Saturday, January 29, 2011

Inside The Egyptian Revolution

Here is a firsthand account of the Egyptian revolution from Youth Journalism International senior reporter Jessica Elsayed, a 17-year-old student in Alexandria, Egypt:
By Jessica Elsayed
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – It’s scary and exciting at the same time to be here.
I can hear booms outside from tear gas canisters exploding.
The police station next door caught fire last night.
As part of a new people’s militia, men from my building are guarding us with wooden sticks or knives. One neighbor has two swords.
The butcher down the street sharpened knives and handed them out, not out of violence but for protection.
Looters are not welcome in my neighborhood. Elsewhere in the city, they’ve pillaged a big mall, driven off with new BMWs and attacked many jewelry stores by shattering windows and grabbing all they can.
It’s pretty intense.
Those who are doing the looting and setting the fires are from the police, something they’re not saying on television but everyone knows it. It’s really distressing.
The government blames protesters but everyone knows who’s really doing it.
I’m not scared because I trust the men in my building and I trust my neighbors. It’s very brave of them to stand guard.
No one sleeps as we watch the televised images of the revolution going on throughout Egypt, including my hometown.
People say that 30 protesters died today in Alexandria alone. There may have been more. Thankfully, my family and friends are safe.
The authorities are not letting people take the bodies from the morgue because they don’t want the corpses of martyrs carried down the streets, further inflaming a country that is seething with anger and filled with hope.
Protesters ignore the curfews, but stores and pharmacies are closed. My father went out to look for food earlier and medicine for my sister, but generally if people don’t have some at home, they won’t find it.
The internet is off. Phones are iffy. They’re even shutting off the water soon.
Al Jazeera, which we can see on satellite television, pretty much shows what’s going on. We can also watch the world news channels from the BBC, CNN and Al Arabiya.
Tonight could be crucial for Egypt’s growing revolution. We are all hoping something happens tonight for the better.
Tomorrow is such a mystery.
Since the protests began Tuesday, they have swollen in size and in the rage demonstrated against a government that has failed the people. It gets worse each day.
The country’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has to go.
Crowds everywhere chant, “You must go! You have no dignity!”
It is infuriating for Egyptians that Mubarak, in power for 30 years, won’t leave. The message is clear: we just want him to leave.
His speech to the country last night was much more provocative than comforting.
With Mubarak in power, people in Egypt cannot breathe. They have no rights whatsoever unless they’re one of the rich elites with ties to the government.
For ordinary Egyptians, there is nothing from this regime, and anyone under 30 has never known anything but Mubarak.
Egyptians have so much pride, but for decades he has hurt them. It didn’t have to get this bad.
The Egyptian people are counting on the Army.
We need the Army on our side. Politically, the Army is the source of everything.
People don’t trust the police – who are not respectful – but they have faith in the military units that have fanned out through the cities. There are tanks downtown here. Many families are bringing food to the soldiers.
A soldier serving in the Army could be my brother or my friend. We respect these men, and don’t believe they would hurt us.
Egyptians are very upset with U.S President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for failing to back them. The Americans must choose between the Egyptian people and the government.
They are trying to hold the stick in the middle, but they need to pick one side or the other.
Egyptians want a change in the system. They want a new president and new institutions that won’t be used to oppress our nation.
The country may be disorganized, but in these times, the people are united. In the end, change is going to come from the people.
After years of being afraid to speak out, people are starting to feel comfortable in their own skin. Everyone feels a little more brave today.
It is remarkable that this revolution was planned on Facebook. From the day after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia drove out a dictator, organizers on Facebook set a day of protest in Egypt for Jan. 25.
No one really believed it would happen, but young people, most of them not connected to any party, agreed to try. They clicked “will attend” on a Facebook event page, and they did.
The protesters are peaceful people.
The timing is perfect. Exams are over and schools and colleges are closed now for a mid-year vacation, which is one reason the crowds got so big on Friday.
Nobody cares that the ruling party headquarters went up in flames yesterday. Its furnishings were stolen from the people.
Other buildings that burned also don’t matter.
All of this can be fixed. Burned buildings can be fixed.
Being oppressed cannot be fixed except through revolt. Mubarak left us no other choice.
We’re optimistic. Everyone’s optimistic. We’re going to be OK.
It’s a different country than it was just five days ago.
The story above is story is based on a half hour telephone conversation with Jessica Elsayed in Alexandria, Egypt the evening of January 25. It reflects what she said, but she could not review it before publication because the government has cut off internet service in Alexandria. This story may be revised when she has the opportunity to see it.
Update on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2011: We spoke again today with Jessica Elsayed and read her the above text since she still does not have internet access. She approved it.

