CAIRO - Egypt had been on the verge of a revolution for a week now, yet on Wednesday everything exploded in Cairo. After a few days of decreasing violence and mass protests that ended without casualties, President Mubarak's latest speech prompted a change – and pushed the country to the verge of civil war.
Less than 12 hours after Egypt's 30-year ruler announced that he will not be running in the next elections, tens of thousands of his supporters started to pour to Cairo's Tahrir Square at 1 pm. Mubarak's fans held up signs and forcefully pushed away those who want the president to be removed now.
The opposition camp at Tahrir, which has controlled Cairo's main square for the past 9 days, was caught off guard, and within a few minutes Mubarak's supporters reached the middle of the square. Only then did opposition members regain their composure and pushed their rivals back.
The two camps were facing each other when suddenly stones started to fly from the direction of the pro-Mubarak camp. For a moment panic ensued and people begun to flee. Opposition members initially withdrew, but a short while later started to fight back. They ripped out tiles and gathered stones wherever they could get them. Meanwhile, the soldiers stayed in their tanks and left the stage for the warring camps. "Don't photograph," one protestor yelled. "Go ahead, photograph, photograph," another yelled. The civil war got underway at Tahrir Square.
At one point, the stoning stopped and it appeared that the Egyptians were able to contain the mayhem, yet the barrages resumed with opposition activists pushing the president's fans north of the square. The protests, riots and stone-throwing continued for long hours, when suddenly camels and horses appeared from the Mubarak camp and rushed into the protestors' direction, stopping at the tanks that would not let them go on.
The Mubarak speech was the moment where the regime decided to respond and defend itself. It has a plan, and it's not foolish at all. Were the pro-Mubarak protests organized by the regime? Maybe. Yet this cannot explain the protestors' love for the president. People were kissing Mubarak's photo and walked up to me on their own accord to tell me they love him and that he's "their life." Not only older people were out there, but also youngsters and women. Indeed, there were no intellectuals in the Mubarak camp, but I certainly saw middle class Egyptians there.
At one point, someone grabbed hold of me and said: "It's all because of you, because of the photographers and press. You're a spy." The last time someone told me that I was the target of a lynching attempt in Iraq. I did not respond and got away, withdrawing to the safe haven - the Hilton Hotel.
Cairo is no longer a safe place. Rather, it is a place of emotions, urges, hate and love – all the components that make a civil war.
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