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February 10, 2011

Egypt: from protesting to a revolution, for Change, Liberty and Social Justice

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Last week in my native Egypt, I was an eye witness to history in the making.

I landed in Cairo January 26, one day after the Day of Protests, called by Egypt's Facebook generation. I had a conference to attend but it was cancelled.  But I decided to stay.

From the 17th floor balcony of my hotel room I had a beautiful view of the Nile, Kasir Al Neel Bridge and Cairo.

On Friday January 28, I video recorded protesters for 12 hours, tens of thousands of them, as they marched on the bridge, from 1 pm to 1 am, to join other protesters in Tahrir (Liberation) square in central Cairo.

My camera recorded police with riot gear attacking peaceful protesters with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

My video footage for The Battle of the Bridge was the only source available to the international media, so it was used by CNN, NYT and others.

On Tuesday Feb 1, I joined the protesters in Tahrir Square and the streets leading to it, two millions of them: men and women, young and old, families and singles, new born babies, children, teenagers, elders, university students and professors, women with no head cover, with hijab and with niqab, and handicapped people. All were peaceful, kind to each other, cheerful and hopeful. They offered bottles of water, juice, and sandwiches to each other, and they cleaned up all the garbage. It was a life time experience for me to see and meet these beautiful people.

On Wednesday Feb 2, I witnessed government organized thugs charging against the protesters in Liberation Square, killing and wounding hundreds.

I asked myself what is going on in the lands of the Nile?

I believe in the people I met in Liberation Square. I believe they will continue their revolution until Mubarak the dictator leaves with his family, his strong men and his regime.

I believe in them because I witnessed Egyptians longing for democracy, the youngest I met was 2 months old and the oldest was 80. Christians, Muslims, secular people, they were all there simply as Egyptians, looking after one another and united in their purpose--to send a clear message to Mubarak.

I believe their Victory-Day is around the corner. If you do the math there were some 20 million Egyptians across the country over the last two weeks, all asking for the same demands with the same priorities: for the dictatorship to end first and then to have a new constitution, and free elections.

I believe their strength was and still is they have no single leader for the regime to arrest, to kill, or with whom to negotiate.

Today's pro-democracy revolution started back in 2008, when a group of university students and new graduates, men and women, formed a Facebook group, called later the April 6 group, to support the demands of workers to have a decent salary. The police arrested them, tortured them and then released them without charge. Then other groups formed in Alexandria. The police there tortured to death one of them. Later one group was formed in his name. 

These Facebook groups called for a national day of protest to be on Tuesday January 25 - called Police Day by the government and it is an annual national holiday to honour police men who lost their lives while on duty. The organizers expected 1,000s but more than 100,000 protesters participated across Egypt. They called for Change, Liberty and Social Justice; no more. The police treated them harshly and ten of them were killed.

The next day, Wednesday January 26, the protesters called for the Interior Minister to resign. However, they were treated the same way by the minister and his police. More were killed and wounded. On Thursday January 27 the Facebook groups changed their demands, calling for the regime to end and for Mubarak to go. They also called for millions to join them the next day Friday January 28. The police blocked the roads leading to Liberation square, but close to a million managed to reach the square.

On Friday night the police stopped protecting people and properties and they even let criminals free from prisons to loot and terrorize. But the people organized themselves to protect their families and properties. Curfew was declared and army tanks took positions to protect key establishments like museums, government buildings and embassies.

The government controlled media accused Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas of being behind the protests. It was a lie. They also said, as they have being saying for the last 30 years, that the alternative to Mubarak’s dictatorship is for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the country and turn it into a safe haven for terrorists. Another big lie.

Mubarak did not say a word for the three day of protests. And then at midnight, Friday January 28, he spoke on state TV describing his priorities as "stability" for Egypt and "security" for Egyptians. His silence for three days and offering too little too late on Friday night infuriated many Egyptians.

The protesters continued to congregate in Liberation square and similar places across Egypt for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

I joined them on that Tuesday, Feb 1, as it was declared A Day for Millions. That evening Mubarak appeared again on TV to say he had appointed a VP (he refused to do it for his 30 year rule) and a new PM.

Meeting with people on Tuesday, talking with them on the streets, watching and listening, I knew then as I know now that what was a pro-democracy protest has turned into a pro-democracy revolution. I have never been as proud as I am today to call myself an Egyptian.

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Prof Mohamed Elmasry, FIEEE, FRSC, FCAE, FEIC

Prof Emeritus of Computer Engineering, Univ of Waterloo

http://www.eic-ici.ca/english/tour/cit08/Elmasry.pdf

Member, Editorial Board, The Canadian Charger

Among the 500 Most Influential Muslims in The World

http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=238

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“I welcome progressive alternative media. /The Canadian Charger/ is one of the best,” said Dr. James Winter, professor of communication studies at the University of Windsor and author of /Lies the Media Tell Us/ (Black Rose Books).

www.thecanadiancharger.com

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