Egyptian police use Facebook and Twitter to profile and track down dissidents before rounding them up | 21Fev2011 09:54:37


[This could be the shape of things to come in other countries.]

Sitting on an upturned bread basket with her knees pulled up to her chest, a petite young woman looked out over Tahrir Square early yesterday morning and weighed up whether she should stay or leave.

Gabrielle, 25, is a French-Egyptian property lawyer, one of the thousands of young protesters who have remained at the focal point of Egypt’s uprising since it began 13 days ago. Exhausted, she yearns to return to the comfortable home she shares with her younger sisters and anxious parents – also lawyers – in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis ten miles away. She dreamt last night of a hot bath and fresh clothes.

Laughing wearily, she says: ‘See, I am the colours of the Egyptian flag.’ She points to her black jeans, white shirt – and the blood on her sleeve.

War zone: But protesters say they now feel safer in Cairo's Tahrir Square than on the many streets where pro-government militia roam free

‘It’s not mine,’ she says, almost apologetically. ‘My friend, a student doctor, was cut above the eye by a rock the other day.

‘Of course my family are worried – my father rings every hour to check I am OK. And it would be a lie to say that I enjoy being dressed like this. I’m a woman, and fussy about clothes! I’ve been out of the square only twice, and only briefly, since this began so it hasn’t been easy. At the same time I don’t want to let my friends down, and I want to stay until Mubarak leaves.

‘I am also worried about being arrested if I leave. Already we have heard stories about activists who have left being rounded up. They have our names from Facebook postings and Twitter. Some have not been heard of since.’

Gabrielle’s dilemma is shared by many others whose activism, both online and on the streets, has brought them to the attention of the state security police.

While other protesters arrive and leave freely, thousands like Gabrielle – well-educated, middle-class idealistic young Egyptians who used social networking sites to ignite this protest – are beginning to feel trapped. Some say they are fighting for their lives, though they have thus far protested peacefully.

DailyMail 2011 Feb 6
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