Trudy Rubin in Cairo

These days, drivers ignore tanks in Cairo. (Trudy Rubin / Inquirer)

Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin is in Cairo. Here are some of her observations from the street.

One of the strangest aspects of today's Cairo is the popular love affair with the Egyptian army. On the edge of Tahrir Square where the revolution played out last week, children play on tanks and families pose for photos with soldiers.

The army is basically running the country right now, but most of the young rebels don't seem to mind (though some are uneasy.)  Even the skeptics among them see the army as the only institution that can hold the country together until elections can be held. This may be the only popular rebellion in recent memory where the rebels welcomed a military coup.

Egypt is still not back to normal, although Cairo's streets are full of cars, traffic jams are back, and stores and restaurants are open. in the evening dusk, a hawker wearing a wig with a red mohawk is selling Egyptian flags to passers-by on Talat Harb Street. 

But schools are closed for another week, as are banks. And factories around the country are going on strike, as if everyone sensed that now is the moment to demand something of the government, before someone clamps down on their right to shout. However, rumors are starting that the strikes are being organized by forces in the government who still hope that the public will become dissatisfied with the current uncertainty, and want a restoration of the old order. The secret police are still functioning, even though for the moment their powers seem to be curbed and they are said to be under army control.  

How much have things really changed in Egypt? I just talked with Dan Williams, the American Human Rights Watch researcher who was arrested last week in a sweep of an Egyptian human rights office, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center. He says, "There is no doubt the army was in charge of the raid."

Williams and 28 Egyptian human-rights activists, three foreign journalists, and two human-rights researchers were handcuffed, made to sit on the floor while the offices were trashed, and hauled off to a Ministry of the Interior complex, and then to a military headquarters. As he sat blindfolded on concrete for the next 24 hours, Williams heard howls of pain from Egyptian prisoners.

"Egypt is in a period of euphoric limbo right now," Williams says. But much more needs to be done immediately in the area of human rights, including releasing any detainees still held from the last couple of weeks and reviewing the status of those detained before for political reasons. "There should be transparency for those arrested," he says. "No one knew where we were being held until we were released." If foreigners were held incommunicado for 32 hours, one can only imagine how long Egyptians are held before their families are informed - if they are informed at all.