Watch, witness, remember

I am watching Tahrir Square, live on Al Jazeera, and remembering 21 years ago, watching Tiananmen Square and the tanks moving in. This morning here/tonight there – ambulances are now being allowed in, troops are moving about, occasional rock-throwing appears, a government helicopter is circling the square, a petrol bomb (Molotov cocktail?) has been thrown toward the anti-government protesters …

Al Jazeera
Democracy Now


Earlier, on Democracy Now, I heard a young woman with a tightly-controlled voice recounting how the authorities had raided the offices of a human rights defense organization and taken away all of the attorneys and workers there. And then, at the very end of her account – “And my father among them.”

The Al Jazeera reporter does not give his name, because “they’re targeting reporters here.” By some accounts, the army is “rounding up” journalists and taking them away from the square. Reporters say the crackdown is nationwide.

The number of those injured is more than one thousand, according to the Egyptian health ministry. At least 13 people are dead. The prime minister has apologized and promised to find those responsible for the deaths.

Captured pro-government “demonstrators” have police identification cards.

Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, has promised to punish those behind the violence and to release anti-government protesters who have been wrongly arrested.

Tomorrow marks one week since the beginning of the protests. Protesters are calling it “Departure Friday,” but Mubarak shows no sign of being willing to depart.

Tens of thousands of people are occupying the square in Alexandria as well. They, too, report plainclothes police among the “pro-Mubarak demonstrators” who attacked them yesterday and, to a lesser extent today.

Someone at a hospital in the square reports that three dead people were killed by gunshots to the head. He says this is impossible from the distance, unless they have night vision and laser sites. He says that snipers are firing right now at people on or near the bridge, at the hospital where he is. “Only the government has such guns.”

In Yemen, BBC reports 20,000 people gathered in Sanaa for a “day of rage” demanding President Saleh’s departure after 30 years in power.

“The curfew is now in place, but once again it is being ignored. It’s six o’clock in Cairo.” The sun has set and prayers are completed. Clinics inside the square have been resupplied, protective barricades have been reinforced, and people are “bunkering down” for the night. The Al Jazeera reporter says that some people fled when the violence began yesterday, but that tonight there are more people than yesterday.

And now, with darkness settling, an Al Jazeera reporter says she can see petrol bombs being thrown, a bridge support being set on fire, all within plain view of military vehicles, which sit and do nothing. A military helicopter flies overhead. Clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak croups seem to be escalating again, with reports of clashes in side streets. She hears gunfire. No one can tell who is who.

The announcer says that most of Al Jazeera’s equipment has been confiscated. It’s hard to show live pictures now that the sun has gone down.

Tomorrow is a crucial day. Tomorrow in Tahrir Square begins about 10 p.m. in Minnesota.

What can we do? Nothing. Or almost nothing. We can watch. We can witness. We can remember. This is not the first time that people have stood up against tyranny. Each time, we must watch, witness, remember.

(And some pressure on our government to support human rights wouldn’t be amiss.
Email to White House
Email to Secretary of State)

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