In the Egyptian capital of Cairo, thousands have flooded into Tahir Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the revolution which overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak.
This photo of the packed square is getting heavy play on Facebook profiles worldwide.
Despite the celebration, it’s been a long year for Egypt. When Mubarak left, the military took over. The regime has been reticent to give power over to an elected government and has repressed demonstrations with violence.
The Globalist spoke with local Egyptian-Americans about how far the revolution has come and how it affected the Seattle-area Egyptian community.
“The entrenchment is still there. We killed the head of the snake but the body is still lingering,” says Alaa Badr, an Egyptian-American who works at Microsoft who organized solidarity demonstrations last year. “And no one’s expecting that to go away over night.”
Tarek Dawoud, another Microsoft employee, recalled the elation of community members when Mubarak finally fell from power. At an impromptu public celebration, “we were giving out candy and chocolate, and people [passing by] knew what we were celebrating. For Egypt, people were honking and waving at us and everything.” The day before Christmas a few weeks ago, as the Egyptian military was shooting at protesters in Tahrir Square with live ammunition, Dawoud and about a dozen other Egyptian-Americans took to the streets again in Bellevue Square Mall to protest.
“There were Egyptian protests yesterday, so we felt that this is a good chance to say what we feel,” said Radwa Foda, pushing her one-year-old son in a stroller. “We want to send a message to the military that Egyptians abroad are saying no.”
She was in Egypt at the time of the revolution last year. “It wasn’t just a thousand or two thousand – it was maybe, millions,” she said. “It was scary, too, because we didn’t know what would happen…but those were good days.”
Badr remembers the way the Egyptian engineers and programmers in Seattle rallied behind the revolution.
“We were the support mechanism for the revolution outside the country,” he says. “Facebook was used as a scheduler, Twitter was used to capture what was going on.”
When the government shut down Internet service, they set up an 800 telephone number Egyptians could call to get the latest information out.
“The problem was it was happening in Arabic. So we set up a site on Facebook where people could translate,” Badr said, “and that site almost went down with the number of people who volunteered to translate immediately…I mean, it was huge.”
The historic changes taking place in Egypt are having reverberations here in Seattle.
Dawoud told me that prior to the revolution, an effort at a local mosque to allow women to run for its board was voted down.
“After the revolution, a sizable portion of the same people have now changed their minds,” he said. “People are now more bold in questioning their frontiers.”
In Egyptian elections last month, the consensus among all candidates was that women should be allowed to run for high office.
Last night, Hatim Aiad, an Egyptian-American engineer at Boeing, informed me that a long-delayed delivery of an airplane from Boeing to EgyptAir has been approved and scheduled for February 3.
Over the past year, the local community has stockpiled donated goods that will be loaded onto the plane before it makes its maiden voyage to Cairo. Look for Globalist coverage of that in the coming weeks.
If you want to join in celebrating the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, there will be a gathering in front of Bellevue Square Mall today at 6pm.
For a scholarly analysis of the revolution, check out this talk scheduled for this evening at the Intiman Theatre: Egypt and the Arab Spring: One Year Later.
UW students Jeff Johnson and Mustafa Al Gamal partnered with the CLP to travel to Cairo and produce the short film Hunger for Change about three women’s experiences during, and after, the Egyptian Revolution.