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February 8, 2011

Alan Chin in Cairo: A Crowded Square

What I noticed about this scene was how much of a stalemate there seems to be: the soldier is heavily armed and has all the power, but is utterly relaxed in his nonchalance, cigarette dangling from his trigger finger. And the boy could easily be be his kid brother. Were they just taking a moment to talk about soccer scores, or weighty issues debated? These are the anonymous participants of epic events: a student protester; an enlisted soldier.

Tahrir Square was very crowded today, after the relative quiet of the last two days. Google executive Wael Ghonim, released from detention and with the spotlight on him after an emotional interview posted last night on YouTube, came to the square and may be emerging as a movement leader. Tens of thousands of people listened to him and other speakers.

There were so many people arriving that long lines formed at the checkpoints manned by volunteers checking ID cards and searching for weapons. An organizer directs the pedestrian traffic from above a barricade.

On the political front, the government’s damage control efforts continued: A pay raise for public sector employees and a promise not to prosecute demonstrators were announced by Vice President Omar Suleiman. It’s a delicate tipping point between this show of responsiveness under pressure, and emboldening a popular movement hungry for real change.

–Alan Chin

PHOTOGRAPHS by ALAN CHIN

To see entire BagNews series from Cairo: Middle East Uprising 2011

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About the Photographer

Alan Chin

Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Since 1996, he has worked in China, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In the US, Alan has explored the South, following the historic trail of the civil rights movement and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, covered multiple presidential campaigns, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. He is a contributing photographer to Newsweek/Daily Beast and The New York Times, a member of Facing Change: Documenting America (FCDA), and an editor at Newsmotion.org. You can see all Alan's posts for BagNews here.

  • http://twitter.com/marcsobel marc sobel

    “Google executive Wael Ghonim, released from detention and with the spotlight on him after an emotional interview posted last night on YouTube, came to the square and may be emerging as a movement leader.”

    sorry but if this ends up being a Google revolution… can’t think of a punch line.

  • Horst

    Alan Chin , Great pix Best of luck to you and be careful.I hope they get rid of their supressors without more casualities.

    Best Bests Horst

  • Marie

    Alan Chin, Thank You for your continued coverage. I’m enjoying your up-close looks from within the square. Even when you’ve been reduced to mere point-and-shoot camera, your work stands out. Take care.

  • Katie Emmet

    Alan, I love this photo.

  • Vvoter

    Many of the images coming out of Cairo feature bandages on the faces of protesters.

    Bandages regularly index not only the effects of violence, but also the availability of medical care amidst violence. Perhaps the ubiquitous presence of first aid in Tahrir Square can help us visualize the tension between chaos and order that has underwritten events in Egypt as they unfold.

    Years later, when historical narratives of the Egyptian Revolution are being written and published, will the bright white first aid bandage tape emerge – or has it already – as a central visual trope?

    I ask this in light of accusations that some protesters are donning facial bandages as a sign of protest, and not as actual first aid. (I looked for the link to this story, but can’t find it. If/when I do, I’ll post it).

    • omen

      who is being accusatory about this? you’d have to be a dunce to be unable to differentiate between protest and injury.

  • omen

    like this?

    http://www.life.com/image/first/in-gallery/55081/cairos-fiery-protest-signs#index/18

    ‘AJ just showed protesters dressed in shrouds used to wrap dead before burial, indicating willingness to die for freedom’– tweet from Alaa Abd El Fattah

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