My Egypt

Local student reflects with pride on her homeland’s revolution

Laila Barakat is a journalism student at Sacramento State and an intern at SN&R.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had very little faith when I first heard on Facebook that thousands of Egyptians were planning to organize and publically protest Hosni Mubarak’s regime on January 25.

When I’ve visited my family in Egypt in the past, even mentioning Mubarak’s name in conversation was taboo. Surely people who were afraid to mention Mubarak’s name in private wouldn’t be caught dead protesting in the streets in front of the world, right?

But then the revolution unfolded before me—what the hell had gotten into my people? Where did this newfound sense of courage and bravery come from? I suppose, after 30 years of oppression under Mubarak’s dictatorship, it was bound to happen.

I have delightful memories of visiting Egypt in the summer as a child. But of course, the innocent are often naive. After high school, I decided to live with my family in Egypt and toyed with the idea of attending the American University of Cairo, perhaps eventually making a name for myself as an Egyptian-American journalist. But eight months was all it took for me to return to the States—not because I was homesick, but because I witnessed firsthand Egypt’s oppression, poverty and stagnant economy, which was controlled by—you guessed it—Mubarak and his regime. I did not see a future for myself there, but I was fortunate enough to have had a way out. Sadly, I have cousins who graduated college three to five years ago and are still unemployed. Sixty percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line, living on a less than $2 a day.

On the third day of the protesting in Egypt, I grew increasingly worried as I saw news clips and images of young and old, being beaten and sprayed with fire hoses. It took hours to get through to my grandmother, Mama Sanaa. I broke into tears when she told me my cousins had been sprayed with tear gas and were experiencing seizure-like symptoms, perhaps due to the chemical components in the tear gas.

“But we are OK, habibty [sweetheart],” she said, soothing me. “Don’t you worry about us. If anything happens, it is the will of God and nobody can stop it.”

I attended a Sacramento rally in support of a free Egypt and proudly waved both the American and Egyptian flags. I did this not only because I’m an Egyptian-American, but also because America symbolizes the freedoms and liberties which the oppressed desire.

Now the dictator is gone. I can’t wait to take my own children to Tahrir Square in Cairo and tell them the stories of Christians risking their lives to protect Muslims while they attended Friday prayer, and Muslims protecting Christians as they attended Sunday Mass, or how my cousins took it upon themselves, along with thousands of young Egyptian men, to form a 24-hour neighborhood community watch to prevent looters from entering their cities.

Thomas Jefferson said, “When people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” It was only a matter of time for Mubarak; his fate was inevitable. Egypt is free.