Our guest author today is Heba F. El-Shazli, regional program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity. Currently she is a visiting professor of international studies and modern languages at the Virginia Military Institute. The views expressed here are her own.
Today is a great day! A Glorious Day! A day of rejoicing, of celebration, of jubilation, and of so much more than words can describe! Today, Mubarak resigned and Egypt is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces under the leadership of the Field Marshall Tanatawy. This is a new dawn for a New Democratic Egypt. This is a revolution that began peacefully on 25 January, and which galvanized all Egyptians from all social classes, men and women. What a message is being sent to everyone all over the world and especially in the Middle East – a message that political change can be achieved by the people and peacefully.
Yesterday was not so joyful. It was a confusing and angry day – Mubarak gave a speech that can only be described as arrogant, insulting, and belittling of Egyptians. There were rumors all day about his imminent resignation and so everyone was anticipating the good news – yet sadly, it was another of the usual “wooden language” speeches. Afterward, even more Egyptians took to the streets, marched to the TV and Radio building, and even to the Presidential Palace which is about 20 miles away. The speech seemed full of underlying tones, designed to bait the people and push them to violence. It failed! We all went to sleep, a fitful sleep, worried about the anticipated clashes between the people and the security forces.
I heard today’s news (after my last class ended at 11 am) from my son, who sent a message – “It is over; he resigned!” – linked to a news article from The New York Times. (He has been trained well to always offer proof, since he is planning to go to Law school in Fall 2011). I started to scream, shout and cry. Tears of joy! My colleagues whose offices are near mine came streaming into my room to give me warm hugs of support, many words of congratulations in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish; and everyone wanted to sit and watch the glorious images on TV of so many Egyptians shouting with joy, and waving the Egyptian flag high with pride.
I called my family in Cairo – my sister and father (who is 87 years old) and it seemed that we screamed and cried more than talked – only the words: Mabrouk! Mabrouk! Mabrouk ya Masr! [Congratulations Egypt]. What a relief, after receiving an e-mail from my sister at 2 am, her time, asking me to take care of her son (4 years old) if anything happened to her and her husband. An awful e-mail for me to read.
Next, I got a call from my good dear trade union brother Kamal Abbas, who kept yelling Mabrouk ya, Heba! Congratulations! Hear listen to the people – and he put the phone up in the air in Tahrir Square and I heard the lovely sounds of joy and celebration. I was in tears!
My students have been coming one-by-one to congratulate me – and I have many sweets (thanks to the Girl Scout cookies season) to pass out to them on this most wonderful day. This is what we would do in Egypt when there is a celebration of joy – a happy occasion – pass out sweets. I do so wish I was in Egypt today.
So much emotion, so much angst and worry, now subsided into joy. But I also know that it is temporary because, after all the rejoicing, there will be much work to be done and much worry about the path ahead.
I am convinced that Egypt will come out of this a much better, stronger, happier country with a democratic system that will put the rest of the Arab countries to shame. Now, it is time to celebrate. Tomorrow it is time to get to work. There are already calls to meet on Saturday, 12 February at 8 am in Tahrir Square:
Cleaning up Midan El Tahrir
Show up at Tahrir Square @ 8 am with a pair of plastic gloves, big plastic bags, detergent (dettol, feneek), brooms, and cleansing gel to clean your hands.
We will jointly be cleaning the square.
You will find a sign that reads “Cleaning Team” in Mohamed Mahmoud St., opposite Hardees by the traffic light.
Thank you for all your most wonderful support,
A very happy Egyptian-American