THE CONTINUED FREEDOM SAGA IN EGYPT

Houriya al-Masriya | SIPA Class of 2017

Six years ago today, I was told that the University would take an indefinite break. It was mostly expected to last a couple of days till the protests died down. Two months later the semester resumed, with half the faculty gone, and the other half shifting all dialogue, curriculum, and syllabi to one topic: The Revolution. No one had seen it coming.

Many now define the Egyptian Revolution of January 25th, 2011 as a failed attempt. In retrospect, it did fail. But from points of view in 2011 and as well as one that challenges a future perspective, it can be suggested that this revolution holds layers of success.

A view from the past:
It goes without mentioning that the ability to gather people en masse in the streets, is in and of itself an achievement, in front of a persistent setting of a dark dictatorial regime. But I’m not here to talk politics, which can be read about in any informational article or journal.

I am here to talk perseverance. Courage.

It was not the starting point of anger in 2010, when Alexandria citizen Khaled Said, was tortured and beaten to death in public by the police, for failing to disclose his license. The anger had been simmering for years. Organized sit-ins were consistent as early as 2006, with judges protesting electoral frauds, and activist activity under attack, being the norm. The state created no room for political parties to grow and lead. Hopeful oppositional leadership was always greeted with cyclical and systematic repression, as many struggled with the balance of remaining active and alive. To have the masses converging into one voice with clear demands was already a bold move that, perhaps, many overlook. Top it off with the actual removal of Mubarak after only 18 days, and this was history. It was a moment that was pregnant with the opportunity of newness. Fleetingly, the youth felt something generationally long lost – autonomy. The freedom to lead one’s own life and control their own destiny. They felt hope – that what was to come would be better. The celebratory streets were louder than the chants prior, and those days were a continuation of certain utopia that was felt in the square. Everyone cared. Everyone became internally free. Free from routine of work and responsibility of gaining an income; free from religious duties and loaded judgement against those unlike oneself. United we stood, and cared. We all carried extra lunches, extra tea, extra medical supplies, just in case. Though nothing about this reflects the reality of apathy and indifference that can be found in today’s youth, I think it is worth recognizing the moment that once was. It was a moment displaying the success of a people who were persistently, selflessly, and boldly energized by the idea of dying themselves, so that others may taste freedom.

The retrospect that reveals failure:

After Mubarak’s overthrow came the SCAF, under which came horrifying atrocities (i.e: virginity tests on women by military officials, oppressive and violent attacks against protesters, etc.). Then came the questionably democratic elections between a candidate just like Mubarak, and another representing the most suppressed and banned party during Sadat and Mubarak’s era – the Muslim Brotherhood.

A year after the Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi won the elections, Egyptians once more returned to the streets, this time protesting since Morsi issued a declaration chaining himself power with the right to issue any law without opposition from another entity. Soon after, a military coup took place in 2013, hiding behind a righteous agenda of saving the Egyptians from Muslim extremists, leading to a massacre that killed an estimated 1,000 mostly Muslim Brotherhood members in a matter of hours.

Then under the new dictator, President Sisi, Egyptian youth, activists, lawyers, academics, and January 25th hopeful survivors, turned pale. With an easily predicted economic crisis, and a reliance on a $12 billion IMF loan, Egypt was seemingly at a loss.

Was this what the ‘revolution’ demands had led to? Would it have been better if we just stayed inside our homes, accepted Mubarak and at least kept our economic stability?

No.

This, in fact, is the very narrative the current regime seeks to feed. They want the masses to forget their identity – revolutionary. It is a similar concept to the underlying narrative that a dictatorship is the only alternative to Islamic extremism taking power. Each ear that listened to such a narrative and believed it, shows the extent to which the January 25th Egyptian revolution has indeed failed.

The future perspective suggesting an alternate conclusion to ‘failure’

For something to receive the title of failure, it must have completed its course. The Egyptian Revolution still stands, yes, even though it is six years later. It has not been concluded, so it may not be given a status of failure or success. It will be concluded the moment freedom is achieved, and the moment Egyptians awake again to their true identities. So as this 6th year anniversary takes place, I would like to post this picture I took in Tahrir in 2011. I would hope that it informs the reader that the demands are as alive today as they were back then, and that the older generation was right, change never happens overnight. I hope this picture serves as a reminder to the youth of January 25th, who are now Egypt’s leaders, to recognize that in their going and coming, they have the choice to live out the fight for freedom they worked for, but now with long-term action. Let it be a reminder that now we must create the change: by being policy makers, parliamentary members, mayors, governors, activists, lawyers, educators. But most of all, as a people who remember their identity: fighters, revolutionaries.

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