I must own that never in my life did I think I would be part of a demonstration that opposes the ruling regime or the president. My utmost in activism was to vote in the elections.
Since the days of the 25 January Revolution, I was among those dubbed by the revolutionists as “hizb al-kanaba”, literally the “party of the sofa”, those who passively sat in the comfort of their homes following the news on the media and Internet, while others risked their lives to provide for them a better future. The term never bothered me, however, since I saw the revolutionists as a reckless clan who did not correctly calculate the risks they took and did not mind jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
It may come as a surprise to the revolutionists that, in time, my sofa provided me with a broader, clearer, more comprehensive vision of what was taking place in Egypt. Long before Mohamed Mursi became president, the draft constitution was written, or the confrontation between the President and the judiciary took place, I could sense the hegemony the Islamists were extending over my Egypt. But what could I do? I felt helpless.
Desperation engulfed me by the day especially as I saw the secualrs in the Constituent Assembly, including the three main Egyptian Churches, withdraw in protest against the Islamist hegemony over the assembly. Then the President issued his legendary Constitutional Declaration which, I felt, gripped Egypt by the throat. Things got even worse when in the space of a day or two the draft constitution was rushed through and the President put it for referendum. This, for me, was the final blow. All hope appeared lost.
When the seculars took to Tahrir to protest against the Islamist draft constitution and President Mursi’s Constitutional Declaration, I felt I identified with the crowd. But the feelings of frustration and fear of deception were still there. What did these protestors think they were doing? Did they really think the President would as much as look at them? He was engrossed in his own world, serving his party’s agenda, I felt. No matter how momentous an opposition Egyptians waged against the regime, the President and his Muslim Brothers would never give up their dream of an Islamist State, which suddenly appeared to be on the verge of realisation once the draft constitution is passed.
Throughout the week, I was torn between my conviction that the demonstrations would not bear the desired fruit, and my sense of identifying with the demonstrators’ hearfelt cries, demands and efforts. But when seculars announced they were marching to the presidential palace last Tuesday to protest against the draft constitution and the President’s Constitutional Declaration, my inner struggle was resolved. I felt that it was both my right and duty to cry out against a constitution that does not represent me.
At this point I had to negotiate the matter with my overprotective husband who felt I was risking my life by joining the ranks of the demonstrators. And I had to calm down my panick-striken sons, who throughout the last two years had been terrorised by scenes of violence and lost lives. When I told my children I was participating in Tuesday’s protests my 12-year-old cynically asked, “Does my father approve of your insanity?”
I left to join the rally, with promises to my family that I would take care of myself and do nothing ‘foolish’.
The march on the palace moved me deeply. The numbers kept swelling as we went along as enthusiastic, willing people join in. Street vendors were on hand to sell the Egyptian flag to demonstrators.
Once we neared the palace, an overpowering sense of unity set in as we found ourselves in a sea of Egyptians who peacefully, graciously, and from the heart cheered demanding freedom, dignity, and a constitution that represents them. It was exhilarating to be amidst this huge multitude united in pure love for Egypt and a determination to see her overcome efforts to subdue her. The scene was dominated by men and women—many of the women were in black—old and young; there were quite a few children too, and thousands of Egyptian flags flying overhead. It was a scene of collective pride and resolve, even though the barbed wire barrier impeded the demonstrators from advancing straight to the palace.
My galvanising experience ended when the demonstrators broke through the barbed wire and marched right to the palace. I remembered then my promises to my family, and decided I had made my statement—and would make it again—but that now I had to go back.
I had protested against what I saw as an unjust constitution supported by an overbearing regime. It may not have made me more sanguine about the future, but at least I was more hopeful.
7 December 2012