Dispatch from Cairo II | Arkansas Blog

Dispatch from Cairo II

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Egypt protests, Cory Ellis, Arkansas Abroad
  • Cory Ellis
  • ON THE ATTACK: Police attacking everyone who isn't police, Ellis says.

I just got an update on Cory Ellis, the University of Arkansas grad currently living in Cairo, from Daniel Green, founder and managing editor of Arkansas Abroad. Ellis is, as far as anyone knows, still safe although communications have been completely cut off by the government. The last contact Green had with Ellis was around 4:00 yesterday afternoon. Someone who works in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo told Ellis to keep enough supplies in his apartment to last a couple of days, but also be ready to leave at a moment's notice. I'll post Green's comments below, but be sure to visit Arkansas Abroad to get updates directly from Ellis when available. Updates from Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 are up now. Green said Ellis has noticed two things:

One, the protesters are happy to see Westerners. Because the way they view it is that Westerners are their best hope for getting this stuff out. He said they have told him that time and time again. The other thing is police are indiscriminately attacking anyone who isn’t police. In fact he has actually been jumped by the secret police a time or two. I think at last count he had been tear-gassed eight times. He said every time protesters would drag him out of the street, into a bar or something, wash his face off and then start telling him, ‘You have to tell people what is going on.’ ...

One thing he is getting frustrated with is that if you watch the media, all they are talking about is ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood. ElBaradei didn’t come until the protests had already started and the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t get involved until the last three days. That’s something he was wanting to drive home, that the Western assertion that one or the other was the leader of this organization. That’s completely and totally wrong.

Green's full comments on the jump.

Daniel Green, founder and managing editor of Arkansas Abroad

Mubarak’s media black out kicked in during our podcast. We lost Cory right in the middle of that. Cory turned around and called me afterwards on a cell phone and the last thing he told me was, ‘It’s scary, they’ve shut everything down, but I’m okay for now.’

We’ve tried to get back in contact with him. The past couple of days it was a fight just to get a message from him from Facebook or Skype. We’ve been using Gmail, Gchat, Facebook chat, Facebook messaging and Skype to communicate and we’ve just bounced to whichever one was working. One would go down and another one would be up.

Basically, it was just a fight. Yesterday, I guess they were amping up to cut everything off, but Skype worked fine the whole day, so the live update from the 27th is a lot longer than the 26th. As of now, and some of my friends that I’ve talked to have told me this is unprecedented. No country has every pulled the plug on the internet before. It’s not one of those things where they’re blocking sites, like what you hear about China or Tunisia. They have physically disconnected themselves from the infrastructure that supports the internet. I think ICANN reported yesterday a simultaneous loss of 4,000 internet service providers.

Yesterday afternoon about 3:30 or 4:00. I’ve been trying to call him today but I keep getting messages that say, ‘Sorry, calls to that international number are not allowed.’ At that point he was okay.

When you talk about the social make-up of Egypt, there’s a huge Christian minority there, the Coptic Church. They’re one of the oldest churches. They’re older than the Catholic Church. He is in a neighborhood that is overwhelmingly Coptic. The Cops in Egypt have a really weird duality. They tend to be very successful and very professional, but at the same time, they’re very much under the boot heel of Hosni Mubarak. A good example, the Muslim Brotherhood is actively oppressed, but they don’t try and make their lives to where it’s impossible to get by. You can be a part of the Muslim Brotherhood and talk about it but as long as you don’t act on it or do any rallies, they’ll watch you, but they won’t screw with you.

The Cops, a bomb went off outside of their ancient Church in Alexandria about a month ago, and Mubarak did nothing. He just set back and let it happen. Despite that, or maybe because of that, the Cops lay low. They don’t get political. They sit back and they don’t do anything. They tend to live in inclusive communities on the outskirts of towns. They’re close enough to the town to where they can get what they want, but they’re far enough away that they’re safe.

His neighborhood has been very quiet and very safe. Not only that, but his neighborhood has a good deal of Westerners. He’s working with an aid agency that dovetails with his studies.

So far, he’s noticed two things. One, the protesters are happy to see Westerners. Because the way they view it is that Westerners are their best hope for getting this stuff out. He said they have told him that time and time again. The other thing is police are indiscriminately attacking anyone who isn’t police. In fact he has actually been jumped by the secret police a time or two. I think at last count he had been tear-gassed eight times. He said every time protesters would drag him out of the street, into a bar or something, wash his face off and then start telling him, ‘You have to tell people what is going on.’

He’s just right in the middle of this. I’m trying my best to get updates on their all the time. He’s got some good contacts in Egypt.

One thing he is getting frustrated with is that if you watch the media, all they are talking about is ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood. ElBaradei didn’t come until the protests had already started and the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t get involved until the last three days. That’s something he was wanting to drive home, that the Western assertion that one or the other was the leader of this organization. That’s completely and totally wrong.

I’m still trying to get in touch with him.

He was told by people in the embassy that he should have enough supplies that he could stay in his apartment for a day or two but he should also be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

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