Opponents of the Egyptian government live in fear as anti-government protests lead to a crackdown on dissent.
In a dark flat on the outskirts of Cairo, the human rights worker we’ve come to meet nervously smokes and fiddles with his phone as he talks.
“Just going to work, or outside, you are at risk of being arrested, it’s a scary feeling,” he tells us.
It’s Friday morning and the flat we’re meeting in isn’t his. He’s hiding out here after his flatmate, an artist, was picked up from their downtown Cairo flat by security forces amidst a wave of detentions following anti-government protests on September 20th that called for the removal of President Abdel Fatteh el Sisi.
Now curtains drawn and fidgety, it’s clear the impact the last week has had on him.
“I can’t live in this anxiety. I might be intercepted at any moment.”
He’s been detained before and he feels that going into hiding is the only option he has left.
In the last two weeks, more than 2,000 people have been detained by Egypt’s security forces according to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.
Egypt’s security forces say many of those detained will be kept in jail for another 15 days while further checks are carried out.
On the streets of downtown Cairo, I watch as a group of young men are stopped by the police. A laptop is pulled out a bag and opened to be inspected. I leave, wary to be lingering and watching and conscious of another team of security personnel slouching by their black van, balaclavas covering some of their faces.
Early Friday morning it’s clear that the calls for further protests - in Tahrir at least - will be impossible. The area is on lockdown, I watch as what looks like a group of plainclothes policeman being briefed.
Military vehicles take slow laps around the square and policeman are stationed at roadblocks around the square and down side streets.
So where do things go from here?
On the same day that Tahrir Square is on lockdown, a highly orchestrated pro-Sisi rally takes place.
“It’s like a war,” one man I interviewed (again speaking anonymously for fear of reprisal) told me.
“Those who love Sisi, those who hate him and the ones in the middle who are scared.”
That fear is palpable among people you speak to. Men, women, lawyers, activist - all have been picked up in the security crackdown.
But there’s anger too.
“There is a huge anger [sic],” the human rights worker tells us, “there are real political and economic reasons behind these protests. People are rejecting the current conditions and as long as there are no solutions for these political and economic problems protesters will go out on the streets again and again.”
Though some anti-government protests took place in other areas in the country it was nowhere near the scale of the previous week.
The man behind the recent wave of dissent - tycoon and film producer Mohammed Ali - is currently in exile outside the country, in Spain.
He said the target of protests doesn’t have to be Tahrir Square, that all Egypt is Tahrir.
“You can have political freedom or you can have safety,” the human rights worker tells us with a sigh, “you can’t have both”.
This is what repression looks like. Civilians in hiding. Innocent people, detained. A sealed off Tahrir Square, where the Egyptian people toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2012, the Egyptian flag lapping lonely in the breeze and the silence of the absent people drowned out by the blare of police sirens long into the night.