11/2/11 is truly an historic moment, not only for Egypt but for the entire world. It signals hope in a world where narratives of fear since 9/11 have dominated headlines and psyches. A new narrative has come to life, one of hope and inspiration that has a grammar of possibility in its message. And the harbingers of hope are the same folks who have been so demonized through the racialized Islamophobic “us and them” “war against terrorism” constructions:
its messengers are Arabs, primarily Muslim Arabs, specifically Egyptian Arabs.
11/2/11 is a healing balm laid on the palimpsest of 9/11.
Overnight, serious challenges to dominant stereotypes have emerged. The very people who the discourses of the West have constructed as inherently violent, despotic by nature, backward, and stuck in time are now shown to be world leaders of non-violent democratic change. Perhaps now some will be able to differentiate the people from the ruling elites and see how politics and power -- such as who is in power, why, and which Western nations help support that abuse of power and why -- and how economics shape actions and possibilities or the lack of them, not religion or “race,” and see through the representations of Arab people towards the realities of Arab people.
What has occurred in Egypt is truly monumental as it heralds positive change spearheaded by everyday people with little else but dreams in their head and digital technologies in their hands. Average people — with no heros or leaders — worked collectively to plan, organize, and mobilize to change their own lives, took their demands to the street, and were determined to see it through to the end no matter what obstacles the powerful ruling regime — with its secret police and military, control of TV and Internet access, coffers of money, and Western political and economic support — put in front of them.
And as we all bore witness to these 18 days, by going out onto the streets of Egypt to demand democracy these everyday people put their bodies at mortal risk. It is important to keep in mind that social media did not cause the Egyptian Revolution; social media was a tool for people to get their bodies out into the streets, into public space, to help mobilize and create unending strategies to respond to the unexpected that they were confronted with, and to show through their numbers and their voices that the time for freedom was now.
And to the awe of the entire world the Egyptian people’s revolution was successful! Last night at 6pm Cairo time, President Mubarak resigned his office, which was the key demand of the opposition movement as it signals the end of state repression and the beginning of democratic change.
Central to the success of the Egyptian Revolution of 11/2/11 is the April 6 youth movement, particularly their organizing, use of social media, and commitment to non-violence. A recent half-hour documentary, Seeds of Change, chronicles how the April 6 activists had been planning, organizing, and mobilizing for non-violent change in their brutal police state since 2008. The documentary is truly inspiring as it shows how young people, step-by-step, with no political power nor money, planned a revolution — and succeeded in bringing down a powerful government that has the strongest US supplied military in the Middle East.
The people were up against a lot — many died and were injured — but they were successful in this first step towards democracy through their planning and persistence, the use of social media, and the timing of other unexpected events that helped their mobilizations pick up both speed and force, i.e. numbers. This includes the Tunisian Jasmine revolution which erupted following month long demonstrations against unemployment, police brutality, corruption, and rising costs in Tunisia, that came to a head when 26 year old Mohamed Bouazizi, the sole supporter of his extended family of eight, set himself on fire following cruel police harassment; as well as, following the killing of Egyptian Khaled Said by Egyptian secret police because he posted a video online showing police buying illegal drugs, the circulation through social media of photos of his tortured body and the creation of a Facebook page We are all Khaled Said).
Because of this monumental, historic revolution, Egypt, already a country of great history and of interest to Western people, will receive even more tourists. Many people — including me! — will put visiting Egypt at the top of their list of travels. People visiting Cairo will not only make The Egyptian Museum a must-see stop, but also the now famous Tahrir Square and the street in front of the museum where the frontline ran. We can bear witness to those who died in the struggle, who lost their lives in Tahrir Square. We will feel the tears, the blood, the exhaustion, and the elation of the anti-government demonstrators who struggled so valiantly in Tahrir Square. Visitors will be eager to walk in awe of the history of Tahrir Square, the literal and symbolic heart of the 11/2/11 revolution. And what better place to signify the call for freedom than the aptly named Liberation Square?