The People’s Revolution 2011

I am an Egyptian, living and working in Cairo and currently appointed as assistant professor in the English department at Cairo University. I spent a year at Smith College enrolled in the American Studies Diploma Program for international students (1999-2000), during which I focused on developing my knowledge of feminist praxis through women’s studies; I wrote my diploma thesis with Professor Susan Van Dyne on women’s memoirs by immigrant academics in the United States. I am writing this now to share with you some of my reflections on the ongoing Egyptian people’s revolution.

Despite the regime’s many, often brutal, attempts to suppress the uprising of the Egyptian people since January 25, our revolution continues unabated. Its main demand, that President Mubarak step down, is gaining in intensity, although the regime claims to have conceded to most of the people’s demands. In the eyes of the people, giving up or even postponing the demand for Mubarak’s departure would be a betrayal of the revolution.

On January 28, the former minister of interior ordered riot police to use US-made live bullets and tear-gas canisters against peaceful demonstrators. A few days later, on February 2, his successor ordered security forces in civilian clothes to infiltrate the demonstrations, and use live ammunition and Molotov cocktails against the protestors in Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo. The regime has since “apologized,” but this does not exempt Mubarak from responsibility for these shameful events.

On the Wednesday, while in Tahrir Square, we all saw thugs on horses and camels dispersing the protestors, brutally whipping and hitting people, killing at least eleven and injuring hundreds. I had received a phone call from my sister warning us against people and camels heading toward the square, as announced on the state TV. This could only mean that the minister of information was fully aware of (if not behind) what was going to happen. Now we know that these thugs were paid by tycoons belonging to the NDP (ruling party). The next day the newly appointed prime-minister, Ahmed Shafiq, apologized to the people on TV, stating that he would initiate investigations into these events. Are those two positions—prime minister and interior minister—within the new regime opposing or complementing each other?

Against this grim background the state media, the mouthpiece of the regime, is propagating the idea of external powers being behind the revolution. What we see, as follows, is what I would suggest is a matrix of myths:

Myth 1: Iran is behind the uprising to topple the regime and replace it with a Khomeini-like Islamic state, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
We know that the MB, together with other tamed opposition political parties, officially announced their distance from the young protestors who initiated the revolution.  Like any other national opposition party, MB did not prevent its members from participating in the demonstrations as individuals. We also are well aware from campus politics that MB is not one monolithic group; it involves the older generation and the younger, more progressive youth. This being a revolution of young people, it is only natural to find MB youths among a majority of secular protestors from all walks of life. The MB is just one faction in the wide range of political and social groups. Even the most radical groups (the extreme left), as well as the Copts, involved in the revolution do not see in the MB any real threat to this social revolution.

Myth 2: The Americans are behind the revolution to overthrow the Mubarak regime.
We know that Mubarak has always been a puppet of US Middle-East politics. This is now used as a pretext to arrest human-rights and NGO activists on the grounds that they receive foreign funding. The US position, however, has raised many questions here, and proved again hypocritical in its democracy discourse. The first statement issued by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about the events in Egypt, and then stressed confidence in Egyptian government’s stability. This tone soon turned into one of support of the people’s revolution, urging Mubarak to step down “now and not in September.” In the past few days, and following US media emphasis on the dangers of the MB for peace in the region, Obama is now stating that “the American people are praying for the Egyptian people.” The use of religious discourse here is again ridiculous.

Myth 3: Mubarak claims that he wants to step down but is afraid of chaos.
Is he not aware that he and his ruling gang are behind all the chaos in Egypt today? Convicts released by his people (if not upon his orders) are running loose in the country, terrorizing people, looting and damaging property. Security was only brought back to the streets of Cairo and the major cities thanks to the spontaneously formed neighborhood-watch groups.

Myth 4: The silent majority is absent from the current revolution.
There were eight million people representing eight million families on the streets of different cities in Egypt on Feb. 1 and 5, calling for Mubarak to step down, while the so-called pro-Mubarak group was represented by a few thousand, of whom the majority turned out to be paid thugs, along with families of the ruling party members and corrupt politicians and businessmen. Today (Feb. 6), as almost a million Egyptians are standing in cold and rainy Cairo protesting in Tahrir Square, alternating noon prayers with Sunday mass, there’s no sign of Mubarak’s supporters anywhere!

This revolution has unified all opposition and the Egyptian people, across class, gender, and religion; they are all gathered under the national flag, singing the national anthem, and chanting: “The People Want to Bring the Regime Down.”