War Is Seemingly Being Declared on the Brotherhood But Are They Deserving of It?

An American journalist friend of mine got in touch with me just after the 2011 Egyptian parliamentary elections when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists won a majority of seats.

Were the Muslim Brotherhood extremists? he asked.

He was hearing this and similar things from friends and the media and told me that this was not his understanding. He asked for my insight on the matter.

I sent him a long answer. Here are two short excerpts:

“They are not the type of group that would force women to wear the head scarf or force people to practice a certain form of Islam. My expectation is that they will focus on building the country rather than on building a religious society.”

“…in my opinion it’s not a disaster. I would have liked to see a wider representation of society [in parliament]. I’d like to see Egypt becoming more liberal. The liberals and secularists in Egypt are not strong. They are not united. They have very small followings. And very little experience on the ground with charitable services and politics. It’s going to take time for political parties to grow and have an impact so that they do get followings. We just need to give it some time.”

In the 20 months since that exchange of emails, much has changed, including my own perceptions. (more…)

Why the June 30 Protesters Do Not Represent Me

Tens of thousands – perhaps millions even – of Egyptians took to the streets once more yesterday, June 30, 2013. Some claim yesterday’s protests were the largest in human history.

I was not among them. Neither were most of my close friends and family, all of whom participated in the January 25 Revolution.

I have spent months following what has been happening in Egypt and, like so many others, perhaps the majority of Egyptians, I have been getting increasingly frustrated with Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

Their performance in parliament before its dissolution, along with other Islamists, was abysmal. They were unorganized, they failed to focus their attentions where they were most needed, and there was almost a complete lack of a participatory spirit with the rest of the country. They wanted things done a certain way and that was what they were going to do.

Of course, this is what ruling parties do all over the world, not only in Egypt. The difference in our case is that we are in a process of establishing the ground rules for Egyptian democracy. For this process to be successful, all elements of Egyptian society must participate and have a voice. Islamists did everything in their power to dampen or even stifle that voice.

I did not want a Muslim Brotherhood president. (more…)

A Stranger In My Own Country

As time goes by, post-revolution, I’m beginning to realize more and more that every person who participated in the revolution had different dreams in their heads for Egypt. We all had one shared dream: we wanted to remove Mubarak and his regime. General chants calling for freedom and social justice were common among all. But my concept of freedom and social justice evidently is different from my neighbor’s concept, and his concept is different from the concept of our farmer friend down south.

When I was demonstrating between January 25 and February 11, I was dreaming of a more progressive Egypt. I was dreaming of an Egypt with less corruption, less bureaucracy, more freedom of choice, openness to information and knowledge. I’m surrounded by friends and family who want similar things for Egypt, albeit not always in the same exact way. But the differences between me and my friends and family are differences I can tolerate. They are small differences, not large differences. They are expected differences. When I thought of “democracy”, I thought of democracy between me and my friends. Sometimes I’d be part of the majority on issues and sometimes I’d be part of the minority. Either way, we’d all get along and we’d accept each other and the results of our overall democratic decisions. After all, the differences were always differences I could tolerate.

But I live in my own bubble. Too many of us live in our own bubbles. (more…)

Tweets of an Egyptian Revolutionary

This is a compilation of my tweets (NadiaE)  from January 25 to February 12. Included are some tweets by other people that I retweeted. Retweets can be recognized when a tweet starts with a twitter name other than NadiaE. I felt it was important to include some retweets because they carry part of the story of each day and they indicate what I felt was important while I was tweeting.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011: The first day of Egypt’s revolution

NadiaE Nadia El-Awady

Planning on tweeting #jan25 demonstrations today in Egypt. Let’s see what happens.

25 Jan

NadiaE Nadia El-Awady

So where’s everyone going for today’s #jan25 demonstrations in Egypt? What is your demo location of choice for today?

25 Jan

NadiaE Nadia El-Awady

Off to the streets of #Cairo with my sneakers on and my camera handy. Won’t be driving car today. Hope taxis are available #jan25

25 Jan

NadiaE Nadia El-Awady

Police trucks at Talbiya stop in Haram. Otherwise Pyramids road normal #jan25

25 Jan

Arwa Salah and I meet up to go to demonstration in the neighborhood of Shobra together. We thought the demonstration in Shobra would be more exciting because of its Christian majority. Egyptian Christians had been staging many demonstrations in recent days due to the New Year’s Eve bombing of a church in Alexandria and the government halting building of a religious complex in Giza.


The Egyptian Revolution, from Nadia’s Eyes

Posted by butalidnl on 11 February 2011

Mubarak has stepped down! Egypt is Free! The Egyptian people have succeeded in bringing down Mubarak, and have conquered their fear. They now need to build a new Egypt.

