At the Barricades

The big news and the big picture is captured by Anthony Shadid in his NYT dispatch, starting with this pitch perfect opening line:

The future of the Arab world, perched between revolt and the contempt of a crumbling order, was fought for in the streets of downtown Cairo on Wednesday.

His piece goes on to deliver terrific ground-level reporting (with an eye for the right detail):

The battle was waged by Mohammed Gamil, a dentist in a blue tie who ran toward the barricades of Tahrir Square. It was joined by Fayeqa Hussein, a veiled mother of seven who filled a Styrofoam container with rocks. Magdi Abdel-Rahman, a 60-year-old grandfather, kissed the ground before throwing himself against crowds mobilized by a state bent on driving them from the square. And the charge was led by Yasser Hamdi, who said his 2-year-old daughter would live a life better than the one he endured.

The story pivots deftly from the granular to a wide lens view:

From minute-by-minute coverage on Arabic channels to conversations from Iraq to Morocco, the Middle East watched breathlessly at a moment as compelling as any in the Arab world in a lifetime.

And here’s the kicker, which encapsulates the deeply felt theme of Shadid’s masterful story:

“I’m fighting for my freedom,” Noha al-Ustaz said as she broke bricks on the curb. “For my right to express myself. For an end to oppression. For an end to injustice.”

“Go forward,” the cries rang out, and she did, disappearing into a sea of men.

8 Responses to “At the Barricades”

  1. Bloody hell. Powerful reporting there.

  2. Hannah says:

    History in the making……

  3. JD Ohio says:

    Yes, of course, they are all fighting for freedom.  Islamic governments like Iran are well known for freedom and tolerance.  What bull and delusion.  Although Mubarak is undoubtedly autocratic, does anyone really believe that what will follow will be less autocratic.  His fall may be necessary to long-term democratization, but a truly democratic state is undoubtedly very far away.  The people quoted may be sincere, but they don’t appear to be informed.

  4. JD Ohio, I wouldn’t be so presumptive to assume any outcome, so close to the beginning of what is sure to be a very long journey for Egypt.
    I’m gradually coming to the opinion that the internet and social networking has a bigger part to play in the demand for change than I’d previously considered. There is little positive in the electronic age of viral communication to offer an autocracy and there is much danger from it.
    Change is far less hampered by the powerlessness of People to Change the System than it is hampered by the belief that People are powerless to defeat the System. If you redress that belief with an alternative belief (and an existential alternative), you will instigate Change. Viral communication is an extraordinarily powerful facilitator of communicating evidence in support of an alternative. The more I think about it, the more I recognise its potent contribution to movement in Egypt.

  5. Pascvaks says:

    Not optomistic for Egypt, the only ones who will gain were the best organized ‘before’ it all started.  As with Iran, the radicals will gain the most, if not everything they’ve dreamed of.  G_d save us all from rightous, religious fanatics & the other side too. 

  6. harrywr2 says:

    Simon Hopkinson Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Change is far less hampered by the powerlessness of People to Change the System than it is hampered by the belief that People are powerless to defeat the System.
    In most of the world. There are a few nasty places that have Armies big enough to suppress a popular revolt. North Korea has an Army of 1 million and a population of 24 million.
    Egypt’s Army of 450,000 for a population of 80 million is too small to suppress a popular revolt.

  7. harry, what you say is not wrong, but neglects to consider that armies comprise nationals too. It is by no means certain that Belief in Change can be prevented from spreading among military ranks too. The concept of a military coup is far from novel.

  8. harrywr2 says:

    As a general rule in an insurgency whoever manages to get to 2% active support of the population almost always wins.
    There are a lot of ways to get to 2%. One of them is to buy an Army and pay them well. Other ways are thru various humanitarian aid and social services. The people just getting ‘fed up’ with the quality of their governance works too.

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