And Then I Cried
Revolutions in Egypt & Libya
written by Dr. Hamza Emad Eddin
edited by Jason Edward White
Everything happened fast. No one expected it, no one organized it, yet there was great harmony as if everyone knew their role precisely.
I once thought I knew my people. I remember the first days when I once thought that the people of my country had become addicted to the abuse of their tyrannical dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Now, I admit that I was wrong.
January 25th was the first day of the protests and more than 30.000 people were standing together while being stoned. Looking at each other in disbelief at not only the stoning but the overwhelming number of people who had come to stand together as one. Many women cried and men as well, myself included.
On January 28th, in my small town of Mansoura, the protest started with about ten people and suddenly we were joined by 20 more. We walked in the streets, narrow streets, calling people to join us.
“Hey everyone, our brothers and sisters, join us! Join us!”
We encouraged them with many slogans, such as “Everything is so expensive now you will have to sell your home to live!” I made many signs, as did others around me with our slogans for all to see and understand. My favorite because of the blood I saw my people spill on the first day, “Hosni Mubarak, you dog, our blood is not cheap!”
On every street that we walked, hundreds of people would join us until we finally arrived on the main street. When I looked behind to witness those historical moments, it amazed me to see that our small crowd had grown to thousands. I never imagined that our small protest would bring out half the city. We thought there would be less than a couple hundred after what had happened in Cairo. Soon a wall of police began to surround us, waiting for us to get tired before they starting arresting us.
Everything changed when we realized how greatly we outnumbered the police. People were no longer scared to stand together in the streets. Finally we felt safe enough to speak and act out. To claim their rightful voice and cry “Enough!”
When they announced that our president, Hosni Mubarak had decided to cede power and step down, I was so excited. It was truly unbelievable. I had not eaten anything since the day before. I was low on energy and drowsy from eighteen days of non-stop activism. Every place and street was filled with the noise of celebration; cheering mixed with happiness and tears of joy. People that I didn’t even know noticed how tired and worn out I was and would inquire kindly. Everything happened in a blur, they carried me away from the crowds to care for me, let me rest and offered to take me to the hospital. They never left until I could stand on my own again and able to offer assurances that I had recovered. It is unfortunate that I never saw them again, but provides valuable insight into the way that our people came together during our toughest times.
Everything had changed almost overnight. No longer did we have to suffer alone under an abusive dictator, we were free and together as one. The state of Tahrir Square after Mubarak relinquished power was one of unrivaled joy, for no one had ever thought Egyptians could free themselves from that dangerous beast and stand together in harmony as citizens free from tyranny.
Suddenly, I found myself on the way to the Libyan border. It was never my plan to go into Libya and so I did not even have my passport on me. The Egyptian Army kept us barricaded in the town of Salloum.
There were many Egyptians in Libya calling for help to get back to Salloum, south of Cairo. I captured testimonies from Egyptians running out of Libya and posted them on YouTube and Twitter. Two hours later people at Salloum introduced us to other doctors in a medical convoy. They were supposed to help Libyans who had either fled, or could not get back to, their hometowns in Libya. Inside the Libyan border, they had heard of our convoy on television and hundreds came to the border to bring us across to help their wounded.
It felt as if I had just won a battle, inside the Libyan towns everyone saluted us and treated us as if we were heroes.
There are many scenes that I will never forget but what stands out the most from the very first days are when friends that I only knew online. People of similar interests that I had met while exploring the Internet. They were extremely worried about my well being and terrified by the stories and imagery coming out of Libya.
When finally I was able to speak to my father, he said “He was trying to reach you for days.”
“Who?” I replied.
“Your friend from America.”
My friend Jason White, with whom I had been chatting with for a couple of years on and off during my time in the service, reached out to me during our revolution. He looked for me online, started a Freedom War web site, published and shared my articles and videos, called me by telephone and supported me through tough times. It made me feel as if I were not alone, to have someone there watching halfway across the earth hoping for my victory against “the evil of Mubarak” as he said.
My friend Leah was terrified. While in Libya I had to maintain a low profile so I did not get to call my family or use the Internet much as there was a chance that I or the people that I called could have been tracked down and killed by Gaddafi’s spies. Another friend from USA, we had met on Twitter during the revolutions. It terrified her to know that I had become a target for assassination attempts by Gaddafi agents in Libya, due to all of the stories and video that I had been able to get out on the Internet. She actually called news stations in the USA and told them about everything happening. Leah cried for help and never rested until she knew that I was OK.
The Egyptian revolution made me realize that human bonds can never be broken. Despite our differences and the attempts by enemies of humanity to use those differences against us we come together as one family when faced with with great tragedy.
The Libyan revolution helped me understand that those human connections are even stronger than I had thought. Even with people you may have never met, the bonds grow strong and the bonds that we form are not altered by distance, medium or time.
Every time I remember those scenes, and about the deep bonds which connect us all together, I experience these emotions all over again.. and then I cry.
Hamza's First Day in Lib