The Egyptian Revolution
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On January 25th of 2011, Egyptians witnessed an ever changing event that would make history. For thirty years one man had been in charge of the whole country, and his so called democracy was actually a disguised dictatorship for the past thirty some years with one man in power stealing all potential wealth and growth of the citizens of Egypt. A revolution was thus called upon for better moral changes and justice. This revolution was well needed, which is my personal opinion as some Egyptians do not think it was necessary. The January 25th revolution caused many fatalities and misunderstandings between different groups of people, or I would like to call them different sub-cultures of people. This revolution caused miscommunication between the same kind of people, including people that have the same religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.
To understand more of why and how this miscommunication and misunderstanding happened, I will talk about what I witnessed during the revolution and what other Egyptians and foreign countries understand about the Egyptian revolution. My perspective is fully based on my opinion as there are other people who think I am wrong. There are two main different perspectives on why and how this revolution happened and how it affected us. Mainstream perspective and my personal opinion. The majority of the world believes what is seen and heard on television, which is usually false or misleading in a sense. Many people agree with my opinion on the causes of the revolution, but the majority of the world believes the mainstream causes.
The main reasons, in mainstream’s perspective, are thirty years of unjust dictatorship, corruption, faulty constitution, extreme poverty, and the Tunisian revolution. My perspective contradicts all these examples I stated. I think those were just announced to make everyone think that Egypt had the largest and most successful revolution in the modern era. The main reason this revolution continued was because two major parties were fighting for power. Egypt had a civil cold war. There are two main parties in Egypt, the Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood party. For many years the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take control over Egypt and become the majority in the parliament, after many years of failed attempts, they thought to corrupt the country and to cause chaos, then act as if they were not the reason.
Day one of the revolution was on a Tuesday. At the time, I lived in Alexandria, Egypt, and was enrolled at the University of Alexandria, Faculty of Engineering. I was finishing the second semester of my junior year. I was in Cairo, Egypt on that day and my father called me and said do not drive back to Alexandria today. I was already half way through the three hour journey. He said there is too much chaos going on and people are murdering one another. I kept going anyways, and as I reached the gates of Alexandria, I saw a crowd of people gathered by a mosque rioting and shouting. I eventually got home to find out all schools and governmental sectors will be closed until further notice. January 25th is a national holiday to commemorate the police force, but instead Egyptians took to the street in large numbers calling it a “day of rage”. The people wanted Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s current president at that time, out of the presidential palace and office.
The second day of the revolution the first bloodshed occurred in which a protestor and a police officer were killed during an anti-governmental demonstration. The police force took orders from Mubarak to use brutal forces against any reformers. Two days after the start of the revolution internet and cellular services were also taken down so no protestors can reach or contact other protestors. Tens of thousands of mad protestors demonstrated much hatred by chanting “The people demand the regime to step down!” All the citizens wanted was for a just and moral regime to replace the current one and achieve complete democracy. The fourth day was probably the most interesting day of the revolution where the police force was threatened by the protestors, a lot of them were targeted and killed.
The police force then decided to quit and flee from any protests to protect themselves. As soon as these events took place, my home city became a free-for-all war. Any person who had trouble with another person took it out personal. The minister of defense shortly announced that there will be military ruling till further notice. The minister also asked the young men to go in the streets and protect their neighborhood. This is when things started to become very interesting. It was about eight at night, when we all went down to the streets with different weapons in our hands. I had a field hockey stick, a friend of mine had an electric taser, another had a golf club, and a bunch of other white weapons we called them.
This became like a scene one would see in a movie, where there was no law for almost four days. Anyone who wanted revenge from a family took advantage of those four days, and took revenge. People rioted, carjacked, committed theft, and even robbed homes. Since there weren’t any consequences, no one cared. We setup schedules to protect our families and homes. I remember I had a twelve hour shift from eight at night to eight in the morning on my first day. I was scared the first couple of days, but then I got used to it. A group of us came down and setup where everyone would stand and we had around fifteen young men, ranging from sixteen to early forties, who split up into two with seven or eight at each end of the street. Unfortunately, I lived in a very high class neighborhood, which meant one of two things. Either thugs would come and target expensive homes or they would be too busy vandalizing dealerships and robbing people in the street. Anyone in the street protecting their houses and families were categorized under a group called the resistance.
