Buried in this Robert Fisk report for The Independent is a startling account of the Egyptian army refusing to move with tanks against the Tahrir Square protesters on January 30. If this is true, it must be the defining moment in the history of the movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. My emphasis below:
Last night [Feb 10], a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier’s growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.
Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
Thus when General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds yesterday evening that “everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met”, the people cried back: “The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand.”
Robert Fisk is a seasoned journalist and Middle East expert with a long history. Though this event has not been widely reported (and Fisk does not give his source), I did find some corroboration, for example here. And Fisk’s claim is repeated here, with Fisk cited as the source. Given his history (Fisk is one of the few journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden three times), it’s unlikely he’s wrong.