Freedom: A Personal Account from an Egyptian Protester
My name is Tarek Fahmy. I turn 21 in 2 weeks and I am currently studying at the American University in Cairo. As a political science major, my dream was always to become the Egyptian president; but with such a stuck-up regime I saw my dream fade day after day. January 25th opened the gates of freedom in front of me, and my dream. I want to make a difference because I believe ANYONE can make a difference.
My Personal Account 25 Jan – 11 Feb
We always told our parents that we needed our freedom, but they would never listen. We were taught at school that people are free, and that we can dream of whatever it is we want to dream. As the time goes by, and we grow up, we find out that our parents, those whom didn’t want to give us our freedom during our childhoods; are not themselves free.
To be born ruled by a person, and to grow up under his ways, listening to his family’s names non-stop becomes frustrating when you search for liberation. I am a strong believer of human’s natural right, freedom. However the oppression and manipulation that Egypt has seen over the past 30 years under Mubarak’s regime had to end; and disregarding how late the change has come, it has finally come to existence through a few ambitious members of the Egyptian youth that sought to fight for the right they had been stripped from by Mubarak and “the gang”. As usual, no one ever anticipated these organized protests would succeed and bring down such a powerful regime such as Mubarak’s. However; I am sure that every Egyptian had the extra motivation I had to make our nation step into a new era after what we saw happen in Tunisia.
The start of the protests on the 25th of January 2011 was like a mist of freedom hovering over Cairo, mainly Tahrir square. With much hope in every persons eyes and people gathering over similarities rather than differences, the vibe of success and ambition started covering the main Tahrir square. The non-violent, civilized nature of the protests was met by night cowardice violence by the Egyptian security forces, who dealt brutally with the peaceful protestors, throwing 70+ tear-bombs, and using water to disperse the gatherings. Still, unmoved by these security mobilizations, I like many others went down on Wednesday the 26th to start a march from close to my house, till Tahrir square. Due to the brutal security forces all over Cairo, trying to humble any spark of action between activists, I was arrested because I was wearing a Palestinian scarf (a scarf checkered black and white worn by Palestinians representing their fight for freedom) and was carrying a blackberry with a photo of Tahrir protests on the 25th as my background. The officer claimed I was a “Blackberry Revolutionary” and I was detained for 24 hours. With no access to the outside world, I felt kidnapped. After 5 hours of frustration, the car I was detained in starts moving and takes me along with 4 others to an unofficial army training camp where I spent the night, but luckily enough my parents got me out 24 hours later. My entrance to that room full of detainees was full of frustration and anger because I was being stripped of all kinds of my constitutional rights; I hadn’t had my phone call, and wasn’t even officially charged by anything. My frustration transformed into hope, and then into faith that God would never leave an innocent person in custody. The environment inside the cell I was in was nothing close to political prison. The welcoming I was welcomed inside was overwhelming, and phrases like “don’t be upset” and “you should be proud you are part of this” were repeated to every new person entering the cell, and soon I found myself repeating them to those who came after me; it seemed more like an activists gathering, from all over Cairo, gathered only to leave stronger than before, more fired-up than when they came in; and most ultimately anticipating the moment that they would reach liberation, from the “Liberation Square” – Midan al-Tahrir.
The experience of being arrested did not shake or break me, but gave me strength and assurance that I am on the right path to freedom. I’m sure many would say that I didn’t need the freedom I was asking for, but to me, I had reached a point where I really did not care anymore about who thought what of the revolution, rather focused on myself, and my wants and how I could achieve them. “Bloody” Friday came a day after my release, and luckily, or not, I missed it due to my mother’s begs for me to stay home. When they were showing on TV the police forces brutally dealing with the peaceful protesters, spraying water on Muslims while they were praying, trying to deny them even their spiritual rights; I heard some people from the family curse the cops out, but then I remembered the soldier that stood on my cell door, and the conversation I had with him, the soldiers are exactly the same as the people, they wish they could take their uniforms off and join the protests, but the fear I saw in that soldiers eyes that night explains why he would follow orders. The brutality they are dealt with by their higher officials has stripped those soldiers of their dignity, and their pride and they are unfortunately helpless.
The situation in Egypt seemed bloody and violent on Friday night, and the betrayal of the police forces to the people proved to be an ever motivating force for the people of Egypt, to show the world real civilization, and that at the worst times, we get together, to protect each other, from whatever danger we could witness at such hard times. Every neighborhood in this country showed solidarity to Egypt, to save what could be saved after a major governmental betrayal. The civil resistance shown by the Egyptians to stop anticipated chaos by the hungry and the ghetto of Egypt showed what a civilized nation we are, ever during the harshest times. The youth of Egypt, me one of them stayed on the streets of their neighborhoods, for hours, switching between each other, we covered the 24 hour security and surveillance of every neighborhood in Egypt.
Tahrir was another story; I called it a “School of Civilization” for the world. Tahrir contained a spirit that no Egyptian ever experienced. Manipulated by Egyptian media, and rumors around the country, Egyptians were fascinated by the sight of al-Tahrir square. The masks of religious conflicts fell at Tahrir; the all time considered brutal Muslim Brotherhood came to Tahrir; only as Egyptian citizens and not as a political movement, proving the world that the MB is by no means a violent group rather a radical ideology. The sight at Tahrir was kind of having the Egyptians meet each other from the very beginning. With all the masks falling, the united people saw the dream coming closer every day, and that is why we never gave up.
Today I am free, Egypt is free, but I say it is not over yet; the regime falling is the easier part of this revolution, however what comes next is what’s more important, to every Egyptian to start with themselves. Clean your street, put trash cans on your streets, report anyone doing anything wrong, let us help rebuild this country and keep it clean, hand in hand, with the police force, with the army; because Egypt deserves new pharaohs, and we are they.