The eve of the greatest stepdown in Egypt’s history, February 11th, 2011 was a night of jubilation, celebration and love.
We came back from the streets of our district, the 6th of October, part of the greater Cairo suburban community, exhausted, ecstatic and exhilarated. My husband, my six-year-old and my 14-months-old toddler and I danced the night away and sang the songs of freedom that my generation grew up listening to on our national television–songs that were banned years ago because the spirit of freedom, decisively, was sought to be suppressed. We cried, we hugged random strangers, and we felt, for the very first time, free.
The trouble with freedom is that it is like health, only appreciated by those who do not possess it. Where I come from, “the walls have ears” was not just an idiom; it was a mantra to live by. The fear was so well ingrained in all of us, so prevalent, so pervasive that the authorities rarely had to do anything to instigate it. It was self-sustaining, and like a cancer, it slowly grew into a mass many of us thought was inoperable.
We thought the Egyptian people were beyond salvation and doomed to generations of servitude. We expected Mubarak’s son, Gamal, to inherit his daddy’s estate and thought that nothing could be done.
Even when Ben Ali from Tunisia fled the country and hopes for a similar occurrence in Egypt started to surface, everyone: the media, the journalists and the opposition said, “Egypt is not Tunisia, and Mubarak is not Ben Ali.” Indeed he wasn’t. Mubarak stepped down only after wreaking havoc in the country and ordering murderers and thugs out of prison to terrorize his own people, and only after he was forced to by the army.
I believe that this is what brought an end to his reign. It fueled the passion and anger which sustained the protestors through fourteen nights of camping out in Tahrir Square; along, of course, with the ludicrous infuriating speeches he made to his people, basically lauding his own accomplishments and putting on his father figure act. Hosni Mubarak made Egyptians angry beyond belief, and they made him pay for it. He stepped down, humiliated, his assets reportedly are frozen and he may even face trial if his accomplice, El-Adly, the minister of interior, lives long enough to testify against him.
But after the anger came the sense of accomplishment and pride and hope for a better tomorrow. We celebrated the victory on the streets of Cairo with complete strangers from all walks of life who looked just like us, felt just like us, and that gave me hope for a united, corruption-free Egypt.
The hilarity of bringing down the tyrant was tinged with the bitterness of all the young lives lost. We were all pained by the blood of our martyrs spilt in Liberation Square, but we know that up there, they are looking down at us, happy and content that their sacrifice was not in vain. To their blessed memory we dedicate a better Egypt, a more just Egypt, an Egypt that stood in solidarity and unity like never before.
On the night of February 11, 2011 we celebrated much more than the fall of one dictator. We celebrated the possibility of a future without tyranny for all.