On January 25, 2011 Egypt celebrated its revolution. Hosni Mubarak and his government were gone and a new age was about to start. Today, Egypt celebrated the 3rd anniversary of this remarkable day. For some reason, however, between 29 and 54 people died on the big day, depending on which media outlet you want to rely on (CNN alone reported 29 and 49 in the same show this morning) . Why would a celebration cause deaths? Anyone who's had a look at Egypt in the past three years will know the answer...
I am in Cairo right now. January 25, everyone said in advance, was going to be a dangerous day again. It also happened to be my birthday. As we were anticipating Cairo not being the safest place on that weekend we decided to spend the 24th in the Fayyoum desert and the 25th on the beach in El Sochkna instead of being imprisoned in our living rooms. 10am on Friday morning was going to be the meeting point. Even before that news had arrived via Twitter primarily that a suicide bomber had killed three people in a blast at a police station. Two more bombs were reported on before we even hit the road. Throughout the day a bunch of bombs supposedly went off. Arriving in Fayyoum therefore felt like a safe haven.
At some point a video of the alleged suicide bomb reached the internet which we were constantly updating ourselves with via Twitter. State TV could not be trusted for obvious reasons. The most ridiculous piece of news we read was that they supposedly found a piece of beard in the car wreck of the suicide attack, indication that the bomber must have been a Muslim Brother. Incredibly ridiculous. After having seen the footage I found it hard to believe there was a bomber in the first place. In the video you can see buses and gas trucks go past the car that is about to explode but the suicide bomber chose to pull the plug when nobody was around, at 6.30am. I find that very hard to believe. The objective is to kill as many people as possible so clearly, as a suicide bomber, he could have made his way into a building. Why bomb yourself in a car?
Of course the benefits of a supposed terrorist suicide attack come in handy for a government that is anticipating large protests the next couple of days. Scared people stay home. The Egyptians have made two transitions in the past three years and are still nowhere close to the finish line. If anything, the current government puts them back to square one. The opposition, however, has not ceased despite being pretty much illegal now. Every Egyptian I have talked to in the last three days is angry that they lost family and friends only to have achieved nothing but destruction. And January 25, the day they were supposed to celebrate a new Egypt, is a huge lie to them.
The next day we met at 8am which was already subject to large portions of the streets being closed and a general panic among the people that joined us. Especially around the university I witnessed a pretty impressive presence of tanks and road closures which made me very proud to be part of a demographic a government would visibly be scared of. We knew that leaving Cairo would be fine but reentering might become a problem. By the time we were back at 10pm we returned to a ghost city, the highways being almost completely wiped out. Three days prior the same distance we traveled took us two hours in traffic; that night we were through in less than 15 minutes. We saw street celebrations here and there but the majority of people had stayed home on their big celebratory day.
One of my sister's friends had recently lost his brother who had been shot by the police trying to oppose the government. This guy was not even a Muslim Brother. Remembering his brother this friend said goodbye to us on Thursday because he was going to protest on Saturday, the 25th, and he didn't care if he died or not. He did return from Tahrir last night although with a pale face because he had lost yet another friend. Is that what a successful revolution looks like? Nobody would agree with that. It took thousands of deaths to make the French a democratic nation, Americans died numerously to be liberated from the British and people are still dying all over the Middle East and now in Europe, Asia and South America to achieve justice. Unfortunately Egypt is at the least years away from success.
Three years ago they celebrated the end of a regime that is now more or less back in power, according to the Egyptians. They always wanted to celebrate January 25, and now, on its 3rd anniversary, the people celebrating in Tahrir were risking their own lives. Is that what they had in mind? A day of celebration should not produce fear and deaths, tanks in the street and suicide bombs. Until that is achieved this revolution is far from a revolution!