EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a continuation of an ongoing series of insights and dispatches from Egyptian contributor Manal S. Kelig, a devoted mother, wife, tour operator, and peace promoter living in Cairo, Egypt. Our hearts go out to Manal and the people of Egypt during this difficult period.
by Manal S. Kelig
For the past 2 years Egyptians found themselves regularly facing heart-breaking choices!
When the revolution took place on 25 Jan 2011, I was not in a status to rejoice or condemn. Just one day earlier my late father had to undergo a serious operation as he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
For the next two weeks we were having our own stressful events where the hospital we were in was attacked by thugs. Doctors and nurses could not come to work. Medical supplies were not delivered to the hospital. As we ran out of options and danger continued, we were forced to check out of the hospital with my father in this critical condition and have him home nursed by my sister who has no medical background except her amateur medical readings. As his condition declined, taking my father to a chemo session was over 7 hours ordeal in Cairo traffic that was continuously blocked by demonstrations and sit-ins. In April 2011 my father passed away.
While our lives were made hard due to the unstable political conditions, and as I had some friends celebrate the revolution and others dam it, I realized no matter what I have gone through I will not point fingers at any of them and blame them on what we had to face.
Our family like many others was a casual victim of the events. When we were attacked in the hospital we were not defending a cause, or chose to go in a confrontation. It was just our fate.
I knew very well many other Egyptians in different ways would be in that position in the coming period.
A New Egypt with No Leader
For the past 12 years I have regularly said in my lectures, “ No one knows what will happen when Mubarak dies, but I can predict there will be no wide acceptance of his son to take over and the different opposition parties will make sure it does not happen, but hopefully without violence. “
Then came the 2011 revolution, and like the other uprisings in Arab countries, it was driven by the dissatisfaction and anger of a new generation who formed over 60 % of Egypt’s population.
But the energy of 2011's revolutionaries was squashed by the power and organization of the already established forces in Egypt, particularly the earlier Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the 80 years old Moslem Brotherhood movement and some remnants of the Mubarak regime.
If Media Matters – Who is to Blame?
As tension grew between supporters of the revolution of 2011 and supporters of Mubarak regime, social media became the new battlefield.
Rumours, fabricated images and fake accounts have emerged every where and each side used the virtual world to tarnish their rivals' reputations. This activity kept intensifying to reach its peak these days, only adding more misery to the dilemma.
Many of us looked for information in the flood of media sources that hit us. I have searched for sources that would present the naked truth and allow all parties regardless of their background to present their side of the story. My search was not successful as almost all media channels were taking sides and using anchors that have presented certain opinion. Objectivity, balanced reporting, unbiased coverage, not showing which side you’re on and the right of reply were missing pieces of the puzzle.
Yet I cannot only blame it all on the media, we (the audience) created a monster. People wanted to hear only what they choose to be their truth and if any one else speaks other wise then he is ignorant, traitor, fascists and corrupt, you name it,
Egypt’s Identity Crisis
In June 2012 when the final round of presidency elections turned into a choice between the Moslem Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq ,a former air force general who had been Presidnet Mubarak's last prime minister , it was the first indicator that Egypt was moving from euphoria to tragedy.
The next twelve months saw the MB fail to deliver what they promised due to internal failures and external forces, opening the door to popular discontent that eventually lead to ousted President Morsi and followed rapidly by series of catastrophic events. The dispute that started political went far deeper than that when it was angled to look more as an issue between secularists and Islamists. This emotional conflict got so deep and it currently plays out in homes across Egypt a microcosm of the clashes and violence shaking the nation .I can not deny that there is a confrontation of beliefs and visions for Egypt, as each party seeks in its own way a better future for Egypt and through different means. Some Egyptians believe that an Islamist state is a better path and hence the support of the Muslim Brotherhood or other political parties with strong religious foundation. While another party of the Egyptians chose to preserve the Egyptian collective identity that has social ties to other religions mixed with strong faith of Islam, an equilibrium they insisted not to loose. Egyptians of all walks of life, refused the Muslim Brotherhood because through their non inclusive undemocratic rule, they have tried to change their identity. Ironically these deep divisions had some devoted Islamists disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood misrepresentation of a balanced Islam and also liberals who choose to support Morsi for the sake of not betraying the democracy of the ballot boxes. Who has betrayed democracy? It is an emotional debate that cuts to the core of all Egyptians.
Whose Blood is on your Hands?
I am aware that there is international disapproval of the current situation in Egypt with tendency to blame the government due to the conflicting death polls and declared state of emergency, but the story of Egypt is more complicated than fingering one guilty party as it is has roots all the way to the 50 s of the past century which makes the events hard to grasp by outside viewers.
For me mourning lost lives does not relate to numbers, as I paid my condolences to my friends from both sides, I try to remind them softly, that we can not only mourn the dead of the last two weeks, as we have lost many other Egyptians in the past two years and in some events in big numbers too. It has just happened when not many people were watching, but it still does not omit its reality.
It's very painful, and with all the blood and the media circus, we are drawn into verbal violence and we end up taking radical polarized stances from each other.
So What is Next for Egypt?
No one has an answer to this question now.
For now I believe members of the society need to work on themselves before anything else. They need to go out of their way to speak and not to shout on the different sides, may be then they can hear them beyond their own filter.
I pray we learn from this, or at least we remember to teach our children the true values of a civilized society: tolerance, respect, justice, honesty, mercy, courage and perseverance and many others more).
Manal S. Kelig is a co- founder of Gateway To Egypt, a sustainable travel provider operating responsible travel to Egypt and other destinations across the globe. YourLifeisATrip.com previously published A Private Look Inside Egypt by Manal, in addition to Egypt Reborn by Manal's daughter, Omnia, a grade-eight student at Hayah International Academy in Cairo, Egypt. The family invites everyone to come and visit Egypt as soon as possible when the dust settles!