As supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak battle in Cairo's main square, a former NewsChannel 15 reporter has a ringside seat as the events unfold. Rebecca Fox is pursuing a Masters degree in Middle Eastern studies at American University in Egypt's capital city.
In a Skype interview with NewsChannel 15's Joel Allen, Fox described the situation in Tahrir Square as suddenly more violent than it has been over the past week of protests.
"It looks like it's too dangerous to go out right now for me," Fox said.
Still, Fox said most of her American friends don't necessarily fear for their own safety. Though Fox and other Americans feel unable to leave their homes, she said it's partly because there's nothing to do, since most businesses remain closed due to the unrest. She said many Egyptians have taken it upon themselves to form neighborhood watch groups to protect their homes and businesses from thugs.
Anti-Mubarak protesters have been demanding that the dictator who's been in power for the past 30 years resign immediately. Fox said a few Egyptians were agreeable to Mubarak's announcement that he would not seek re-election to another term in September, but most protesters wouldn't accept that long a wait.
"Most people think he will not step down and I think the protests will continue until he does."
Fox said she's seen first hand the passion and determination on the protesters' faces. "I don't think they're going to give up without increased violence."
Fox said the situation in Cairo "definitely took a turn yesterday," when she said a peaceful demonstration in Tahrir Square that included families and children turned into a violent confrontation between pro- and anti-Mubarak forces.
Fox said it's a difficult situation for many loyal Egyptians, like her Arabic translator, who feel torn about what should happen next. "She says, this is not Egypt, this is not her country, but she thinks he's gotten the message and so to have him step down now she thinks would put the country in extreme chaos."
Fox said she would leave the country if she didn't feel safe in her apartment or if water, electricity and other utilities were to fail. Even if Fox wanted to get out, she said leaving now would be "a real task."
"From everyone I've spoken with who's been to the airport, it's a lot of waiting. You can expect to stay one or two days there, you need to bring your own food and water and you're not guaranteed a flight out."
For now, Fox said she plans to stay and do some work, if her school does not begin a new semester February 13th, as scheduled. "I think this is an important opportunity to learn more. My goal coming over here is to learn more about the Middle East and I'm getting a walking lesson."
We'll post more on our conversation with Rebecca later today, as well as keeping you updated on her situation in Cairo in the days to come.