqualification as future leader of Egypt: The youth were angered by what they considered the September, 2005 sham landslide re-election of Mubarak to a sixth term after 24-years of rule. The parliamentary “elections” set for November were a source of concern because during the 2000 “election” pro-Mubarak parties gained control of a huge majority of the 444 seats in Parliament. Of note, outside parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, gained 47 or 10% of the seats. In 2005 there was outside pressure from global watchdog groups to stop these essentially 1-party referendums and hold real elections. Gamal Mubarak was tasked with reforming the NDP. Observers wanted the state of emergency laws lifted. Mubarak won 88.5% of the 2005 presidential vote (an election held before the widespread use of social media); however only 25% of the 32 23
million registered to vote cast a ballot for this, his sixth term. So there were 6 million votes cast in a country of 80 million in an election rife with fraud and intimidation. Signs of a populist fissure occurred during the 2005 Parliamentary elections where the NDP won ‘only’ 311 seats. While this was a super majority by any stretch, it was interesting to note that other parties, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, won a surprising 47 seats or a little more than 10%. Not surprisingly, the party was later branded an illegal organisation. Five years later in the 2010 Parliamentary election, opposition parties (including the Muslim Brotherhood) sensed their chance for further gains. They and global observers were angered when ALL but five of their seats reverted firmly back to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) or similarly sympathetic parties giving Mubarak control of a massive 420 of 444 seats and obliterating previous gains by opposition parties. If Mubarak was to stand for re-election in the fall of 2011, it would have been for a seventh 6-year term and there was a risk of further instability, global scrutiny and outside monitoring pressure from the 2010 election result. It brought to mind the famous quote often mis-attributed to Josef Stalin: “The people who cast the votes do not decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” The democracy protestors were outraged and vented their anger on social media platforms: @arabist @DavidKenner Bush administration encouraged electoral fraud in Egypt from the 2nd round of 2005 elections, once MB did well. @xalfeed ‐CSM‐ Egypt election derided as less free than fraudulent 2005 vote: The Egypt election for Parliament today saw... @yamadayosio the 2005 elections were better than the latest ones in Egypt. In 2005, the government couldn't prevent people from voting to the opposition. But by 2010, the whole world was watching the Egyptian elections. In the wake of a brutal police action, the world wanted to see how the vote would be held, would the youth of Egypt be heard and if parties that opposed Hosni Mubarak would really be treated to a fair election. They would not wait very long. The youth movement and others reacted angrily.
@leloveluck Egypt election results are shocking, even given that we knew they'd be neither free nor fair. Seems opposition won only 8 seats out of 518. @TravelSafety #Egypt: Election protests continue ‐ Polling stations, cars set alight. Police fire tear gas at protestors #egyptprotests And the world media and political groups condemned both the sham polling as well as the final result: @HumanSecurityRP #Egypt: Election Fraud Breeds Violent Police‐Protester Clashes Human Security Report Project @TheOval Obama team is 'disappointed' in Egypt elections: The Obama administration is criticizing elections in Egypt @virtualactivism #Egypt's 'election' was pure stagecraft, directed by a dictator #egyelections
Social Media for Revolutionaries In 2008, the youth quietly organised themselves on Facebook into the April 6th movement. Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Salah used the online platform to mobilize support for striking industrial workers from El-Mahalla El-Kubra. They told the Carnegie Institute, “being the first youth movement in Egypt to use Internet-based modes of communication like Facebook and Twitter, we aim to promote democracy by encouraging public involvement in the political process." @DailyNewsEgypt April 6 movement plans demonstration, undergoes training to deal with detention #fb RT @ramyraoof tomorrow @ Cairo, April 6 movement is organizing a March. A network of 27 NGOs & about 50 lawyers are ready to provide @Advox Egypt: Using Online Media & Digital Devices to Release Detainees: Earlier this month, the April 6 Youth Movement... @NohaAtef The April 6th Youth Movement Facebook group has over 80000 members and no leader ... #foreignresearchersknowitall #FB 25
From Facebook they organised demonstrations. These were cat and mouse ‘quick strike’ actions where they would appear, protest and mostly be gone before police could get there. The actions would be filmed and appeared on YouTube where other youth would then post them to their Facebook pages to show unrest across Egypt. Indeed having a cell phone with video capabilities gave one a powerful and unobtrusive means of capturing and quickly uploading film of anything: @monaeltahawy #Egypt #jan25 protests initiated by 2 dissident mvmnts, based online: @Elshaheeed (#KhaledSaid) and #6April youth group
Egypt braced for 'day of revolution' protests While this has been called the Twitter/Facebook Revolution, young Egyptians for years used cell phone videos, pictures, text message services and the Internet to stay one step ahead of the police. When Twitter launched in 2006, Egyptian youth were among its early adaptors. In 2006, James Buck, a photojournalism student at the University of California-Berkeley, specialised in taking crowd photos (now a photojournalist for The Washington Post). He went on his own to Egypt to film youth protests. James was frustrated that he always seemed to arrive at the site of student demonstrations too late to take good photos. He asked his Egyptian friends, “how come you always know where the demonstrations are.” They replied, “We use Twitter.” Buck, from the San Francisco Bay area, where Twitter is headquartered, was surprised he’d never heard of it. He found the site and registered, then used it to learn of demonstrations and from then on he was able to take great photos. Demonstrators knew the Egyptian secret police wear moustaches and at one protest while taking photos, Buck grew very nervous at the growing moustache quotient in the crowd. He had every reason to be: he was grabbed and thrown into the back of a police car. The police though did not take away his cell phone and he Tweeted one word: Arrested. His friends, monitoring his Tweets in California, sprang into action. They knew it was serious and they called the UC-Berkeley Dean. The Dean called a lawyer, the lawyer called the US consulate and three hours later Buck Tweeted one word, “Freed.” Biz Stone, Twitter’s co-founder, said on npr Radio’s Fresh Air programme, that incident made them realise, “this was not just something in the Bay Area for technical geeks to fool around with and find out what 26