During this revolution, I’ve been following a Tweeter in Egypt named Nadia El-Awady. Nadia is an Egyptian science journalist. Her tweets have given me an insight into that revolution which is much deeper (and even funnier) than what the news media can give.

To read the full post in Carlo’s Think Pieces: Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands http://butalidnl.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/the-egyptian-revolution-from-nadias-eyes/

I was deeply touched by this post. Thank you, whoever you are.

Inside Egypt’s Tahrir Square: “I helped topple a dictator!”

Below is a partially edited (by Yahoo!News) version of the original article I wrote that appeared on Yahoo! News. Originally, this blog post linked to the online article. I was recently unable to find the article online, so I now post it, in full, below:
By Yahoo! News – Sat Feb 12, 10:31 am ET

By Nadia El-Awady

“I’m an Egyptian revolutionary! And I helped topple a dictator!”

That was the message I tweeted to the world soon after hearing that Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak had finally stepped down.

The rush of emotions I have felt since hearing those words has been almost crippling at times.

The Egyptian people had lived under a single dictatorial ruler for 30 years. It took less than three weeks for this regime to crumble.

For 18 days, more than 300 had died at the hands of the police and thugs reportedly leashed by the regime itself. Thousands were injured. Hundreds camped out inTahrir Square, a majority with not much more than a single blanket to protect themselves from the elements. And yet millions of others marched day after day, voicing their demands that Mubarak and his regime leave.

During those 18 days, I marched, ran from tear gas and live ammunition, filming all the while, and then I marched some more. I visited Tahrir Square almost every day and went round and round and round, taking pictures at times, filming at others, and protesting myself at other times.

For the most part, when they were not being attacked, the mood among protestors was almost like a party; Tahrir Square felt like a carnival atmosphere. On every corner, people sang, danced, recited poetry, discussed politics and, of course, marched round and round and round and round calling for an end to the regime.

Many displayed the sense of humor for which Egyptians are known all over the Arab world. One man held up a sign that said: “Leave now. I really need a shower.” Others acted out comedic plays and sketches. A protester dressed up like a soccer referee and walked around the square blowing through his whistle and waving a red card that said “leave”.

Another group of protesters who had come to Cairo from Sharqiya, a region 50 miles north of the capital, took off their shoes and used them to spell the word “leave”.  Showing the sole of your shoe has long been considered an insult in Arab culture.

On the night of Thursday, February 10, Mubarak made his third speech to the Egyptian public.  All day, rumors had filled the square that he would resign that night. People all over the capital left their homes and headed towards Tahrir in anticipation of reason to celebrate. When he said instead that he would not step down until he had presided over a transition of power himself, almost every single man, woman and child who was at Tahrir Square raised their shoes in indignation. Mubarak was not listening.

Many woke up Friday expecting the day to turn into a blood bath. Mubarak and Omar Suleiman, the long-time head of the Egyptian intelligence services who Mubarak appointed shortly after demonstrations began as his vice president, implied that they would not tolerate a continuation of disruption in the country. Since the police had not yet appeared back on the streets, this left only the army to impose an end to the protests.

But the people had absolutely no intention of backing down.

Like so many others, I left my home Friday morning not knowing whether I’d live to return. I was equipped with nothing but my camera and a bandanna to protect myself from tear gas.

If any force was used against the protesters, they had nothing to protect themselves with. We had already seen so many die at the hands of police and thugs. Nevertheless, protesters left their homes armed only with their determination and the will to make a better country for themselves.

I arrived at around noon in front of the Presidential Palace, where hundreds of protesters had gathered.  For the most part, the day was uneventful. People socialized, stopping to chant every now and then. Numbers began to swell in the mid-afternoon when thousands more poured in from Tahrir Square, 20 kilometers away.  Some waved flags and chanted, but mostly people waited in anticipation.  Several times protesters chanted, “The people and the army are together as one”, as if urging the military to stay on the side of the people.

At 5:41 pm, the call for prayers rang out in the square in front of the presidential palace. Hundreds gathered to pray while others stood around, watching and waiting. We had heard news earlier that the president’s office was going to make a statement. After Mubarak’s speech from the night before, protesters weren’t expecting much.

I called my family at home and asked that they call me and place the phone near the TV as soon as the statement started so that I could hear along with them. Sunset prayers ended and only minutes afterwards my phone rang. It was 6:03 pm. Just as my phone rang a roar exploded in the crowd. I could not hear my sister on the other end. No one near me knew exactly why the crowd was roaring.

It took a minute or two of struggling until my sister’s words finally broke through: “The President has resigned.”

