Published by BAsma Amin on Monday 10 October 2011 at 5.19 on Facebook
[Note: The places referred to in this text can easily be found on Google Maps by typing Ramses Hilton Cairo. Shubra is the Christian-majority area where the demonstration started]
I shall try to write about the most important events that took place yesterday. I would like to point out that I followed the demonstration from just after the evening call to prayer and that I marched with the protesters until the hooligans (baltageyya) attacked near Maspero. I was there when the army opened fire on the protesters from armoured vehicles. I stayed inside the Ramses Hilton until nine in the evening. I left the Hilton Hotel in the direction of Tahrir Square on the side of the Egyptian Museum.
First of all, a few days ago I found out about the demonstration by chance through the Internet. Then I had a ‘phone call from one of the participants, a Christian guy called ‘Âdel, whom I first met at the time of the [Tahrir] Square events: he asked me to come with a video camera and with the journalists to cover the demo, planned to start from Shubra and directed towards Maspero.
‘Âdel was on the ‘phone minute after minute to enable me to follow [the events] with him until my arrival. He told me that preparations had started very early in the morning at Shubra. Then the demo approached Bulaq Abu l-‘Ala’, beside the Isaaf metro station. At that point we started to film.
Things were very calm. The majority of participants were women and children, families, ordinary people, and there were also many Muslims taking part, and everywhere there were people peering out to watch. In short, [the soldiers] could see that the participants did not carry weapons or [did] anything of what was reported later. We were told that some agitators from the Sabtiah area had hit the protesters from above with bricks and glass while they walked under the Ahmed Helmy tunnel, and at that point I realized that there would be trouble, as usual.
Then, as the march came close enough to the Ramses Hilton, we could see bricks being thrown onto the demonstrators from the side streets, and the people started to run. The women and children scampered away and the young people started to respond to the attacks. Nevertheless, the people kept a peaceful attitude, and, in order to escape from the agitators, they all went towards Maspero, as originally planned.
We were surprised by loud blank firing on the Maspero side, and suddenly a chaotic movement was formed, there were shouts, and the people started to run. I was under the bridge at that moment, facing the Nile, and a photographer was walking before me. Suddenly I saw the armoured vehicles open fire towards us and the people, at random. It was a nightmarish scene which reminded me of January 28th [the first day of violent clashes in Tahrir Square]. The armoured vehicles kept on turning around and shooting.
Then I went back towards the entrance of the Ramses Hilton. There were panic scenes: the injured came and went from the door of the hotel. They were made to lie down. I saw people hit by bullet on their faces and bellies, many had fainted, and at that sight I started losing control. Many women described the armoured vehicles and said they had crushed and killed the young people. One of the young men heading the demo came and told the same story.
There was a climate of hysteria, terror and horrible cries, but the strange thing is that people were divided in their arguments and reactions. Some blamed the army, shouted and insulted the Military Council, accusing them of having staged the whole thing in order to make people believe the division between Christian and Muslims [fitna] in order to [distract them and] avoid criticism. Others were less convinced that the whole problem was caused by the Salafites [Islamic extremists] who had agreed with the Military Council in order to eliminate Christians by heavy weapons and burn their churches, just as was happening.
I remained at the [hotel] entrance until the photographer arrived and, after a number of attmpts, we eventually succeeded in getting inside. I stayed in the hotel until 9pm. Many injured came and we were being watched. We followed events in Maspero from the hotel windows.
While being imprisoned in the hotel, I received telephone calls from my friends in Tahrir [Square], who said that an impressive amount of troops had been deployed to the Square after being informed of the presence of demonstrators, whom they had hit with teargas. One of our friends had been hit by a cartridge. This information was confirmed by more than one reliable individual.
At 9pm, however, many people started leaving [the hotel] and told us: «you can go, there is no danger now, they may come from the side streets». We compacted together, myself and a Christian family, a mother and two young people who were her children, and a group of Christian women who had taken part in the demo that morning, and left the hotel. They told me: «Keep among us, so when they see a veiled Muslim with us they won’t hit us!». It was a painful feeling, I honestly did not understand why they should say so, since I was totally convinced that the army were shooting at random and that the question wasn’t religious, as proved by the fact that many of the dead and injured were Muslims, as we learnt later.
At the entrance of Abd el-Moneim Riad, coming from the Museum, I was surprised to see a huge amount of military police ready for anti-riot action. With them were also some civilians with helmets, bullet-proof jackets and batons – just like when [Tahrir] Square was cleared on August 1st: the same stupid system of using plain-clothes troops or agitators. They were heading towards Maspero from Tahrir Square. We rushed towards Ramses so that we may not be identified as protesters. I honestly did not understand what precisely they were doing there and whether they intended to hit the protesters – nor did I know who they were; but they did not look reassuring at all.
We got to the Nasser metro station at Isaaf and along the road there were large crowds that looked like popular committees: it wasn’t clear whether they were hooligans, protesters, or onlookers, or precisely what, but by that stage I could no longer concentrate on the events. I was almost in a trance. Then we got onto the metro and returned to our homes.
I would like to clarify the following points:
- The Coptic demonstration was peaceful from its very beginning and there were many Muslims and ordinary people expressing their solidarity with the protesters;
- The hooligans attacked people twice, once at the Ahmed Helmy tunnel and the second by the Ramses Hilton;
- The army shot both blanks and real bullets on the people and the armoured vehicles crashed the young people who marched in the first few rows. This is also the witness of a great many people. I saw the marks of the bullets on their bodies;
- At the beginning the question wasn’t of a religious nature at all, contrary to what the TV and Military Council say to stir trouble. They try to push their own version.
This is my witness before our Lord. Whoever wants to believe it is welcome. Whoever doesn’t should watch Channel One, get a good brainwash and get out of the way.
(original: Egyptian dialect)