More reporting from Jessica Elsayed:
News Analysis: Tens Of Thousands Of Egyptians Protest For Human Rights, her Jan. 25 piece on the first day's protest.
Egyptians Pin Hopes On ElBaradei:
Egyptian Protestors Stand Firm: here
Finally, listen to Jessica's radio interview and more from Egypt with Pacifica Radio's Ian Masters, host of "Background Briefing" at


BarefootDoctor said...

What a very brave girl you are, Jessica. I hope that Egypt will go from strength to strength. You are in my thoughts.

Laura said...


Continue to be strong. Thank you for your voice. It's an important one. I will post your story on my Facebook page and hopefully some of my 417 friends will read it and hear the truth about what's going on.

Youssef said...

Good report Jessica. Stay strong. Hopefully the era of Mubarak is over and a better future is awaiting Egypt and other Arab nations.

Simi Sap said...

Amazing post. My prayers are with you and my hope for a better and brighter future.

Nicole said...

Jessica, your reporting is eye-opening for those of us half a world away. You are so brave & strong; keep it up! My US Government might not be supporting the Egyptian people but I believe you deserve the backing of everyone who believes in freedom. I pray for safety for you, your loved ones and neighbors. Keep us updated!

Anonymous said...

Jessica, your observations are so clear, including the feelings that must be sweeping the country--both the hope and fears. As a US citizen I wish Obama would support your democratic uprising. My prayers are with you and your family.

DMS said...

Jessica----------you article was absolutely AMAZING. I am so baffled. I was in Egypt last year and spent three wonderful weeks there. Had I know that Egypt was a police state I may have not gone. We found EVERYTHING superb. People were warm, pleasant courteous and so friendly everywhere. They went out of their way to make our life pleasurable, including Egypt Airlines. We encountered no problems. I had a group of 14 years old from Port Said and 18 year olds at the University of Alexandria that did not want me to leave-it was tough All they wanted was to talk and ask personal questions.
Since I read your article I am in shock as we did not have any contact with your secret police.
Most of us in the USA are not aware on your countries dilema. Now that I know we will support your struggle and the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. I will make sure that pople here know of what is really going on in your beautiful and ancient country.
I promise that we will be back and spend one winter on the Red Sea. We are HOOKED on Egypt
May God be with you and I hope you all will succeed in your revolution. Take care.

Kate said...

I have 309 facebook friends from all over the world. Like Laura (couple of posts above mine) said, I will post your story on my wall as well for all 309 people to hear the truth about what is going on.
I am lighting a candle for you, that you will be safe and the men protecting you will remain strong and that your beautiful Egypt will be free of this corruption and oppression. Peace, from an American mom (a citizen - not a government)

Logan said...

Your story and the story of the Egyptian people is truly inspiring! As an American, I'm ashamed that the U.S. has supported Mubarak for so many years, and doubly ashamed that we're not doing more now to support this revolution. I wish you all the best.

Graeme Hodgson said...

Thank you for this moving and brilliant account of the REALITY of the situation. I have forwarded the link to all the Global Changemakers ( in the Americas as well as British Council staff. You are NOT alone... Stay strong.

Graeme Hodgson

Laurence (England) said...

You have so much support out here.
We are with you.
Peace and freedom to the Egyptian people!
This revolution and the courageousness of the Egyptian people is an inspiration to the world.

canyondogh said...

I posted a link to your report on my Facebook site Jessica. Excellent work ! Thanks for sharing the truth as to what's currently happening in Egypt. We wish your people well in their pursuit of freedom and prosperity.

Naveen said...

Dear Jessica, Living in Pakistan, it was almost as if you were telling our story. I wait for the day when we will wake and be ourselves- Praying for you. May ALLAH Bring upon you a person who will be kind and considerate towards you the people. ameen

gentlenardo said...

Hi jessica,

brave young girl. following your remarkable words from germany.
people, even in the countryside, take part in the breathtaking developements in your country.

i do hope that Egyptians of all religions share the dream of democracy and freedom.

they must be aware, that we all are human beings, despite different religions, education and surroundings.

try to read the "ring parabel" of Nathan the Wise by Lessing

and you will understand what i am trying to tell you-

God bless you