Revolution: The Enlightenment of my Life

August 1, 2011

By: Ahmed Yehia

My story was on the 28th of January “The Day of Anger.” What I experienced and what I saw on this day, I will never forget my whole life. The cruelty of the police will never be forgotten. I will forgive, but I will never forget.

On the 28th of January, my father, my little brother and I were planning to go the demonstrations after the prayer. My father told me that people in Maadi were going to meet at “Al Fatah” mosque on Road Nine. On my way to road Nine I was really excited, as it was my first time to participate in a demonstration. I did not know then that this was a revolution that was going to change Egypt and me. I was shocked and kind of depressed when I went to road Nine. There was no one there. The streets were empty like any normal day. I asked my father “what was going on”, “where are all the people.” He said he did not know. All he knew was that a message came to him the day before telling him about the meeting point.

On my way back to home I was frustrated that we were not going to Tahrir. In this moment my doubts that Maadi would never participate in a demonstration came true. So we went back to my grandmother’s home, which is in the same building as ours. As we were sitting, talking about how disappointed we then felt, all of a sudden we started hearing a very strong, loud, voice Al Shaab yoreed eskat el nezam, “the people demand the removal of the regime,” and a lot of other slogans. We ran to the window to see what was happening. We found thousands of people demonstrating. We could not believe that the demonstration was passing under our home. At that moment, I lost control over myself. I was full of energy and I could not stand watching anymore. I blurted out that I was going to join. My grandmother and uncle kept saying “no Ahmed, do not go it is too dangerous.” Actually, I did not care what they said. I did not even answer. I only cared about the demonstrations and just the demonstrations. My mother was not with us at my grandmother’s, so she did not know that I went.  As I was leaving the room, my father told me “go Ahmed you will be beaten up, but go.” So I did go and I did not believe what I was doing. I was scared, but at the same time I was still moving towards the demonstrations.

As I was moving towards the demonstrations people at my street were looking at me strangely, like I was hero or something. Finally, I joined the demonstrations, and I felt something that I cannot even express. It was a mix between fear, happiness, excitement, and most of all patriotism. As I was walking along the protestors, the feeling of fear began to dissipate. The thrill in the voice of the protestors was all I could feel. In the beginning I did not chant with the people. I was in shock. I could not believe that I was actually in a demonstration and, more importantly, I had gone there alone. At the same time, not for a second did I feel alone. After I walked for two or three minutes, I started crying out slogans at the top of my lungs.

As I was walking, I saw a friend of mine standing watching the protestors. I think he was afraid, but when he saw me he joined in and we started walking together. I asked him if he knew where are we walking to, but he did not know. Actually, I did not care. Neither of us knew that we were walking to Tahrir Square. A more than a 10 km walk. Eventually, through the excitement of protesting, we got separated.

A little while later, I bumped into a person that I never thought I would see. I bumped into my father. I was absolutely shocked when I saw him, because I had just left him at my grandmother’s. He explained that after I had headed out, he followed me right after. I was glad that I had met my father, but at the same time, it was a slightly awkward moment to be with him in this situation.

At any rate, that day was an amazing day. The demonstrations were peaceful and all people helped each other. As we passed them, people in buildings started to come down and join us. The women threw water bottles to us from the windows. We would throw our bottles up empty, and they would throw back down full. I was really proud of my country and myself at this moment. I have never seen people so peaceful and helpful to each other. There was no difference between men and women, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian. We were all one hand aiming for one thing “the removal of this corrupted regime.” On our way we all stopped to pray in the streets. It was one of the happiest days of my life, if not the happiest. That was before we arrived at Tahrir. The situation changed 100 percent.

We never actually made it to Tahrir. We only reached the street leading to it, “EL Qasr El Einy”. The sky was a bit smoggy and people were no longer smiling. A cloud descended on people’s faces turning their beaming smiles into frightened scowls. The atmosphere entirely changed. My father and I did not know what was happening. People were swarming towards us. We could see at the end of the street state security vehicles and troops. We could see that they were shooting the people with tear gas bombs. Where we were standing, however, the effect of the gas bombs was not as intense. As we were getting closer to the troops, the smoke increased and the view became foggier. It was hard to breath. People started giving us Pepsi. They told us it decreased the tear-gas effects.

We kept moving until we found ourselves near the front lines, near the police troops. They were not hitting hard yet. We were chanting  “Selmya” “Peaceful” and singing patriotic songs. There was no cursing. I swear to god I saw only two people throughout the march attempt to throw rocks at the police and, even then, the other protestors would turn against them and immediately expel them out of our peaceful lines chanting “peaceful, peaceful” so as to remind them of the nature of our march.

It was amazing how civilized, aware, peaceful and responsible the people were.

All of a sudden the police escalated their ruthless attacks on us with the tear bombs, as if we are animals. Shortly after, they started moving in on us. The number of bombs that were shot was huge, and there was no reasonable reason to justify such a brutal attack. The people started running like we were under attack from Israelis.

Eventually, the disarray of people running for their lives separated my father and me. I saw my dad being pushed away from me and I tried sticking to him, but it was impossible because of all the people pushing. I was scared he would trip and fall because if he did he would most probably die from being trampled on by the frantic demonstrators or worse, he would get caught by the police. I felt terrible seeing my dad pushed away from me. I felt helpless. I felt scared. I don’t remember ever being that scared for my father’s life.

I stood rooted to the spot, desperately trying to find my father when the troops began moving in. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my back and, without a word, my father and I were running for our lives. I could barely see, breathe and much less walk or run. I was falling behind, rapidly losing consciousness, and had to grab my father’s shirt to stop him.He wouldn’t stop. He couldn’t. Instead, he dragged me behind him.

In our desperation we entered a building to find shelter. An old man standing on the first floor ushered us into his house. We went in without thinking and over the course of twenty minutes, we rediscovered the kindness of the Egyptian people. They gave us coke, onion and vinegar to help us recover from the attack. They talked to us to relieve our sense of panic and fear. We even found out that we were relatives. When it was time to leave, I felt sorry for leaving and to this day I regret not staying. But my father was exhausted and he wouldn’t have left me behind. Also, we had no way of contacting our family all day long and they must have been worried sick.

I will never forget that day, nor will I forget these people – the good from them and the brutal. This day and this revolution truly changed me. Now I know that nothing is impossible, and I really mean it. Now I know that I can never again be afraid to express myself. Now I know what true anger is, and what absolute happiness is. Now I know what it means to really love my country, to feel protective of it. I was never into politics before the revolution. I knew that there was corruption in the country, but that was all. I never gave it a second thought. I never cared about what the government did or did not do. But now I am trying to be as aware of what is happening as I possibly can. I now follow the news and hope to play an active role in increasing awareness by joining one of the many initiatives that popped out recently.

There is more to my story but alas I ran out of space. Perhaps it can be another story for another time. In a nutshell, I still cannot believe that I actually participated in a revolution. Just saying the word revolution gives me the chills. The Egypt that I knew in those eighteen days proved what it is capable of. And it deserves even more. The revolution had not yet succeeded in getting all it had asked for, but I am optimistic that it will and that one day we would be able to live in a truly democratic country.

Ahmed Yehia

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