I have been fortunate to speak to a protester involved within the Egyptian revolution, called Hassan. He kindly agreed to answer several questions regarding his personal experiences and views of the revolution and the current/future situation. It makes for very interesting and informative reading. Enjoy.
Many know why the protests happened, but can you explain in your own words the reasons for why you took part?
Well, the corruption of the government has been intolerable. Its incompetence and indifference has been ruining the country in every way.
Economically, Egypt has many natural resources, fertile lands and a huge unused area. We have well educated and competent people that are ready to run businesses and scientific research as well. There was absolutely no justified reason for the economic situation. But the government doesn’t help or even allow most attempts made by anyone for any real improvement. This made Egypt import many products, which is a big waste of money. At the same time many people could not find any job opportunities.
Poverty was reaching a whole new level. The prices of most products have at least tripled in the past 10 years, yet the salaries have barely increased. In 2009 only, the prices increased by 20% while governmental salaries had only increased by 9%. And this was the biggest increase in salaries that the government had made in the past 20 years.
What have your experiences of the protests been like?
It has been very surprising. I started to see a whole new side of the Egyptian people. I saw the beautiful behaviors and ethics of the Egyptian people that we used to read about in history, but that have probably been buried under tons of depression, poverty and fear. I never felt more free in my country than I did those past few weeks after the police were terrified of us. I also saw a very strong and, more importantly, very wise nation. Mubarak controlled the media, the press, the police… Simply controlled everything other than the army. And he tried to use everything with us: he tried force, manipulation, every known technique of brainwash with us. Personally I thought people would start to believe him and let go, but they completely surprised me by insisting on their demands and to not trust him, and I couldn’t have been prouder of everyone who didn’t fall for his tricks.
What role have women played during the protests?
Women have been demonstrating all over the country. Some of them also took the job of bringing food and water to those staying in Tahrir Square to help them remain in their position. In my opinion this couldn’t have happened without them.
Where were you when Mubarak announced his resignation?
I was demonstrating near the presidential palace. And I could never tell you how happy everyone was like. After this I went directly to celebrate on the street with everyone else. Literally millions of people had ran to the streets to celebrate. Cairo was full of fireworks and chants. Had we won the World Cup I wouldn’t have seen the people that happy.
What do you hope will happen after the downfall of Mubarak?
Well, our demands have been clear from the beginning, and now that the first one has been achieved, I hope the rest will follow as well. To summarize our most important demands:
1. The cancellation of the so-called Emergency Law which allows the police to arrest anyone (especially political activists and journalists) and throw them in jail without a trial.
2. The dissolution of the current parliament (which consists of The People’s Assembly and the Consultative Council) as most (if not everyone) of the people in them have been elected in fake elections.
3. Forming an elected committee to form a new constitution. The people have been very clear about not wanting to simply change some amendments in the current constitution, but wanting to write a whole new one. The next step is to hold new elections for a new parliament that will vote on the new constitution.
4. Juridical and maybe even foreign supervision on all future elections.
5. The release of every so-called political prisoner, and more freedom of speech in Egypt.
In other words, the people demand a real civilized and democratic country.
What do you think will happen after the downfall of Mubarak?
Well the army are now in charge, and in the four statements that they made since they’ve been in charge assure us that they believe in our demands and will make them happen. They said they are temporarily in charge until the formation of a new government to make sure that the people’s demands are satisfied. So I believe that the change we were looking for will more or less happen.
In the next presidential elections it’s not clear, of course, who is going to win because Mubarak didn’t allow any popular political figure to really show itself to the public. But in my opinion the most likely person to win is Mohamed El-Baradei. As a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the former General Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he is well respected by many Egyptians. Another possible candidate is the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. Amr Moussa is the most trusted and most popular name between all political figures who worked in Egypt, but still, many people consider him part of the corrupted Mubarak regime as he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs for 10 years.
The Muslim Brothers were used as the bogeyman by Mubarak to maybe frighten the West and even the Egyptian public of life after him. Yet they insist they will not run for presidential elections and will not seek to win more than 6% of the seats in the Egyptian parliments. They are also not that popular (thanks to Mubarak’s media) so it is very doubtful that they will be in anyway running the country in the future.
What do you make of the West’s attitude towards the revolution?
Well, the West consists of people and governments. We think that the people have been amazing. They have been very supportive of us. Other governments like the German and the French have been sort of supportive as well, but we believe they should have been more decisive.
The US is a whole different story. People here think that the US wanted Mubarak to stay as he was a true ally of theirs’ and Israel’s for 30 years. We think that they are only interested in their political interests in Egypt and do not really care about our demands. Remember that at the beginning of the revolution the US government were supporting Mubarak, then after a few days when the revolution got stronger they said they will remain neutral, then after a few more days they said they were behind a democratic change but didn’t really support any of our cases or tried to intervene.
Any final comments?
I would like to say to the West that we are not that different. We are not like the media make us look. Also do not believe that people who are more religious than you are stupid or terrorists. On the contrary, if you deal with people working in a church in any place you will find honest, charitable, and peaceful people and that is what religion gives many of us, Christians and Muslims because the difference in both religions is smaller than you think. Islam-phobia is a very good excuse to invade and control the Arabic world but it is not really justified.
We are (just a tiny winy bit) different, but we look at you in movies and TV series and understand your point of view in life and I hope you can understand ours.
Thank you to everyone who hoped our revolution would succeed!