#cometoegypt

I’ve had a few conversations now with people, asking if it feels unsafe, say I should tell you it’s safe and to #cometoegypt. It does feel safe. You should visit.

3/22/11 fire at the ministry of the interior seen from Tahrir Sq

I’ve not been reading US news about Egypt, wondering what it looks like from there. There was a fire at the Ministry of the Interior building earlier this week — on Tues. I was in the middle of a mobile-phone-buyfest, touring around mobile phone shops with a friend, buying SIMS, checking on phone prices. We drove away from a shop in downtown, through Tahrir Sq, and saw a big plume, checked Twitter, found out that the Ministry of the Interior was burning.

There was a demonstration there that day, the police demanding higher wages and that the newly appointed Ministry of the Interior step down. There are 2 stories that are rising about the fire — the state says the fire was due to an electrical mishap, bad wiring; the competing theory is that members of the demonstrators started the fire from the inside of the building. The latter is way more likely. (oh hey, nytimes article about it)

Today there were 2 protests — one in Tahrir and one at the state TV/Radio building. The central issue for the Tahrir demonstrators – to protest a new decree prohibiting public gatherings; the demands of the state TV/Radio protest were that the head of state media step down.

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One of the biggest challenges is education — around civic participation, choosing/electing candidates, understanding political platforms, understanding differences between party ideologies — it’s hard enough to learn these things as a voting person in a reasonably-functioning democracy, so it’s a big challenge, teaching and learning about these things in time for a legislative election, a presidential election. People voted in record numbers in the referendum vote, but concern among the people we’re talking with is that people voted without real understanding of the implications of the referendum.

All this to say, the right to protest and the need for either a free and independent media are both vital to some of the work underway here now. Both protests, although not large, were representing key and important issues. What will the results be?

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