The Uprising Slows


by Patrick Appel

Graeme Wood's latest Cairo dispatch focuses on fissures in the opposition and the state of Tahrir square:

The situation among Egypt's protesters now shifts not by the minute or hour but by the day. With this new metabolism, the protest movement is having to deal with threats more subtle than flying bricks. Dissent and subversion are major preoccupations: There are signs of jitters, even paranoia. Foreigners now have to prove their identity as members of the press, and protesters identifying themselves as members of the movement's "security" team approach in the square to demand a reporter's identity documents. Until recently, this happened only on the outside.


The men at the barricades have not had to repel a serious attack since Thursday night.

Since "Bloody Wednesday" (as the protesters now call it), they have worked out simple systems of communication to tell each other when there's a threat nearby (whistle for more help, bang metal when you think you see something, wave your hands above your head to tell the incoming crowd that the situation is controlled). Alarms went out twice that night -- both times when the army turned over the ignition of the tanks near the Egyptian Museum, presumably to inch a little closer to the square and encroach on the protesters' space. Both times, a crowd gathered to sit in front of the tanks. After the second time, a few protesters just decided to spend the night curled in among sprockets and treads of the tank, their bodies interlaced so that even a slight movement would grind up their bodies. At four in the morning, the protesters with their bodies in the tank were snoring. The tanks haven't been turned on since.

Even with the worries, an atmosphere of jubilation and tranquility rules the square.

(Photo: A young Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds her national flag in Cairo's Tahrir square on February 7, 2011 on the 14th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. By Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)