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Looking Back at 2011: The Egyptian Revolution

In light of the upcoming “anniversary” of the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution on January 25, 2011 my colleague Alicja Peszkowska, who is on the Net2 team and blogs regularly asked me to do an interview to talk about the Egyptian revolution, the use of social media and the role it played in driving and influencing the revolution.

I will be heading back to Cairo in a few days to join the millions of Egyptians who are going to take to the streets and say NO to the rule of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Read Alicja’s original blog post here.

Why are they there?


Every time I have entered Tahrir Square over the past few days I have seen the crowds grow bigger, their chants become louder, their sense of cause become more determined. But despite all of those things, I’ve kept asking myself ‘why are they there?’ Why are they so determined? Why are they so loud?

When you enter Tahrir Square you’re usually met with huge masses of men…particularly young men between the ages of 15-35. They’re university students, cab drivers, college eductaed professionals that are  unemployed, etc. A generation that was born and have lived all of its life under the Mubarak regime. A generation(s) that was given no opportunities and resources to excel in a hobby or encouraged to think critically throughout their education. A generation(s) that was often described as corrupt, useless, ignorant, and more. It’s a generation that was robbed of its creativity, individuality, but most importantly of its sense of purpose.

When you walk around Tahrir, you find many of these young men assuming roles that lend them legitimacy to claim and feel  a sense of purpose. You have the ambulance line human shield guys, who are constantly telling people to walk behind the rope and leave the road empty for the ambulance. You have the motorbike ambulance guys, usually two guys on a motorcycle that rush in to the frontlines to rescue the fallen ones and bring them back to the field hospitals. You have the sign makers, who are usually writing signs like “Hospital” or “Clear the Road”. Then you have the field hospital guards, those are the ones that guard the field hospital from random bypassers and direct them to take another route. You also have the people collecting donations and supplies from different meet-up points and taking them to Tahrir. And of course you have the heroes who make it to the frontline, get attacked and hurt and go back for more.

For people like myself that wondered why are they there…that’s why! They want to feel needed and wanted. They want to contribute and be able to get recognition for it. They want a sense of purpose that makes them want to do something. And guess what they are doing something that several generations behind them weren’t able to do.

You all found your purpose; keep fighting for it!

Marketing the Egyptian Revolution

I decided to go on a last minute trip to Egypt to attend one of my childhood friend’s wedding. I bought my ticket on Tuesday night and flew out Wednesday morning to attend the wedding that evening.

Last time I was in Egypt was in February during the revolution and the fall of Mubarak. So, as soon as the plane landed in Cairo – I was eager to see what the country is like now that it’s been 5 months since the fall of the old regime. The first sign of post-revolution change I saw was an ad for Mobinil using the Youth Revolution to advertise its service.

Mobinil Ad: "We must raise our children to grow up like the Egyptian Youth" - Barak Obama, US President

An Ad Age Global article explores all the different ways Egyptian marketeers are using the revolution to market their products and services. Later that day, I saw an ad for butter that used the revolution in their marketing slogans. Although this could have a positive impact on responsible consumerism, since all companies are trying to focus on the positive values and characteristics of the Egyptian Revolution – I still think this could easily turn into a case of Pink Washing of the revolution.

On a more uplifting and personal note, I was so happy to be back in Cairo to attend my friends’ Menna-and-Ali’s wedding on Wednesday.

Loza, Sherif, Sakr and I at Menna & Ali's Wedding

And I was so happy to top off my quick trip to Egypt by a quick visit to the Mediterranean North Coast.

Mediterranean North Coast, Rowad

Egypt, a revolution for me, for us all

[My good friend Yvonne Tran asked me to share my thoughts on Egypt during the revolution. The following is a combination of my blog post and a letter I sent out to her friends and family before I left to go back to join the revolution]

Original Blog Post on Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice Blog.

During the past 14 days, of what the media has dubbed as “Egypt’s unrest”, I have been going through a bag of mixed emotions from extreme happiness to extreme sadness. I was happy to see my friends and family members rush the streets of Cairo in a sense of unity I have never witnessed or experienced myself in my own country to feeling sadness that hurts beyond any words can fairly describe, when watching young Egyptians die at the hands of the government that has so stubbornly and ruthlessly ruled our country for 30 years.During the past 14 days, I listened to my mother cry on the phone in our home in Cairo. I have talked to friends during the internet blackout who asked me if the world knew what was going on. I watched a friend and colleague vanish and return to bring a new voice and renewed hope to the people. I protested in solidarity with the people in Egypt on the streets of San Francisco and chanted so hard I lost my voice. During the past 14 days, I felt things I wasn’t sure one could feel for a country, for a place, for 80 million faces I’m not familiar with…but I did.

Nora writing her demands on a sign: No Mubarak, No Suleiman, No Emergency Law, Armed Forces maintains law & security, Civilian committee to be formed NOW

Many things about this revolution have shocked the world and the Western media, in particular, regarding Egyptian and Arab stereotypes. The world got to see first hand that our people want basic human rights, that they are not religious extremists hoping to follow in Iran’s footsteps, and that we have a strong female representation and that the women of Egypt have a voice as loud as that of their male counterparts. When police violence broke out against the peaceful protesters the corrupt Egyptian police forces disappeared from Egypt’s streets over night. There was no official protection for the people. Egyptians in every neighborhood, every apartment building, every community built neighborhood watches.

My mother who is in Cairo told me how the men in a our apartment building (and others) devised a strict plan for their neighborhood watches, with schedules, barricades, etc. The females in the building would provide them with drinks and snacks during the late hours of the night. My mother would stay up late with them, chatting with them from her window on the ninth floor, keeping them company and updating them on the news. When the men would go back to their homes to rest the women would either take over the day shifts or go out to the protests. In my mother’s own words: “Egypt has never been safer. The people that care about it are protecting it!”

During the past 14 days, I have felt a lot of regret for not getting on a flight on January 26, but today I have decided I’m not going to let the feelings of regret paralyze me. I have booked a flight to go back home to do whatever I can to help my country during those hard times. I’m prepared to do whatever I can to show the world that this is not an “unrest” this is a revolution…our revolution…my revolution!

During the past 14 days, your support and love has shone through and in some cases left me speechless. For that, I want to thank you. But more importantly I want to thank you for listening to the story. The story of Egypt…the story of 80 million who have said “ENOUGH!”