The Center of Warmth in Tahrir Square

A Guest Post by Mona Elnamoury

It has been called the Republic of Tahrir Square, a place very much like Annares; everybody cooperates, no leader; everyone is a leader. Art and music and dramas and creativity and dreams are reborn there not for Egypt only but for humanity. It has been the center of warmth to all chilly Egypt during the last month of the Egyptian revolution. But what is the future of the revolution?

“Finally it is coming true!”
Tahrir Square
Liberation Night, 11 February 2011

As a middle class Egyptian woman, I cannot say whether the revolution will stumble or fall; succeed or fail. As a university professor, I still find it hard to see exactly what may come next in Egypt’s future. No one can tell. But what I can surely tell is the fact that this revolution will never fail easily. The honest Egyptian people will simply die hard especially after they have tasted the joy of freedom and after they have known about the amount of corruption that has sucked their blood for so long . But let me summarize it in points because it is so complicated.

  1. Who started the revolution were the middle class educated youth not the poor toiled people. I have previously wondered why the “Proles” never rebelled (to use Orwellian language). I know now. They are always too tired and too absorbed in the daily struggle for bread and the mere primitive basics of life to revolt. The comfortable youth; who had the luxury to read, discuss, surf the net, know different languages and think were the ones who started the revolution. They started it in the virtual world of the net and amazingly enough they had all the instructions on the net all the time. Then, everyone else followed: Moslem brotherhood, Christians, the workers, middle class families, rich people, university professors,  the poor, and even some army officers. They could follow after the original youth broke their fright fear at last.
  2. Thirty years of totalitarian ruling is enough to destroy two generations in many subtle ways. The intricate network of corruption that was gradually interwoven in Egypt over the last thirty years is Egypt’s greatest challenge now. It is so tough and widespread that it needs real perseverance and patience to “deconstruct”; to use Professor Nasr Abo Zaid’s term: “deconstructing corruption”.
  3. The old regime is still very much in power. As I have just mentioned, the network is widespread and the list of the people who need to be expelled out of the country is extremely large. Now I know how genius was the idea of “leaving Omelas” all together. It looks to me like the best answer now to this problem. I am not sure how many Egyptians will be left if — theoretically speaking — the corrupt ones were forced to leave. In fact, I think that somehow we have all been infected by this corruption either by participating or by being silent or finally despairing. So, the old regime is still in power working, hiding facts, manipulating with people’s minds again; trying all the time to figure out new ways to survive.
  4. The relationship between the people and the army is ambivalent. There is an unacceptable slowness in carrying out the demands of the young people; namely:
  1. Changing all the current temporary government because it is actually the tail of the old government and forming a new cabinet. (They give that one month)
  2. Discharging all the local councils and all the governmental universities’ presidents and all the deans.( in 1 month)
  3. Setting free all the political prisoners.( in 1 month)
  4. Presenting all the ones responsible for the violence and killings of the last events to quick trials.( in 1 month)
  5. Deconstructing/reconstructing the Interior Ministry (police) in 1 month
  6. Presenting all the corrupt ones to trial and bringing the  hundreds of stolen billions back to the country.
  7. Having a seriously transparent and democratic presidential elections in 6 months.

These are the basic demands.  From the side of the revolution, they seem fair and easy to accomplish. But why they are not? We cannot frankly express our concerns about the army performance not out of fear but out of cautious wisdom. The army might be the last ally to the people and it has always been honorably biased  to them. So, should we totally lose it with no serious evidence? Also, we know that it is being cornered. There is the burning Libyan border, the unrest down in the Nile Basin countries, the everlasting threat from Israel in the east, the daily strikes in many places all over the country, unstable economy,  and finally the countless corruption cases pouring on their heads every day. The army is faced with terrible inheritance. Can one actually totally dismiss that some of its sectors might have been touched by corruption too?

So, all in all, we are having a state of half a revolution! Again, you can count on the people; the youth who have decided to camp in Tahrir Square since last Friday till the demands are carried out. They have not been nicely treated by the tired army neither are they exactly accepted by many ordinary worried Egyptians who misunderstand their intentions or wish to see normal life back. There is the fear that the homeless hungry people may rebel against the rebels if the economic situation keeps deteriorating (which is one way to explain the term ‘counter-revolution’).

One last feminine thing; it has been extremely difficult to be a mother during that month. You are either the mother of a young man/woman or a child. If you belong to the first category you can either have him/her in Tahrir square in spite of your fears and tears  fighting for the freedom of their country and getting the near risk of losing their lives or one of the eyes at least. Or, you may have the kid at home safe and sound in front of TV but despicable and shameful. If  the mother of a child, you had to explain what was going on in the best way you could (and sometimes it was just impossible) and at the same time you had to keep the child away from all the tension on TV or outside when the runaway prisoners (freed by the old regime to terrorize the people) and thugs filled the streets. Most important of all, you had to keep the faith and the hope and the smile to give them to everyone. I used to figure myself in the center of the warmth of Tahrir Square when it was cold and grey enough for everyone. Only then, the colors became bright again.

Keep your fingers crossed for Egypt.

Mona Elnamoury

Mona Elnamoury corresponds with Book View Cafe founding member Ursula K. Le Guin.



The Center of Warmth in Tahrir Square — 6 Comments

  1. Here are some good news. An new government has been formed today led ny professor Essam Sharaf who had previously led the protests against the old regime last month. There is hoooooooooooopppppeeeee, Love

  2. Well-written and “warm” analysis of the present situation of Egypt. It will take some time before the wings of fear and worry that has kept the glorious victory at Tahrir a bit low these days with the eruptions of “incidents” and suspect riots. But all that is expected. You are right. Deconstruction of earlier deconstructions of the Egyptian dream is a must and must be worked for, no matter how slow the process maybe.
    Bless you, Dr. Mona, for your centre of warmth

  3. It is with great sadness that one year after the revolution that the Egyptians are still asking for the same demands mentioned in mky guest blog above. It is sad that more hundreds of Egyptians have been killed during the last months, that the Egyptian economy is deteriorating day after day because nothing real is being done to improve it, that the murderes behind the bars are only there because of severe public pressure, that Egyptians cannot trust any authoritative person or any promises. What counters sadness insde me is my personal trust in the revolutionary will that is sure to ripen enough to complete something of a revolution.