I can’t even remember shutting the phone. My best friend Arwa, who was among the throngs, ran up to me in tears saying, “He’s gone, Nadia. He’s gone!” We hugged and cried, then hugged complete strangers and cried with them. We roared and sang and chanted along with the thousands in front of the Presidential Palace, “The people…indeed…have toppled the regime.”

The throngs almost immediately left the square in front of the palace and started marching towards Tahrir Square. Chants of “Here are the Egyptians…here, here, here,” and “Egyptians, raise your heads and be proud,” rang everywhere on the streets of Heliopolis, where the presidential palace lies.

Fireworks erupted from apartment building balconies, cars took to the streets and people honked their hearts out. Flags were everywhere. People hugged army officers as they passed;  it was the most jubilant scene I have ever witnessed or taken part of in my life. And over and over, one chant was repeated:  “Martyrs, you can now rest in peace”.

As jubilant protesters marched, we all reiterated to each other that we have honored the blood of those who had died. We had done this for them and for the future generations of Egypt.

Tahrir Square was a bees-hive of activity. By the time I arrived, the exhaustion of three weeks of protests had begun to set in. I made a quick round of the overcrowded square. I only stopped once. I saw an elderly couple I had photographed three nights earlier in the square. That night they were holding hands waving the Egyptian flag in support of protesters. On Friday night, they were walking through Tahrir, holding hands, waving the flag, a huge smile on their face.

I went to them. “I saw you the other night. I was so proud of you. I wanted to come to you now and say congratulations,” I told them. We all hugged and cried and congratulated each other. We took pictures together. The smiles on their faces were priceless.

I walked home from Tahrir Square with my friend Arwa waving what was probably the 13th flag she had bought in as many days. We greeted cars on the way and sang with people riding in them.

The second I arrived home, my legs gave way. For 18 days, I marched and marched and they carried me through. But they now needed a rest.

I slipped into a deep sleep and got up around 6 o’clock on Saturday morning to pray the dawn prayers. As I tried to go back to sleep afterwards, I shed tears for the Egyptians who had died for their country.

I felt proud to have stood with them shoulder to shoulder. I felt proud to have stood my ground when things got rough in the following days of the revolution. I felt I had honored their deaths. I felt proud that my children finally had a chance to live a life of freedom. My greatest sense of pride came from how my fellow Egyptians handled themselves through those toughest of times, honorably, in style, with a great sense of humor. Egyptians had shown the world that we were a peaceful nation, even at times of revolution.

Today, and everyday henceforward, I am proud to be an Egyptian.


Memories of an Egyptian Revolutionary

It’s been very hard for me to even consider writing lately. When I write, I share my soul. And my soul is dark these days.

Egypt – and Egyptians with it – has witnessed since the start of 2011 some of its most difficult and its most triumphant days. Within a period of less than three months we have experienced the full range of human emotion in its utmost intensity: curiosity, wonder, hope, fear, desperation, anger, absolute loss of fear, grieving, resolve, steadfastness, and more hope, fear, desperation, anger, loss of fear and grieving. Festiveness, light-headedness. Looking death in the face and accepting it should it come to take us. Hope, indignation, anger. And boom! Triumph! Then exhaustion. The most intense exhaustion one can imagine. Mental and physical. And a return of grieving. Followed by hope. Then confusion. A continuous unrelenting state of confusion. But always, ALWAYS, there is hope.

In my head, images from the past two-and-a-half months go round and round and round. I keep them in this state of constant motion. This way they are only a blur. But every once in awhile, an image will jump away from the blurry mass and bam! A jolt of intense memory electrifies me. These runaway images are more likely to jolt me if I’m watching television and actual images of the revolution are shown. Early on, I learned to shut my eyes as tight as they can be shut when such images go by on the television screen or to change the channel altogether.

Memories of a revolution – a revolution hardly over and just beginning. Memories I need to document, to share, to lighten my soul. They are way too many to list. They are in too much of a jumble to put in any sort of chronological order. No matter how painful some of them are, they are all dearly cherished and have come to be a part of me and of who I am.


Egypt’s Constitution Has No Right to Shed Doubt on My Egyptianess

From January 25 to February 11 I stood shoulder to shoulder with martyrs. I marched hand in hand with people who died for our country. I was not honored with death as they were. But I did honor their deaths. I risked my life along with millions of others day after day and I did not back down until Mubarak backed down. I will not back down until my country sees the light of democracy.

I am Egyptian.


And I am a very proud Egyptian. I have always been. But I am now more proud than ever. And no one has the right to take that away from me.

It seems, however, that I must now fight for my right to be considered an Egyptian with full rights of citizenship.