Egypt: “Cleansing Friday” in Tahrir Square Reboots the Revolution

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

For the tenth week in a row since the Egyptian revolution began in January 25, 2011, Cairo's people took to downtown Tahrir square in large numbers to peacefully demonstrate against corrupt officials remaining in power and to show solidarity to Arab uprisings.

“Cleansing Friday” in Tahrir Square was livetweeted by many citizen and professional journalists alike, in English and Arabic, as has been the case with every demonstration since the beginning of the Egyptian revolution. As in previous instances of this photogenic revolution, a torrent of photos of the Friday rally were posted on various online services.

Vantage points on the revolution

Jubilance was the order of the day in Tahrir square once again, as the weekly Friday protests in Tahrir provide revolutionaries with opportunities to catch up, reminisce and demand. Deena Adel summed up the mood early on in a popular call to action on Twitter:

@deena_adel: On weekdays, we work on fixing our economy. But on weekends, we work on achieving democracy. Head to #tahrir today and demand your rights.

and later boasted playfully from on high:

Can I show off for a sec? Me with hundreds of thousands of #Egyptians in #tahrir. #PROUD (Ignore the hair)

Lilian Wagdy roamed the streets, posting a photoset of the protests on Flickr and an overhead video on YouTube, while reporting on Twitter throughout the day and evening:

"People are flocking from everywhere to #Tahrir Sq" – Photo by Lilian Wagdy on Flickr, licensed as CC-BY

Al Jazeera correspondent Adam Makary and others also had a bird's eye view of the packed square throughout the day:

"The call to prayer sounds off over Tahrir, the square is packed as you can see" – Photo by Adam Makary on Yfrog

While freelance journalist Lauren Bohn, having recently returned from Syria where she posted street reports from the nascent uprising, looked to the sky:

"Happy Friday from Tahrir" – Photo by Lauren Bohn on Twitpic

Tarek Shalaby, proprietor of the Freedom Motel (Bansyon el Horreya) in Tahrir Square during the revolution – pictured here with co-proprietor Waleed Fateem – had some catching up to do with the revolution after returning from a solidarity trip to Libya:

"This is catching up with some of the 18 days" – Photo by Tarek Shalaby on Twitpic

Tahrir “veteran” Mosa'ab Elshamy -whose Twitter bio reads “I revolted and overthrew a dictator”- also uploaded photosets on Flickr, as well as a video of the celebrations:

While photojournalist Hossam Hamalawy uploaded videos on YouTube of former political prisoners protesting against military tribunals and military factory workers demanding free unions.

Fear was broken long ago in Tahrir; the realization is still thrilling to revolutionaries:

@norashalaby: I love seeing protesters climb onto that police kiosk that has been on the university bridge 4 so long intimidating anyone who dared pass by

But not all memories of the revolution were joyous:

@NadiaE: Certain parts of downtown Cairo have very painful memories for me since the revolution #jan25


Tahrir hasn't forgotten Mohamed Bouazizi and Khaled Said, the two youths whose deaths ignited the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions:

@mosaaberizing: Books about Tunisian & Egyptian revolutions and their inspiration, Bouazizi & Khaled Saeed, sold in Tahrir.

Books about Tunisian & Egyptian revolutions and their inspirations – Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy on Twitpic

As many young Egyptian revolutionaries have become the toast of activists and the press worldwide, not all of them were able to join the protest this time. Fearless activist Mona Seif, who phoned impassioned reports to Al Jazeera English during Mubarak's final days in power, tweeted as she was leaving on a short trip:

@monasosh: Heading to the airport. Lonely quick trip to Berlin and back in 48 hrs. Can't believe I am missing tomorrow. 1st Friday I miss since #Jan25

Gigi Ibrahim, iconic firebrand and “face of the revolution“, on a worldwide tour of the lecture circuit, pined for Tahrir from Boulder, Colorado:

@GSquare86: #Tahrir looks so amazing ..i sooo wanna be there right now :( ,,go Egypt!

Arab and interfaith solidarity

A strong interfaith solidarity theme, evident since the beginning of the revolution, but also for other Arab uprisings, ran through the protest:

@adamakary: The sound of the congregation in #tahrir chanting ‘ya allah’ ‘amen’ all in unison is simply indescribable.

@ianlee: Tahrir is more like revolution square. There are flags waving from almost every Arab country in revolt #egypt

@obeidanahas: Just in from #Tahrir Square in #Cairo, #Egypt: banners and slogans supporting #Syria uprising

@3arabawy: wow someone on the mic is chanting for African brotherhood and solidarity. You don't hear that often except in football

The Syrian flag for the first time in Tahrir #Solidarity – Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy on Twitpic

The feeling of solidarity to Palestine, especially, was strong. Crowds gathered in front of the Israeli embassy for the first time, protesting privileged gas exports to Israel and the ongoing military assault on Gaza, which has resulted in 14 reported deaths, in response to an alleged Hamas missile strike on a school bus.

