Egypt, a revolution for me, for us all

Thursday, February 10, 2011

[I asked my good friend Heba Gamal, who was born in Cairo and left today to go back, to share her thoughts on Egypt. The following is a combination of her blog post and a letter she sent out to her friends and family as she left. —Yvonne Tran]

Lefteris Pitarakis / AP - An Egyptian anti-government
activist kisses a riot police officer following
clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011.
By Heba Gamal

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.

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!

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!"

Heba Gamal is an Egyptian living in San Francisco and works for Google managing Search Quality for the Middle East and North Africa. Follow her updates on Twitter: @htgamal.

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