Fighting for What’s Right
The metro was full of people, all trying to get home as soon as they could before the metro stopped running that night. It usually runs until 1am, but that night it was imminent to stop running much, much earlier.
As we had made our way to the station there were people in a hurry to get home, men looking at us inconspicuously as we strolled to the metro station. We spotted a fruit and vegetable store and it became clear that we should take the opportunity to stock up since we didn’t know when we’d next have a chance not only to see such a wonderful variety as was on display, but to get back to Maadi to stock up on produce like fennel and wonderfully green broccoli.
I guess we’d been taking our time to make our selections, because a guy came over from the street and reprimanded the store owners for not hastening in closing their shop like everyone else were. We rounded up our goods and made out way to the station once again, passing by a waiter who worked in Cilantro who said something along the lines of, “Don’t you know that you’re supposed to be going home? What’re you two doing out?”
I gave a curt nod and we carried on our merry way, with the metro station teaming with passengers. The carriage we got on wasn’t particularly full. By full I mean there was hardly anyone standing up, a sure sign that the train was full, but at one particular station a crowd of people rushed on, some women covering their noses, others fanning the faces of babies and there was a great commotion of Arabic bustle. One woman started shouting that they should close the windows, and I understood she mentioned that there was tear gas outside. Tear gas?! Surely not already – we were all just trying to get home, for God’s sake!
Let me say that my blood has been simmering slowly all day… I’d crossed many paths of anger and I was getting pretty fed-up with how the situation was being handled by the security forces. Sure, I wasn’t in the throngs of danger, but we were nowhere near the action in Tahrir, and there I was on a metro where a woman was in tears as she fanned her baby’s face. What sort of madness was this? And being the emotionally fragile person that I sometimes am (don’t ever watch a moving movie with me… my eyes water – happiness, sadness, courage, bravery, the lot – they water! *ehem*) I was almost in tears with her, an element of my own probably selfish frustrations stirred amongst the emotions.
Thankfully, we reached home unscathed, unharmed and safe, but it wasn’t long after the curfew had been declared that we heard chants on the streets again. People were obviously unmoved by the order to ‘stay in your houses’ and a part of me felt robbed. ‘I want to be out too,’ my selfish side complained, but I satisfied myself with under-the-breath curses against you-know-who and power to the people chants. I threw a few waves outside the window too, although I am sure none of the men or women on the streets paid any attention.
Things soon died down, and I wondered whether people had gone to sleep. The petrol station right infront of our building had been shut all day, and while I was in the kitchen brewing myself some much-needed tea, N. started shouting.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!”
“What! What!” I shouted back.
“They’re looting On the Run! They’re looting On the Run!”
I threw on a scarf and flung open the window to what as sure as hell were some young boys running in and out of the petrol station below. This was all too much. I’d had my emotions kajoled all day and I was just about ready to knock someone out. Let it be known that I have never had a physical confrontation with anyone in all my 20-something years of life, but the sight of people stealing from their people in that manner made me want to smash someone’s face in.
“HARAM!” I screamed, “Haram alaykum! Haram alaykum!” Oh how I wish I knew how to string a good number of curses and cusses together in Arabic! One boy had the cheek to ask why. Oh, no he didn’t! My throat and lungs were reverberating from the effort of screaming out at them, other neighbours silently looked on. Yup, you guessed it – my anger was fuelled further.
“Mamno’ alaykum, mamno’! Intum harami!” The other neighbours finally awoken from the slumber of stupidity and rather than just screaming (as I was doing), they went a step further and I saw glass bottles, water bottles and all sorts of things being rained down on them from way above me. There were even gun shots, and it looked like other neighbours had finally awoke and came out with sticks to chase the wretched theives away.
I cannot tell you how overwhelmed I was with happiness. “Social justice,” I cried, “Community social bloody justice! This is what it’s all about. This is what community spirit is all about!”
While my view of Egyptians may have sank at the sight of onlookers doing nothing at first, I wanted to personally hug all the people who made a difference, those who threw things at them, those who came out, especially the old lady who came out in her pink night dress and unmatching blue scarf randomly tied onto her head. I felt as though a mini battle had been won, and the locals proceeded to secure the station and several stood guard all night.
Awesomeness at its best. Power to the people.
– The Londoner