A year ago today was the beginning of historic change in the country of Egypt. To mark the anniversary a holiday has been declared with celebrations planned throughout the country. As early as Tuesday tents were set up in Tahrir Square, the central square area that was the seat of last year’s historic events. Below is a summary of major events from last year’s 18 days of change.
Many in the west are unaware of the brutal beating and murder of a young Egyptian from the port city of Alexandria at the hands of a corrupt and brutal police force. The man’s name was Khaled Said and he was murdered because he had obtained information on police corruption in the city and was going to expose it. Khaled Said became a symbol of brutal oppression without a voice. Underground activists began to circulate information about his death through social media, specifically Facebook and a movement was born.
A “Day of Rage”, largely orchestrated through social media, was proclaimed on January 25th, 2011 and demonstrations took place throughout the country. What most people expected to be a one day event sparked further protests that refused to be silenced. Two days later Facebook and Twitter were blocked, inhibiting widespread organization through social networking. A day later and Egypt went silent to the world as all internet and mobile phone services were blocked. During this time I well remember trying to reach my daughter without success. Sitting at his desk one day my husband received a phone call from an unknown number with the first digits of 202. He knew this was the area code for Washington DC, but it was also the country and city code for Cairo, Egypt. As he picked up the phone and said hello, the voice on the other end said “This is the State Department. I would like to speak to the mother or father of Annie Gardner” (pause) his heart stopped for a long second. “This is he”. “We’re calling to tell you that your daughter has contacted the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and that she is safe and sound!” He could have strangled them through the phone line until they begged for mercy. While the relief we felt to hear of her safety was great, the method could have been a bit less dramatic.
The initially peaceful demonstrations turned violent on January 28th as street battles erupted. Thugs allegedly hired by the government brought on a dimension of violence that resulted in death and injury to many.
Four days after the initial “Day of Rage” former President Mubarak reconfigured his cabinet and a vice-president was appointed for the first time in 30 years.
February 4th was termed “Friday of Departure” where hundreds of thousands come to Tahrir to take part in peaceful protests with repeated calls for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. Protests were not just confined to Cairo but occurred throughout the country. On February 7th Wael Ghoneim, an Egyptian Google employee and founder of the Facebook page “We are all Khaled Said” was released after 12 days of interrogation. His appearance on television stimulated further action and cries for change. On February 11th, 18 days after the original “Day of Rage” Mubarak stepped down. The following day and night massive celebrations were held throughout Egypt. Entire families converged on Tahrir Square celebrating a new day for the country of Egypt while the world looked on amazed. My daughter sent us the message “Tomorrow they’ll rebuild, but today they’re going to party” a perfect description for the time of celebration.
So what now, a year to the day later? Through conversations we had with people in Egypt during our recent trip we heard frustration that the army has too much power and control and the deeply hoped for change has not come. Economically there is huge frustration as younger people face massive unemployment. The first free election in recent history has taken place and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took a majority of the seats of the lower parliament. There was expectation that a civilian government would be in place by this time and the fact that this is not the case is cause for anger and concern. There is an overall fatigue and feeling that one can still get arrested for speaking out in public against the ruling military.
And through all this we continue to see that Egyptians are a humble resilient people. The passion that has been shown and the fight for change at the high cost of imprisonment and harm is proof of a strength in character and evidence of a willingness to seek something that will last. And so today should be celebrated with a prayer that hope will continue to thrive and a belief that God will continue to work in Egypt and her people.
I urge you to watch this short video called “Ya Baladi”. It has English subtitles and is a moving look at an Egypt way beyond the media portrayal.
- Tahrir Square – Walls and Graffiti (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com)