The University of Texas at Austin
  • "Friending" freedom

    By Anita Husen
    Anita Husen
    Published: Feb. 18, 2011
    "Friending"
    Anita Husen on the Nile river in Cairo, Egypt.

    Anita Husen is a graduate student in Arabic Studies. She lived in Cairo, Egypt from 2009-2010, where she studied Arabic in the university-affiliated Center for Arabic Study Abroad program. Prior to coming to the university, she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. After graduation, she hopes to go back to Cairo to continue studying and teaching Arabic.

    In a military state with martial law, an innocent 28-year old Egyptian, Khaled Said, was beaten to death by state security. His post-mortem photo circulated the Internet and started a movement by Egypt’s Facebook generation. Fed up with police brutality, Egyptians from across the political spectrum demanded basic human rights.

    Egyptian youth signed in to social networks, organized and strategized peaceful demonstrations on main streets, crowded neighborhoods, and large squares in major cities for Jan. 25, the national Police Day holiday.

    Protesters carried flowers as symbols of peace, chanted the slogan “peaceful, peaceful,” and shielded themselves with tin lids and spray paint in case of police attacks. These young men and women shattered the orientalist stereotypes about the Middle East: that democracy is inherently incompatible with Islam, that Arabs are naturally violent, and that the only path to democracy in the Middle East is its import by Western military invasion.

    As protesters took to the streets in unprecedented numbers, the neighbors who had been watching from their windows and balconies began to join in. The call for economic justice, freedom, end of martial law, and basic human dignity resonated with every segment of the Egyptian population; young and old, Muslim and Christian, men and women, rich and poor, illiterate and educated.

    Unprecedented, too, was the response of a fearful and weak regime. In an attempt to silence the voice of the people, it shut down cell phone use on Jan. 28 and all Internet access for several days. However, these methods backfired as Egyptians used ingenuity to circumvent the blocks and broadcast the peacefulness of the demonstrators and the violence of the police on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and live-streaming on satellite news stations like Al-Jazeera. The government tactics of intimidation echoed attempts to quell the Civil Rights movement in America, like using water cannons to drown out peaceful protests.

    Protests grew larger by the day. The universal appeal of the movement crossed religious and political affiliations. Christian and Muslim Egyptians protected each other from police forces during prayers and sermons. Like the struggles to end apartheid in South Africa and British colonial rule in India, Egyptian protesters were calling for basic human rights, as expressed by their slogans and signs.

    Only this time, the world was watching via live streaming and mobile uploads. Major cities across the world held rallies to support the call for democracy and regime change in Egypt, including two support rallies at the Capitol building in Austin. Eighteen days after the protests began, the president of Egypt resigned.

    The success of Egypt’s new government depends on its ability to reflect the plurality and democratic demands of its people. And its success has the potential to inspire citizens of oppressive regimes in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and all over the world to sign on, sign in and “friend” freedom.

    Read the rest of the essays in this series on perspectives on Egypt.

    • Quote 2
      Sunny James said on Sept. 14, 2011 at 10:41 p.m.
      I remember watching this unfold on tv it just goes to show you the power of the people when they come together for a common cause for the good of human kind
    • Quote 2
      Toronto Flowers said on June 30, 2011 at 6:24 a.m.
      I appreciate writer's thoughts. It's a great article. Thank you for sharing it..
    • Quote 2
      Angelica Flores said on Feb. 22, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
      *no one revolution....
    • Quote 2
      Angelica Flores said on Feb. 22, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.
      I did not read anywhere in the essay saying or claiming that the Egyptian Revolution is an isolated case. Peaceful revolution (both social and political) have happened in the past. I believe this is universally recognized. The Egyptian revolution is spoken about through personal experience and opinion. There are many revolutions which are looked at by other countries as inspirational. Examples: American, Cuban, Tunisian,etc... Egypt looks to Tunisia and Libya looks to Egypt. One on revolution can take "credit" and I think you missed the point of the essay by thinking this. She is just looking at it from an inspirational perspective. Who is to say it does not inspire the ouster of repressive dictatorships?
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      Miqdad Husen said on Feb. 22, 2011 at 9:06 a.m.
      It is a very good article. I appreciate writer's thought on egyptian turmoil. The author spent times in egypt and devoloped affinity with this country. We need these young people energetic visionary and enthusiastic for the future generation. Good Job Anita
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      Ikram Toumi said on Feb. 21, 2011 at 8:48 p.m.
      I don't understand how you can talk about the Egyptian revolution as an isolated case, you have to give credit to Tunisia, Egyptian youth on Facebook and Twitter organized the January 25th protest after they were inspired by what happened in Tunisia, Their first announcements and invitations to participate contained the following now famous phrase: "The solution is Tunisia". so it is true that the death of Khaled Said and many others had the country boiling up, but it was Tunisia what inspired the country to explode and expel its dictator.
    • Quote 2
      Caitlin Eaves said on Feb. 20, 2011 at 2:55 p.m.
      Great synopsis of whats going on.
    • Quote 2
      Tweets that mention "Friending" freedom « Know -- Topsy.com said on Feb. 18, 2011 at 8:18 p.m.
      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eco Feeds and Ecotourism Feeds, Mynatour. Mynatour said: "Friending" freedom: Prior to coming to the university, she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. After gradua... http://bit.ly/hBbRbg [...]
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