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Violence on Tahrir Square
By Ann Wright
We arrived from Gaza into Cairo at 1am this Friday morning.
Egyptian American Journalist Sexually Assaulted and Arm and Hand Broken by Police in Police Headquarters
After quickly checking into the hotel, I went on line and immediately was faced with an article that described Egyptian American journalist Mona Eltahawy’s assault by the Cairo police. Police sexually assaulted Mona and broke one of her arms and broke the hand on her other arm when they dragged her from the area around Tahrir Square where she was reporting on the clashes between protesters and police on Wednesday night.
Doctor from Tahrir Square says type and volume of tear gas used by police causes “chemical pneumonia”
By 2am, the friend of one of our delegates from the Netherlands on the Parliamentary visit to Gaza arrived at our hotel. He is an Egyptian medical doctor (who asked that I not use his name because of his concern for his personal security) and had just come from Tahrir Square where they continue to treat those injured by tear gas. He worked as a volunteer doctor in the January Revolution and has been is on the front lines in this week’s challenge by the Egyptian people to the ruling military. Due to the large number of injuries to protester this week, the number of citizen run hospital/clinics around Tahrir Square has grown from the 2 available in January to 15 now. He said that at least 2,000 people have been injured in the past week.
The doctor told us of the enormous amount of tear gas that is being fired by Egyptian police and military. He said most of the protests this week have been on the street that leads from Tahrir Square to the Interior Ministry. The street is very narrow and the volume of tear gas forms dense clouds of the gas leaving little air for persons to breathe. He said that the intensity and type of the tear gas has caused a “chemical pneumonia,” a swelling of the lungs that have caused several persons to die of asphyxiation.
The doctor said they have heard that the police and military have fired so much tear gas that they have requested a shipment from Jordan. He said that the volunteer medical team believes that 66 died, although there are only 33 bodies in morgue, no one knows how many have died. In an effect to keep secret what was the cause of death for many of the protesters, police have been intimidating poor families by saying to them that if they want the body of their family member back, they should just take it and not ask for a certificate of death which would state what the cause was.
Volunteer lawyers have been scrambling from hospitals to morgues to courts to help families whose family members have been killed to the courts to help get protesters out of jail.
Women doctors in citizen hospitals have been assaulted in the clinics during police raids
The volunteer hopsitals have 200 volunteers. One of the volunteers has been killed by the police at point blank range. The voluntary hospital made famous in January’s revolution was located in a small mosque. The hospital has been badly attacked with several tear gas canisters fired by police. Police thugs came into the hospital and beat up and sexually assaulted female doctors, who come from religious backgrounds. These assaults on the women doctors from conservation backgrounds have humiliated the doctors and left them emotionally scarred.
4pm in Cairo and 100,000 in Tahrir Square
It’s now 4pm in Cairo. I’ve just spent 3 hours in Tahrir Square. Big crowds with many families are now coming into the square. Television stations are saying that 100,000 are now in the square.
Friday no police or military at Tahrir Square
This afternoon neither the police nor military are anywhere to be seen. All entrances to the square have citizen security teams that frisk everyone and check bags to ensure that no weapons are taken in. Everyone we spoke with said Tahrir Square belongs to the people and the police are afraid to come and challenge the tens of thousands who are there.
International journalists told us that since Thursday morning when the government walled off the streets leading to the Ministry of the Interior, the focus of the battles with the police and military, there have been no major confrontations.
We were told by several persons that would be better if we as international women get off the square by dusk as most of the attacks on women have happened at night.
The bridge that I walked over back to my hotel has a large lion on each side of the bridge. Symbolizing the battle of the people against the police, one of the eyes of each of the lions has a large bandage over it.
Democracy Now’s Anjali Kamat at Tahrir Square
As I started over the bridge, I was thrilled to run into an old friend Anjali Kamat, Democracy Now’s great reporter who has been in Cairo since the revolution began in January, 2011. She was heading back into Tahrir to continue her excellent reporting. Anjeli came on the CODEPINK: Women for Peace International Women’s Day delegation into Gaza in March, 2009.
About the Author: Ann Wright served in the US Army/Army Reserves for 29 years and retired as a Colonel. She worked for 16 years as a US diplomat and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq. She visited Gaza 3 times in 2009 and was on the 2010 and 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotillas. She was a member of the Parliamentary delegation.