by Mohamed Taman

On these days 4 years ago– during the week of January 19, 2011–we (Egyptians) were very excited about what happened in Tunisia: from the overthrow of their president to the democratic change that they started.

I was heading out for that day for work and university. While I was talking to my colleagues, I could tell that many people were excited and eager to do the same as in Tunisia. Many Facebook pages started to mobilize people and called for protesting in an event called [Day of Anger] on January 25, 2011. The government didn’t take it seriously: they announced that nothing will happen on 25th and that Egypt will not be like Tunisia. I can still recall many of the governmental ministers saying these things on tv, just like it happened yesterday.

Change: what a wonderful and attractive word. The problem is that any change you’re about to take, you have to keep in mind that it’s going to be like a major open heart surgery: 50% you will better and 50% you might be worse. Nothing is guaranteed and. We have to discuss the possibilities of complications with the patient so that we minimize the amount of frustration that the patient might feel during his or her recovery. After surgery, you need time to recover; you can’t go out and play sports again immediately. One of the problems with the Egyptian revolution is that the Egyptians didn’t discuss the possibilities and complications of the revolution itself. So, they ended up easily frustrated and most Egyptians now are dealing with what happened in the January 25, 2011 as though it were a catastrophe in Egyptian history.

Friday, January 28, 2011, was the peak of the Egyptian Revolution and On Saturday, I went to work. The streets were almost empty and people seemed so confused and scared. I didn’t see any police officers on my way to work but I knew the country was on fire. Many jails were stormed and their prisoners were released, police officers were killed. And it was just the beginning. TV channels announced that many thugs escaped from jails and were going to attack people.

On Saturday night, I told my family that if we locked our doors, we would be safe. But unfortunately, I was wrong because as soon as night came, we heard gun shots. And I heard screaming from the buildings because people saw the thugs attacking the area. And I suddenly realized that one of the screams I heard was from my mom, because she knew my brother-in-law was praying in the mosque. She worried he would be shot.

There are times in our lives when we feel overcome by a gut-reaction; that’s what happened to me. My reaction was to go find out what happened to my sister’s husband. So, I grabbed a stick, prepared to go, and I looked at my mom and she looked sad—scared that I’d die. But all of a sudden, I found myself in the street running toward the mosque. While I’m running, I saw thugs riding motorcycles shooting at people so they can escape. So I took cover behind a car while they passed, and they left the area. I went to the mosque and my brother-in-law was ok. The people had succeeded to make the thugs leave the area, but we all agreed to stay the whole night in the streets because we knew the thugs would come back. Now, we had to defend our property. We could not ask the help of the police officers because they disappeared from the streets on account of the people fighting with them the days before.

So the situation during this time was chaotic and dangerous. Thankfully, no one died in our neighborhood but a lot of people died around Egypt and all Egyptians experienced this chaos in one way or another. What was happening was caused by the huge protests around the country that got out of hand because there was no unified voice among the protesters. At this point, I started to feel worried about what was happening. I know that without a leader, different groups would try to take over the revolution to take control of the country.

Despite all the chaos, I felt happy that the revolution succeeded to overthrow the Egyptian president. But I felt apprehensive because Egyptians seemed to believe that protesting was the way to improve their country. After a year of people fighting to take over the presidency, I realized protesting was not the only—or even the best—way to help your country. The use of protest spread like wildfire for at least 2 years after the revolution. Protesting constantly had a psychological and economic effect on the country. Any time people had a problem, they protested.

But I believe that if you want to help your country, be part of solving the problems instead of taking the easy way of only protesting in the streets. If you want to change something in your country, start with yourself. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Then, encourage people around you to start the change. Be inspiring and don’t give up easily. After 4 years as an Egyptian living in Egypt,  we gave up on the revolution easily. Many youth say now that the revolution failed because they see that the revolution only intended to change the president. I don’t see that it failed. I see that it is ourselves who failed. We surrendered. We didn’t take the difficult path to achieve success in what we really need: “freedom, justice, and bread” (the slogan of the protesters before calling for Mubarak to leave).

Education is the key. Every time I see youth reading, or Egyptians enrolling in online classes, or attending social entrepreneurship trainings so they can start their own business, I feel this is key to succeeding in our revolution. The road to freedom is very long and Four years in a country’s history–especially one as long as Egypt’s–is nothing. My final message to all my fellow citizens on the anniversary of the revolution is: don’t give up hope and don’t say that the revolution failed. The revolution didn’t fail; it just started.
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