Students from Egyptian universities marched to the Arab League on Tuesday to show their solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza. About 1,000 people, nearly all of university age, stood in the shadows of trees between the Arab League building and Tahrir Square. The crowd listened to speeches and thrust victory signs into the air.
The students said they were from Cairo University, Al-Azhar University, Helwan University, Bani Suef University, Menufiya University, and Ain Shams University. Some noted with a bit of distain in their voices that the American University in Cairo was not represented.
Fazi Khalooma from Al-Azhar said the students were at the Arab League, “to say, ‘you are responsible to make a decision in support of the people of Gaza.’ All the people of Egypt will support the people of Gaza, inshallah.”
Hamad from Ain Shams added, “we are Muslims, we don’t believe in Israel.”
A row of women held a banner with the already iconic image of BBC employee Jihad Misharawi sobbing as he clutches his dead baby son.
The group walked from Cairo University in Giza to Tahrir square in Downtown Cairo. At the Arab League building they stood facing a flatbed truck loaded with speakers, where orators took turns at the microphone.
At the foot of the truck, Hamas official Munir Saeed spoke to members of the media. He said how he had been offered to live in many countries, but only wanted to make his home in Palestine. Despite that home being under bombardment, he answered questions calmly with his hands folded across his stomach.
“Israel wants war,” Saeed said, “Palestine wants peace.”
He went on to discuss Egypt’s large influence in Gaza and the important role that the Egyptian people play in supporting the Palestinian cause. When asked if he wanted Egypt to send troops to defend Gaza, he said, “no. There are international commitments that will not allow Egypt to do so.”
Meanwhile, across the square at Mohammed Mahmoud street, where activist were still commemorating the the clashes a year ago, there was a scene of anarchy. There were no police to be seen as a group of boys uprooted a sign post and used it to ram open the doors of a building on the AUC Tahrir campus, while others threw stones to smash the remaining window panes. Two piles of rubbish sent up two-metre flames and teargas hung faintly in the air.
In front of the Arab League, nearby scenes of violence were contrasted by relaxation and discipline. Male university students stood holding hands in a ring around their female counterparts, some wearing kefayas as hijabs, one or two taking photos of their friends holding a Palestinian flag.