Living Through the Egyptian Revolution
This is one of the most riveting posts we've ever read. Thanks so much for sharing,
BingoTheAwesome, and please know that our thoughts are with you and your fellow Egyptians!—Sparkitors
So here's the thing: I'm Egyptian. And for the past few days, my country has been in a "state of turmoil"—you may have heard about it, we have our very own little theme song and logo on CNN, it's all very exciting—and apparently, we're going through a revolution of sorts.
I don't really want to sum it up for you politically *cough* our government sucks *cough*, but I would like to address the social aspect of it what it's like to be part of a revolution.
So here's what it's been like:
On Friday, when Things Got Serious, we all knew there would be demonstrations after Friday prayers. Some people were like, "It's going to be AWESOME." And some people were like, "Nothing going to happen, dorks. Y'all are going to get beat up and come home."
Come Friday afternoon, we would all be eating our words. Because on Friday, it all went haywire.
To start it off, the government cut off our internet and cell phones. They cut off our cell phones. It was a bit like going back to the nineties. I was going crazy at home. The house phone was ringing off the hook and everyone was trying to remember how to use it. Phone books were taken out. Cell phones were reduced to paper weights and video games. Laptops became an icon of frustration ("Oh, if only you worked!"). And most of all, it just made everyone pissed at the government (My brother: "HOW DARE THEY?! HOW DARE THEY?!")
So we were sitting at home, glued to the news. We were flipping between CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Alarabiya, silently cheering on the protestors. I wanted to be there but my parents wouldn't let me go.
Watching your own country go through a revolution is a bit surreal. You're watching the news—and it's a bit like a movie, because the events are unfolding before your very eyes—and even though you understand that this is your own country, you find it hard to believe. Places I've walked past a thousand times, and places I'd stood in only an afternoon ago—they were all of a sudden falling into chaos.
The demonstrations were meant to be peaceful. Most of my friends were there. Tons of teachers. And the police were beating them up. There's no way to put it nicely, so I'll just say it; our police are terrible. They're very poor, very ignorant people that the government has brainwashed into bullying machines. They were throwing tear gas at the demonstrators (who were protesting peacefully, at the time) and firing rubber bullets, and from my anxious spot on the couch, it seemed very much like Die Hard meets Hotel Rwanda. I was blow away by the events unfolding before my eyes, and a million thoughts rushed through my head, like "Ouch–dodge–duck! Yeah! Go, man, go!" and then various Arabic swearwords.
Eventually, the Egyptian people kicked the Egyptian police's butt. Nobody expected it to happen. What had started out as ten thousand people became hundreds of thousands of people and suddenly we realized that we'd done something. We were making history!
This is a fact that national television tried very hard to deny, by the way. They were all like, "And about two hundred people are protesting in Aswan…" Sure. Let's ignore the several hundred thousand protesting in Tahrir. Aswan's more important, obviously. Let's just say denial is a very long river.
Once the Egyptian police decided to walk away, the army came out. We like the army. They were greeted with cheers. Watching at home, we all though, "Ok, that's cool. People will be fine." And then things took a turn for the worse.
See, during the riots, people began to wreck things. We (the people) think this is a ploy (actually, we know it's a ploy) by the government to destroy the credibility of the protestors. The protestors were quite peaceful about everything, but the government wanted to make them look bad, so a bunch of hooligans and thugs were released upon the city and began breaking everything in sight. The National Democratic Party Headquarters went up in flames. Every police building in the vicinity was burned. Prisons were broken into and the prisoners started escaping. And suddenly, people started shrieking that stuff was being stolen. See, these hooligans would burn down the police stations and then ransack all their weapons (or the police just turned to thieves, God knows) but either way, on Friday night, the news turned from an action movie to a horror movie. There was a tank on the Nile. A tank outside my home. There were gunshots being fired all over—even in my neighborhood, which is on the outskirts of the city—and it was basically a warzone.
A children's cancer hospital was attacked. The Egyptian museum was attacked. Supermarkets were looted and burned to the ground. A giant department store a few miles away from my house was also cleaned out completely (no mean feat, it was enormous) and then burned down as well.
Everyone had one question: Where are the police?
So basically, by the time the president spoke that Friday night, tempers were wearing thin. People were scared. People were asking where the police had gone. People wanted the president to step down so things would calm down. At home, we'd gathered all our weaponry (a wooden baseball bat, a taser, pepper spray, and a gun but no bullets) and sat tensely in front of the television.
After hundreds of thousands came out to protest, and a civil war practically broke out, the president came on TV two hours too late and said what? Nothing. Just more empty promises. I mean, we were asking him to take responsibility and go. Instead, he took responsibility and everyone else went. He sacked the government (a start, except he rehired most of them later anyway) and hired a vice president (about time. Thirty years to hire a vice president).
The general feeling at home? Disappointment. A lot of yelling at the TV. And then panic set in as we realized that we still weren't safe. And just like that, Egyptian citizens went into war mode.
We were badass, I'll say that much. We showed that the Egyptian people are self-sufficient. When the police disappeared, we knew we had to protect ourselves, and so we did. Some of the protestors even lined themselves around the Egyptian museum, creating a human shield to protect it from the looters. Others actually removed all the products from the stores nearby, take them to their apartments and calling the store owners to tell them their things were safe. Never before have so many broomsticks been used as defensive weapons.
And the truth is, we kicked ass. Despite all the prisoners escaping, despite the panic in the country, the people protected themselves. We went from being normal civilians—moaning about school and work, eating too much, and watching Arab's Got Talent—to being self-appointed soldiers who stood in front of their buildings carrying rocks and sticks and guns and everything we could find. When people actually did come to attack, they were pounced upon by dozens of tense citizens. And let me tell you, a worried Egyptian protecting his family is no joke. A bunch of thugs came on a micro-bus, shooting at the people on the streets from the windows, and when they saw so many civilians standing in their way, they actually crashed the bus. I'm telling you, don't mess with us.
Meanwhile, at home, I sat up all night panicking and holding my baseball bat tight enough to choke it. You could hear gunshots every now and then, and the occasional shriek. I am ashamed to say I was so scared that I packed an emergency bag just in case I needed to make a hasty getaway (and what a fail it would have been if I'd actually had to use it; I totally forgot to pack pyjamas).
So, Friday night found us sleeping on the couch next to the door, watching Eagle Eye so we wouldn't fall asleep (what a bad choice that turned out to be; Eagle Eye is not a reassuring movie) and clutching our various weapons. It was also around that time that I realized our lives had turned upside down.
Are you familiar with the the events occurring in Egypt right now? If not, click here for more info.