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Egypt’s Uprising

photo by: Ahmed Mokhtar

The towers of fear, erected upon six decades of dictatorship, were cracked and giving way on Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.

Over eighteen days, glued to our electronic gadgetry, we watched a huge diversity of Egyptians pour onto the square in unity, to protest corruption of the Hosni Mubarak regime, and to sing. An eruption of freedom was bursting along the fissure of universal human desire.

Day after day we witnessed protesters being abused and arrested by security forces, censored and brutalized by thugs, gripped by fear and uncertainty, patronized by Mubarak, and recharged by growing resistance across the land. Despite periodic clashes, the collective expression was mostly a ballet in motion: the high art of demanding justice through the sheer force of peace. The protesters’ dance of determination enthralled the world. Their injuries invaded our conscience, reminding us that liberty is not free: that the bondage of others is, in truth, the burden of all.

In a flurry of updates with Egyptian friends–some on the ground in Cairo–I was privileged on Facebook to share with them the exhilarating roller coaster moving at full speed. The spirit of the protesters was at close range, and indelible.

Our voices engaged in a lively debate: from the virtues and dangers of American involvement, to the affects of media bias, to the psychological soundness of Mubarak, to what exact break-throughs the opposition must staunchly await before relinquishing the square. In dialog with these young, intellectually lively Egyptians, I felt deeply grateful for our American founders, but also collective guilt for the reality of our country’s participation in their oppression. Many young Egyptians embrace Americans, but feel understandably burned by the contradictory nature of our government’s policies. They are full of purpose and self-determination. U.S. interests can only benefit by helping them shift toward the justice they seek.

Amidst the serious discussion, the Egyptian sense of humor was palpable. After Mubarak’s thugs had ridden into the square to attack protesters with clubs, one Facebook participant ribbed the regime for sending their citizens back into time: from mobiles, to landlines, to horses and camels, to stones. “Cavemen will follow soon, if we don’t continue,” she joked. In face of unrelenting opposition, Mubarak’s assertion of his continued rule on Thursday, February 10th, seemed a kind of walled-off insanity. In response, another Egyptian participant suggested Mubarak must seek “communication skills 101, asap.” Mubarak’s words and demeanor seemed oddly humorous, but also ominous. I feared a crackdown and scrambled to First Lady Obama’s Facebook wall to write my anxiety away. There were many moments of intensity, crisis and humor among us throughout the days of the ordeal.

The NPR Brian Lehrer Show and It’s a Free Country called a meeting at its Manhattan Greene Space Friday morning, February 11th. Educators, journalists and activists seasoned in the dynamics of revolution met in shared support of the opposition.

Mubarak’s departure occurred during the live event: this was emotional news, especially for the Egyptians present. The dreams came rushing in: genuine democracy in Egypt; reform in the region; two state solution; withdrawal from oil dependency–the last days of terrorism burning into historical ash…!

But amidst the elation came sober warnings that the story of reform has only started, and its denouement will take months, even years, to unfold. Despite the military’s restraint during the crisis, its entrenched power over many decades remains a wild card in Egypt’s destiny. Has the Middle East reached a tipping point, entering a new democratic dynamism? Or, are the new players simply the old oppressors, in disguise temporarily?

See Multimedia Content below to hear an Egyptian update, looking back from the last five years.


VIDEO: The Economist: Egypt Five Years On

  • ARTICLE: The LA Times: Egypt’s Power Players



    Check out this Action Opportunities link to the Egyptian Association for Change: a group operating in America to help support genuine democratic reform in Egypt.

    Action Opportunities







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    PLEASE COMMENT:How did the protest in Tahrir Square affect you? What do you believe is the proper role for the West and other countries in Egypt’s quest for democracy?


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    Filed under Culture  |  Comments: 0 | Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

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