By Sophia Azeb
For every day I have been alive, Muhammad Hosni Sayed Mubarak has been my president. Hosni Mubarak’s face, blown up onto enormous posters loomed over every street in Alexandria. His speeches and political declarations were on the front page of Al-Ahram every day. His thugs, the police soldiers (as we call them), demanded illegal bribes, participated in the sexual harassment of Egyptian women, and mercilessly detained, beat and – as we remember Khaled Said’s life – killed their own citizens.
In my family’s apartment in the Moharram Bey area of Alexandria, Gamal Abdel Nasser lined the walls, his picture lovingly displayed just past the front door. My neighbors had a photograph of Sadat under the glass of their table. Everyone I knew featured a treasured image of a famous Egyptian in their homes as a reminder of what Egypt had once been and had the potential to be.
On January 25th throughout Egypt, the first thing young protesters set out to do was tear down hundreds of those Hosni Mubarak billboards and posters. This continued for eighteen days until (and will continue after) February 11th 2011, the day Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down as president.
Remember the protest song that I mentioned in my last post? It’s been updated.
I stayed up all the night before with friends, glued to Al Jazeera (English, for their benefit), and struggling to be a good hostess. I tweeted at one point, “Tense, hopeful, anxious, inspired, frightened, humbled.” After the announcement was made that Mubarak had stepped down, just hours after Mubarak had handed over powers to the (former) Vice-President Omar Suleiman, I broke down. My father called, absolutely euphoric, yelling and crying in my ear, “Egypt is free! Egypt is free! Masr al harrah!”
In that moment, I could feel the joy, relief, and release of every Egyptian in the world that had followed the revolution. In that moment, I cried with the people in Alexandria. In that moment, I laughed with the people in Suez. In that moment, I sang Egypt’s national anthem with the people in Meydan Tahrir. It is something that I never thought I would see. Mubarak leaving office, the regime as we knew it dissolving–none of this, just three weeks ago, I thought I would ever see.
My uncle Magdi patrolled his neighborhood, Smouha, with other Alexandrians protecting the homes and safety of their neighbors. My cousin Muhammad rallied with other young men and women in the streets every day and every night, strengthened by the fact that he had never known a free Egypt and the hope that Egyptians could make it happen. My father learned how to send text messages so that he could update me and I could update him about the news coming out of Egypt. My father, texting me! In English! My brother, Karim, a revolutionary-in-training, forced both his college peers and professors in the U.S. to wake up and pay attention to history in the making.
I have been struggling, and struggle still, to put into words the overwhelming pride and love I have for my people right now. I cannot possibly express what this means for us–both Egyptians in Egypt who have emerged victorious in their revolution as well as those of us overseas, exiles and expats alike. Despite the inevitable future battles that will need to be fought in order to ensure a true people’s democracy is maintained, Egyptians now join Tunisians in showing the whole world how ordinary citizens can change everything.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Egyptian people – my people – are my heroes.