A Few Thoughts on Egypt
Eleven months ago, to the day, I found myself at the American University of Sharjah (UAE) facilitating the Women’s Leadership and Technology Conference: Advancing Social Media for Community Engagement.
The ultimate goal of the conference? To explore how technology can improve civic engagement and build a robust civil society.
This week I find myself in Washington D.C., glued to my computer, reading emails, texts and tweets from the streets of Cairo:
The chatter I have been following is mostly on Twitter, Meedan, and Global Voices – and I (and many others) have come to one resounding conclusion: no matter what happens today, this is THEIR moment. This is THEIR work. This is THEIR voice. It’s not political or religious – this is the voice of a people who have had enough.
As I am sure many of my colleagues will agree, seeing this makes me proud. Proud to work with civil society – but most of all, proud to see the people of Egypt (and Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Jordan) showing the world that they do have a voice. That they do want a free society. That they do have the power to change their own lives -- and doing it completely on their own.
Following Tuesday's events, I received a few thoughts from a friend in Cairo:
"I watched in awe as the resourcefulness and generosity of the Egyptian people shone through. One guy drove his motorcycle with hundreds of loaves of baladi bread and started distributing it. Others came in with bags of foul and taameya sandwiches and koshari to feed the hungry who had been out since noon without food. Young men carried boxes of bottled water on their shoulders and gave it to the thirsty chanting masses... Most amazing of all, people walked around picking up the trash in the street with their bare hands. This was an Egypt we rarely see…but man was it beautiful to watch."
Since then, Egypt's internet and mobile communications have been cut off nationwide, a curfew has been imposed, and the military has been sent to the streets to enforce the curfew.
Many organizations have dedicated their energy to creating strong civil societies, and I am sure there is a desire to help – to find a way to support our friends in Egypt in this struggle. But what we are seeing right now is a people who are showing the world they are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. I will not pretend to understand the roots of the situation, and I will not attempt to make any predictions – there are experts far better versed in Egyptian politics and society. But there is one thing I would like to say:
This moment belongs to the Egyptian people ... not to domestic or international governments or politicians ... not to religious sects. This moment came from, and belongs to, the people.
It’s been called a revolution, an uprising, a revolt … call it what you want. One thing is for certain: this is a watershed moment.
A 26-year-old bank analyst from Cairo said it beautifully:
“We are the ones controlling the streets today, not the regime … I feel so free – things can’t stay the same after this.”
As night falls upon Egypt on this unprecedented evening, I hope the people know they are in our thoughts. And that we wish them a brighter and freer tomorrow.
*For live updates, check out the Guardian blog.
*A great article on the role of technology: "What Happens When Eighty Million Egyptians Disappear?"