The Tahrir, the ship, is for the moment buried under a mountain of Greek paperwork. A last gasp effort on July 9th to have her 'independently' reviewed by the INSB (International Naval Security Board) only led to another series of newly-required documents. The Canadian Boat to Gaza steering committee decided, in light of the waning number of activists remaining aboard, and the seemingly never-ending paper trail, to temporarily mothball the project.
Before giving it too much thought, I find myself on a plane from Athens to Cairo, seeking out the Tahrir's namesake square. After wandering for hours through Cairo's public transit system, I locate the spirit of peaceful revolution in the Square. It is alive and well, and I recharge myself on smilling faces and serious, if sometimes stilted, political conversation. Everyone can grab a megaphone in Tahrir, and yell until they're hoarse. Everyone can dance. People are eager to have their photos taken, and are happy to have someone from the 'West' in their midst.
One lady, named Inas, needs me to convey a message, and implores me to pass this on:
"My message to the world: I am Egyptian. My grandparents have lived here for 7,000 years. Egyptians have learned, and teach humanity what culture means. And I'm asking, right now, aren't we, as human beings, haven't we lived long enough on this earth to be real human beings? I'm telling you, what's happening from Europe, and from Americas, is not fair for the Arabs. For Africa. Or for Asia. I know you are great people. I know you have crossed many years. Do you have to be so greedy now?If you believe in God or if you don't, we all came from the same man and the same woman."
Gone are the days of simply smiling and saying 'I am Canadian.' This isn't a beer commercial. And that's not a friendly calling card anymore. Canadian CF-18s are currently bombing the hell out of Libya, only a few hundred kilometres away, and the people in Tahrir want answers from me. But this is a people to people movement, and the best I can say is that governments suck. We agree that greed is not a good thing.
I try to explain where I have been, and show people photos on my camera's tiny display screen. Photos of the Palestinian flag flapping in the wind as the Tahrir sailed for Gaza. Photos of sad Greek soldiers. Photos of patrol boats with guns. I explain that Greece bowed down to political pressure, and that I don't know when the 'Freedom Boats' are coming to Gaza this year, but that we tried.
"Greeks took the boats that were headed to Gaza to feed young children. Greeks were bribe(d) by Israelis to keep those boats. The message I want to say to everyone: Egypt welcomes any boats heading to Gaza. Our ports will be ready to accept and welcome any boats that have any kind of support to Gaza. You can ask anyone in the Square. If anyone tries to stop those boats from being on Egyptian ports, or stopping the goods, or the help going to Gaza from going there, you will find one million Egyptians going there to take (the boats) out. Mark my words, ask any one of the thousands in the Square. Take a random sample from the people here. Anyone, young, old, man, woman, they will say the same thing. I hope everyone on this earth can hear this message."
Earth? You there? Egypt has a lot to teach us.
Miles will continue to report regularly to the Halifax Media Co-op from the Middle East. Visit Dispatches from the Tahrir for updates.
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