each other is up to, but a global communications system that could be used everywhere.” Facebook and Twitter soon became the vehicles of choice for communications. Using the TOR project (a hackers tool for hiding their identity on the Web), tech savvy Egyptian youth could continue their defiance in ‘virtual’ anonymity. As was explained to me by a security techguru friend in Hong Kong, “nobody will touch those networks because every spy agency around the globe uses them to hide their identity while spying:” @Souihli Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. [Barack Obama] @GSquare86 Change in #Egypt won't be written on paper by pretty signatures, but painted by blood of heroes in the streets @mxfanta "The workers of Egypt will unite and will revolt" #EgyWorkers @GSquare86 @MrnSfr oh yesss this will be the poor's revolution and it is coming #egypt @GSquare86 #Jan25 I hope we can get over the logistics and just take to the streets in masses all over #Egypt Facebook was used by youth movements around the Middle East and by looking at the thousands of ‘Likes’ and ‘Hits’ on Facebook pages, they were confident these pages were being noticed. While the seeds of dissent were sown, they would soon become very valuable recruiting tools in the case of Khaled Said. In June of 2010, Khaled Mohamed Said, 26 secretly filmed a group of dirty cops in Alexandria dividing the proceeds of a drug deal. He posted the video on Facebook. What happened next would sow the seeds of revolution across Egypt and the Arab world. Said was approached in an Alexandria Internet cybercafé by members of Mubarak’s secret police. While working on his laptop computer, the police officers grabbed him, scuffled and slammed his head repeatedly into the marble table top when he protested. Other officers beat and punched the young man until he was bruised and bleeding. The cybercafé owner yelled for them to take it outside and they did, dragging him into the building next door where Said’s head was repeatedly smashed into a metal door and brick walls. Witnesses said his body was then tossed into the street. 27
This post-mortem photograph of Said’s badly beaten body was released widely across the Internet on an anonymously created Facebook memorial page stoking anger and outrage amongst Egyptian youth and soon across the world:
@monaeltahawy: Impossible to get picture of Khaled Said's corpse out of my head. What a horrific way to die. #Egypt #humanrights @StopFraud Egyptian police kill whistle‐blower at internet cafe: Khaled Said posted video to the Internet that showed police sharing drug deal profits http://bit.ly/h8eHIP @abo3atef Mourning Khaled Said. Sad and sick brutality by Egyptian police. Where is this country heading to?!!! #Egypt @Nilechatter President Mubarak will u pls also order a fair investigation in Khaled Said's murder,whch wl hv negative repercussions if covered up @Alkomi It's better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees ... Dear brother Khaled Said ... R.I.P No one looking at the photos could reasonably believe, as the government claimed, Said had died choking whilst trying to swallow/conceal a packet of hashish in his jail cell. Numerous eyewitness reports claimed he was dead at the scene. The police forensic reports made no mention of the head and other injuries. The beating death stoked youth anger and outrage across Egypt and young and old defied the government’s ‘no assembly’ law and demanded accountability:
@Ghonim Over 1000 people are protesting now in Alexandria blocking the street ... #KhaledSaid is me, you, and everyone @southsouth Egyptian police killed Khaled Said and are now beating and arresting Egyptians en masse. Follow @3arabaway because CNN only covers Neda. @Ghonim 100s of protestors in Cairo & Alex for #KhaledSaid, over 50 arrested in Cairo & 300+ are marching towards Khaled house in Alex @alhussainym BBC News ‐ The unintended consequences of Facebook ‐ Khaled Said's story is being featured in BBC website @MeeMMaa for me, Man of the year in 2010 in Egypt, is the Admin of Khaled Said page on Facebook, he did a great job! @Zeinobia Khaled Said you may have been killed physically in 2010 but you managed to become one of our greatest icons in 2011 bless you
Diplomatically Cleared but Internally Explosive As Egypt’s rage grew on the streets, the government ordered that Said’s body be exhumed and an autopsy performed by the State Coroner. That momentarily quieted the protests. However, neither the coroner nor the police altered their story of Said’s cause of death. The mainstream media got its first inkling of trouble in Egypt and this story via social media. Facebook and Twitter spread the Said photo virally and many news organisations picked it up. The sham cover-up of the autopsy led other nations to question the government in light of the photographic evidence. Political condemnation of Egypt’s cover-up, while swift, amounted to a rehashing of the previous week’s lede. It ended with a relatively swift diplomatic ‘slap on the wrist’ less than a week later. ‘Strong condemnation’ from the US State Department amounts to mother warning you ‘not to do it again.’ She then goes back to whatever she was doing before. Or as a senior defence analyst said on CNN about whether to invest in deposing the leaders of Libya vs. Bahrain, “we live in the real world, not the world we would like to see” when describing efforts to remove a dictator with past ties to terrorism vs. a strategic Western ally for basing the naval NATO/US fleet in the Gulf. The Mubarak regime was essentially treated diplomatically as if they’d taken an extra cookie. The death of one Egyptian youth by police 29
while abhorrent and regrettable was not of enough strategic import to ratchet the human rights issue higher. As is normally the broader foreign policy case, the US and EU tend to look the other way when their sponsored regimes misbehave since Egypt operates the strategically vital Suez Canal, acts as a buffer for peace with Israel and receives $1.3 billion dollars of US military aid from which it buys more than a billion dollars’ worth of equipment, planes, tanks and armaments. The media posted what would be considered reasonable 1-day stories and the issue for them was finished. That would have ended it too, except 600,000-strong youths visited the anonymously created Facebook page honouring Khaled Said and shared it in complete horror: @AndrewAlbertson US State Dept makes strong statement on Khaled Said: Daily Press Briefing ‐ June 14 ‐ state.gov @_Jpost_ Egyptian café owner: I saw police beat a young man to death: Local authorities claim Khaled Said choked on a joint... Egyptian café owner: I saw police beat a young man to death @royasmusic Yahoo: Khaled Said, 28, Egyptian boy beaten to death by police for posting video online #Egypt @mand0z Khaled Said in German Media: #KhaledSaid Polizeiwillkür in Ägypten: "Hört auf, der Mann stirbt" While the Said story would become an “internal” matter for the Egyptians to address, the youth movement learned a very valuable lesson; how social media tools could be used to send out graphic, incendiary and, ultimately, organising messages quickly and effectively. The Egyptian police response reminded one of the Sean Connery prison van ride in the film Family Business where a young tough challenges and tries to intimidate the older Connery and is roundly pummelled by the older man. The guards look back when it’s over and ask, “What happened?” Everyone in unison replies, “He fell.” Message sent, life continued on as normal. While the Egyptian police got away with it again, Arab youth across the region knew time and technology was shifting to their side: @Ghonim Internet is the only free media in the Arab world. It’s the media that no one controls. Thanks Facebook / YouTube / Twitter! 30
@Ghonim Once again Internet is hijacking the media scene #KhaledSaid public case is driven by young Egyptians online!
Tunisia Awakens in Anger Mohamed Bouazizi, 26 sold fruit illegally from a market cart. His cart was confiscated by government authorities and on December 20th, unable to support his family, he gave up. Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and lit a match while standing in front of a government building in the city of Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia. He picked a very public location for his action, just outside the Governor’s House and another Facebook page sprang up to honour him. This time though, the Tunisian government made the mistake of blocking Internet access to his page: @virtualactivism Sad #Tunisia: Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of govt building to protest confiscation of his fruit stand. Demos on st. in #SidiBouzid @nawaat Picture of Mohamed Bouazizi whose plight triggered mass protest in #Tunisia #sidibouzid http://twitpic.com/3jux1e
@SGardinier Mohamed Bouazizi sold fruit in illegal cart/Arrested/Friday in front of the governor's set himself on fire/Now his comrades in the streets @suehutton Mohamed Bouazizi of Sidi Bouniz, burnt himself to death as he could not support family. Tunisian Gov blocked FB page 31
