Jess Hurd

Posts Tagged ‘Cairo’

The Day of Rage – Remembering The Egyptian Revolution

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Today I woke up from a nightmare, I was back photographing the Egyptian Revolution. It has been ten years since the start of the Arab Spring when the people stood up to dictatorship and oppression in the Middle East.

The story  began in Tunisia in December 2010 and it became clear that if the revolt spread then Egypt would be key in the region. I had worked in Cairo before covering a peace conference and was very aware of the oppression living under Hosni Mubarak. Political dissent was crushed, people were tortured.

Myself and video journalist Jason Parkinson headed to Cairo for the Day of Rage on the 28th January 2011. We stepped out from our hostel deliberately looking like tourists, the secret police were searching people on the streets, our plan was to make it to one of the main mosques for the end of Friday prayers. People were in the street as the mosques were overflowing when they were attacked with live rounds as they knelt. It was chaos, tear gas was fired from the top of armoured personnel carriers and people were running everywhere.

The attack on Egyptians praying was shocking. It galvanised opposition to the the regime, millions joined the revolt across the country. We joined a rolling demonstration, which gathered pace and people through the city shouting “Down down Mubarak!”, the protesters were ambushed on every turn, this was planned suppression.

I was keen to stay with the body of the protest, so that we were not picked off, but we were caught in cross fire and had to shelter, documenting the wounded from baton rounds.

I was grabbed by the handle on my camera bag from behind. Jason threw a punch at the guy and we tried to run but I was grabbed again, this time by the throat and held against against a wall as two men wrestled Jason to the ground. We were marched to the frontline of police by the undercover officers, I was desperately trying to get my International Federation of Journalists press card out of my back pocket and was shouting “press press!”. We were thrown in front of someone senior and begged for our release, aware that this could go very badly for us.

The commander decided to release us under orders to leave the country immediately and seized the memory cards from our cameras, but we had already switched the cards and he took empty ones. We considered this a lucky escape and headed back toward to our first floor hotel room on Tahrir Square, hoping this would be a safer option to keep documenting this revolution. It turned out it was not, as ricochets struck the window sill and sniper fire narrowly missed us.

Covering the moment when people collectively forgot their fear and stood up to a barbaric regime was exhilarating, what a moment in history to witness. We were largely welcomed by the crowds as British press, people were so keen for their stories to be told and the revolution to be televised. Mubarak had other plans, this was a Twitter revolution, social media democratised and organised the protests. The regime pulled the plug on the internet and phone networks.

We hooked up with Egyptian journalists from the local syndicate and had 24h support from the National Union of Journalists legal department. Thankfully we were also helped out by a UK colleague who allowed us to used the WiFi in his hotel every morning.

Protests raged every day with battles on the streets. Our hostel was situated where the tanks were stationed, across from the museum with snipers on the roof and a torture chamber in the basement. The torture of choice was to pump up the testicles with water until they burst. I didn’t get much sleep. The constant fire fights and threat of the secret police coming for us was ever present. We left the windows wide open because we didn’t want glass shattering on us and we soaked a blanket will water in case we were firebombed. We slept in gas masks or had them by our side.

Our first trip out to Mohammed Mahmoud Street (as it was renamed), was a baptism of fire. A man stood in front of us waving his arms in the air shouting “sniper, sniper”, blocking us from the bullets, we had to zig-zag out and regroup. The bravery and selflessness of people we encountered was an real inspiration.

We filmed people being carried off the street clutching the backs of their heads with blood pouring down their necks. The side street mosques opened their doors to the wounded and as we documented, quickly became mortuary’s. With shock, grief and panic across everyone’s faces.

Facebook was fairly new as a social media platform and our colleagues used it to check in on a photographer’s site, to make sure people were safe and well. We also set up emergency texts in case we were apprehended. An agency colleague sent us one of these and we engaged the appropriate people. It turns out he was bundled into a car, blindfolded and mock executioned. Thankfully he was released.

One event that especially scarred me was in Tahrir Square on 30th January, it was dusk and people were milling around. Opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei swept into the Square with a tightly packed crowd around him. I was separated from my colleagues and found myself crushed so badly I couldn’t move. My arms were above my head holding my camera and men around my began to grope me everywhere, inside my clothing, my breasts, inside my underwear. I was in panic mode, I couldn’t move to defend myself, flashing through my mind was that I would be striped, raped, beaten or crushed to death.

I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t shout for help for fear of attracting more of the mob. It felt like a coordinated attack. In a moment I saw a gap in the crowd and managed to dodge, swerve and push my way past the grabbing hands. I was shaken and hyperventilating when I found my colleagues. One said he had witness the assault but couldn’t get to me through the crowds.

