Egypt’s revolution, one year later

Bashar Al Safadi  and Iman Mandour, Cairo, February, 2011

When I reached Iman Mandour and her husband Bashar Al Safadi via Skype on what is Monday evening in Cairo, they told me that everyone in Egypt is watching TV.

“We have a House of Parliament,” Bashar said. “For the first time. That’s elected. There’s a lot of anxiety.”

“Everybody who is pro-revolution is swaying between two emotions,” Iman said. “Utter frustration when compared with what could be, and pride with what has been achieved compared with what used to be.”

Bashar is an organizational development consultant. Iman is a relationship and organizational coach, who is on the Board of Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance. They have two children.

Despite Bashar’s feeling that “nothing the revolution was asking for has been done,” he recognized a transformation in everyone around him.

“People are free, and they know it. They are no longer afraid. Everybody is politically involved whether they like the revolution or not.” They have a say [in what happens], which was never the case. "Eighty million Egyptians [now express] 80 million opinions,” he said laughing. 

“Egypt was in the mood of utopia at a certain point,” Iman said. “It was like holding the stars with our bare hands. The potential of this moment was a reality. It created miracles. For the first time, Cairo was a clean city. There was cooperation, oneness. It was amazing. Everybody thought in six months, a strong economy; in three years we could become like other countries. For the first time in our lives, we felt proud to be Egyptians.”

How the revolution changed Egypt

Before the revolution, Iman explained, Egypt was close-minded. Things were the way they were because they had always been that way. “Now,” she says, “people question authority. They rebel. If people want a new bridge, now they block the road. Nothing sounds like fate anymore. Everything is up to question.”

Both Iman and Bashar were disappointed in the elections.

“We were hopeful for a different kind of election,” Bashar said, “a decent spectrum of the population, not a majority of Islamists shocking people with their statements.”

“It was a power play,” Iman said. “SCAF [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] used the Islamists to say you had to vote in a certain way. Be against the Liberals, the atheists! Stand by God! I was disappointed for two reasons. First, the revolution was initiated mainly by liberals, and we expected it would usher in a liberal era. And second, I’m unhappy with the manipulations to reach such results, more than the results themselves.”

Tensions among reformers

While Iman generally agrees with those who believe the conflict is between the old and the young, she believes it’s more a conflict between those who want to get things done quickly and those who believe in gradual change. “They’re two modes of thinking we call generational,” she said, “but they cross age lines.” 

Even so, most of the revolution’s organizers were in their 20s and even younger football fans in their teens the “Ultras” joined in to protect them. “The Ultras are not intimidated by violence,” Bashar explained. “They will defend anyone against any form of violence. They are just patriotic—out there to defend against the aggressor.”

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