@samihtoukan Mohamed Bouazizi proved that every person no matter his abilities can change history #sidbouzid @AymanM Rest in Peace Mohamed Bouazizi: the man who may have single handedly brought change to the Arab World. #tunisia #arabfreedom Soon afterwards a Bouazizi Facebook commemorative page appeared as people protested in the streets against police brutality and government indifference to the working poor. The Tunisian government made the fatal mistake of blocking access to that page. The Labour unions then joined the protest and soon there was intense fighting across the inland city of Sidi Bouzid. It soon spread to the capital of Tunis and poor people with nothing to lose… lost their fear. Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was challenged on the streets of Sidi Bouzid and Tunis by crowds angered at the death of Bouazizi. Ben Ali followed the despot’s playbook and tried to crush the resistance by force. In the end 147 Tunisians were killed and more than 500 wounded. It was television pictures of young men stacked in the local morgue like cordwood that was the tipping point for the people. Ben Ali fled the country for Saudi Arabia on January 14th. While there he suffered a massive stroke and remains critically ill. When Ben Ali’s government fell, Bouazizi’s desperate act was embraced by all across the Arab world. Soon demonstrations were seen across Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Iran and Iraq. But the biggest was yet to start: @GSquare86 The Tunisian revolution is being twitterized...history is being written by the people! #sidibouzid #Tunisia @__fury Twitter: Tunisia ‐ Police violently prevent journalists from covering Sidi Bouzid riots @Advox Tunisia apparently taking a lesson from Iran...reports Internet is shut down in #sidibouzid amid protest/clashes with police. @Zeinobia Breaking News: President Ben Ali of Tunisia has been overthrown by the army @Kalboosha @3arabawy @kalimakhus @gSquare86 "Tunisia, the country where a street vendor took down a dictator" #jasminrevolt #sidibouzid @gSquare86 goooose bumps all over ..i can't believe i lived through an arab revolution !! thank you #Tunisia 32
@shadihamid What is there to say? No one saw it coming. Arabs were thought to be passive. But they said enough is enough. @Zeinobia One of the greatest achievements of the Tunisian revolution is that it made us feel for each other as Arabs again. Having seen Tunisia crumple in just 23 days, the Egyptian youth knew their power to organise and mastery of social media would give them an advantage. The Egyptian youth were happy for the Tunisians but angry someone else beat them to the revolutionary dance. Days after Tunisia’s success, their anger was visible online: @GSquare86 we need to stop venting about "poor us" "we the repressed people" ..GO TO THE STREETS don't just write about it! #Egypt @wildebees @GSquare86 I am sorry but NO FUCKIN way!! The solution is revolution in STREETS like TUNIS www.yfrog.com/h5yr9mj Egypt is restless Just as in Tunisia, an unemployed Egyptian man, Ahmed Hashem, set himself on fire in front of an Egyptian government building in Alexandria just four days after Tunisia fell. The organisers seized this moment for planning on Facebook and it was “Game On.” They saw this as their moment to begin preparing a youth response in Egypt. When three more Egyptians set themselves ablaze, including a fired Egypt Air employee, Twitter and Facebook came alive with talk of January 25th and revolution: @GSquare86 if the new trend for triggering a revolution is to set oneself on fire, then i am volunteering! #EgyptianRevolution @Zeinobia 12000 Egyptians have committed suicide in Egypt in the past 4 years because of unemployment @Zeinobia A New Chronicle: Another 3 Egyptians Set Themselves on Fire in the Last 24 hours!! @zeinobia: The Egyptian citizen who set himself on fire in Alexandria has passed away :( May Allah bless his soul @GSquare86 i want #Mubarak to piss his pants now!! RT@mfatta7 An Egypt Air employee attempts self‐immolation after being fired. 33
@monaeltahawy In past 8 days at least 12 #Egyptians set themselves on fire out of desperation: unemployment, poverty, corruption. #Jan25 #Egypt protest. @ielsakka @alaa @GSquare86 The state security orders gas stations to not sell gas in bottles 2anyone.... r they stupid or stupid? Egyptian youth began to organise their January 25th protest. Their hatred for the police ran deep The Khaled Said murder was fresh in their minds as was the blocking of Bouazizi’s page in Tunisia. As word went out on a special Facebook page in Egypt, they immediately got 88,000 positive, “yes I am planning to attend” responses. This was an amazingly powerful bush telegraph at work. With Khaled Said as a rallying cry, preparations were underway, the media were alerted and all they needed was for everyone who said they would be there to show up. And based on past experiences, that was not guaranteed: @onlykhalid (via @TIME) Egyptians, Inspired by Tunisia, Use Facebook to Set Up Protest @nelaontherun TIME.com: 85,000 Facebook users pledge to attend protests tomorrow Jan 25, 2011 in Egypt #tunisia #activism #politics @SheikhAchmed People, it would be practical too if we tweet in English, French and German as well as Arabic to let our voices be heard #Egypt #jan25 @Dima_Khatib Tomorrow: protests are planned in Egypt. We will be using hashtag #jan25 + if you can: #sidibouzid too. @ashraf9999 @GSquare86 @mfatta7 this is too much...and it is not working. Just because it did work in #Tunisia, it does not mean it will work elsewhere
Why January 25th? In 2009, President Mubarak declared January 25th a national holiday to honour the Egyptian Police. In 1952, the monarchy was overthrown by Muhammad Naguib and Gama Abdel Nasser. Naguib served as president for several years before his clashes with Nasser led to his nonviolent coup and house arrest. 34
During this period of instability, Egyptian and British forces clashed over control of the multinational Suez Canal and on January 25th, 40-50 members of the Egyptian police force were killed and several others wounded refusing British demands to leave the Ismailia police station and surrender their weapons. On this day as in the previous two years, the police were being honoured for their valiant stand that day and many planned annual vacations. On the heels of the crisis in Tunisia and as word of the pending youth demonstration for that day spread, holiday leave was cancelled, which put an already easily hair-trigger police force into an unpleasant state of mind: @Ahmadabdallah_R viva #Jan25 no vacation for egyptian police they are gonna celebrate in a whole new way ;) @bloggingegypt Ya shebab, be careful tomorrow. The security will not show mercy. #Jan25 #egypt @yanouz For sure Egyptian police will try to prevent the demonstrations on #Jan25 as Algerian police did today... @NewsTaiwan Egypt warns protestors of arrest: Egyptian activists have called for a mass rally on Tuesday... #Asia #News Egypt warns protestors of arrest Al Jazeera English ‐ aljazeera.net And forget being read one’s Miranda rights. It was the Egyptian secret police the CIA chose as their special rendition partners for extraordinary, high value terrorism suspects. Police torture was a hallmark of nearly every Middle Eastern strongman’s control machine. In 2003, I marched with a group of US expats in support of Iraqi men and women in Amsterdam against the pending US invasion. They spoke of how they, their wives and even children were subjected to torture by Saddam Hussein’s police. Abject terror is how police maintain tight control. The Egyptian youth hated the secret police and blamed them for the death of Khaled Said. Their tactics of beatings, torture, murder, sensory deprivation and leaving prisoners naked for hours in cells were long documented, feared and appeared on YouTube videos. What better way to send a message to a nervous Mubarak than massive protests on this special police holiday less than two weeks after Ben Ali was overthrown in Tunisia?
