Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reflections On A Day Of Peaceful Protest

By Jessica Elsayed
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt [Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011] – Today I was finally part of the protests.
I’d been begging to leave our family’s apartment and go down to the streets for days, but my parents wouldn’t let me budge. Today, though, we saw people from our own quiet street walking to the protests.
I looked at my dad and he said, “Go.”

Jessica Elsayed

My mom went with me. I couldn’t go alone, but I think she had some pent up passion and anger of her own to release. She’s lived outside of Egypt, and she knows what freedom is like. She just really wanted to rant.
My family wants to see Egypt change, for the better. We want things to be different here, so we can have a good life in our country and not have to live elsewhere.
This is a political revolution, but it’s personal, too.
We want better schools for my younger brother and sisters, better health care for my grandmother.
So, we took to the streets, and for us, it was a pretty big deal.
My dad said that the day my mom would go to the protests was the day President Hosni Mubarak would leave Egypt – meaning, it would never happen.
We didn’t even tell my grandparents that we went, for fear of upsetting them.
Watching the revolution on television is so different than actually being in the middle of it. Everyone was screaming and cheering.
There were many women and children. There weren’t as many women as men, of course, but they weren’t a rare sight, either.
As they marched, the women gathered next to each other to feel a little safer. The men were respectful and gave us our space.
There were a lot of foreigners, too. We saw Germans and Americans in the protests. They looked like they just couldn’t believe their eyes.
We shouted, in Arabic, “You pharaoh, you pharaoh. Today’s the last day.”
There weren’t any police pushing us, clashing with us or even stopping us. Everything was peaceful.
We met people at the demonstrations who had been going out every single day. They’re really dedicated, and they felt empowered. The longer they stay in the streets, the more pressure on Mubarak to leave.
I think the protests are working, but not as quickly as we’d all like.
Something that bothers me is that the media sometimes says this is an Islamic revolution, but it’s not. It has no connection with religion.
In fact, ever since the bombing at the Coptic church here on New Year’s Eve, Muslims have gone out of their way to help the Christians feel safe in their churches and the Christians, too, watch out for us.
When Muslims pray in the street during the protests, as I did with my mother, Christians stood near and gave us protection.
It’s very empowering to be out protesting, to see this revolution unfolding.
Only weeks ago, Egyptians, even ones who are comfortable, felt worthless. Now people are feeling that they literally own the country. Everything around them, it’s theirs.
There’s still a slice of Egyptian society that’s worried more about how they’re going to make a living than about changing our country. Many people haven’t been able to work and a lot of normal, daily activities have stopped.
It’s hard.
You can buy food, but only when there’s no curfew and the lines are really long. People who do get bread and milk are buying excessively, stocking up.
Gas stations are closed.
On our way to the protest, someone told us Mubarak had resigned. The reaction was strong, and one man even cried. But it wasn’t true. We realized the person who said that only wanted us to turn back.
No matter what happens, this revolution has accomplished something. There’s a new sense of community in Egypt. Strangers smile at each other on the street, people say thank you and lend a hand to someone in need. Neighbors are sticking together.
Along with many of my fellow Egyptians, I wish the American government, the British government or the German government would take a stand on the side of the people here. Egyptians want to feel that Mubarak is also getting pressure from outside the country to leave.
Until I was actually a part of the protests, I’d felt like something was missing from my experience.
I don’t think I’ll go out again, though. I got to be a part of history, and now I have to take my family’s circumstances into consideration. I had the share that I needed to feel I was part of it.
I’m really thankful to my mom for taking me out today. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Jessica Elsayed gave this account in a telephone conversation on Tuesday, Feb. 1, expanding on what she'd already written about the day. You can see that at this link. She sounded tired, but hopeful and optimistic. She had no internet access, so like her other telephone reports, this is being published without her review. It may be revised after she is able to read it.

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