gypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has kept the country under Emergency Law for the entire duration of his 30-year so-called “democratic” rule. This law suspends constitutional rights, allows censorship and gives police the authority to imprison people without a trial. Under emergency rule, it is also illegal to engage in street protests, which make what is happening in Egypt now even more amazing.
After enduring decades of police brutality, sham elections and high unemployment, the people of Egypt finally had enough. The disillusioned and frustrated youth organized a protest through social media sites Facebook and Twitter for Jan. 25. The protest sometimes referred to as the “Facebook Revolution” became much more than that when thousands of people came out to demand the end of the repressive and abusive political regime.
For the first time in a very long time, Egyptians old and young, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian were standing side by side, united and demanding their rights. The Facebook Revolution became the people’s revolution. The unarmed, peaceful demonstrators were brutally attacked by riot police, who threw canisters of tear gas at the people, sometimes at point blank range. Rubber bullets and live ammunition were fired, as seen in a video of a police van chasing pedestrians, trying to get them off the street and running over people in the process. The unofficial death toll is already over a hundred, and it keeps rising.
Many people, including foreign journalists, were arrested and beaten by the police. In an attempt to decrease communication and to try to cut off the world from what was happening, the government shut down the Internet and disconnected cellphone networks.
When it was obvious that these bully tactics were not scaring the people into silence, things escalated. The entire police force was pulled by the government and thousands of prisoners escaped from high security prisons. Some have suggested that the government was trying to send a message, that without them, the country would fall apart. Ironically, this strategy backfired; it caused the demonstrators to intensify their protests, band closer together and unite to keep their cities under control without any help from the corrupt police.
Neighborhood watch committees were formed and acted as vigilantes; they went out in the streets with sticks and knives at night to protect their areas from the thugs and looters who were systematically attacking the residential areas and private businesses. They established checkpoints on the streets and organized themselves in an extremely professional and efficient manner. When the army was brought in, it was overwhelmed by the chaos as it is not trained for domestic protests. The police forces also complicated the situation, as some of the thugs that were caught and handed over to the army were found to have police IDs on them.
On Jan. 25, 2011, the people of Egypt demanded governmental change, and in addition to that they achieved a different kind of change. A change so great that it transcends religion and politics. Egyptians have regained a sense of pride and this has given them the strength to withstand anything the government throws at them. The pride, unity and sincere love that Egyptians have for their country gives me great hope that they will take Egypt back and allow it to flourish and live up to its amazing potential.
Nardeen Awadalla supports the Egyptian people as they fight for their rights.