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February 3, 2011

Chris Hondros on the Madness in Tahrir Square

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I had a chance to talk to Getty photographer, Chris Hondros, on the phone from Cairo in the early evening yesterday, several hours after he escaped from the absolute chaos in the central square. Below is a my transcript of his comments accompanying this slideshow of photos he took, the images published at several major news sites:

“The only way I can describe the situation today is that it was totally old school, just people with rocks, sticks and fists.  It felt almost historical.  It was probably more like how the American Revolution was fought.  Or a fight in 683 BC. Just thousands of people battling each other.

“I’ve seen fighting, but nothing at this scale. The anti-Mubarak people who have had the spotlight for a week were defending the square — it’s like the equivalent of having taken over Times Square in New York. The Mubarak faction, which had been in different parts of town, then headed toward the square. Then it was just open season. It was very tribal. Like two rival gangs. It was not organized in any sense more than that. And it played out without the officials intervening. It’s absolutely remarkable that there was no intervention at all. And it all comes down to holding that square.

“So the journalists have completely pulled out.  Almost all journalists were attacked today — by both sides, especially the the pro-Mubarak side. This evening, they’re still fighting it, with just rocks, sticks and molotov cocktails. It’s just a few blocks from here. I imagine they’ll keep it up overnight.  It all depends if security services intervene, especially the police.

“The craziest thing happened to me today. First rocks started to fly. One grazed my head. Then civilians tried to take my camera and my equipment.  I barely escaped into an Egyptian army position, but the soldiers tried to take my media card. For some reason, they seem instructed to confiscate them. Barely able to get out of there, I  jumped onto a construction trailer adjacent to the square. Then, down the street came charging five or six horses and one camel and everyone around me was completely beaten. It was an active military camel attack.

“Really I have no idea where this is going. Everyone is speculating what’s going to happen.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned doing war photography, it’s never try and anticipate.   There are much larger forces at play and we’re just along for the ride. It could end tomorrow. Or, today could have been the start of the 2011 Egypt civil war.”

–Chris Hondros


  • Mikko Takkunen

    Thanks Michael and Chris for this. Great to read insights from a photographer on the ground.

  • momly

    This is a turning point for Islam. Will it be “reformed” – brought into a technology savvy global economy or will it entrench and wrap its tenets ever tighter around the people and refuse to “modernize”? Judaism and Christianity (not certain about Hinduism or Buddhism) had a schism at some point in their history; seems like it’s Islam’s turn. I know what I’m hoping for….

  • Wordsmith

    Re: Your post, Michael, from last week(?) with protesters being hit with water cannon on the bridge. Longer video; protesters vs water cannon at about 3:15.

    • Michael Shaw

      Thanks for the link.

  • Marsupialas

    And always the animals suffer. The camel, what choice has he?

    • Vvoter

      True that. Animals do suffer.

      Even though we bear lineage to a long philosophical tradition in the West that distinguishes between ‘man’ and ‘animal,’ I argue that this is a false distinction.

      To push your point a bit further, what choice to the human animals have?

  • RhZ

    Amazing pics. I can’t even grasp what I am looking at.

  • Mind the Gap

    Some Americans argue and argue about the needs for more guns to the populace, but even with all the hurt & maiming & fear in Egypt, can you imagine the carnage if all these people had handguns, rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatics and automatics?!?!

    I wish they could have just shown the world how to get reform through non-violent public demonstration, but of course, the Mubarek group are used to violence to get their way & so have pushed this over the edge. Still, it is a lesson for Americans and existing democracies that in the future will be threatened by dictators and theocrats.

    Guns don’t solve problems. People do.

  • CF2K

    The sky full of rocks. THE SKY FULL OF ROCKS. Just astonishing.

  • J Cline

    There is nothing new under the sun. Let them sort it out. Premature intervention only forestalls bloodier conflicts down the line.

  • Dave Raaum

    It’s Good Friday and this story from Chris Hondros describes the scene in Cairo just before the fall of the government. Chris died yesterday from wounds received in Libya. We have lost a great photographer and commentator.

  • Pingback: Egypt – a Nation in turmoil « D a v i d D a r e P a r k e r

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