Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on the 25th January Revolution

This came in from Nadia El Shazly:

Following are some thoughts I jutted down on the events since January 25

The channels I watched during the past 17 days, by order of priority, because of their objectivity and credibility in my view, were France 24 in French and English (Arabic was cancelled), and BBC World (English and Arabic). Sometimes, I used to turn to Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera International (Arabic was cancelled, then restored later), though the latter often aired news that it was forced to deny later. Al Arabiya seemed to side with Mubarak, or at least, was wary about the democracy movement gaining ground. Statements by American very senior officials on CNN were often contradictory ... mirroring policies that seemed vacillating, which I saw as the dilemma/conundrum they were faced with, namely, side with the ideals of the revolutionaries, who demanded democracy, and, on the other hand, the pressures by Netanyahu, who was markedly frantic, during a press conference with Angela Merkel. Israel even allowed the Egyptian army to deploy some units to Sharm El Sheikh. Did Bibi know that his buddy would eventually move there? I never watched Egyptian TV, but will start now that the regime fell, and that consequently, the Minister of Information, Anas El Feqi (he reminded us of Saddam Hussein's El Sahhaf, at the time of the US-led occupation of Iraq) was removed. I strongly feel that this post should be scrapped, and Egyptian TV and radio turned into a corporation, independent of government influence.

As for Tahrir square, based on TV, the internet, reports I received from others and my own observations:

1. the demonstrations were peaceful at all times, except when they had to defend themselves against the NDP thugs, who used rocks, Molotov cocktails, and even stormed in on camel and horse-back, one night ... they were even targeted by snipers on roof-tops, and those killed had bullet wounds to their heads and chests;

2. neither American nor Israeli nor any other flags were burnt;

3. when the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to shout Islamic slogans, they were silenced once and for all by the other participants, and modern-attired young women were seen having serious friendly discussions with bearded Islamists;

4. Egypt's streets were notorious for sexual harassment ... not one case was reported;

5. in the beginning, the participants were the educated middle-class and upper middle-class computer-savvy male and female youth, followed later on, as their movement seemed to gain popularity by their sheer resilience, by families from all walks of life, members of professional syndicates and labour unions, artists (singers, actors, painters, musicians, etc), authors, poets, opposition politicians ... thousands waved the Egyptian flag, and either sang patriotic songs, or newly-created ones ... evenings, they listened to poets and singers, cracked jokes about Mubarak and the regime, and, more seriously, planned for their next steps;

6. they regularly swept the square and even hired mini-trucks to take the garbage to the dumps;

7. families, individuals and the troops distributed food and water bottles, some cooked in homes, and some from delivery shops;

8. doctors and surgeons, elderly and young, assisted by their nurses, left their private hospitals, provided sophisticated medical equipment, medicines, bandages, etc, and set-up field hospitals across the square, the biggest in the well-known Omar Makram mosque (where my mother's funerary service took place, one year ago).

9. homes surrounding the square provided the girls with the opportunity to rest a little and use their bathrooms, while shops, cafes and other establishments allowed boys to use their toilets;

10. later on, public toilets in the square, shut by the government previously, were opened and refurbished by the participants;

11. apart from those that demanded that Mubarak must leave, for the regime to fall, for the NDP to be banned, some placards, used by the demonstrators, affirmed the Egyptians' sense of humour, such as, "Mubarak, leave, my wife is in labour and the baby doesn't want to see you" ... "Mubarak, leave, I miss my wife (I've been married for 16 days)", "Mubarak, I'm a carpenter, tell me what glue you use" ... "Suzanne, if you love him, take him away" ... "Mubarak, I've been holding this sign for too long, leave, my arm is hurting" ...

12. to show the regime their resilience ... their decision to remain in the square until their demands were met, and that life would go on regardless, two young fiancees had their marriage ceremony performed by a sheikh in the square ... the bride wore her wedding dress, while the crowds cheered and offered their congratulations, along with sweets and sherbet;

13. they showed their inventiveness in many ways, from setting up tents, mainly for the female participants to sleep under and be more comfortable, as well as to shelter under when it rained ... to connect to the street lights to charge their mobiles, or to boil water for a hot drink, and more;

14. the male demonstrators formed a circle, holding hands, and guarded a "lost-and-found" display in the middle, where many, many IDs, mobile phones, even cash and other objects were exhibited;

15. as a final act, the demonstrators decided to clean-up the square, one more time, before going home.

Across Egypt, when the police forces vanished, the youngsters were stationed at street intersections. Never was traffic as regulated as when they were in charge, and drivers cooperated beautifully. No driver tried to "burn" a red traffic light, something unheard of for many years.

At the same time, when garbage collectors also disappeared, housewives and teenage girls swept the streets, gathered the garbage in sacks, and stacked them at street corners. I saw one of them, Safiyah, the daughter of the late prime minister of Egypt under the monarchy, Nuqrashi Pacha, killed by the Muslim Brotherhood. In some neighbourhoods, including mine, mini-trucks were hired to take the garbage to the dumps.

When the police opened the prisons, freed thieves, burglars and other criminals before disappearing, neighborhood watches were established right-away. In the evenings, fathers kept watch in front of the buildings, armed with iron pipes, wooden sticks, kitchen knives, and, in rare cases, licensed pistols or shotguns. From midnight on, the sons took over that responsibility.

In tandem, the army deployed tanks to sensitive areas. For instance, because I live about two hundred meters from the residence of the Alexandria governor and the Jewelry Museum on one side, and two presidential residences on the other, several tanks have kept my building safe. Nevertheless, male residents also spent the night guarding us.

Very few of the "mafia" oligarchy were named, and will be prosecuted. Many more, from the lists I have, should also be sued, and, if found guilty, have their fortunes returned to Egypt. These funds could pay back Egypt's foreign debt, establish labour-intensive industrial, agricultural enterprises, and infra-structural projects, increase wages, and improve services, such as health and education.

A number of former Egyptian officials have tried to flee, but prevented from doing so at Cairo airport, including Anas El Feqi and former PM Atef Ebeid.

The Swiss Federation of Banks have frozen the Mubarak assets half-an-hour after he resigned. Bravo. I hope that Egypt will recalibrate its relations with other countries, based on the willingness of those countries to do the same. Some of the countries named in that respect are the US, the UK, France, Brazil ... and probably others ... time will show.

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