Tuesday, 18 January 2011

On Tunisia, here's what you have to say...

- Menna Tarek:

Phase 1:
My profile picture didn't change in the light of the horrific event of the church in Alexandria. The reason: I never really believed in this whole facebook-activism thing plus, I have always went to church on the 6th of January despite a church being bombed on new year's eve or not. This shouldn't indicate my religious beliefs, it merely indicates that I am a person who celebrates all holidays and like to share others' happiness and sorrow. I heard about the bombing when I was away for New Year's and it started getting into me once I reached Cairo and saw how horrified everyone was both Christians and Muslims. To each their own reasons of course. I went on facebook from my office on the 2nd of January. EVERYONE had a picture of a Crescent hugging a Cross. To tell you the truth I thought to myself, "And the Agnostics and the Atheists don't get a slice of that pie". I had the intention of changing my profile picture to a Cross, just a Cross, in solidarity of the Christians that feel threatened in their own country among their own people, however, I didn't as I thought I would initiate a lot of questions and argument that would leave me hopeless of the current mind set of fellow Egyptians.

But I went to church. I went despite the fact that it took me 4 and a half hours to get to Heliopolis from downtown (where I work).

Heavy security was everywhere; they refused to let me enter the church but agreed to let a significant number of people gather and light candle infront of the church to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Let's talk about the kind of people I was surrounded by in this "mini-mozahra". Journalists, leftist activists and leaders, actors, writers, small kids, 3 veiled women, and a significant number of people between the ages of 20-25, mostly middle to upper middle class, educated, properly dressed and showered, not the kind of people who would be targeted by Islamic Movements to bomb themselves to revenge from the infidel, godless Christians who are fighting Islam.

I went. I lit a candle in memory of all those who went to pray but were bombed away, I lit a candle for those wanting to go to church to practice their faith but are afraid, I lit a candle so that light might replace fear and ignorance.

No bombing of further churches occurred on the 6th of January and no further angry Christians demonstrated to declare their refusal of the current situation.
I felt good about myself, I felt happy that other people felt it was a significant gesture to be there under the current circumstances.

Again, this social class shouldn't be the one practicing this discrimination thus, shouldn't be the one responsible for making it sound like there is no systematic and chaotic discrimination against Egyptian Christians.

It is worth mentioning here that it was my first time taking part in any demonstration in the street despite the fact that I am not quite ignorant with politics both locally and internationally.

Phase 2:
My profile picture changed to the Tunisian flag as soon as I heard the glorious news. I was with my boyfriend and we decided it was too cold to stay in the streets of Cairo that night thus, the decision to go to his place. As soon as we went in, his mom, who has been a leftist activist ever since the 70's, told us the news. We rushed to the TV. All I could see was red. All I could hear was "Mabrook". I was very proud. And even though I wouldn't normally do that, I did it. I changed my profile picture to the Tunisian flag and quoted Ahmed Shawki on my status. I was extremely hopeful and the atmosphere around me was very encouraging and supportive of my feelings.

Witnessing something happen to region for the first time is something. Mere 8 Million people throwing out an oppressive, abusive, unjust and unelected government is something. The Tunisians streets moved and planned and wouldn't give up and that is definitely something.

We weren't lucky enough to live in the 60's when every few months or years occurred and event that meant something to the masses.

The July Revolution was something, so was the 1 Million Martyr Revolution in Algeria, so was the Evacuation of the French Troops from Tunisia, so was the Cuban Revolution and so on and so forth.

If facebook was existent in the 60's I would've changed profile picture to every single event of these. Seeing people DO what we have always DREAMED of is inspiring, fueling and most of all it gives a real and material sense to your dreams.

Witnessing something as big as this and not being moved is inhumane.

Now, picture this. I am a Tunisian. For weeks I have stayed in the streets of my city, without sleep or rest, I got beaten by the riot police, I held on until I could realize my goal of living in a free country, I was somehow successful.

I log on to facebook (where the Tunisian people planned their demonstrations) only to find out that all Egyptians, Jordanians, Algerians, French, Cubans, Colombians and Russians have my flag as their profile picture and are in total support of my just fight. Wouldn't that mean something? Does it make sense that all those for the Tunisian fight fly to Tunisia and show their support in person? No. Which leaves you with choosing not to show support (bad) and showing the minimum of support through facebook because simply, it is fast, free, EFFICIENT and will definitely get your voice heard in Tunisia (they proved to be very good with facebook).

Phase 3:
It doesn't end here. Having changed my profile picture, I went to celebrate the glory on the Journalists' Union stairs. I cheered for the new revolution (hope) and cursed the current system.

It was a weekend, I didn't tell my family for fear of being choked to death by any of them before I become a "political activist", I had people with me (I didn't go alone). To cut it short, it is not always easy or accessible to demonstrate in the street unless you : (1) Are born to a family of activists who will appreciate you doing that, (2) You live alone and no one really cares if you burn yourself to death, (3) Have a very understanding family who accepts your choices and lifestyle (We know how easy is that in our society) Or, (4) Your profession requires you to do that.

For the rest of us, you will ALWAYS have something keeping you from being in a "Mozahra". Work, family, important previous engagements, even the weather being too hot, not to mention your own reluctance, fears or skeptical motives.

Phase 4:
From my own humble experience I have this to report:
1.      Change your profile picture when you feel like it, show support, show solidarity, have a voice.

You shouldn't fear being mocked at for doing something "unfashionable".


You posting something creates questions and arguments and conversation. Engage, listen, form and opinion then change it, then go back to it. It is only part of the learning experience. You shouldn't consider yourself intellectual unless you have formed a certain opinion and at the same time are willing to listen to others and not stick to it if you find another to be more convincing.

2.      Engage in real live demonstrations if you can. I can't really explain the feeling it gives you.

3.      Pick your battles. It is really not worth it arguing with a 56-year-old Salafi father of 5 about the possibility of Islam not being "El7al".

4.      You are the young empowered member of the society, you have the upper hand. Use it well.

5.      عاشت تونس

- Sara El-Sayeh:

Being the first post-colonial revolution in North Africa, the revolution in Tunisia made me feel so proud, and hopeful at first. Maybe it was how it all started with a reaction, a simple person's reaction. And it mattered to everyone, it mattered to the 10 million work aged Tunisians. I am usually the optimist when it comes to things, especially when it comes to Egypt, but I cannot compare situations when it comes to the possibility of a revolution in Egypt, because, well  in terms of population (working age) Egyptians are five times as many, Egyptians tend to brush things off, too...people were killed on several occasions, and nothing happened. Comparison aside, Tunisia gave me hope.

Keep 'em coming!

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