Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt Will Never Be the Same

by Kareem Amer

Wall Street Journal

January 28, 2011

The news of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution rocked the Egyptian Internet. The blogosphere was full of calls urging people to take to the streets on Jan. 25 and bring down the regime of Hosni Mubarak, just as massive protests toppled the 25-year regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

For too long, despotic Arab governments have been reassured by the submissiveness and compliance of the people. The events in Tunisia have changed everything.

Initially, I didn't want to participate in the protests. Regime change could mean an Islamist takeover. I was also skeptical that the calls for demonstrations would turn out to be anything but empty words. In my experience, such demonstrations are usually attended only by the few dozen people who organize them, all hard-core political activists.

On Tuesday, as I followed the news of demonstrations in various Egyptian cities, I got a call from a friend, an activist and blogger, who criticized my lack of enthusiasm. She told me that she was going, even though she was sick and would have to leave her child alone at home. I was embarrassed by my hesitation and decided to join her.

We agreed to meet at the Bibliotheca Alexandria. There, we joined the demonstration at Port Said Street, one of the city's major internal roads. Instead of the usual traffic jam, the street was packed with thousands of demonstrators, mostly young people. The scene will stay with me forever: There were demonstrators as far as I could see. As we marched on, demonstrators urged the residents of surrounding buildings to join us, and in many cases they were successful.