View from Tahrir Square: 'Now we think we’ll have to fight again'

Fouaz was a witness to much of the Arab Spring. But the state of Egypt scares him most

Tahrir Square

“I used to come here every day the last time, sleeping two or three hours a night, fighting to get rid of the dictator. Here is my souvenir.” Fouaz Ahmed Bassam points to his cheek-bone, caved in courtesy of a swinging baton from one of Hosni Mubarak’s policemen two years ago.

“At the time it was worth it. We were so happy that everything was going to change for so much good,” recalls the 23-year-old student. “Now, now we think we shall have to fight again, but we do not know what is going to happen in the future. It will not be easy.”

A sea of banners and flags were once again swirling in the wind over Tahrir Square, the anger this time directed at Mohamed Morsi, the deposed president viewed by the thousands gathered as a fraud and a failure. The exultation at his departure, however, was tinged with apprehension. There are outbreaks of sudden and fierce violence, and no one is sure whether the Brotherhood will make good on its threat of armed resistance or whether the military, having once again tasted power, will give it up soon. “It is in the hands of the Egyptian people, but also the will of Allah,” Nadeem Wagha, a cousin of Farid, says with his hands spread.

A week before the first protests against Mubarak in 2011, Fouaz was in Tunisia as President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali abandoned 40 years of power and fled into exile after just a week of rioting. I met him fleeing the tear gas in Avenue Bourghiba. Later, recovered, he spoke of his astonishment at what he was witnessing. No one of his generation in that part of the world had seen a strongman so entrenched fall.

We were not to know that this was the beginning of the Arab Spring which would sweep away Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen and ring reforms out of the kingdom of Bahrain before reaching its current bloody impasse in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

Fouaz and Nadeem were in Libya during the revolution, translating for Western journalists. They travelled to Jordan to help with organising humanitarian supplies for Syria and were shocked by what they saw. “It is barbaric, Arabs killing Arabs, bombing cities, shooting prisoners,” Fouaz says. But what affected them the most was the revolution unravelling back home. They and their friends have never supported the Muslim Brotherhood, but appreciate the organisation and focus it brought in the campaign against Mubarak’s regime.

“The Brotherhood said at first they weren’t going to stand for parliament, but then they did. They said they would not stand for the presidency, but they broke that promise. Then they tried to impose Sharia with this referendum. All the time Morsi did nothing about the economy collapsing,” says Nadeem, a 29-year-old graphic designer who has not had a steady job for three years.

It was the attempt to establish a theocratic state which brought the two men out on to the streets again. “If they had their way, we would go back 500 years. What would happen to our economy then? They say Saudi Arabia has strict laws, but they also have oil, we don’t.”

T he feeling in this corner of Tahrir is that the Islamists tried to hijack the Arab Spring and divided it by bringing in sectarianism.“In Syria it is  Sunnis and Shias fighting each other when they should be fighting Assad,” shouts Abdulrahim Ali above the din. “Now people in Europe and America think our revolution was all about Islamists.”

But do they not have any empathy for Morsi? After all he is the first elected leader of the country and came from an ordinary background, not the moneyed elite or the military.

“No, because he betrayed the ordinary people. I agree it’s not just Morsi is to blame, I think he is led by the nose by Khairat al-Shater. But whoever is to blame most, we feel we must get back our revolution,” says Fouaz. The danger lies in the rhetoric turning into revenge.

While the army remained relatively neutral during the overthrow of Mubarak, the police carried out vicious attacks on protesters on his behalf. How does it feel to have them as allies this time? Touching his old wound, Fouaz shruggs. “Maybe they will not be allies forever, but, for the time being, they are not as dangerous for the revolution than Morsi and the Brothers.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent