The Public Role of Tahrir Square
Mohamed Elshahed, a doctoral candidate in the Middle East Studies Department at New York University, reflects on the uprising in Egypt and how the public plaza of Tahrir Square played an integral role.
"The January 25th Revolution has had a dramatic, immediate effect on how Egyptians occupy Cairo and interact with one another. Commentators in the West have been quick to credit online social networking with empowering the protests. But the revolution that started in January 2011 in Cairo has provided powerful evidence that the virtual is not enough: in the course of several historic days in Tahrir Square it became decisively clear that the occupation of physical urban space was, and continues to be, crucial to the success and continuity of the revolution. No doubt the initial rush of online exhortations, including the Jan. 25 call to protest police brutality, was vitally important; but as we now know, the country was unplugged for six days, from Jan. 28 through Feb. 5, during which period the protests actually grew larger and the protestors became even more determined not merely to express popular dissent but ultimately to overthrow the regime.
Indeed, in the past few weeks Tahrir has became a truly public square."