Feb 20, 2011
Rob Raimond: On the Scene in Cairo...
A post from Rob Raimond (Allegheny College) who is studying at the American University in Cairo. A boots-on-the-ground report:
Since I last wrote Egypt has almost been flipped on its head. Mubarak announced he would not step down then stepped down the protesters have left Tahrir and life is more or less normal again. Before I get ahead of myself though, let me congratulate Egypt, and say that the courage, discipline and sheer humanity the protesters showed is by far and away the most inspirational thing I have ever experienced in my life. Since I’m not Egyptian is a little hard for me to comprehend exactly the sentiment of the people here but I’ll try my best to explain the sheer euphoria that an entire nation felt on the 12th:
I was on my way up from grocery shopping when my bawab, which is a security person, came up to me hugged me and said “Mubarak khalas” which means Mubarak done, finished. I didn’t really know what he meant though so I went up to my apartment and turned on the news, the headline flashing on the screen was “Mubarak Steps Down”. I was so excited I dropped my groceries and ran across the street to my Egyptian friend’s apartment. I knocked on the door and the look on his face was complete euphoria. So we decided we should go to Tahrir one last time to celebrate. When we got there, thousands and thousands of people were in the square we could barely move and sometimes we just got pushed along with the crowd. People were shooting off fireworks it was like a party for a team that just won the Super Bowl. After that we went to a bar to celebrate, and all night we sang Egyptian songs and celebrated as one group, Expats and Egyptians. It made up for having been accused of being an Israeli spy a week before.
The next day though realization that maybe Mubarak stepping down wasn’t as great as we had all thought began spreading. During the revolution the people and the military had been “one hand” as the protesters said. Then the supreme military council took over the presidency and left all ministers in their positions, of course all of these ministers had been handpicked by Mubarak, and many were former or current members of the military. So while I congratulate Egypt I do also think it should be tempered with the understanding this was more or less a coup. And even though the military is promising to hold elections and reform, they are still Mubarak cronies and have benefited heavily from the last 59 years of military rule. Also the military made a fairly sinister sounding statement about how protesters needed to leave Tahrir immediately and return to normal life. This also caused some shock waves here and many protesters returned to Tahrir simply because of this message. Shortly thereafter the army began dismantling the camp that had been set up on traffic circle in the center of the Square.
I personally believe that until there are elections there should be demonstrations. Of course nothing on the scale of the 18 days that lead to Mubarak stepping down, but enough to make sure people remember they haven’t won quite yet. For many people here though the sentiment is anyone is better than Mubarak and so many are content to trust in the military to keep their word and hold elections within in the next six to eight months. But I guess the thing of it is, no one really knows what will happen, I have a friend who works in the Embassy Economic and Political Analysis Department and he doesn’t even know exactly. My very cynical guess is that free and fair elections will not happen because the military does not want to give up the grasp it’s had on politics for almost 60 years. Let’s hope I’m wrong.