Egypt: A Historic Revolution

March 22, 2011
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Young people don't have a say in decisions that affect the society and its future. This statement accurately describes how i used to feel all my life. For more fifteen years I believed that we, the youth, didn't have a say in anything. Decisions, big or small, were made by older, more experienced adults. This didn't make much sense to me. How can decisions that will affect our society, our life, our future be made by someone other than us?

However, my view changed drastically about a month ago, the 25th of January to be exact. Protests for that day had been planned by young Egyptian activists, dedicated to bring to their country the change that it was in dire need of. Like the many other demonstrations that had preceded it, this demonstration wasn't expected to be any different: no more than a few thousand young protestors chanting for higher wages, more jobs and lower prices being met violently by police forces trying to silence them. The reality, however, surprised everyone. Fueled by the newly ignited hope that came from the overthrowing of the Tunisian president, Zine al-Abedine Bin Ali, hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians poured into Tahrir square and started what would soon become one of the greatest revolutions of all time. This time they sang completely different chants. Probably the most iconic was "the people want to bring down the regime." the chants showed that, at last, the people are taking matters into their own hands.

As usual, the protestors were met by unnecessary brutality. Tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and steel batons were all used as an attempt to end the demonstrations and, once again, exercise the government's oppression. But the protestors refused to give up. With their make-shift armor to protect them against the rubber bullets and their homemade remedies to alleviate the pain of the tear gas, they vowed that they will continue to defend their future, that they will remain peaceful and not turn this face-off into the bloodbath it could easily be.

The numbers of protestors multiplied rapidly over the next few days. People from all over Egypt, from all walks of life stood hand in hand and showed their frustration and discontent with the regime. When officials started shedding their uniforms and joining the demonstrators, it became clear that the police force was rendered useless and it quickly retreated. Later that Friday, the country's 82-year-old president, Hosni Mubarak, gave a speech in which he announced that he would not run for president again, thus ending his 30-year rule over the country, and that his son, Gamal mubarak, will not succeed him in the presidency, as was expected after the almost publicly falsified elections a few months before. He also said that he will dismiss all of his cabinet and start putting political, social and economic reforms into place. But it was too late for that. The people had waited 30 long years for his 'political, social and economic reforms.' They didn't come then and they probably won't now.

The protestors, unsatisfied with the dictator's speech, swarmed the streets once again. Now panicking, the regime pulled other tricks that it had up its sleeve. The following day, 'Mubarak supporters' appeared and took to the main protest sites... on horses and camels. As the day progressed, these so called supporters started violently clashing with the anti-Mubarak protest with no provocation whatsoever. As things escalated towards the early hours of the next day, the army stepped in, drove the pro-Mubaraks out of the square, in an effort to prevent further injuries and further loss of lives. Just as things were beginning to calm down, another blow came crashing down on Cairo. Widespread looting erupted, almost simultaneously, in every part of Cairo. The looters robbed everything from tiny shops to police stations. Whether those looters were just criminals taking advantage of the lack of security or they were somehow employed by the government officials to try and scare civilians into taking back the 'stable' regime, we do not know. In a growing state of anxiety fear, young men formed primitive militias and stayed up all night, every night to protect their property, their homes and their families.

After an incredibly intense two days, events took a turn for the calmer. The protests continued. Now that they were peaceful and civilized, more people were encouraged to join in and support their fellow Egyptians. The numbers in Tahrir square grew each day, reaching some two million people. The Egyptians let out their creative sides, making up chants, drawing signs and shooting short films. Some of these had witty rhymes, others had inspiring quotes and some were downright hilarious. The most memorable for me was one which is roughly translated to "Mubarak challenges boredom" and onewhich said "Hitler committed suicide, you can do it too," aimed at Mubarak. You could see Egyptians from every background, rich and poor, young and old, educated and uneducated standing together, discussing their experiences, their views, their visions of the future in a way that no one thought they were capable of.

Mubarak now realizing that he was losing grip on the dictatorship that he had once wanted to hand down to his son, made a couple of flimsy attempts at regaining power by giving two speeches, each more meaningless than the other. The first of two was answered by angry shouts and renewed chants from the protestors. The latter was greeted with a unanimous raising of shoes.

Not only was it in Tahrir that history was taking place. Everywhere around Cairo and in many cities around Egypt, you could see children and teenagers on the streets, picking up rubbish, cleaning roads and painting sidewalks. We all wanted to take part in defining the future of our country and were willing to do anything, however small and seemingly trivial it was, to help our country become what we always dreamed, but never dared to hope it would be.

And finally, after eighteen nerve wracking days of waiting, the desired news came in the form of a 33-second speech from the newly-appointed vice president, announcing that President Mubarak has stepped down. Deafening cheers erupted in Tahrir as soon as the speech ended. Firework displays were launched into the sky and people went down to the streets to celebrate. You could see and hear people congratulating complete strangers in the middle of the street. You could feel that the heavy weight that was on everyone's shoulders had lifted. The happiness in the air was palpable. New chants were immediately created expressing the people's victory and happiness. "The people want to bring down the regime" turned into "the people have brought down the regime!"

"Eighty-five million people live in Egypt, and less than 1,000 people died in this revolution — most of them killed by the police," said Wael Ghoniem, the Google executive and political activist who played a huge part in the initiation of the Egyptian Revolution. "It shows how civilized the Egyptian people are." He added, "Now our nightmare is over. Now it is time to dream."

"Now it is time to dream." Even though we know that we have captured the world's awe over the past month, we, the youth of Egypt, know that our dreams will not come true on their own, that we have to make them come true. We have to "be the change we want to see" as Gandhi put it. It seems to me that something great, something unstoppable has been set in motion. We now believe that everything we do will inevitably make a difference in our society, everything we do will take part in shaping our future. That is why we haven't stopped now and we never will. The organizers and leaders of the Revolution of the 25th of January, as we now call it, have their sights set on new goals, ones that, once achieved, will be the foundation on which the new Egypt will be built upon.

I have learnt many things from these recent pivotal events; the most important of all is that, no matter how young we are, we have the power to change our destiny. Change it for the better. And now that we have realized our power, we cannot and we will not lose our freedom again.

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