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Mirette Bahgat Headshot

From Fate to Choice: More Empowered Egyptians

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Months after the revolution in Egypt, inspiring stories continue to surface that confirm positive progress is still in effect. Egypt is making the transition from the culture of "predetermined fate" to one led by "personal choice."

A couple of days ago, I heard that two of my girl friends decided to remove their head cover, hijab. They suddenly identified that they had been forced by their family to wear it all those years without being convinced of its religious perspective. In addition, many of my Egyptian friends are now more vocal and empowered in their relationship with their parents, managers, religious leaders, and any "supervisory" figure in their lives. Rebelling against the status quo didn't only take place in Tahrir Square, it occurred inside the very hearts of many Egyptians.

After Mubarak stepped down, I thought that his presence still infiltrated much of Egyptian society. The authoritarian, bureaucratic -- and sometimes tyrannical -- figure is present in many Egyptian families, workplaces, synagogues, schools, and other places. The new generation of Egyptian youth learned to obey the authority figures without much questioning -- questioning signified a sign of disrespect and often put one at risk. On the other hand, the public education system in Egypt doesn't equip children with the critical skills needed to analyze the actions and impact of those authoritative figures in their lives. Nor does this system empower them to make their own decisions in life and speak out when they face oppression or tyranny.

The "just obey the orders" mentality manifested itself in the lives of many Egyptians. Educators taught children to memorize text books only to pass the exams, without understanding or questioning the content. In their homes, the majority of Egyptian youth live with their parents until they marry, which includes following the parents' rules and regulations -- especially for young women. In the workplace, the same level of authority awaited youth as embodied in their boss, and not to mention the government and the police as another symbol of oppression.

Too many authoritarian figures helped in shaping a passive, subservient attitude that many of the Egyptian youth are blamed for today. No one would have thought that the Egyptian youth -- who were often described as too passive or dependent -- would break out of their silence to challenge the status quo.

Now, after rebelling against the highest authority figure in the country, many Egyptian youth actively identify these oppressive types of authority figures in their lives and question their behaviors. The Egyptian revolution inspired all levels of society and ages of people. It inspired a true transformation -- the belief that life isn't just a matter of fate; it is a personal choice.