The John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement hosted a discussion led by Egyptian political activists and bloggers at Moataz Al Alfi Hall.
There was consensus among the panel that the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak and his cabinet is only a first step in Egypt’s momentum toward democratic governance.
The phrase ‘it’s not over’ was echoed by all members of the panel, which included Kholod Said, an activist from Alexandria, Ola Shabaan, a student political activist from Cairo University, Wael Abbas, award-winning Egyptian blogger and Hesham Seif, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
“I see people cleaning the streets and painting the sidewalks and doing their civil service to their country,” Said added.
“It’s a good start. But it’s not enough and more needs to be done. Forget the cliché; forget that you’ve heard it a million times. You’re living history and in a historical moment that will live on. It’s now or never,” he added.
History Department Chair Khaled Fahmy, who served as the panel’s moderator, believes that the populist movement which held Tahrir for 18 days and unseated a 30-year dictator was inspired by the country’s youth.
“This revolution was a revolution of the people,” Seif from the MB said.
“It was not a ‘Tahrir Revolution’ and not a ‘January 25 Revolution,’ but a revolution of the people,” he said.
The panelists drove their points home by sharing their personal experiences during the 18-day populist revolt. They spoke of arrest, violence, terror, determination, resolve, awe, joy, anger and hope.
“We [some of the members of the MB] were arrested and held for no apparent reason. We had no food from 12 noon until 1 the next morning. I was so exhausted by the end of it. I couldn’t even raise my arm. The next day I remember feeling despair. I didn’t know this revolution would take off,” he said.
During the revolution, regional and international media focused on the symbolism associated with the populist anti-government movement.
Said believes that every revolution has its own symbols and standards.
“For the French Revolution it was the Bastille [prison] and for this revolution, it’s Tahrir [Square].”
But she warned that Tahrir should not be taken as the central and most important part of the revolution that is transforming Egypt.
“The media only covered people protesting in Tahrir. They said ‘people in Alexandria are doing this’ and ‘people in Port Said and Mansoura are doing that,’ but there were things happening all over the country. Sometimes, the things going on in the outskirts were more significant than the things going on in the center of the country,” she said.
On the other hand, blogger and activist Wael Abbas believes the populist uprising not only ousted a government but also ushered in a social revolution.
“It broke taboos,” he said.
“Before all the Internet and cell phones, you couldn’t do that. Even the international media had no idea what was going on,” Abbas added.
“With this new technology, I just strapped my phone to the hood of my car and started streaming content on the web live.”