|"In a poor section of the city of Suez, young Egyptians take up arms to protect their neighborhood." (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)|
By Jeffrey Fleishman
The Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2011
"Abdel Ibrahim waited in the alley with an ax. Boys gathered around him with clubs and knives. His brother held a gun made of lead pipe and a trigger. Building fires smoldered and the dead had been buried, but Ibrahim's small, ragged army suggested new graves may soon be dug. There were no police officers in sight. Their headquarters had been burned. So had the fire department. In this port city of salt air and factory smoke, where resentment over President Hosni Mubarak has been ingrained over decades, the government is the enemy. 'This cleaver's not enough to protect us from the police,' said Ibrahim's brother, Yusef. 'That's why I invented this gun.' The protests sweeping Egypt have been particularly bloody in Suez. At least 30 people have been killed here. Years of repressed hatred over police corruption, beatings and intimidation have turned the city into a storm, gusting, turning strangely quiet and gusting again. Many of the rich have fled, the workers have taken to the streets, the poor hurry to market before curfew. 'Mubarak is a murderer,' reads a wall of graffiti. 'We will not forget the martyrs of the revolution.' Like much of the country, Suez has become a place of eerie twilights and tense mornings. Small fires burn at vigilante roadblocks guarded by men with sticks and swords and cutlery pulled from kitchen drawers. Boys stand watch too, their slender bodies tilted by the weight of their lead pipes.
The congenial Egyptian spirit, which has sustained this nation for centuries, is under strain from within. The protests and fervor against Mubarak rise, but beyond the echoes of rebellion, uncertainty and desperation pervade. Looters prowl. Gas stations remain closed. Bread lines grow. Paychecks never arrive. This country has long been chaotic, but, through daily ingenuity and cleverness, it worked. Now, something has changed. Egyptians seem a family adrift. Anger against the government has bonded them, and Mubarak's patriarchal hold, which many thought unbreakable, has been shattered. But there is deep worry about what will come next. And there is talk that if the president is not immediately toppled, the retribution by the police will be severe. [...]"