Opinion | Egypt as I see it: The smaller, hidden ‘revolutions’ that the media doesn’t report
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 22:02
If you keep up with the news at all, I’m sure that every once in awhile, you see some headline about violent protests and civil disobedience flaring up in Egypt, accompanied by some stock image of an Arab yelling or a fire blazing. These headlines give the impression that all of Egypt is more or less in a constant state of violent upheaval and that daily life for her citizens consists of protesting, making Molotov cocktails and lighting government buildings on fire. While none of the headlines have ever lied to my knowledge, they’ve painted a pretty incomplete picture of what Egypt is like at the moment – take it from someone who’s there.
I arrived in Cairo for my semester abroad on Jan. 21—four days before the anniversary of the revolution. I had read quite a bit of hype about the marches and demonstrations that had been planned for that day and was excited to get to see the uprising for myself. And sure enough, when the 25th rolled around, Tahrir square turned into the usual international spectacle of teargas, mobs and unrest. But only a mile and a half away, in my neighborhood, there wasn’t a picket or gas mask to be seen. Not surprisingly, there were no camera crews either. Shop-keepers were in their stores, street-sweepers were sweeping the streets, banana salesmen were selling bananas.
As the weeks went on, the violence continued to escalate in Tahrir and other instances of civil disobedience began to flare up around the country. I’m sure the headlines never failed to reflect this. But what the newspapers never showed you were all the other squares around Cairo where families enjoyed picnic lunches, or the church right across the street from me that had a wedding almost every night, or the crowded cafés where old men would sit and smoke shisha for hours, playing backgammon and telling stories.
Yes, Egypt is in the midst of a revolution, but this revolution is not just happening among the angry mobs in Tahrir square. It’s happening in schools where professors are finally being given the freedom to teach against the government. It’s happening in overcrowded microbuses that have become a forum for their passengers to talk about politics. It’s happening in courthouses where human rights lawyers are fighting for the release of innocent detainees. It’s even happening on YouTube where young Egyptians are posting videos of themselves doing the Harlem Shake in front of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters as a sign of disdain for the ruling political party.
The point is, the Egyptian revolution is so much more than the violence you’re seeing in the media, and the angry Arabs on the front page are not the only revolutionaries here. My roommate Yousra who is studying economics so she can help rebuild her country economically is a revolutionary. The teachers across the street who lead their students in singing the national anthem every morning (at 7:30 a.m., to my great joy) are revolutionaries. The camel-owners by the pyramids who are fighting to make a living despite the recent dip in tourism are revolutionaries.
More than two years later, the revolution is still very much ongoing. And yes, it sometimes involves yelling, spray-painting and a little tear gas. But it is also much bigger than that. It is being carried out by everyday people living their everyday lives: hidden revolutionaries.
Emily is studying abroad for the spring semester at the American University in Cairo and working as a reporting intern for the Daily News Egypt. You can follow her online at: www.emilyinegypt.wordpress.com