I had just finished making a really delicious spinach scramble when I heard gallant shouts coming through the open doors of my balcony. When I peaked over the edge, from 39 floors up I saw a cluster of people parading down the street. A peaceful march laden with Egyptian flags and impromptu rally signs of dry erase boards moved through the Diplomatic Area of Doha, not far from where Egypt's embassy is. Right in my own backyard, the historic Cairo protests had spread to Doha. I was incredibly enthusiastic that the spirit of resistance, which had spread from Tunisia to Egypt, was now infiltrating tiny Doha. Rise up, brothers and sisters! But it turns out I'm a really bad activist because my eggs were getting cold and no one wants to start a revolution on an empty stomach
However, after ten minutes the chants had dissipated. My plate was empty so I decided to take another gander. The local police had caught up to the demonstration and surrounded the protestors on all sides. I whipped out a camera, pen and paper and headed to where the action was. Make way people. I have a blog! Today, I am journalist! Before I got anywhere near the action the police very politely asked me to move back and stop taking photographs. I complied without a fuss. I am a bad journalist! Finally, the police let the protestors continue their march. I'm not sure who made the decision to let them carry forward, but I have heard the Qatari government is standing behind demonstrators in the recent uprisings breaking out in the region. This certainly is supported by the recent actions of the media organization Sheikh al-Thani founded, Al Jazeera.
I ran to the protestors with all the speed I could muster, which is to say at a slow and comfortable pace. I had not brushed my teeth or washed my hair. I'm pretty sure I had visible zit cream from the night before. I also have no idea how to be a journalist, but after snapping few photos I mustered the courage to ask a man holding a flag why he was demonstrating.
He declined to give his name (I've seen The Wire, I know this is a major journalistic breach, but luckily I'm just a humble blogger and under no means obligated to follow those pesky guidelines called ethics.) He stated that this was their way of assisting their families at home. I asked if he was able to contact his family there since I had heard that many of the protestors phone lines were disconnected by Egypt's mobile service. He said he was able to reach with his cousin who was injured last night by the police while demonstrating. With a tone of voice both matter of fact and worn down by years of disappointment, he said: "For the last twenty years we have suffered from too much pain, too much economic strife. For the first time Egyptians are speaking our minds."
A spitfire of a young woman smartly dressed in a hijab, Bassant Hesham, grabbed me and asked if I was a journalist. "Uh... kind of." She carried her daughter on her hip and said that she could not imagine her daughter having to grow up under Mubarak's rule, just like she had to grow up under his father's rule. She spoke quickly and with vindication, chiding the West for supporting Mubarak, and stated the West were ultimately hurting themselves by allowing Mubarak to depress the freedoms of Egyptian civilians. I asked her if she thought this was going to change now that Egyptians rose up. Her friend, delightfully outspoken, proclaimed she could feel the change coming so deep inside, and urged me to spread the word of their solidarity to everyone I could.
The energy was palpable; both people I spoke with alluded to the sense of history and defiance in Egyptians finally speaking up. They radiated and enthusiasm for change that I had never seen. I was in Chicago's Grant Park when Obama was elected, a moment that felt like the strongest surge of hope and change I had personlly experienced. The emotion of the 250,000 that gathered that day seemed tame by comparison to the urgency I felt in even this quant, hundred-man march. From 1,300 miles away, these Egyptian ex-pats burned with desire that lie dormant for twenty years. How history shapes up for them remains to be seen.
Video Footage was taken by the fabulous Sean Burns, Lecturer at Northwestern University in Qatar
The gathering as seen from my balcony. Unseen are the roughly 15-20 cop cars that blocked them off at each intersection.
Improvised Protest Signs on White Boards
Children rode on their parents shoulders, held their hands and were pushed in strollers. Entire families expressed solidarity throughout Doha.
Young protestors join their parents
A demonstrated uses his cell phone to send picture texts of the events.
Qatari officers allow the demonstrators to continue their march
Egyptian ex-pat Bassant Hesham and daughter carry a hand-written protest sign through Doha's streets.
Follow Anne Sobel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@slicepassion