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Bassel El Dabh » Mashareeb

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Mar
14


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Sips From The Nile: Five Things I Learned From The Egyptian Revolution

“Sips From The Nile” is a series of articles, written by Basil El Dabh, that will be featured on Mashareeb. Basil is an American born Egyptian who decided to move to Egypt for a couple of years after graduating from college for a job opportunity. He writes about his experience going back to his roots and living in Egypt after spending his whole life in the United States.

Five Things I Learned from the Egyptian Revolution

It sounds cliché, but many people have spent the last few weeks learning a lot about both the world around them and themselves. Egypt has entered a new age, and
while this is just the end of the beginning with much rebuilding and restrategizing to come, the milestone reached last Friday provides a great opportunity for reflection.
1. Egyptian pride is alive – Coming from the United States, I have grown to take the concept of patriotism for granted. Patriotism in Egypt was not only virtually dead prior to January 25, but it had come with a very concerning inferiority complex. To many Egyptians, their country was a place to which they were begrudgingly bound by birth. It was beyond many that I spoke with as to why I would leave a developed and advanced country that I had spent my entire life in to call Cairo my home. Don’t get me wrong – Egyptians have always possessed a definite love for their country, a love without which the last few weeks would not have been possible, but it’s fair to say not many looked around their ancient and storied nation with pride. But this has definitely changed. Egyptians are now proud enough of their country to clean up the streets. They are proud to see that as they seek a better life, the rest of the world virtually stopped in suspense, and most importantly they are proud enough to recognize that they have been blessed with a country that they can now change for the better.
2. A whole is equal to the sum of its parts – Any Egyptian has numerous stories reflecting this. A political party, a religious faction, or a disgruntled minority did not sustain the January 25th Revolution. The hundreds of thousands, if not millions that took to the streets in cities and towns across Egypt sustained it. The men who protected their neighborhoods through long nights sustained it. Those directing traffic with no incentives sustained it. Doctors and nurses who provided pro bono care to those injured sustained it. Any of the millions of Egyptians that did their best to keep life going as the government completely shut down sustained it. People proudly did their part to help one another at no cost sustained it. Two months ago, if someone had told me that Egypt would see days in which there were no police on the streets, I would have envisioned chaos and injustice taking the reigns. And I would have been proven seriously wrong. The police and security forces are not the stewards of this country…its people are.
3. The critical role of media – Especially when Egyptians lacked Internet access and other fundamental forms of communication for any 21st century society, the media stepped in and played a huge role. International media outlets continued their 24-hour coverage despite the continuous detainment of their correspondents and journalists. Individuals such as Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin were arrested, only to be released and not only remain in the country, but also continue their coverage for millions around the world.
4. Unity – Regardless of what some people would have you believe, this was a unified revolution in every aspect. This is especially important to highlight in a country with deep religious and socioeconomic divides. People I’ve spoken to abroad express worries that the events that have taken place have left the country wide open for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over. All I can say is if reform is carried out in the same spirit as the protests were, we’re about to bear witness to an Egypt with more equal opportunities and less marginalization. One day when leaving Tahrir Square with my cousin, an older man with a beard asked us if we knew where to closest mosque was so that he could go pray. We responded saying no, and that we are Christian. He then looked at us and asked, “Are you Egyptians?
”  We said “Yes” and he replied “We’re all Egyptians… we’re all the same.”

5. Change does not necessarily entail chaos – It’s an age-old dilemma, especially with regard to the Arab World: Isn’t stability more important than democracy and reform? For weeks, Mubarak and Suleiman menacingly presented themselves as beacons of stability, as opposed to the alleged inevitable chaos that would take place in their absence…some people even fell for it. Suggestions by international leaders and analysts that the region needs strong dictators to preserve long-term stability are borderline insulting – an insinuation that people in the region are incapable of responsibly governing themselves. In reality, if long-term stability depends on a small group of people and their cronies, then we all have bigger problems. As Egyptians prepare for a 2011 of economic challenges, they know that they have the assets to not only bounce back, but to come back even stronger without a corrupt regime siphoning billions of dollars from those who truly deserve it. The country still has a long way to go to transform into the nation that many Egyptians want it to be, but as long as those who desire change remain committed, it’s inevitable. Decades of corrupt governance suppressing intellectual and social rights hardened the Egyptian people- a group historically characterized by its light- heartedness and openness. But, as someone proudly told me…”Egyptian history stopped for 30 years, but now it’s back.”


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