After a couple hours had passed, we caught some unwanted people wandering in our neighborhood and by the sixth day the army took control of the whole country. It was military status from now on. They army told the resistance to keep coming out every night with our weapons to help them protect this chaotic scene. After much chaos and bloodshed, Mubarak decided to take the stand and brought us speech number one, which went like this. Mubarak: “I talk to you during critical times that are testing Egypt and its people which could sweep them into the unknown. The country is passing through difficult times and tough experiences which began with noble youths and citizens who practice their rights to peaceful demonstrations and protests, expressing their concerns and aspirations but they were quickly exploited by those who sought to spread chaos and violence, confrontation and to violate the constitutional legitimacy and to attack it.
We are living together painful days and the most painful thing is the fear that affected the huge majority of Egyptians and caused concern and anxiety over what tomorrow could bring them and their families and the future of their country. I have never, ever been seeking power and the people know the difficult circumstances that I shouldered my responsibility and what I offered this country in war and peace, just as I am a man from the armed forces and it is not in my nature to betray the trust or give up my responsibilities and duties. My primary responsibility now is security and independence of the nation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in circumstances that protect Egypt and the Egyptians and allow handing over responsibility to whoever the people choose in the coming presidential election.” –January 28th, 2011. These were the words uttered by, on the first day by the later overthrown president, Hosni Mubarak. I only translated a small portion of the speech.
After the speech, Mubarak did not step down, but promised to change the whole parliament and all governmental employees. The citizens were still aggravated about him not stepping down and went crazy even more than before. Analyzing this speech using face-work I concluded that Mubarak was using defensive face work to calm the angry citizens down, we all knew that he didn’t sincerely mean it. With great power comes great responsibilities, a statement Mubarak took for granted. Mubarak was trying to protect his family and assets from being destroyed, but with that fake speech of his, there was high risks. At the time the Egyptian Army was still under his ruling, and when the people went crazy even more than before, Mubarak used his power authority to maintain the countries safety. He told the army to control the country with forces, no matter the consequences. He even initiated a curfew and said anyone walking in the street passed 7 pm, will be shot without questioning.
The people did not comply with this, thus forcing Mubarak to shift face-work and try using cooperative face-work by telling the people everything will change to the better. Mubarak was using two different types of genres as well, or registers. At first he was using a rude and forceful register to control the people, then after failing he used the mister nice guy register. Either way, both of them failed. Mubarak’s performativity was also at stake when he went on about changing the country to a better place if the people were to give him another chance. His words were clear and straight forward, but his speech did not really mean what the utterance meant. He was trying to buy as much time as possible before he could flee. He stated in his speech that all citizens have the right to protest and remain unharmed.
This statement’s performativity means exactly what it states, yet people were murdered and killed on the streets. On one of the days before the army took control, my friend and I were standing accompanied by ten or twelve other young men with our weapons in hand, protecting our building. We were standing on one the main roads of Alexandria at an intersection with a market street, when a group of eight thugs came by with real swords and wanted to pass. Being the first line of defense, my friends and I were not permitted to let them pass. Ahmed Omar: “Hey bro, there is a group of thuggish looking guys coming our way” Garem (Friend): “Yes! I see man. They even have swords on them” (Raising our white weapons) Ahmed Omar: “So what are we going to do?”
Garem: “We will ask to see their IDs and ask what they want from here” Ahmed Omar: “I’m not sure if it is a good idea”
Group of my friends: “What are you guys doing here” (To the thuggish looking group)
Can we see your IDS?”
Group of thuggish looking guys: “AHAHAH! MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!” (Swords scraping on the ground making sparks on the tarmac) My group of friends: “Sure guys! Have a good day! -end
We were terrified, but at the same time we knew they weren’t after us. The thugs were after the butcher that owned a store in the market. Five minutes after they were let in, the whole market place was running towards our way to the main street. I took my friend and went to my house directly. The thugs knew we were a bunch of American schooled students that would not be able to stop them with legit weapons. We all had to give off protective face-work and act as if we weren’t afraid, but the truth is we were. We also shifted face-work from protective to cooperative once they laughed and told us to move out of the way. The last sentence in the dialogue, “Sure guys! Have a good day!” did not really mean what it uttered. It was all false implication, it meant that you guys can pass and leave us alone.
Although it was frightening, the situation was funny to us all. We do not always say what we mean, and I am sure the thugs knew we were using performativity and face-work to make the situation work for us both. To conclude my essay, I personally believe that all the chaos was brought by a third unknown party and the opposing political party. Many thugs were hired for pennies worth and corrupted the country to achieve power. . People of Egypt believe that this was a peoples’ revolution, but I do not. It was all about political and economical power. Every utterance and language, whether it is verbal or non-verbal, can be understood in many ways.