At the time I deliberated and struggled with the idea of publishing what had happened to me. I wrote an article and sent a draft to trusted friends and colleagues. The feeling from some was that this would distract from the revolution. I chose not to publish, which was wrong in retrospect, I didn’t want to become the story. But when subsequently other women were attacked, horrifically, including TV presenter Lara Logan, I was hit with such a wave of guilt, that I could have done something to warn others, to prevent this from happening haunted me. The image of a woman being dragged through the streets with her light blue underwear is still etched in my dreams.

We encountered other atrocities, during the battle outside the museum where camels were deployed, we were run off the street by a mob brandishing machetes. We got away but a women following us was bludgeoned and hacked to death at our hotel door.

We hired a cinema in Bermondsey when we returned home to showcase people’s work documenting the revolution. We raised money for the family of an Egyptian colleague who had been killed. We passed union motions against the politically motivated targeting of women journalists and engaged the support of the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma, which has been invaluable and hopefully made our colleagues more trauma aware and resilient.

I still reflect on the Egyptian Uprising with an array of different emotions. It has meant dealing with chronic anxiety, a fear of large crowds and confined spaces, also working at night.
But I will never regret bearing witness to the mass revolt and people feeling their power.

Jess Hurd

Check out more:

Egyptian Uprising photos

Jason N. Parkinson Archive

Martyrs Day – Tahrir Square

Protesters gather in Tahrir Square for Martyrs Day to pay respect for those who were killed by the police in the protests against the military junta. Women were out in large numbers after sexual assaults on women journalists were reported. Cairo, Egypt.

See images from Martyrs Day images here

See other images from the uprising here

Images are available from


Uprising Against Egyptian Military

Protesters fight with the Egyptian police and army on Mohamed Mahmoud Street during an uprising against the military. Nr Al-Tahrir (Liberation Square), Cairo, Egypt.

See 48 hour slideshow here

See images from Martyrs Day images here

© Jess Hurd/

Texting A Revolution

Battle for Cairo. Pro Mubarak supporters send in men armed with clubs on horses and camels but are quickly forced to retreat from anti Mubarak protesters in a bloody running battle outside the Cairo Museum, near Al-Tahrir (Liberation Square), Cairo, Egypt. © Jess Hurd/

The uprising in Egypt had its organisational base in social media, in Facebook, Twitter and texting. It was this ability that the government shut down, mobile phone signals blocked and internet disabled to try and prevent the masses from communicating, organising and expressing their anger against a a brutal regime on the streets – they failed.

When a journalist colleague left Cairo I was asked to send in text reports to a British newspaper.

The transcript below are the text messages I sent on what was dubbed, The Battle for Cairo, or the Day of the Camels, where the Egyptian people fought heroically all through the day and night, at great personal cost against Mubarak’s armed men to defend Tahrir Square and the revolution.

Images available from





The Battle for Cairo

2 Feb 2011 10.46

Pro Mubarak supporters are massing outside the TV Station. Situation very tense, much hostility to westerners. Anti Mubarak protesters holding the square fear an attack by what they estimate will be 25,000 pro regime supporters. Weapons have been found on the checkpoints.

2 Feb 2011 11.48

Pro Mubarak supporters have marched up from the TV station past the army tanks outside the museum towards Tahrir Square, 10,000 so far.

2 Feb 2011 12.13

People are being caught and bludgeoned by pro Mubarak protesters outside museum.

2 Feb 2011 12.31

Street fighting between both groups rocks thrown, pro Mubarak demonstrators pushed out of square, now advancing. Army doing nothing.

Pro supporters pushed back, hiding behind tanks by anti Mubarak people throwing stones defending square.

Raining stones, people appealing for calm.

2 Feb 2011 12.49

Pro’s advancing towards square again.

2 Feb 2011 13.01

Pros charge with horses and camels (!) carrying clubs but beaten back with a hail of stones.

Anti’s push back the pro Mubarak supporters beyond museum, celebrate on top of tanks. Stones covering floor, people injured, being carried away.

2 Feb 2011 13.21

People break rocks on tanks, media seem to have control of one tank..riot could go on for some time.

2 Feb 2011 13.34

Army soldier beaten by protesters for taking a TV camera.

Army giving amnesty to pro Mubarak supporters in museum. Anti Mubarak protesters still control the street.

Machine gun fire near Hilton Hotel

2 Feb 2011 13.45

Shotgun and pistol fire.

Plain clothes police with walkie talkie inside pro Mubarak supporters. People bang on tanks, noise deafening.

2 Feb 2011 14.39

Trucks and containers dividing road as barricade.

