Identity Magazine: Special Coverage – Interview with Mona Seif #Jan25 #Egypt
Date posted: March 15, 2011
Identity Magazine: Marwa Rakha's Special #Jan25 Revolution Coverage
Mona Seif – Cairo
Activist and Blogger
Whatever memories #Jan25 revolution leaves me with, Wednesday (February 2) night will be deeply carved in my memory. When Al-Jazeera called, they couldn't have picked a more intense or more dramatic moment to do so. Ambulance running in and out, people screaming and shouting, young men triumphantly facing their death, and me crying helplessly and the sound of gun shots echoing in the background of all this.
The next day I found out that this call spread globally and won me many solidarity emails, tweets and calls. I wanted to respond to them all, I wanted to clarify alot of things but I was so angry. So angry at a world that stands by watching brave kids and men face death for the follies of a -should be dying- old man. So angry at people sitting warm and comfortable at home, condemning those in Tahrir, while they are sacrificing their lives for each and every one of us.
I got many comments on how brave people like me are and how our strength is what makes revolutions happen. I have to clarify this: I was not brave, I was protected.
The battle extended over the night. It started with rocks and glass, moved onto Molotov cocktails, then there was gun fire. The army was there motionless, and at one point they even all went down and hid in their trucks.
I could never find the words to describe the bravery I witnessed that night. Hundreds of young and old men rushing unarmed to face Mubarak's goons, responding to gunshot with rocks, grabbing anything from the ground that could be used as a shield. You hear the gun shots, you see some of them falling, others rushing to carry them, Ambulance rushing in to take the wounded and the dead, as more rush in to the front line to face the same fate. If you hear loud prayers as they are carrying their comrades know that we've lost another one of us. All this as the army is watching, Mubarak is watching, the world is watching, and no one is stopping this.
The center of Tahrir square was safe. I could have stayed there to eat, sleep or even listen to music. I could have done all this and not even a flying rock could have harmed me, only because there were hundreds risking their lives out there for our safety.
When you are away from Tahrir square, listening to the stories about it, it makes it seem much more scary and terrifying than it really is. But when you are among bandaged people who wake up singing and chanting, kids running and playing, strangers offering you food and insisting you take it, strangers smiling at you as you greet them with "good morning", you would feel warm, hopeful, optimistic but definitely no fear.
That night made me fully realize that the Egypt that I really want is that of Tahrir square. The people there are what Egypt is all about, and I am with them in whatever fate awaits us.
When I lay in bed now, images race by and I need to capture them.
I remember how they hit us bad. They shot tear gas at us, I saw people running and screaming, and all I could remember was the tweeted instructions "Do not rub your eyes" I tried, I really tried, but my eyes were on fire, I didn't rub them though but ended up walking blindly into a wall. Then someone carried me up onto a small garden in the middle of Tahrir square, helped me and stayed there to make sure I am ok while bombs were still falling around us. This was one of many strangers I momentarily bonded during those days.
A while later I felt more at ease with all of these gases and flying rocks. I became prepared for minor injuries, so I walked around to check if anyone needs help. I tended to a few wounded then 4 guys came running at me, they looked like the kind of guys I would normally avoid in the street for fear of sexual harassment, but they were running for my help, one of them was injured from a rock thrown at him by the police, I helped them with it which was followed by a moment of them cheering me and my bravery . This was just so wonderful.
I walked the streets with men and women, of all sorts of backgrounds. Never have I felt a sense of belonging like then, like now. I was happy just to be in the streets sitting in close proximity with thousands of strangers, snuggled in a warm cocoon, liberating Tahrir square, marking it as ours.
I have lived to see the uprising of the Egyptian people and the downfall of Mubarak. Now I can dream about having kids and me telling them proudly that I was part of it!