@alla: yaaay protest in front of israeli embassy in cairo, this used to be almost impossible to do during mubarak's era #Jan25 #Gaza

@mosaaberizing: Seeing more Palestinian flags than ever before, after recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. Protesters demand uplifting the siege. #Tahrir

@sandmonkey: Dear Israeli government, not the best time to attack ghaza. There are now huge demos heading the way of ur cairo embassy. #jan25

@tarekshalaby: I don't see the point in burning the #Israel flag. It's much more powerful to chant for Arab solidarity and demand the removal of embassy

Tons of Palestinian flags in Tahrir square – Photo by Mohamed A. Hamama on Twitpic

The army enigma continues

Anger at the army -especially it's leader, Field Marshall Tantawi- for banning protests, failing to arrest Mubarak and investigate the torture of activists and forced virginity tests was a major theme of the demonstration. Despite a strict ban, soldiers also joined the protests, and were protected by the crowd, reaffirming the undercurrent of solidarity of parts of the army with the people.

@adamakary: Several red & white banners in #tahrir, questioning the army's loyalty to the revolution

@LaraGibaly: First time I hear chants against tantawi 2day,stark change from last firday when ppl said they just wanted military to work faster #tahrir

@ianinegypt: 3 soldiers in uniform moving towards platform in Tahrir, defying an order for soldiers not to be here. #Egypt

@mand0z: Army officers in #Tahrir demanding the removal of corruption within the army. Protected by lines of civilians.

@mar3e: I,m crying, these officers are so great,need to return back to home but couldn,t leave them alone

@ianinegypt: Protesters chased away the military police after they tried to arrest those soldiers who joined the protest in Tahrir. #egypt

@ianinegypt: The situation in Tahrir is tense as protesters say they are going to stay to protect the soldiers who joined them today. #Egypt

@mosaaberizing: Mixed emotions about the army soldiers who joined the protests today; very proud of their courage, yet deeply terrified for their fate.

Army people on podium at Tahrir – Photo by Amr El Beleidy on Twitpic

Symbols of lingering corruption

Deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, reportedly still in the country, underwent mock trials, as protesters boasted they would march to his residence in Sharm al-Sheikh and bring him to justice if the army and judges would not:

@mosaaberizing: A figurative trial of Mubarak, his family & his men is underway. First witness was Khaled Saeed (RIP). Everyone chanted “We're all Khaled!”.

@adamakary: Just met Khalid Saeed's mom, a very symbolic figure to Egypt's revolution, she too wants Mubarak to stand trial #jan25 #april8 #tahrir

@3arabawy: chants against the public prosecutor from the main stage in #Tahrir

@yasserseif: #Tahrir today in a nutshell: “Get Mubarak back to Cairo for trial, otherwise we'll go get him ourselves from Sharm.” #Jan25

A Mubarak puppet in prison attire and Mubarak stand-ins behind prison bars were among the attractions of the day:

Mubarak puppet in prison orange – Photo by Lubna Olama on Yfrog

Mubarak behind bars in #tahrir square – Photo by Lara El Gibaly on Yfrog

The “tree of corruption”, mounted by a precariously perched lumberjack, symbolized the difficult struggle ahead for the revolutionaries:

The best piece of art at Tahrir today: Corruption Tree – Photo by Yasser Seif on Yfrog

Tahrir spirit rebooted

The Arabist, who also uploaded a Flickr photoset of the protests, summed up the pulse of this particular Tahrir Friday:

@arabist: Just got back from packed #Tahrir Sq. Very different crowd: larger, poorer, more religious. But still same anger with army, esp. Tantawi.

and Lilian Wagdy produced yet another ringing endorsement of Twitter as an activism platform:

@lilianwagdy: There is no denying that twitter has taken the concept of Citizen Journalism to a whole new level. #Egypt #Tahrir #Jan25 #Apr8

As night wore on, the demonstration wove it's way back to the square and a tense overnight sit-in looked to be in the works. Perhaps for the first time since Mubarak's ouster, it looked like the spirit of Tahrir had fully returned to it's birthplace.

@deena_adel: #tahrir at this hour is a lot like a carnival. Lots of food vendors. Tens of thousands still here, but not nearly as crowded as earlier.

@occupiedcairo: And the enthusiastic street sweeping has started #jan25

@ianinegypt: A wedding party just entered Tahrir Square. Ha, not your typical night. #egypt

@lilianwagdy: What I love most about #Tahrir today was how cosmopolitan it was: a true melting pot it was :))

@deena_adel: Just spoke to a couple of people in #tahrir who plan on spending the night. They said lots of people are spending the night too.

@AmrBassiouny: people in #tahrir setting up barricades for the night. Two buses full of military police hidden nearby. #jan25 #egypt

@estr4ng3d: I hope #tahrir makes it safely through the night.

Tahrir at night. Youth cleaning the square after a long day - Twitpic photo by Lilian Wagdy

Tahrir at night. Youth cleaning the square after a long day – Photo by Lilian Wagdy on Twitpic

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.


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