Egypt: An emotional roller-coaster to liberation
Adam Taylor-Awny, Oxfam's Middle East Policy Advisor, shared with us last week his overwhelming excitement as he watched the recent events unfold in Egypt.
It has been an emotionally (and physically) draining and exhilarating time during which I think the whole country was sleep deprived, excited, passionate, hopeful, scared, committed but oscillating form hope to depression to hope again (some times within the space of a few hours). After the brutality of the police particularly on Friday the 28th of Jan, the removal of the police and a policy of creating mass fear and hysteria, people were up all night protecting their neighbourhoods from (what was later reported to be) coordinated ministry of interior attacks.
As you know the following two weeks saw ever increasing demonstrations met with traditionally thuggish scare tactics from the regime, targeting of foreigners, and increasingly wild conspiracy theories. It really is a testimony to the Egyptian people that throughout, the demonstrators remained peaceful, often jocular, and always respectful of everyone despite their diversity.
During these two weeks Tahrir Square was often under siege from government thugs and yet the mood in the square remained, calm, organised, disciplined and often festive. Tahrir in a few days turned into a massive speaker's corner, people seemed to be trying to make up for decades of repressed political debate all at the same time. And notably different from speakers corner everyone could agree on the same political demands.
Because of how it was reported it is easy to forget that demonstrations were taking place simultaneously all over the country.
Mubarak's speech last Thursday (10 February) threw many of us into depression and during that sleepless night I became convinced that Friday would be very bloody. So it was with a sense of dread that I watched protesters surrounding the TV building. However I found them just as peaceful and enthused as the day before with vast numbers of people joining in. Again that roller coster of emotion, from depression to positive determination in just a few minutes. Then on Friday evening, February 11, the Vice President's 30 second announcement that Mubarak has resigned - and joy oh joy oh joy! I think 85 million people wept with joy.
It still has not sunk in, and I keep catching myself -- we did it! we did it!
And how many revolutions ask people to come back the day after they have won to clean the streets? The sight of the spectrum of classes out with their dust pans and brooms was almost as revolutionary, with chants of "the people want to clean the country, the people want to build the country."
My feeling is that there is an widespread recognition that this is the first step on a long road, it is a very important step in the right direction but the path stretches out before us. Much attention has been given in the press to the fact that the army is now in power, and the care-taker government was appointed by the old regime.
I do however have great faith that the people of Egypt have at long last found their voice, and they are watching closely and will make sure they are heard. If the army tries to pull a fast one, we know the way to Tahrir (liberation).