The police were notorious for their harassing treatment of women demonstrators. Journalist Mona Eltahawy warned women protestors, of which there were expected to be many, of their tactics: @monaeltahawy Shame on #Mubarak & security thugs. #Egyptian women&men 2gether will liberate #Egypt, protest 2gether as did vs #British occupation #Jan25 @monaeltahawy #Egypt riot police&hired thugs r experts at sexually assaulting women protestors to discourage, shame. Fuck the security thugs #Jan25 @monaeltahawy #Egypt security forces have ripped off women's clothes at protests, groped them, simulated rape. #Jan25 protests coincide w Police Day @monaeltahawy Wear 2 layers, avoid clothes w/zippers, carry small spraycan, keep male protestors between u & riot police, @etharkamal advice for #Jan25 @alaa some company u'd enjoy if u get arrested. annoying ppl are orders of magnitude more so under stress The Mubarak Government, sensing demonstrations could grow beyond their ability to control them, began issuing pointed warnings against the protestors telling them to remain in their homes and urging businesses to close on the 25th. They also warned of traffic difficulties and road closures: @SandraToutoungi Egyptians in El Mahalla governorate say national security closed off the city 2 prohibit anyone leaving/coming in fear of #Jan25 protests @monaeltahawy #Egypt civil servants warned will lose their jobs if they take part in#Jan25 nationwide protests ... #jan25 via @mar3e @ayaelb My DPA story: Govt. warns activists agst planned #Egypt protest. Police "will deal firmly, decisively" with unauthorized protests #Jan25 @RamyRaoof government officials in #Egypt ask people to close their shops on #Jan25 due to riots that might take place @JanoCharbel Musicians protest outside Journalists' Syndicate & some 100 employees from gas companies protesting outside Ministry of Energy 36
@LaurenBohn All my cab‐drivers today said they have no plans re: #Jan25; 3 of 4, though, made same throat slash gesture to describe current frustrations
The Most Hated and Feared Man in Egypt Although Hosni al Mubarak was now the most loathed man in Egypt, it was not always the case. Mubarak and his generals were a calming influence after Sadat’s murder and they kept the often frosty peace deal with Israel as both countries needed the relative calm. Mubarak and his generals were beneficiaries of US largesse for maintaining peace along Israel’s border and keeping the Suez Canal open. Many Egyptian Officers, including General Tantawi, current leader of the military and de facto President, trained alongside US Officers in the Pentagon and built the best military force in the Middle East outside of Israel. Mubarak enjoyed a benign public image for years in a mostly quiet nation of 80 million people. Indeed, Egypt was considered a ‘model’ Arab state. Its main problem was a brutal and, at times, seemingly out-ofcontrol internal police force. As the economy worsened and the police grew more uncontrollable, the blame flowed upward to Mubarak, Intelligence Chief Suleiman and Interior Minister Wagdy. After a long period of control, most rulers fall out of favour. But heavy handed dictatorial leaders like Mubarak, Tunisia’s – Ben Ali, Libya’s – Qaddafi and Iran’s – Khamenei were in trouble across the region. Many commentators argued that the revolution would not have been possible if Iraq’s Hussein were still in power. After the fall of Ben Ali, the Egyptian public and entire Arab region were growing weary of heavy-handed rulers: @GSquare86 Arab dictators, one by one all must go! http://plixi.com/p/71541268
@donnachadelong you're missing a few, no members of the House of Saud, no Kuwaiti royals, no Iranian clerics... @Hossam31 #jan25 only a start we are going to open the locking doors by more knocking we will get ourselves free @GSquare86 I dream of a day like this in #Egypt #Tunisia YouTube ‐ Tunisian police join protestors ‐ youtube.com When word leaked on Facebook that a huge demonstration was being planned for January 25th, Egyptian expats around the world planned sympathy demonstrations for their brothers and sisters in Cairo directly outside Egyptian Embassies around the globe: @monaeltahawy Showing solidarity in the #UK RT @abdullahali7 #Egyptians in #London have a protest tomorrow outside the embassy at 3.30pm #Jan25 @Elshaheeed Egyptians in #Kuwait permitted to #protests in front of #Egypt Embassy on #Jan25 at 4 pm. #Mubarak @melbakry Egyptians will Protest in Toronto on 25th at Mississauga City Hall against injustice evrywhr (via @FarahFilasteen) @Nzraub Egyptians in Paris are doing in demonstration tomorrow 25 JAN at 5 PM at Saint Michel space #Egypt #jan25
The Egyptian people had a reputation for passivity and indeed the history of elaborately planned actions was not good across the Middle East. This rally would be a test of their will and social media’s ability to gather a crowd. Organisers publicly worried about all of the social media chatter and if anyone would show up. Too, late night Twitter chatter focused on turnout, security, safety and some gallows humour. @Hawary #Jan25 People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people... @GSquare86 I am not comfortable with all this talk on #jan25 on social networks, it better show on the streets..I will be there, will u? @aishadep Old activists used to say that planned protests don't happen. I hope they're wrong. #egypt #revolution #jan25 @MGhazala @JulianAssange Don't you have any documents to leak about Egypt's revolution tomorrow?? #jan25 #freeEgypt @theriverfed Fantastic organisation for #Jan25 #Egypt protests. From ensuring tweets will have necessary details to having lawyers ready for arrests. @wnawara activists are going around speaking to the people &handing out leaflets to encourage them to take to the street on Tuesday #Jan25 @mrokela #25January we must all pray for egypt for change we need, iam afraid 25 January is a vain hope. @Elshaheeed We should all use one hashtag for our talk about the Revolution of the Egyptian Youth, I suggest #OneEgypt. #Egypt #Mubarak @dubaijazz #Jan25 is a hashtag you should be watching this week. @ayman_osman Latuff makes it again! RT @CarlosLatuff (Cartoon for @ElShaheeed) Wake up #Egypt! #Jan25 @yahyaXO tomorrow Im going to takeoff the ugly old man from his palace #jan25 The students realised in the tradition of Ghandi, Dr. King and Mandela the protest would need to be completely non-violent. Organisers with large Twitter followings urged, in Tweet after Tweet, a strict 39
adherence to non-violent measures at all times, even if provoked by the police. As they had seen before the police never needed a reason to attack the students and so they prepared their plan to bring multiple protests together. The destination was unsure but this would be a game of youth taking the high road and demonstrators and police playing cat and mouse. The youth though clearly stated their non-violent intention: @monaeltahawy The camera is my weapon: ...#Egyptians encouraged to bring cameras to #Jan25 protest YouTube ‐ The camera is my weapon @MinaNaguib90 For all the people participating on #Jan25 please DO NOT USE VIOLENCE we should appear as a CIVILIZED nation #Egypt @ElBaradei Fully support call 4 peaceful demonstrations vs. repression & corruption. When our demands for change fall on deaf ears what options remain? Reply to Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei @demaghmak @ElBaradei Are u going to join us in the streets or you just supporting on twitter #Egypt #Jan25? @AzizaSami For giving voice to those who are the future of Egypt, I nominate @Elshaheeed for the #amnesty award, the #Nobel, #Khaledsaeed
Late Monday Night The youth movement masterfully used social media to circulate blogs, updates, Facebook pages and Tweets. As midnight reached Cairo, a buzz of anticipation built. The morning of January 25th was just a few short hours away: @mhendawy90 its now 00:00 25th of Jan 2011 by Cairo local time #Egypt #Jan25 @AzizaSami If revolutions are a state of mind then in Egypt, the Revolution has come #Jan25 #revolution #Sidibouzeid @FromJoanne #jan25 protests Kick Ass! Go for it #Egypt! The eyes of the world are watching now @amnesty #Jan25 demonstrations to mark new direction for #Egypt? 40
It was very difficult night for families across Egypt. Parents, many of whom had 1st hand experience of beatings and problems with the secret police, knew what lay ahead and fought with their children demanding they stay home and safe: @3effat Almost everyone I know participating tomorrow are spending the night fighting and arguing with their parents over it #jan25 @NermineAhmed #Jan25 is the for day change, my mum won't allow me go today so I'm asking whoever is going to take my soul for a freedom breath @fhilal I am both afraid and excited for tomorrow #jan25 God bless Egypt!! @Ghonim Despite all the warnings I got from my relative and friends, I'll be there on #Jan25 protests. Anyone going to be in Gam'et Dewal protest? @Ghonim I made my final decision. I'll attend #Jan25 Protest. @m7abib @Ghonim can't imagine them arresting Google’s head of marketing ya Wael :)) (Prophetic Tweet as he was later arrested and held for 12 days in a darkened cell) A problem though with so many excited people using social media as a primary communication tool was ensuring disciplined message control. Because it is such an immediate medium, people tended to act on a rumour or tips without realising how powerful it was. In the early days of the crisis, many latched on to fast-moving rumours as truth, most of which ended up being quickly debunked. For example, most ignored this premature Tweet the night before as a clarification shortly followed. The World Economic Forum was underway in Davos, Switzerland. @elazab83 SMS Unconfirmed: a number of private jets carrying businessmen, top officials and their families have left cairo this evening. #jan25. @MinaNaguib90 Knew from a good source most of the ministers went to switzerland on egyptair today for the conference #egypt will be empty on #jan25 41
Throughout the 18 days, rumours appeared, were given life and created confusion. Some commentators wondered if social media, instead of being an organising tool for the youth, was perhaps also tipping off the police? Some of it was planned misdirection by Egyptian authorities but the organisers were mostly able to cut through the chatter and used words such as ‘unconfirmed’ or ‘checking’ in their Tweets. As a communications vehicle, people were disciplining themselves out of necessity and survival seeking multiple confirmations or credible sources before running with ANY story. Throughout the timeline, a sense of journalistic discipline appeared amongst those in the Square. They wanted to make sure they got the story right the first time. But on this night before, most of the reaction was anger towards Mubarak and respect for all those finally standing up to a corrupt power that had controlled their lives for years. @RamyRaoof Dear Friends, in case if u don't know, tomorrow #Jan25 demonstrations will take place in #Egypt against unemployment, corruption & torture @Smallytn Dear Egyptian brothers the most important thing in your #jan25 revolt is to break the fear wall after that its just a matter of time #egypt @KhaledEibid January 25 is OUR DAY Egypt #Jan25 #Egypt The Internet was filled with talk of freedom. The police monitored everything they said in silence. Neither side knew what the other had in store for the next morning, but most were certain the police would follow their traditional ‘show of force’ game plan. Egypt was beginning to simmer.
