Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Tahrir Square: Singing, Dancing, Football, and Free Soup

Tahrir Square: Singing, Dancing, Football, and Free Soup

Thursday, 19 December, 2019 - 11:45
A man distributes lentil soup at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Asharq Al-Awsat

Around a month ago, there were no more than ninety tents for people to sleep in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Not because the protesters were few, but because many of them would sleep on the streets as the weather in Iraq during October and mid-November is kind, so sleeping in the open is not a problem.

The second half of November onward, however, the weather becomes colder and harsher, making things more complicated. Consequently, three weeks ago, there were more than 250 tents.

These tents spread all across the Square with the hope that they would protect protesters to a reasonable degree from the winter cold and rains.

With the temperature dropping to less than 8 degrees Celsius, things become more difficult for people coming from warmer areas in Iraq not used to the cold.

Despite this, anybody passing through would not hear a single complaint.

Some of the tents are for supplies, cooking equipment, medical care, and treating patients, and there is no fixed number of people per tent, sometimes more than ten and other times not more than three or four. 

While walking through Tahrir Square, around 2:00 am, we saw four boys joyfully dancing to enthusiastic protest music that is common these days. In one of the tents, we heard people singing along music by a famous local composer. We tried to enter but could not as the entrance was shut closed.

A person noticed my insistence and asked me why I was taking photos. I asked him whether he was afraid. He denied. I guessed that he was embarrassed and had to lie. Strangers taking pictures are not so welcomed in the Square as many are worried that the photographers may be security personnel or the “Third Party,” as some refer to them. I then smiled and reassured him, saying I was a journalist working on a story on Tahrir Square during this time of dawn.

Afterward, I went to a tent under the Freedom Monument, where there were some revolutionary friends. After saying hello and talking about the revolution, I asked one of them to take me on a little tour in the Square, reaching the Turkish restaurant, now known as Uhud Mountain. At the beginning of the road, I saw a few people playing football, and a few meters away from them, a young man had parked his Kia car and was distributing lentil soup to passersby. 

At the entrance of Uhud Mountain, things were more complicated than expected. At the door, a guard stood and did not allow anyone in, especially strangers. Fortunately, however, they knew my friend and let us go as high as the fourth floor.

After returning, my friend explained that these were necessary procedures for many reasons, including preventing covert agents and third parties from entering and pestering the protesters who were in dire need for rest after a long day protesting.

Even though I felt a little disappointed, I understood, and thanked my friend and left Tahrir Square.

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