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Protests and Myths

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Meedan team member Ahmed Ragab took the time to write this piece below and then read it aloud over a phone line. We recorded it and sent off a tweet asking for volunteer translators. Dina elHusseiny emailed me a few seconds later and within three hours had generated a wonderful translation of Ahmed's piece. Here is that piece:

As soon as we broke the thick security barriers at the entrances and exits of Meedan Tahrir [literally, 'Liberation Square'] we dispersed around the square. Recognizing what we had done, we stretched our arms in the air and breathed in the smell of freedom. We started examining each other's faces, exchanging smiles of confidence and looks of satisfaction at what we have accomplished. We decided to continue. In a spontaneous manner, chants started flooding from minds that have recalled recent images of the events in Tunisia, in unison we called: "The people want to overthrow this government."

While this simple chant in clear traditional Arabic has not yet brought down the Mubarak regime, it has served to dismantle the myths that have long held sway over the Egyptian political landscape.

The "Facebook youth," as the local newspapers describe them, have expressed themselves as a generation that has refused to submit to myths like the "passivity of Egyptians," the "power of the regime," "revolution equals anarchy," "the disappearance of the Egyptian middle class" and "the need for political organization."

"The people want... " Three words by which Egyptian youth have broken the first myth that analysts and journalists have long echoed: that Egyptian citizens are passive. We can demand with our voices! We can organize and demonstrate for what we want! Yes, those in the square are the youth of Egypt, the generation that has decided in the absence of freedom to create freedom with our own hands.

The myth of the unassailable "power of the regime" is now contrasted with images of the immortal president's figure, with all of his police state powers, being brought to the ground by protesters in the square. With our demands the security barricades seem fragile, as fragile as the reactions of the National Democratic Party figures that have started to appear in the media. It seems incredible that the NDP is so naive to say: "We understand the requests of the Egyptians."

Gone too is the myth that "revolution equals anarchy." I observed protesters organizing themselves and gathering under a tree to discuss the next moves. They created among themselves organizational committees for the stand and they drafted a statement with their demands. Those committees started working by clearing the litter in the square and taking care of the families and children who were present for the protest. They worked to bring in food and drinking water, and responded to questions posed by concerned protesters.

Those who were at the square also broke the myth of the disappearance of the middle class in Egypt, a concept that analysts have been repeating over and over again in the past years. The protests were filled with the educated youth. All they were waiting for were social media tools needed to connect and decide on a time to meet and together take a deep breath of freedom in the square.

In the clearest form, the Egyptians marching on the day of January 25 have broken another myth that said that revolutions need political organization. The youth, who have drafted their own demands in the space outside the Egyptian Museum, also refused to repeat any partisan or religious chants. An awareness that tells all parties and political organizations in Egypt, "I know you and don't want you speaking in my name, I can speak for myself and express my own demands."

"The people [who] want to overthrow this government" have marched and spoken and so have broken the restraints of Egypt's political myths. They are the youth who will no longer be silent.

One thing remains confirmed is that Egypt after Jan. 25 is not the same as Egypt before it.

Ahmed Ragab , 1:00 am Cairo (GMT+2) January 28th, 2011 dictated via telephone from Cairo.
Translated by Dina elHusseiny.