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Planet Earth

At the Barricades

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorFebruary 3, 2011 5:15 PM

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The big news and the big picture is captured by Anthony Shadid in his NYT dispatch, starting with this pitch perfect opening line:

The future of the Arab world, perched between revolt and the contempt of a crumbling order, was fought for in the streets of downtown Cairo on Wednesday.

His piece goes on to deliver terrific ground-level reporting (with an eye for the right detail):

The battle was waged by Mohammed Gamil, a dentist in a blue tie who ran toward the barricades of Tahrir Square. It was joined by Fayeqa Hussein, a veiled mother of seven who filled a Styrofoam container with rocks. Magdi Abdel-Rahman, a 60-year-old grandfather, kissed the ground before throwing himself against crowds mobilized by a state bent on driving them from the square. And the charge was led by Yasser Hamdi, who said his 2-year-old daughter would live a life better than the one he endured.

The story pivots deftly from the granular to a wide lens view:

From minute-by-minute coverage on Arabic channels to conversations from Iraq to Morocco, the Middle East watched breathlessly at a moment as compelling as any in the Arab world in a lifetime.

And here's the kicker, which encapsulates the deeply felt theme of Shadid's masterful story:

"I'm fighting for my freedom," Noha al-Ustaz said as she broke bricks on the curb. "For my right to express myself. For an end to oppression. For an end to injustice." "Go forward," the cries rang out, and she did, disappearing into a sea of men.

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