DAY 1 The Day of Rage Tuesday, January 25th Tweet of the Day: @Salamander Just left Tahrir Square. Tear gas being bombe and all mobile lines not working mostly #jan25
Tuesday Morning – From Planning to Execution After weeks (for some a lifetime) of planning, Tuesday morning dawned with a mixture of excitement and trepidation for all sides. No one, least of all the protestors, knew what would await them in terms of a police response or how many would show up to their now well-publicised act of defiance. The January 25th protest date was beginning to appear on the global media’s radar screen. Several news stories linked it to the general uprising in Tunisia and broader unrest in states throughout the region. Very few talked about the history of youth unrest or Khalid Said. Most were looking at geopolitical dominos falling throughout the region, so the media coverage essentially treated it as a 1-day phenomenon. The demonstration was advertised as the ‘day of rage’ but it began as a ‘day of confusion.’ The previous evening’s words of encouragement from excited well-wishers quickly gave way to logistical chatter across the city as tweets (and photos) more resembled demonstrator’s police/traffic reports. Although Twitter only allows a maximum of 140 characters at a time in any message, it was eerily reminiscent of listening to the rapid fire radio updates in Washington DC by WTOP’s Bob Marburg telling commuters in Northern Virginia of a breakdown on the Anacostia freeway.
@gharbeia Police on every street entrance in Garden City, also in front of Parliament. @Salamander Fire engine in Tahrir Square #jan25 @Salamander Bab el louk side roads are blocked and people asked to go into buildings #jan25 @Khaledtron @Salamander Please keep them tweets coming in, it's great that you're at the scene. Thank you. @Salamander Entrance to nobar st from tahrir st blocked #jan25 @Salamander Abdeen Square blocked and anti‐riot trucks inside with 2 fire engines #jan25 @Salamander Crossroad mohamed fareed with mohamed mahmoud downtown #jan25
@Salamander On mohamed mahmoud st side roads are blocked with police on the left side walking towards tahrir sq #jan25 @Salamander Police blocking abdel mugged remaly st in bab ellouk #jan25 @Salamander Three trucks amn markazy in front of greek campus auc downtown #jan25 @WilYaWil Get your police forecast from @Salamander It raining csf trucks in downtown at the moment #Jan25 #Egypt @Amiralx Egypt police prepare for "Day of Wrath" protest #Jan25 @adamakary reports that ppl have already started protesting down dar es sallam st, shouting long live egypt, freedom and bread for all egyptians #jan25
Staying One Step Ahead – Twitter as GPS As the morning unfolded, key Tweeters joined a network alerting those headed towards protests across Cairo of the location of police to resist and avoid being ‘kettled’ into a closed or confined area. Also there was a fairly coherent plan at misdirection via Twitter. They protested against the police for years. What better way to thwart police eavesdropping than to send them down the wrong streets. Many times throughout that first day of protest the Tweets indicated the youth were moving towards various bridges. It became clear following the timeline that many police bought the bait as the bridges were fortified but the youth headed to another location. UK Police are expert at closing streets and funnelling demonstrators into a sealed area or ‘kettle’ where they can do limited harm to themselves and property. When students in London protested Parliament’s vote to raise tuition fees, they were mostly expertly “kettled” onto a bridge over the Thames (with the exception of a small breakaway group that attacked Prince Charles and Lady Camilla’s car). In the recent uprising to propose government cuts, more than 500,000 people were in London and having been kettled before, UK students used social media, cell phones, Google Maps and GPS programmes to warn other demonstrators and help them manoeuvre around the blockades. 45
The same was happening in Egypt. Police presence was set up in formation on key streets and the youth just used other means of entry, alerting each other to police locations along this bush telegraph. They also began what would become a brutal crackdown and treatment of working journalists trying to cover the story, often seizing phones, cameras and voice recording devices to keep the story from getting out: @Linaattalah #police taking away IDs of Journalists in Mahalla #25Jan @ianinegypt Wow, downtown Cairo is on lock down. Riot police are everywhere, guarding every street. Will today be battle on the Nile? #egypt. @shmpOngO #Alexandria, #egypt alex started protesting in Alaskandrany street around hundred citizen heading to Alrassaf #jan25(v) @25egypt#jan25 @MarquardtA Paddywagons around Supreme Court, riot police outside lawyers syndicate. Quiet so far, waiting for things to start. #Jan25 #Egypt @monaeltahawy #Mubarak has filled #Egypt streets with his police to beat and arrest #Jan25 protestors. Police protect the dictator not the people. @BikyaMasr Egypt: Interior Ministry promises to crack down on Tuesday's protests. @monaeltahawy If u doubted #Mubarak's #Egypt is a #police state, watch as he locks down cities with security thugs to beat #Jan25 protests. Mubarak Out! Two key logistical players in Cairo were the blogger Mahmoud Salem aka The Sandmonkey and his partner @sarahngb. Together with @Salamander they expertly shared information with protestors: @Sarahngb @Sandmonkey i'm charging batteries. I need an hour kida. is that ok? @Salamander Security is not stopping pedestrians. I saw one of them dog trainers #jan25 @Sandmonkey Shower, Cargo pants, Hoodie, running shoes, phone charged, cash, ID, cigs (for jail) and some mace just in case. Am ready! #jan25 @monaeltahawy @Sandmonkey Are you tweeting from the protests? 46
@autobees @Salamander Thanks for the updates. Hopefully going to the LDN protest after work. Will be interesting to see live parallels of events! @Sandmonkey Guys, FYI, things will get violent. This will not end up being peaceful on their side. Remember: There is no shame in running. #justsaying @joshmull @Sandmonkey Be careful and stay safe (as possible)! @Novinha56 Right @Sandmonkey Be careful. I am really worried for all of you. And also happy to see your determination. @Linaattalah Plenty of #police trucks on the entrance to Garden City next to US embassy #Jan25 #egypt @Sandmonkey Let's go play with the Police :) Across Cairo, people used social media, cell phone cameras and text messages to avoid police in riot gear. Too, side streets, gardens, walkthrough buildings and alley spaces are less grid-like than in many major cities allowing for multiple escape routes and ways around potential police hotspots. It allowed demonstrators to speak with and gather up other marchers across the densely populated city of 7 million plus. Add in the 10 million or so in the outlying areas and greater Cairo was one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Alexandria, also densely populated, was limited by its proximity to the sea, making it easier for the police to defend with such a natural barrier. Cairo’s bridges on the other hand provided opportunity for the police to erect blockades to prevent movement into the city but there were too many. What was great about the next series of Tweets was the eyewitness nature of them. People in Cairo would recognise those cordons and immediately look for an alternative route. This was as good as having sensors in the roadway and computerised traffic maps showing where traffic slows. They served to bring even more people out onto the streets. It was a case where the demonstrators may not know what the police planned but knew they outnumbered their opponents and where the safe areas were: @Linaattalah A #protest started in Moharram Bek marching to el‐Rasafa street, according to @JanoCharbel #jan25 @Sandmonkey Back tomohandeseen. 12CS cars next to sphinx. Total between 18 and 20. #jan25 47
