2 February 2011:
I’m glad I’m not in Egypt. I’m glad, not because I’m afraid or because I don’t believe in the cause. I’m glad because I know that if I were in Egypt, I would have been electronically cut off from the world for a week and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to go down to the street to protest – for various reasons.
Up until 10 days ago, I had been contemplating disabling my FB account because I didn’t really like it and saw it a waste of time and energy but most importantly an invasion of my privacy. Up until two weeks ago I had heard of Twitter but felt it was too complicated and too time consuming to follow. Up until three weeks ago I had no idea what was happening in Tunisia and my political knowledge was limited to a utopian desire for a better world, a knowledge of corruption in my country, a nostalgia for stories of the days when students and nationalists protested and went on hunger strikes and were imprisoned for ideals that they believed in.
Ten days ago my world changed and I became glued to my computer. I felt an imperative need to reach out to the world where my friends could not. And I felt a need to read and forward links and learn from what was happening. Through talking to friends and acquaintances I gradually developed my own point of view without being vulgar and without heated arguments. I tried to find a voice for the people in the streets and I made late-night friends. We forwarded links and information as we received or sought it and we stayed glued to our computers and television sets flipping channels and closely following the news. I believe I tried to do online what I could not do on the ground.
I have received notes from friends around the world supporting us and telling me that they’re learning about the situation in Egypt through all these posts. Friends I hadn’t heard of in months, even years. And then the president gave a speech on the night of the 1st of February and on the 2nd of February the internet was switched back on and Tahrir square was transformed into a battle-ground. People from all over Egypt including our families were telling us to stop the violence and to get back to our normal lives. I have no excuse. I was not in Egypt, I did not stay up all night guarding the streets making sure no-one came up to my house. I was not waiting for a salary I couldn’t get a hold of, or money I couldn’t access, or food I couldn’t get. I was “sitting comfortably” in London ‘with no idea of the reality of the situation’. I think of all the people (Egyptians) in England, South Africa, the US and around the world who just packed their bags, booked tickets and tried to make it home so that they could be a part of this revolt. I think of them and I think of all the people here I encounter who tell me “Oh, I bet you wish you were back home right now”, “Don’t you wish you were taking part in all this?” I tell them I believe I’m a bit more useful staying here. I can write or forward what I want online and I can go and protest in front of the embassy when I want. I don’t need anyone’s permission and I don’t have to feel guilty for doing so.
The day the internet got back on and Egypt started watching what the world had been watching for a whole week before, I began to be criticized and confronted for writing things that would cause more havoc and more chaos. I really didn’t actually. All I did was forward articles that I found to be very interesting. Clean articles, with no insults or direct confrontation, but articles that showed the situation on the ground, as I heard it from my friends.
The 2nd February was not an easy day. Last night, the night of the 2nd of February was a terrible night. Our friends were fighting for their lives and we were up writing and tweeting and facebooking and talking on the phone and on Skype and trying to do whatever we could to keep the morale of the protesters in the streets high and to call the national and international community for help.
Now, the morning of 3rd of February, most friends I hear are okay and have survived the night, determined as ever to stay on in the square. And I have to step down from my FBing. I believe in the revolt heart and soul and my heart is with the protesters till they all conquer inshaAllah and we have a brighter and better Egypt for us all.