Detained by the Army

Sunday 30th January

My friend Angie and I decided that we would attempt to join the protests in Tahrir Square, so we parked up outside her friend, Roberto’s house and made our way from Garden City towards Tahrir, with Roberto and his friend Arish, in tow.

Every 50 meters or so, we were stopped by the local men and boys, who had set up road blocks in lieu of the police. They wanted to check who we were and what we were doing. As we ventured down one road, a man appeared dressed in military uniform. He pointed his gun at us and ordered us to go forward one at a time. We moved forward slowly with our hands in the air. There was a group of officers and four people sitting on the pavement. Two of them looked like non-Egyptians. Later I found out that the two non-Egyptians were Americans. They told us that they had been pushed to the ground and had their hands tied behind their back. One of the officers took our ID and ordered us to sit down. He started shouting in Arabic and asked Angie to translate.

“When we stop people, our orders are to either shoot them or arrest them.” In my mind I debated whether I would prefer to be shot or arrested. I thought being arrested would be the better choice but then again, if they arrested me, they might torture me and that might be worse than death. I didn’t hear anything else that Angie said as one of them started shouting at me, “Are you listening to her? Listen to her!” Terrified, I nodded my head vigorously. “Yes, yes. I’m listening.”

It went quiet and after a while I found the courage to ask the question at the forefront of my mind.

“So are we going to be shot, or arrested?”

Arish told me that they were going to let us go. “El7amduAllah,” “Thank God,” I said in relief.

One of the officers came over and demanded that we show him the photographs on our cameras. “Delete, Delete,” he shouted as he saw my pictures of the protests. My camera was borrowed from a friend and I had no idea how to use it, so it took me a while to delete the pictures, especially as my hands were shaking so much.

The officers informed us that they would let us go but according to protocol only after the Brits and the Americans had been taken to their embassies. The British Embassy was the closest so we went there first. The guy that answered the door looked as though he’d just woken up. He briefly looked at my passport and then waved us away. We moved onto the American embassy, where we were kept waiting for what seemed like the best part of one hour. Eventually a stereotypical jobsworth yank came out looking fully equipped for war, flanked by a soldier and a mosa (beautiful girl), who also had all the equipment. The jobsworth barked at us and we all stood to attention.

He lectured us for about ten minutes telling us how dangerous it was to be out after the curfew and that we could easily get shot. He scared the living daylights out of me, much more than the Egyptian officers had done. He insisted the American citizens be escorted to the Semiramis hotel and that that was the only safe option. By now I was terrified, so I asked if Brits were allowed to go along as well. This did not go down too well with the others, especially the American citizens who really wanted to return home.

We set off with the soldier and the others began to bargain with him to be allowed to go home and eventually he reluctantly gave in. It was such a relief to get back to Roberto’s flat.

I would like to say that I understand why the Egyptian Army officers detained us. We were right outside the Belgium Embassy and very close to the British and US embassies, and we were out after the curfew. It was a very stupid move on our part and thank God we came away unscathed.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by ASHIF SHADMAN on February 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    just awesome and brilliant sense….


  2. Posted by Mymmeleillinc on March 1, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Interestingly written! Carry on Henry


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