@Sarahngb @Sandmonkey let me know you're ok. haven't heard anything from you since you left After years of protests and travelling surreptitiously along the narrow backstreets and alleys of Cairo, Mahmoud knew expertly how to avoid being corralled on the streets by the secret police. Their conversation seemed benign enough, but the mood on the street was changing as more and more people filled the streets and arrests and crackdowns on protestor organising hotspots began: @Sandmonkey Pudgy plainclothed policemen populating cilantro gam3et eldowal. My guess is closed upper floor is occupied by them @Sandmonkey @Sarahngb At least 8 CS trucks infront of Mostafa Mahmood mosque #Jan25. ALOT of Policemen" @mikestuchbery Seems as if something's about to go down in #Cairo. Riot police everywhere, youth gathering ... #Jan25 #Egypt @Sandmonkey Police just arrested everyone in cilantro (coffee shop). Took their ids and phone. We barely got out." #jan25 (In #Cairo) As the level of confusion grew, the evidence was growing that the police were using fake twitter IDs and misdirection to try and corral and get the protestors where they wanted them: @Salamander Security surround protestors in Cairo and Asuit #jan25 via front to defend Egypt protestors @RamyRaoof @Sandmonkey More police trucks at mostafa mahmoud. People almost nonexistant. #jan25 @NevineZaki @Sandmonkey because gam3et el dowal is one of the fake locations @Sandmonkey Heading to downtown
@Salamander Image from Qena #jan25 @Sandmonkey Huge demo going to tahrir #jan25 shit just got real
Tuesday Afternoon As morning turned to afternoon the demonstrators began to get their arms around the police response. It was clear there was a large police presence, but there were even more protestors. Just as the tide cannot be stopped entering a harbour or covering a beach, the tide of humanity could be slowed but not halted. Word was spreading across social media that everyone needed to be a part of this demonstration. The man in the tweet below was no youngster and yet there he stood in front of a column of advancing police with a flag saying Kefya, “enough”: @exiledsurfer turning out to be the iconic retweeted image for the day of #jan25 protests in #egypt his flag say “enough” 49
http://twitter.com/RawyaRageh @RawyaRageh Early indications show numbers much larger than limited protests in Egypt over past 2 year #Egypt #Jan25 @Sandmonkey Security everywhere #Jan25 It was still a relatively peaceful day. There were large numbers of police massing on streets but photos were leaking out on the Web. If you knew where the police were waiting, you could work around them: @Salamander Thousands marching under galaa bridge chanting via @malek #jan25 @Farah_Montasser Stop being passive and let's help those out there by joining them on the streets...Make the change #Egypt #Jan25 Even though Egypt is a mix of mostly Muslim and Coptic Christians, Muslims account for only 15-20% of the population. This mixture keeps the radical level of religious fanaticism down as the two religions have lived peacefully side by side for centuries. One of the more iconic images of later of later days was how the Christians banded together to protect Muslims in prayer and vice versa:
@awizahwa And join in! @Salamander If you are in a cab or speaking with people in the st tell them to break the barriers of fear #jan25 While the night before was spent arguing in many households about whether or not their children would be allowed to go, as the day moved into mid-afternoon, entire families came to the rallies together. Young and old were protesting the regime of Hosni Mubarak. That had to be disconcerting to the regime. They counted on what Richard Nixon referred to as “the great silent majority” to let the kids make some noise then return to passive normalcy. That so many older men and women had reached the point of ‘enough’ was more than they expected and a sign of things to come. RT @Linaattalah Police freaks out and deploys in Kasr Aini after passersby join protestors @Sandmonkey The families went down with the protestors. This isn't just young people. Unprecedented #jan25 @Linaattalah Families join from nearby Mounira and police stops them @tomgara Something extremely awesome about watching the #Jan25protests in Egypt via livestream from a guy's phone 51
@zangabeel Now, i really BELIEVE it. The #Revolution will NOT be Televised It will be live on witter #Jan25 #Egypt Knowing the police were monitoring his every Tweet, the question is was this the moment @Salamander and @Sandmonkey decided to “play” with the police and send deliberate misinformation. There was a flurry of Tweets from them with the crowd moving in many different directions at once. What was real and what was misdirection and how did the demonstrators know?: @Sandmonkey Demo heading towards arab league and corniche #jan25 #Cairo @Sandmonkey Demo heading to qasrelnil bridge. Security there awaitin them. Police officer told me to walk if I wanna go to zamalek #jan25 @spotonpr #Cairo pic via @Sandmonkey @LaurenBohn And the clashes begin. Just got knocked over. @Salamander Tahrir Square blocked @Sandmonkey We r seperated from the demo. Heading to HQ at hesham mubarak #jan25 @Salamander For those who want to join the nahya protest enter through the mazla2an of bus stop boulaq #jan25 @mand0z Bambuser blocked in Egypt! People coordinating the marches should have a backup plan in place in case communication goes down #jan25 What tipped me off to the elaborateness of their planning were the many tweets that evening, especially the picture of the Hawaii 5-0 style speedboat whisking @Sandmonkey away along the Nile River. They deliberately wanted the police to think they were headed anywhere but towards Tahrir (Liberation) Square. The poor police dispatcher must have been reading these Tweets and sending the police almost Keystone Cops-like every which way they could! @Sandmonkey The boat we used to circumvent the blockades. When the streets r blocked, use the nile #jan25
@ShereefAbbas @Sandmonkey a7aaa, that is just fucking awesome. good for you guys :))) The police were a proud lot and this level of seeming mockery of their authority had a backlash. What they did not count on was the sheer size and numbers of people coming out demonstrating against the Mubarak regime. They began to lose their discipline and charged haphazardly into crowds. This scattered both crowds and police and made their real target, Tahrir Square, much more obtainable because like pulling the plug in a bathtub, the water was flowing where it wanted, towards the drain: @Sandmonkey Security tried to storm protestors. Failed. Regrouping #jan25 @Salamander Security attacking nahya protest #jan25 @Salamander Protestors broke nahya security cordon #jan25 @Alshaheeed Very large crowd in Mohandesin Police cordon is broken and police is now surrounded by protestors for first time in Egypt's history #jan25 @cairoinformer #Cairo Egypt protestors break through police barriers – AFP @monaeltahawy I love how smaller Cairo protests are heading towards each other to join forces. #jan25 Knowing of successes via Twitter, the number of protestors continued to swell throughout the day. As we approached 3:00 pm huge crowds approached the Square from all sides: 53
