Egypt Fights for Freedom

“All revolutions are impossible, until they become inevitable.” -Leon Trotsky

This truth has become self-evident in Egypt, where a grassroots populous movement calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and for a new democratic government has begun. For 30 years, the people of Egypt have dealt with an exponential rate of unemployment, increasing food prices and a rapidly diminishing quality of life. However, on Jan. 25 2011, the Egyptians finally said “kefaya,” or “enough is enough,” and took to the streets with a resilient determination to overthrow their oppressive regime.

The protests in Egypt have not only changed the climate of the country’s recent political apathy, but have also unveiled the true nature of the Egyptian spirit to achieve a government for the people and by the people.

The first sentiment to come with the protests was a fresh sense of hope. Never one to appreciate free speech or opposition, the Egyptian government shut down cell phone lines and Internet service in order to block sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Young Egyptians had used these sites to organize the “Day of Rage,” the first protest in effort to overthrow Mubarak and the National Democratic Party, which has been ruling the country for 30 years.

However, the censorship did not deter the movement for justice. More than 40,000 gathered (about 15,000 in Cairo alone) all over Egypt, chanting the same things and displaying similar slogans of freedom and regime change. The elderly were tired of leading a pitiful, enslaved life, and the youth could no longer stand by and watch their future be destroyed for them. The Egyptians refused to succumb to the norm of misery to which they were subjected. They demanded that their voices finally be heard, and after 30 years of silence, they began their honest and hopeful pursuit of happiness.

After the initial hopefulness, the people showed their resilience and bravery. In an attempt to further deter the Egyptian pursuit of happiness, the government unleashed security forces to physically avert the movement by shooting protesters with rubber bullets and throwing tear gas canisters. The freedom fighters did not retreat. They determined that hungry stomachs and a foreboding future were more unbearable and agonizing than scars and irritated eyes. They defended themselves and each other: men carried their injured brethren to safety, thousands rushed to hospitals to donate blood and to aid injured protesters. A relentless courage became each Egyptian’s weapon in their battle for liberty. The people of Egypt had come to realize that they would rather die with dignity than live one more day in humiliation.

Finally, the people unified. The regime tried to demean the movement into mere chaos. It released its own police thugs and prisoners to loot stores, museums and homes. Although the people were shaken by this roadblock, their determination stood firm. Citizens immediately began forming their own protective forces to prevent damage and theft from private and public property. They turned in the looters they caught to army officials, revealing that many looters had government IDs on them that affirmed they were disguised policemen. Then, when night fell and looters gathered in the streets, the people of Egypt — sons, fathers, neighbors, teachers, students, professionals and men selling food on the street — vowed to protect their neighborhoods. They formed their own police forces, patrolled the streets and prevented looters. The youth formed clean-up crews, swept the streets, picked up trash and distributed food and drinks to protesters while medical workers provided free care to anyone injured during the days of protesting. Egypt had finally established a firm grip on unity and brotherhood and refused to let it go. They were no longer citizens trying to get by in a hopeless country, too busy attempting to survive while watching their brothers and sisters suffer. They had become one body that felt each other’s pain, one mind that held firm to the same principles and one beating heart that yearned for a dignified existence.

The relentless spirit of the Egyptians’ fight for the natural rights endowed to every human brings to mind the speech President Obama delivered in the very same Egypt in 2009, calling for the region to embrace democracy and enjoin in its values. However, Mubarak refuses to hear the passionate cries for freedom, insisting on staying in office until Egypt’s September elections. His unwillingness to listen to the people’s demands reflects that there has been no progress toward a democratic society. In an American society founded upon life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the time has come for the Obama Administration, legislators, policy-makers and the American people to practice what they preach and support Egypt’s fight for voice, representation and freedom.

We are honored to live in a time in which we are able to witness the resilience of the human spirit. Thus, it becomes our responsibility, as students, American citizens and human beings, to learn from this resilience and support the fight for human dignity.

Jasmine Riad is a first-year psychology and social behavior major. She can be reached at jriad@uci.edu.