“The cynical, smiling revolution:” A discussion of the Egyptian Revolution with Arabic teacher, Kamel Gadallah
The Middle Eastern uprisings of 2011, referred to now as the Arab Spring, appeared contagious from one neighbor to another. How did the recent uprising in Tunisia contribute to the Egyptian Revolution?
“… The wave which just started in Tunisia became higher in Egypt, and began to take shape, form, strategy, ideology, everything… so the Egyptians were given that, hmm, let’s say, ‘the wake up call:’ ‘We can do it too. We can do it too.”
The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 began with youth protesting in the square in Cairo. As pioneers, how did Egypt’s youth contribute to the Revolution?
“What they did was to take the first step towards making the change to happen. But they echoed everybody’s desire in the country… So when they started with a small movement to show up on the streets during the day the police celebrates its anniversary… and just to tell the police, ‘We are here, and we can express ourselves, and we are not afraid anymore.’ And all of a sudden there were millions….”
What was the mindset of an individual in Egypt as the Revolution took form? How did this change as the Revolution progressed?
“If you want to know how things went for the individual in Egypt; first everybody was surprised, confused, determined, participant, winner. That’s how it went… So after 30 years of the man’s [Mubarak’s] regime, everybody was feeling that if he’s not there, we would go into chaos, the people thought we are not yet ready for change. When the youth of the country started to protest and speak out, everybody got confused, because it’s human to feel more relaxed to the bad thing you’re used to, rather than jumping into what could be the unknown. So within first two to three days everybody was confused. So when the events escalated, people realized this is the moment to make the change, so they took part.”
How did the protests affect the everyday lives of ordinary Egyptian citizens?
“You will not believe it. Actually during the first two months when everybody was expecting things to go crazy, everybody worked to keep things as they are. Food on the table everyday, all the shops were open, all the supplies were provided on time. Even the most wonderful thing, when the police vanished for no reason, the people started forming their own local police. And these local police began to make sure every family gets what they wanted, and all the supplies are there, and the whole neighborhood is protected at night.”
Now that Mubarak has stepped down from power, how will the lives of Egyptian citizens change?
“I’m gonna tell you something about the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people always have this philosophy, simply because they have been through seven thousand years of experience: ‘It doesn’t matter who’s ruling. It doesn’t matter what they say. It doesn’t matter what they think. We’ll manage our own lives, our own way.’ So even when Mubarak was there, people managed to live their lives, as if he was not there. So the change will not be drastic for the people, they know we were here, and we will be there, and we can handle both situations because we have enough experience to make things run.”
What aspects of the Revolution are not portrayed in the international news broadcasts?
“You will never believe the kind of art that was produced inside the Square [Tahrir Square, Cairo], even when they were besieged by army forces. They wrote songs. They sang. They had plays. As if they were telling everybody: we are living a normal life, don’t worry about us. And we’re trying not only to change the country, we are trying to remind everybody that we are human beings, we are creative, and we can change everything for the better, and we have the will and the ability to sacrifice ourselves for this thing. If you really want to have stories to tell, a report on BBC, summarizing the effects of the Egyptian Revolution, he called it the cynical, smiling revolution – because [laugh]. The first thing, instead of taking the kids to the zoo, they took them to the Square. Children led demonstrations and chanted and were followed. Newlywed couples decided to have their wedding night in the Square instead of going to fancy places and to have their photos with a tank in the background instead of having some landscape scene in the background. So this is the kind of stuff we love about it. We love about our revolution. You see in the morning, ten people die, at night, they are signing again. ‘You didn’t get to us.’ I can show you photos of kids as old as three or four years standing in the middle of the Square and saying, ‘Down with Mubarak!’”