We are visiting with Ahmed Nader Al-Gretly, a writer friend from Cairo, Egypt. See part 1 of the interview here.
I understand that the police disappeared around the same day that the prisons were opened. What did people think of that?
Horror. Sheer and utter horror filled all our hearts. Who did this? Why? How? The constant questioning and fear that echoed through the streets of Cairo on those days was just unspeakable. That’s when people formed “The Civilian Resistance”. On Saturday, the 29th of January at around five or six in the evening, the sound of an Imam’s* voice echoed through the streets of Sheraton Heliopolis (My neighborhood). The Imam called for all the men to go down into the streets and protect their homes. That’s when we found out about the prisons and the police stations, about the escaped convicts (Which were about 2,000 convict) and thugs that roamed the streets of Cairo, armed with guns and machine guns stolen from burnt police stations.
The Civilian Resistance is what you might call Neighborhood watch, we created road blocks, formed teams to guard and protect our families and homes. That day, something clicked in me, it wasn’t the thought of being killed, it was the fear of the unknown. We did not know what to be afraid of, we were sitting ducks armed with swords, knifes and Molotov cocktails waiting for gangs of thugs to drive by in stolen cars and kill us all. The howls of the men, the screams of the women in the balconies…I was scared, in fact, I’ve never been that terrified in my life. Even in the middle of all that horror, we still made jokes, we still laughed the sorrow away with the sounds of gunshots being fired echoing through the night.
I remember standing, engulfed by fear and desperate for sleep, holding my sword sometime in the early morning. As I scanned the parameter, I saw strangers that had become friends, I saw the man who talked a lot, I saw the kid sleeping on his father’s lap with a tiny stick in his hand, and I saw the old man who kept walking around with his head up high and a faint smile on his face. All of them gathered around several bonfires, offering each other tea and cake on that cold dark night. I couldn’t help but smile. The murmurs, the cries of fear and the speeches of hope are still echoing in my mind, because that’s who we are.
[*An Imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the Imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services.]
When the government ordered the curfew on the 28th, the whole country went off. The majority of the people on the streets were ether going to the Square or shopping for food. All the stores were closed after curfew hours, but there weren’t any food shortages, however, panic made things a bit harder. The hospital a few blocks away from home was working fine, day and night.
A new section of Ahmed's interview will post everyday this week. Tomorrow's question: What was it like for you when the “pro-Mubarak” supporters attacked the protesters?
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You can follow Ahmed on Twitter @ANaderGretly