@alshaheeed If you are in Cairo and you were waiting for something to happen to go to the protest. It's real. Time to go #jan25 Egypt @Tharwacolamus @griffinworks_3 # of protestors in Cairo may be around 100000 now spread in diff neighbourhoods #jan25 @Salamander The chants are filling down town #jan25 And the real objective becomes clear, Tahrir (Liberation Square). The police also by now have figured out the misdirection and head towards the Square: @Linaattalah Kasr Aini taken over by protestors from Tahrir #jan25tear gas threats thousands @Salamander The march from Mohandessin reached Tahrir Square and a fire engine passed spraying water on protestors and left #jan25 @Salamander nearly 1000 protestors in Mohamed Aly Street and security blocking roads leading to Tahrir sq #jan25 @Sandmonkey Almost succeeded alongside @Sarahcarr to break the cordon. People were using mas a battering ram. Police kept hitting. De7k. #jan25 @bencnn Demonstrations all over Egypt Police seem unsure of how to react. I've seen that look before. Can you say ‘Tunisami?' #jan25 The government tried to dismiss them as misguided youth but the demographics of all crowd shots show a broadly mixed crowd of young and old. Much like the legendary Pied Piper (without the drowning of the children), this movement acted like a vacuum cleaner, literally growing as it made its way down every street leading into the Square. Even though they were being dismissed, the government was doing everything it could to change the message or block it completely. State run Nile-TV ignored the demonstration. More ominously, Mubarak’s electronics team was hard at work trying to stop the growing, uncontrollable Internet chatter: @elotoulemonde Egypt's Interior Minister had warned that protestors'll be detained, describing them as "a bunch of incognizant, ineffective young people. 54
@monaeltahawy It's HUGE to have 1000s protesting across #jan25 Biggest demo I ever attended Cairo post‐pre elections in 2005 @marmite_news Police begin to crackdown on Day of Anger protestors...#Jan25 #CollectiveDay #Egypt via @AlMasryAlYoum_E @hadeelalsh Protestors hurl rocks and drag metal barricades #jan25 @bencnn I see there have been many arrests, and clashes elsewhere. What I saw was biggest protest since 2003 anti‐Iraq war demos. #jan25 @UniqueDF @bbcarabic Violent clashes between demonstrators and security in Tahrir Square EGYPT @ianinegypt Police beating protestors, protestors respond with rocks. #jan25 @Dima_Khatib Water cannons are reported to be used right now to disperse protests in front of parliament in Cairo #jan25 reported by @waelabbas @gatesdawn Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the streets of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak called for withdrawal we are powerful. #Egypt #MidEast And despite all of this action on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria (it was nearing both 5 pm and sunset), crowds were growing yet there was still very little to no coverage of the crowds or the demonstrations from the mainstream media: @gyonis Nothing on TV about #jan25 not even the Egyptian TV channels. If it wasn't for Twitter, we probably would never know. #Egypt #Media @BiancaJagger Egypt protestors break through police barriers, Egypt General News ‐ Maktoob News @rubadubadu At a time when #Egypt should be getting all the attention, it's unfortunate that sectarians in #Lebanon are stealing the show. #jan25 @HamzehN Is Al‐Jazeera cross eyed? They are talking about inflation in #Jo when all hell is breaking loose in Egypt. #Jan25 #WTF
@amitkumar79 @ndtv @bdutt @nidhindtv twitter is full of rumours on Egypt. Do you guys have any agency reports on this? Then the first of what would become many attacks on journalists covering this event was recorded. Lina Attalah, the managing editor of Al Masry Al Youm, Egypt’s main independent daily newspaper, was beaten by police and her credentials, camera and phones were confiscated. She would be the first of 45 journalists attacked during the protests: @Salamander journalist @Linaattalah was attacked, beaten, broke her eyeglasses. Her camera and two phones were confiscated. In Kasr Aini St #jan25 @MiranianDilemma Tear gas and arrests ensue, journalist @Linaattalah attacked, Shubra protest broken up... it's not ending now is it?#jan25 @naglarzk can't explain how i feel about bastards aka #egypt police beating up my dear friend @linaattalah #jan25 just spoke to her That would have been bad enough but moments later Sandmonkey let those in Tahrir Square overhear this conversation: @Sandmonkey Police officer speaking on cell phone: "eiwa ya basha, the gas is on the way". Teargas is coming. #jan25 @Sandmonkey: When confronting him, he said that so far they r being peaceful, but will have to resort to violence soon. #jan25 @iTwitius Cairo. Seen dozens more fully kitted (outfitted) riot cops running to reinforce between sq and int ministry. As the gas began to spread across the Square, the Internet reverted to its do-it-yourself practical tips on how to survive: @1stAid4 #Egypt #FirstAid #TearGas Clothes – Use gloves or sticks 2 pick‐up clothes & place in a sealed plastic bag for disposal. 56
@lady_jail #TearGas Eyes– Eyeglasses should be washed with soap and water before putting them back on #Egypt @lady_jail #TearGas Lungs – Medications4treating asthma such as bronchodilators &steroids may help ease breathing. #hmrd #Egypt And the level of frustration and anger grew as the media seemed to be deliberately ignoring events on the ground in Cairo: @weddady URGENT: REQUEST to ALL EUROPE & US tweeps on #jan25 PLEASE ASK YOUR MEDIA TO COVER #Egypt NOW @LaurenBohn Text from 18‐year‐old protestor I met today in Tahrir: "Is America watching us?” #jan25 @blakehounshell Al Jazeera Arabic channel's lack of coverage of Egypt is stunning, suspicious @Elazul Please join me in giving the major news networks a big middle finger for ignoring egypt.Yel3an el gabo abouko @bencnn Atmosphere in Tahrir upbeat, everyone‐‐ protestors, press, passersby all stunned at how big #jan25 has become. #Egypt #Tunisia But nothing stopped the torrent of protestors flowing into Tahrir Square: @monaeltahawy Never seen anything like it @norashalaby Tahrir (downtown #Cairo) overrun by protestors #jan25 @Sandmonkey Headin to 6 october#jab25 @Linaattalah Protestors spreading on Kasr Aini. They are all over now. Stones throwing. #jan25 @Sandmonkey We r taking over the bridge. The bridge is ours. #jan25 @Sandmonkey we r in tahrir. At least 7 thousand. Tahrir is ours. #jan25 @ZeeRules The barrier of fear is 57
broken! #jan25 @conorjrogers Nothing makes me appreciate freedom more than watching people fight for theirs in the street. Go Egypt, go. #jan25 As the crowds grew they continued to communicate with each other until the electronic jamming systems began to work. Suddenly the protestors were in the Square without access to Twitter and Vodafone and Mobinil networks went down: @itsBuddhaBlaze Egypt has blocked twitter? You cant block what people want in masses? Its called democracy! @Salamander Can't access twitter from my laptop @Bint_Sultan Twitter from web is blocked in Egypt today. Still working from my BB though @waelabbas urgent: twitter is now blocked in egypt on all networks !!! @Alshaheeed Only things that are working now in Egypt are Emails and Facebook. @fouad_marei via @Salamander #Egypt #Mobinil suspends mobile coverage service for subscribers in Tahrir Square, helps censor protest #jan25 @VodafoneEgypt We didn't block it's a problem all over Egypt and we are waiting for a solution. @brian_sack "Err... Nothing to see here!" say Egypt authorities, as they rush to unplug Twitter and block websites. #jan25 The youth though had a number of supporters around the globe working to help them communicate via whatever methods they could, including a reference to the TOR Project network, a solution that helps everyone remain invisible on the Web. They would be aided by a series of hackers who would unleash cyber-attacks on the Egyptian government’s infrastructure. The roots of revolution amongst the youth ran deep and presented technological challenges to the police force: @Salamander The three hotlines of the front to defend egyptian protestors have been disconnected #jan25 @RamyRaoof new hotline numbers for legal aid and requesting lawyers: 0105274780 ‐ 0103561524 ‐ 0124326553. please circulate. #jan25 58
@ehsankooheji Smamove by #jan25 protestors, venues announced were fake. Using social media now to divert. Police in wrong areas, slow to follow @litfreak Friends: Is Facebook still accessible in #Egypt? Would it help to post links on how to bypass Twitter block on there for ppl to see? #jan25 @MartijnLinssen Cairo should be trending now, at 25 tpm ‐ teargas, grenades, mobile networks being cut off #revolt @Alshaheeed Plz RT: International hackers have just contacted me saying they will start attacks on Egyptian government websites response #jan25 @GalalAly using torproject.org to access twitter from #Egypt#jan25// Gotta Love TOR! @monakareem Ok, Screw the internet, Guevara & Gandhi didn't have twitter accounts, Viva La Revolucion #Egypt Shortly afterwards, in the gathering dark, the international media began to cover the growing story of the Egyptian protests in the Square. Wall-to-wall coverage was still days away but Egypt was now on the radar screen of several international news outlets, such as CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera: @DaleFranks The protests in Tunisia have spread to Egypt. Maybe the people in Arab states are getting tired of dictators. Maybe. @termitsantral BBC News ‐ Egypt activists begin Tunisia‐ inspired 'day of revolt' ‐ @pelevin Twitter Is Blocked In Egypt Amidst Rising Protests ... via @techcrunch @BiancaJagger Al Jazeera now leading its news headlines with #Egypt Tens of Thousands protest in the streets @vegasbobman66 @cnnbrk Thousands protesting corruption take to streets in #Egypt; Only a matter of time HERE. US Govt=Corrupt @Tharwacolamus Thousands protest in #Egypt‐ CNN.com | ... Finally CNN speaks #jan25#sidibouzid @Monabdelaziz CNN and Al Arabiya Live now about #Egypt protests #jan25 Nothing in Egyptian channels. 59
The coverage gave those in the Square a much needed lift: @shmpOngO We r revoooooolting hear us worrrrrrld #jan25 @Ghafari crowd definitely in the thousands on this is just ONE of the #jan25 in #Cairo in #Egypt marches
@saudkw Pictures of Hosni Mubarak have been torn down in public. 100+ arrested. 3 Major news channels prevented from covering #jan25 What was striking was the sense of humour amongst the demonstrators. Any bit of news was cause for a rapier-like reply: @science Egypt formally demands Germany return 3300‐ year‐old bust of Queen Nefertiti. @surfcities Germany tells Egypt that they'll return Queen Nefertiti, just as soon as Egypt sends rep of the Queen's gov 2 come & get it (news.yahoo.com) But the stakes continued to rise. Live ammunition was being used in Alexandria: @Sandmonkey Rubber bullets and teargas in tahreer and crowds are getting bigger #jan25 @Salamander Just left tahrir Square. Tear gas being bombed and all mobile lines not working mostly #jan25 60
@Alshaheeed Police in Alexandria Egypt open fire on protestors. Live ammunition. Our correspondent has been hit with a bullet in his head. #jan25 @Elazul Confirmed: Live ammunition used in Alexandria and several other cities sans Cairo. #jan25 @izzy82 Reports of Security forces in Alexandria joining protestors and removing uniform despite orders to shoot @cnn @BBC @AJELive #jan25 @Alshaheeed Alexandria now Some ladies are throwing glasses and cooking pans from their home balconies on the police in the streets #Jan25 @izzy82 Reports of 2 deaths in Alexandria as forces use live bullets and tear gas #jan25 @Omar_Gaza The situation in Egypt is getting critical! Many dangerous confrontation & no 1 is holding back! many serious injuries also! Support Egyptians!
Overnight in Tahrir Square @monaeltahawy What brought out thousands 2 #jan25 protests? Poverty Unemployment repression torture, police brutality, misery of 29yrs of #Mubarak @MohamedHanafi Freedom is what we're seeking. It's what we deserve. Let's earn it guys! #jan25 @khalawa69 Everyone outside please cluster together, stay in groups during the night and take shifts sleep someone stay awake at all times #jan25 @Alshaheeed Protestors have now decided an overnight sit‐in in Tahrir Square, Central Cairo. Tahrir Square is now revolution HQ! #jan25 @YousefMunayyer Mohamad Bouazizi and Khaled Said must be looking down from somewhere and smiling today. Here's hoping Muhammad Al‐Durra joins them. #jan25 And the heroes of Tahrir continued to help those in the Square organizing supplies, food and logistical support:
@bencnn If my friend @Sandmonkey has joined the protests, then you can expect trouble. @Sandmonkey If you're not on somebody's shit list, you're not doing anything worthwhile. @Sandmonkey Charging my phone and getting water and supplies to tahrir peeps. Do the same. Support our people. #jan25 @Sandmonkey @mand0z we were 10000 when I left, now it has tripled and we saw others coming from ramsis. We r headin back. #jan25 @Salamander Support needed for protestors in cairo: send blankets, cigarettes, water and dry food #jan25 @JoliePagaille @Salamander how to send them these stuff! plz reply #jan25 @skeedio @Salamander cigarettes? :D @Sarahngb Thanks to everyone who asked about @sandmonkey and me. We are both safe and will keep updating as long as we can. #jan25 @seth as a wise egyptian friend just said, the key question is where the people go tomorrow: to the street or to work. #jan25 @mmhastings has wikileaks already done more for democracy in the middle east than the invasion of iraq? my way too early analysis says "yes” #Egypt And even a broken cell phone network and Twitter outage could not stop this crowd from finding unique technology solutions: @Geeee Anyone with wireless connection at home near to Tahrir Square, remove the password so ppl can access the NET to keep in touch #jan25 @AmiraAbaza @satremix Oh my it might be true :| Because some tweeters caused with their tweets ppl to revolutionize in Egypt @ianZeds Protestors in #Egypt are asking anyone in the vicinity to open their wireless networks as mobile coverage is blocked by Government #jan25 @Eman_Ray Very dirty game! To cut all media channels in Egypt so no1 could air/broadcast what's taking place right now! #jan25 62
@SubMedina Most people protesting are much younger than Mubarak's presidency/reign. Ya Misr! Yalla! #bawss#jan25 And the outside world began to check in on key players and offer its prophetic observations: @mzaher @Ghonim how is the situation there man? you ok? Don't get arrested. #jan25 @jeremyscahill Hillary Clinton calls for all parties to "show restraint." US didn't say that when Egypt was torturing prisoners for us. @Arabic_News #Egypt President's son and family 'have fled to the UK' @S_AlKhasawneh So they're trying to prevent internet & mobile connection? What's next? No food? Water? #jan25 Yet the waves of people kept coming into the Square as the cold winter night got colder still but the hearts of Egypt opened for the protestors: @Sarahngb so tired, can only imagine how those still there feel. will head back as soon as we can with as much as we can bring cc: @sandmonkey #jan25 @Sandmonkey On our way to tahrir with water, snacks, ciggies and other supplies. This day aint over. #jan25 @VivaAnonymous Reports of rubber bullets fired in tahrir Squarein #Egypt & people not budging. In fact, they're increasing in number #jan25 Tahrir Square became Woodstock 2011. @MinaNaguib90 Fast food shops in tahrir are giving out free food for protestors !! THATS MY DREAM COME TRUE !!! GO #jan25 @noah69 @gbengasesan These #egypt people are not playing. Who will save Mubarak? @alyelsalmy "the times, they are a‐changing” #randomlyrics 63
@Sandmonkey @Hebaelcheikh they will let u in. Come. We r spendin the night @Sarahngb @CandaceHetchler @Sandmonkey at tahrir Square. Calm. Chants. Lots of ppl. Very difficult to get networks @Sandmonkey With @Gemyhood @aGharbeia @oshaokhtmeligi @Sarahngb @malek. People r sharing food and water. Awesome. #jan25 @omar207 #egypt #jan25 #therevolutionwillnotbetelevi sed America @NohaAtef The most beautiful picture of #Cairo... (via @SuadAK) @fundmyfund $$ the 69 billionaires at Davos have more net worth than GDP of Israel and Egypt ...combined. More than me too @AfriNomad "Yesterday we were all Tunisian. Today we are all Egyptian. Tomorrow we'll all be free” #jan25 #egypt
While the youth were snugly nestled in Tahrir Square, all was not good news. A happy, victorious crowd controlling Tahrir Square and a fuming, embarrassed police force was an ominous omen for Wednesday.