Diary entries from inside Egypt

The View from inside the Jasmine Revolution

January 21

I was preparing to attend a teacher training workshop in Europe, and I met with my teaching assistant, Dina, because I was  going to miss the first two teaching days of the new semester.

When Dina said she was planning to join the protests on Police Day, a national holiday, I tried to discourage her. I was really worried about her getting injured because I know how violent our police can be. I told her that we cannot be like Tunisia and our president is not like the Tunisian president.

this slogan was on Facebook and was also sent as a text message.  It says:  25th of January: Change day. Tunis has done it on the 15th and Egypt will do it on the 25th.

January 25 – Police day

Egyptian TV was filled with songs, movies, and celebrations for the occasion of Police day. I could not believe what I saw while surfing though the channels. Thousands of people in Tahrir Square, down town, where I teach!! People calling and chanting: “Freedom, change, social justice.”  Non-Egyptian channels were saying the protesters were young people and all is peaceful. I thought of Dina at the demonstrations.

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January 27

I took a 6:00 am taxi to airport, and talked with the driver about the demonstrations. He said that those people are so optimistic, they think they can change and make the president step down as the Tunisian. Airport. Plane. London.

January 28 (keep?)

I watched the BBC World report about the protests in Cairo.  Violence, tear gas, guns, police fighting with people, and people falling. Could not hold back my tears. Called my daughter and could not get through. Called my son and could not get through. Called my mom,  and it was the same:  “Your call cannot be completed.”

I sent text messages and expected replies, but there were no replies. I’d heard more news about the violence between the police and the protesters, and I tried to contact my family through the internet. After paying to use the Internet in four different locations, each time I was unable to access my email. I  learned that there is no internet, nor mobile access at home at all and that things are getting worse and worse. I was going crazy. I was in constant tears as I watched TV—tear gas, violence, as if it was me who was getting the tear gas, so cold, freezing cold, heater on, still cold… no sleep, still not in touch with anyone at home.

January 29

My daughter’s birthday. 21 years old. Could not call her. Still in tears. Watched the news with some friends. Violence. Thugs in streets. Camels in Tahrir Square! Horses! People falling dead, shot by the police. Stones. Anger everywhere. We were all watching. All in tears. No talk. No tea. No coffee. No dinner. Nothing. Worries about people at home. Not access to my email yet! I Could access internet from London of course, however, my mail was impossible.

February 10 2011

Back from Europe yesterday. It is now Solidarity week. I went to Tahrir Square, just for half an hour. The army checks everyone going in and coming out. So safe. Like a carnival. Masses of people. Haven’t experienced one harassment incident. People chanting: Leave! Leave! Leave! The chants have become more insulting for the president. Now they don’t just want to fail the regime, they are asking the President Mubarak literally to quit.

There was an announcement that the President will deliver a speech tonight. When the speech began, we stared at each other and could not believe what we were hearing. The President was talking in the future tense.  All the kids screamed.

In the middle of the speech he said that he gives the authority to Vice President Suliman, but the way he said it—just in one sentence in the middle of the speech—he will not step down until next September.

We all kept quiet. No comments. I  just didn’t understand what has happened. Surfing through the channels. Anger and range in the square. I couldn’t sleep.  I felt so down, so depressed.

February 11

I was up early, but there was no Coffee and no talking. Then the phone calls began. “Do you want to go?” No, I am so depressed. No, I am not going. No. No. No. Finally, I decided to go.

People who were not at the protests were described as cowards. We are not cowards—we are in Tahrir Square. People from the army were checking us.

It was so crowded—even more than the day before. More and more people.

More chants of insults to the President.

I felt a bit sad that President Mubarak had to be insulted in that bitter way.  It would have been more dignifying for him if he had  left before those insults. I felt he is too old for that and wished from all my heart that he would have done it sooner—before  being insulted. Wished he would have done it even years and years earlier. I felt sorry for him being humiliated at that age. I know I should not sympathize with him.  I didn’t, but I just felt sorry for the humiliation of the old man.

Suddenly, people began screaming and waving the flags, he stepped down!!  He stepped down!!  We made it !!  My friends and I  burst into tears. I Couldn’t explain the tears. Happiness and bitterness!!  I could not believe it. Hundreds of people, chanting and waving flags. Boys and girls, men and women, young and old. There were tears, tears and more tears.

I received text messages from friends in other Arab countries: “You made it guys!” I was happy, but it was not me who made it. It was the young kids who have made it. Why people are congratulating me? I blamed myself and the self blame is still persisting till now in my mind. It was my generation that  helped the dictator to stay longer. My silence and my fear helped him and all the people around him to grow stronger and stronger.

How did these kids grow up? What was different between the way I grew up and the way they did.  I grew up with parents who have suffered politics in the 60’s and raised us to stay away from politics in order to live safer. Complaints were only told among friends or written in personal diaries, but never spoken out loud. We never raised our voices. Our silence was so helpful for the tyrants and dictators.

I’m proud of the younger generation. Had they listened to their parents telling them, go home, he is not stepping down, he is staying, it is no use…..President Mubarak would have still been there, and maybe the police would have caused trouble for all of the protestors. I thought of Dina and her friends and how brave they were, and about the young boys and girls who were killed by the police. They were killed for all of us.

Now I think about the tough road we have to before us and of the role I can play now.  Although, I had no role in putting us on the correct path, maybe I will have a role future.