Author’s Note: My daughter Annie is currently in Egypt and has been for the past 2 years working towards a Masters Degree. Our love and interest in Egypt runs deep from 7 years of living in the country and many trips back since we left. Because of this my focus in blog posts will be on the crisis in the country for the next few days. Thanks for reading!
Annie’s voice was clear despite the static surrounding the connection. It had taken both of us over 20 tries and a couple of cut-off connections before finally reaching her. Snipers on rooftops and gunfire kept her awake much of the night and influenced the decision to move to another neighborhood about 2 miles away before start of the curfew at 4pm. What would normally have been a short ride to her friend’s house was longer due to road blocks and altered traffic patterns.
She spoke of the neighborhood watch groups that have stepped up all over Cairo, impressed with their efficacy. The presence of these self-nominated groups is allowing communities to feel a sense of care and safety in their immediate neighborhoods despite the uncertainty of the larger picture. In her view the neighborhood watch is how life should be all the time, not just in crisis. Egyptians are stepping up, directing traffic in their neighborhoods, making sure people are inside if it’s not safe and in general helping out. She confirms the word we had heard that much of the looting is done by plain clothes police confirmed through their identification cards. Both Annie and a long-time friend of ours who I just spoke with cannot say enough about these groups. Our friend Ann described is as a “gathering of the people. The men are out all night patrolling and sleep during the day”. She stated that these groups have blocked off their neighborhoods making it difficult for cars to easily move in and out of the area.
I wonder if care of this type would occur in my neighborhood. As I view people in our cities tiredly shoveling snow upon snow from the assault that this winter has brought, all working with little assistance from their neighbors I struggle to picture groups in Boston ensuring safety and care for the entire neighborhood. Is it the difference between a collectivist view of life vs. an individual ‘pull up your bootstraps’ view? Or is it the collective human response to crisis no matter what the cultural context? I like to think it’s the latter and a snow-storm doesn’t fit the criteria for crisis.
There is something of a righteous anger in her and her friends as they watch a stubborn administration hanging on while hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in the streets of major cities and smaller towns continue to say with their actions and words that something has to change. The recent cabinet appointments have only served to fuel the frustration as there is no faith in the men chosen. The chants in Arabic “Civilian government, Civilian Government” are loud and clear. Along with that is the dismay that the dreaded E word has been raised – Evacuation. There is at heart a sense that they would be abandoning Egyptians and leaving protesters in a place where resolution is still several days of curfew and collateral damage away.
After ensuring phone numbers, passport numbers and contingency plans were all in place we said goodbye with the uneasiness of knowing the turning-point is still to come.
Authors note: If you have a sense of confusion and gaps on why there is an uprising in Egypt here is a link to a short but informative piece that may help – A Short Primer on Egypt. For other posts on Egypt feel free to link to these:
- Civilians Watch Over Neighborhoods In Egypt Chaos – NPR (news.google.com)