Egyptian Embassy

Several of my friends are working in Egypt at the moment, producing some great work, but having seen what is happening on the streets there, I’m feeling rather glad that I’m sitting safely at home.  Jason N Parkinson’s  video Day of Rage – Cairo gives a great idea of what is happening.

Of course back in London there have been various demonstrations of solidarity with the Egyptians on the streets of Cairo calling for democracy and last Saturday I photographed two of them.  Egyptians have been demonstrating outside the embassy more or less non-stop, and had called a larger demonstration for noon on Saturday, and it was this that I went to photograph, arriving around 11.45.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Women on South St – but the men were on South Audley St

Rather to my surprise, when I arrived at the Embassy I could hear another demonstration taking place out of sight in the next street – all I could see from in front of the Embassy were a few women in Muslim dress, standing around and doing nothing. I walked the 70 or so yards to the corner and looked down the street to find the pavement on the opposite side filled by people from Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain.  I wasn’t that surprised as I had been expecting to see them later for a protest at the Hilton Hotel over Bangladesh.  They were there not to express solidarity with the people on the streets in Cairo who are calling for a democratic and secular Egypt, but to urge that the solution to the problem there – as everywhere else – is a Muslim Khalifah.

In Cairo, men and women protest together, and Muslims and Christian, and none of them want the kind of Islamic state than Hizb ut-Tahrir stands for. The Egyptian revolution isn’t an Islamic one but a secular protest, and the Egyptian protesters at the Embassy told me they had made that clear to Hizb ut-Tahrir, and were not prepared to have them join their protest outside the Embassy. (Much later in the day they made a similar point telling members of the Socialist Workers Party that they were not welcome either.)

I knew that Hizb ut-Tahrir would not like the report that I wrote about  what happened, but it was an honest and accurate account of what I saw and what I was told. Within an hour or so of posting it on Demotix there was a hostile comment which appeared to have been written by someone who was not there, attacking me. So I almost certainly got it right. You can read about the event and see the pictures at Hizb ut-Tahrir Turned Away on My London Diary.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

While I was photographing Hizb ut-Tahrir, the protest outside the Egyptian Embassy was growing and it had well over a hundred people present when I had to leave to cover another event, with more still turning up.

It had a very different atmosphere from the other event, with those present taking a more active role and everyone being offered the chance to speak. There wasn’t a set party line and the people were much more mixed in every way, not least with men and women both actively participating and standing together.  Apart from the Egyptians, others had also come to show their support.

You can see more of this story at Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution on My London Diary. Interestingly, although both stories were posted at about the same time and I noted both on Facebook and Twitter together, and the Solidarity feature certainly has the better pictures,  the Hizb ut Tahrir story has attracted almost six times as many views. A little controversy perhaps helps.

While writing this I heard that four photographers who also contribute to Demotix are among those who have been attacked in Cairo in the last 24 hours. Two were beaten and arrested but later released, and another was rescued by the vigilantes he had been photographing, while the fourth managed to escape after being attacked.

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