2 Feb 2011 15.03

Many head injuries on anti Mubarak from masonry, chairs and slates thrown from roof tops. Still holding ground.

National democracy party cards been found on pro Mubarak supporters.

Gun shots near river Nile.

2 Feb 2011 15.20

Massive rock breaking operation, women also on frontline. Pro Mubarak supporters with guns have been caught and handed over to army.

ID with no job title have been found by anti Mubarak protesters. They think that the pro demo is full of police.

2 Feb 2011 15.38

Children help collect rocks.

This is a battle for Cairo, no end in sight.

More shotgun fire from pro Mubarak side.

2 Feb 2011 16.02

It’s dusk both lines are holding, army doing nothing. Tanks and armoured personal carriers litter the street. Tanks are supplied rocks in bread baskets where they are thrown at the pro Mubarak side. Women bang railings to make large drum sounds..more gun fire..

More machine gun fire.

2 Feb 2011 16.42

Rugs full of stones being carried to the front line, people wearing cardboard  and coats to protect heads.

People say they are fighting for freedom and their children’s futures.

2 Feb 2011 17.31

Big explosion.

Person brought out on a makeshift stretcher.

Two explosions.

2 Feb 2011 17.45

Cairo Tower lights have gone out.

2 Feb 2011 18.13

Strange rhythmic drumming accompanying the revolution, every bit of metal is being drummed, drowning out every other sound.

2 Feb 2011 18.42

More gunfire, air filled with dust and smoke. People working constantly in teams to provide front line with stones as ammunition.

2 Feb 2011 19.06

Hundreds wounded, many still on the front line with head and limbs bandaged. People carried out to a makeshift hospital in the square. Mubarak is trying to cling onto power in the bloodiest way possible.

2 Feb 2011 19.26

Thousands march in to front line on the anti Mubarak side. Mood angry and defiant.

Usama Alam, a journalist supressed under Mubarak is carried on the shoulders of protesters to the frontline.

2 Feb 2011 19.53

Pro Mubarak protesters are pushed back towards the flyover.


2 Feb 2011 20.20

People giving out crisps and water on front line. Heavy automatic gunfire surrounds us.

2 Feb 2011 21.32

The battle continues, helicopter overhead.

2 Feb 2011 22.23

Tanks line up pointing at and moving towards Tahrir Square.

Gun turrets turned to face pro Mubarak protesters.

People applaud and plead with the soldiers.

3 Feb 2011 03.43

People line up in street for morning prayers. Ambulances arrive to collect sniper victims.

3 Feb 2011 04.55

Anti Mubarak protesters have kept control of Tahrir square.

Hundreds of anti Mubarak protesters march back victorious into Square.

Doctors and walking wounded pose for photos in front of tanks, others look exhausted.

3 Feb 2011 06.15

Walking into the square, rubble everywhere. Most people wearing head bandages, limping, wrapped in blankets. Some being treated by exhausted doctors. There is a woman speaking on a loud speaker. People smiling wearily with the victory after 11 hours of intense street fighting, with at least 1500 injured and unknown numbers killed. Just been greeted with ‘welcome to Egypt’ by a protester with a rye smile who has kept his sense of humour.

© Jess Hurd



































Referendum Vote

Egyptian student votes NO in the referendum on the constitution. Cairo, Egypt
© Jess Hurd/

The Battle for Cairo – film/photo event

After covering the first 18-days of the Egyptian revolution, many UK photographers and video journalists have returned to London and will be screening their work in a special one night event, organised by the London Photographers’ Branch (LPB) and the British Press Photographers Association (BPPA), at the Shortwave Cinema on  Tuesday 1 March 2011.

Starting at 8pm the evening will show video and photographs covering the extraordinary events that unravelled during the popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak and his regime. There will also be a question-and-answer discussion with the photographers and video journalists who covered the uprising.

Entry is by donation and there will be a raffle to win selected prints donated by the photographers. All profits will go to the Egyptian journalist support fund.

Mubarak Resigns

Images available from

The Revolution Is Being Televised

Coldtype photo essay here

Get out Mubarak

Revolution in Cairo, Egypt.

© Jess Hurd/

Vigilantes or Community Organisation?

Local community organising groups defend their neighbourhood from police attack and reported police looting. They are also organising street cleaning teams.  Some news reports have wrongly reported them vigilantes or street thugs. Uprising against Mubarak, Cairo, Egypt.
See updated web gallery with images of people stopping tanks entering AlTahrir (Liberation Square) here
© Jess Hurd/
Images available to licence from

Day of Rage – Cairo

An army unit supports the protesters and allow people to ride through the streets, Cairo, Egypt.

Images available

See web gallery here

© Jess Hurd/

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