Tahrir and Tear Gas

I usually try to avoid political photos in Egypt. Not because I don't like politics (I love it!) but it's not productive to define a country but just a single element. And let's be honest- most of what's come out of this country for the last year has been clashes and killings. 

However, over the last week, my photos got a bit more political. It started with me sneaking into a press conference led by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal as they announced the Israeli-Gaza ceasefire. I then star-spotted when I saw Nobel Peace Prize winner and presidential contender Mohamed El Baradei and fellow presidential runner-up Hamdeen Sahbahi in Tahrir Square on Friday.

Last night, however, demanded photos. In the previous days, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi issued a decree which essentially stripped the judicial branch of much of its powers, as well as giving himself the ability to reinstate the disbanded Shura Council.

November 27th, 2012 marked the largest protest in Tahrir since the Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured into the square, chanting for Morsi to rescind his decree. The energy was amazing, and there was a huge variety of people from all walks of life.

On the side streets, protestors fought pitched battles with Central Security Forces. For the last week, fighting had been contained to Mohamed Mahmoud Street (the infamous area of last years battles) and Qasr el Aini Street. Two days ago, the military built up a wall blocking off Qasr el Aini, which shifted the battles to an area near the American Embassy. Canisters of tear gas were shot at protestors, as rocks were hurled back in return. We had no idea what to expect in terms of a 'welcome' from the protestors. We were surprised that they immediately tried to protect us, as well as ensuring we got the photos we needed. Laser pointers were used by people on the ground to spot the tear gas grenades in the air, ensuring that once they landed, no one was hit. It was amazing to see this teamwork and togetherness in an area where it seemed unlikely.

And Amgad Khater deserves a special thanks for his help last night! Without him, we'd have missed out on all of the action.

 A man leads the prayer in Tahrir Square as the sun begins to set.

A man leads the prayer in Tahrir Square as the sun begins to set.

 Mohamed Mahmoud Street as been informally renamed 'Freedom Eyes Street' in honour of the protestors who were blinded by police fire last November.

Mohamed Mahmoud Street as been informally renamed 'Freedom Eyes Street' in honour of the protestors who were blinded by police fire last November.

 A member of the April 6th Movement (one of the early groups which helped start the Revolution) leads a chant in memory of a member who had been comatose since the beginning of the November 2012 clashes. He passed away three days ago.

A member of the April 6th Movement (one of the early groups which helped start the Revolution) leads a chant in memory of a member who had been comatose since the beginning of the November 2012 clashes. He passed away three days ago.

 This was around 6 in the evening, before most of the marches even arrived in Tahrir Square.

This was around 6 in the evening, before most of the marches even arrived in Tahrir Square.

 A lone artist works on his mural of famed Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

A lone artist works on his mural of famed Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

 A protestor clad in a scarf and gasmask poses for the camera as tear gas rains down around in on the street leading to Simon Bolivar Square.

A protestor clad in a scarf and gasmask poses for the camera as tear gas rains down around in on the street leading to Simon Bolivar Square.

 Groups of protestors run to a tear gas canister that had landed a few feet away. The canisters are then picked up and thrown back at the police or over walls.

Groups of protestors run to a tear gas canister that had landed a few feet away. The canisters are then picked up and thrown back at the police or over walls.

 It takes a fairly large degree of courage or recklessness (depending on how you look at it) for these kids to be in the streets each day fighting. Many of them told me they'd been battling the police for the last year.

It takes a fairly large degree of courage or recklessness (depending on how you look at it) for these kids to be in the streets each day fighting. Many of them told me they'd been battling the police for the last year.

 A protestor flashes the 'victory' sign as a canister is hurled back at police. Fireworks were soon shot at the police, prompting a barrage of tear gas grenades to come back.

A protestor flashes the 'victory' sign as a canister is hurled back at police. Fireworks were soon shot at the police, prompting a barrage of tear gas grenades to come back.

 A child holds up one of the canisters that had been shot  from the police. The manufacture date for many of the canisters was 2012, meaning it is much more potent than last year's gas, but also dissipates quicker.

A child holds up one of the canisters that had been shot  from the police. The manufacture date for many of the canisters was 2012, meaning it is much more potent than last year's gas, but also dissipates quicker.