Switching the channel

I stared at the TV in horror. The word “Live” in Arabic flashed in the top right corner of the screen; it was around 9:30 PM on Friday, the worst day of violence yet in Cairo. 

The camera showed a dimly lit street, empty aside from a crowd of around 6 policemen or so, dressed in riot-gear, standing in a circle around something on the ground– no, someone. A man, stripped of his shirt, crawling on his hands and knees. He seemed dazed and disoriented as he tried to break out of the circle of policemen who took turns whacking him or jabbing at him with their batons. At one point, he had nearly gotten away when one of them dragged him by his wrists back toward an armored police car. His pants came off on the process. He was now completely naked as he helplessly continued to try  to crawl away, only to be met with more blows.

“Live.” The word continued to flash at the top of the screen. This was happening right now. In the same city as me, not far from where I go to school everyday. I couldn’t look away; I kept hoping someone would come along and stop this madness, stop the raining blows on this man’s naked body, stop the–

The screen went black for a moment, then a band of skeletons crawled across the screen toward a frightened Brendan Fraser wielding a torch. It took me a moment, but I soon recognized it as a scene from “The Mummy.” I turned to see one of the Egyptian students wielding the remote and shaking her head.

“Khalas,” she said. Enough

Enough of watching her countryman suffer from behind an impenetrable glass wall; better not to watch at all.


Earlier that afternoon, I had been chatting with Selma who had only just emerged from her room.

“I’ve been hiding all day,” she told me. “I tried to sleep for as long as I could so that I didn’t have to know about what was going on. And when I woke up, I just watched season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m tired of all this shit.” 

This from Selma, queen of the Twittersphere, always in the know, scoffing at tear gas and fighting fearlessly for freedom. I could hardly believe this was the same girl who one week ago, had been decked out in the colors of the Egyptian flag, eager to march to Tahrir to remind them that “the revolution is not over.” The girl before me now was weary, deflated. Worn from week of protesting that had yielded nothing but a growing death toll. And no response from the president. 

“I don’t know what to do,” has been the refrain these last few days among my Egyptian peers.

And so they switch the channel.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Switching the channel

  1. So sad, yet so understandable…..

  2. Barb Peters

    Emily, you certainly do communicate your situation very “live” and well. Thank you for helping us walk through this experience with you.

  3. Mommy

    Not something any of us here can begin to understand 😦

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