INSIDE EGYPT: Can We Choose Which Blood to Grieve?

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.

Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Soliman's statement that concerns Mubarak's resignation. February 11, 2011 via Wikipedia CCL

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.

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A PRIVATE LOOK INSIDE EGYPT: What you don't hear about.

EDITOR'S NOTE: YourLifeIsATrip.com executive editor, Judith Fein, received this letter from her friend Manal S. Kelig who lives in Cairo, Egypt. Manal is a devoted mother, wife, tour operator and peace promoter. We publish this with Manal's permission and with gratitude. 

An Egyptian man puts the flag of Egypt on his house with the words " Egypt for All Egyptians" written in Arabic and the sign of peace beside it.

Dear Judie,

Greetings, my apologies for the late reply. Every day I mean to reply but the escalating events are faster than me.

I have been overwhelmed by the chaotic condition that we are living in, and I am not talking about the deaths or the fires, I am taking about the polarizing status that we have been living for the past two years.

For the last 6 weeks all my efforts were directed towards initiatives that aimed to close the gap between the Egyptians. In every single event that ended in violence I knew someone who was harmed there. I had friends who participated in the sit ins and supported it with all their hearts and I had friends who lived in the neighbourhoods of these sit ins and their life became so difficult they had to move out. And yesterday other friends in Luxor had their hotel burned down and their church attacked.

It is very hard days for me as I know friends who are revolutionaries, normal civilians, journalists, MBs, cops, army officers who got shot, are dead or missing and each one of them believe they were standing for justice.

Burned houses, churches, burned police stations and police men, burned cars are all across Egypt. Families mourn the loss of loved ones, the sacredness of their holy places, their personal properties.

Each one of us is making his own sense out of this and --- it is complicated!

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EGYPT REBORN: The Thoughts and Feelings of a 12-year-old Egyptian Girl

Editor's note: July 4, 2013. We received the following letter today written by the grade-eight daughter of an Egyptian friend iiving in Cairo. We felt that she conveyed her reaction to the political events taking place there with such raw grace and passion and intelligence that we immediately asked for permission to republish it (unedited) here for you. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Omnia celebrating in Victoria Square, Maadi

I know that the best thing to do isn’t take an opinion from a twelve year old girl, who probably is just effected by her parents judgment towards all that’s happening. But hear me out please…

Being at this young age does not make me this girl who thinks she knows everything, it makes me someone that is trying to believe in my country and trying to learn. I am fully aware that my opinion is an impact by the people around me and that I am way to young to form my own outlook to all of this. You can’t blame me for that. I am still trying to comprehend everything that is happening and my brain is not mature enough to make and set me own opinion towards Morsy. Morsy hasn’t hurt me as I child. What do I know! I am not handling the family money; I am not the one who deals with the finance problem, that’s my parent’s job. And apparently they weren’t happy about Morsy’s help with it. So we so called ‘rebelled’. However let me tell you something, an amount of people so big trying to say something is not rebelling: its taking your rights and taking what was yours. My dad told me today that for the past two years, he felt that he was just running away from everything, but today; he stopped and he took a break. He was so proud of his country that it achieved.

I have to admit it, for the past several months I was not proud of being called an Egyptian.

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The Egyptian Revolution: What Does It Mean for the Jews?

words + photos by Carolyn Handler Miller

 

Jews and Egypt. Two words that rarely meet in the same sentence. Unless you happen to be talking Bible talk and are retelling the story of Exodus, as we Jews do every spring during Passover. Or unless you are talking politics, and are discussing Egypt’s relationship with Israel.  Or unless you possess a torn old photo like the one I have, plus a burning curiosity and the chance to travel to Egypt.

You see, the relationship between Jews and Egypt is a highly personal one for me, and one that the revolution in Egypt brought into sharp focus.           

A large branch of my family once lived and thrived in Egypt until the 1950’s, when another Egyptian revolution, one barely remembered today, ultimately pushed Egyptian Jews into exile. In 1952, during that earlier revolution, King Farouk was forced to abdicate and soon after, Gamal Nasser took over the reins of government. Unlike the laid-back playboy king, Nasser was unfriendly to Jews. During the 1956 Suez Crisis, he declared them enemies of the state and Jews were no longer welcome in the country.

So the entire Egyptian branch of family fled to Paris. At that point, we, the American branch of the family, lost track of them. As far as we all knew, the story ended there.

And we might have forgotten all about them, except for this old black and white photo set in a broken wooden frame. It had been passed down from family member to family member and had finally fallen into my hands when none of my cousins showed any interest in it. Though they mocked the old-fashioned looking group, I found them fascinating. I longed to know more about them and their exotic life in Egypt.

The photo captures my Great Grandmother at a family reunion in Alexandria.

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TUNISIA: How I Dipped A Toe In The Revolution

by Judith Fein

 

The last time Americans were riveted to a foreign square, it was Tiananmen, and the year was 1989. Anti-government demonstrators –mostly students and intellectuals--wanting more democracy and less autocracy filled the square in Bejing.  Other protests erupted around the People’s Republic of China. In a show of force the T.V. audience will never forget, government tanks rolled into the square and gunned down thousands of demonstrators. Tiananmen Square went silent, and the subject of the massacre is still taboo in China.

This time, all eyes were on Egypt and Tahrir Square. Once again, young protestors defiantly showed their opposition to the government and demanded that Hosni Mubarak pack up his toys of dictatorship and leave Egypt. But Mubarak played by his own rules, and when his trifling concessions were rejected, when even his offer not to run again was scorned, he pulled a Tiananmen—sending in his heavy guns to shoot indiscriminately into the crowd.

photo by Peta-de-Aztlan via flickr common license

The protestors refused to buckle, and the Egyptian nation mourned its innocent dead who were assassinated for demanding freedom. The world watched and wept and then rejoiced with them.

The ignition key to revolution was turned on by tiny Tunisia, in North Africa. The protestors upended the 23-year reign of autocrat Ben Ali, drove him into exile and exacted the dissolution of his corrupt RCD party. In a rapid move toward democracy, Ben Ali’s minions were fired or resigned, and the young people exulted in what, for many, was the first freedom they had known in their lives.

The cost of this revolution was high: as many as two hundred young lives were snuffed out. And, in a country of 10 million, everyone was affected by this horrible loss of life. There is mass mourning for the deaths, and the victims are considered martyrs to the cause of freedom.

Tunisia is one of my favorite countries in the world. I have been there seven times, lived there for 6 months when I was making two films with my husband, and have a deep and abiding affection for the gentle, kind, extremely generous Tunisians.

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First-Person Report From Egypt

words and photography by W.M. Wiggins

 

On arrival at the Cairo airport from JFK, we (the passengers) were taken by the standard jet-to-terminal bus.

I noticed on the tarmac a "Special" aircraft parked all by itself on the ramp and heavily guarded. I am fairly sure who operates this jet. Lots of pilots call them Caspers. A Casper is a jet or aircraft with NO tail numbers or markings what so ever. It shows up, and then it disappears......like the ghost. In this case, Casper was white.

The following day we were road blocked as three heavily armed SUV's sped down the street. Please note...there are NO OTHER SUV's like this in Cairo...at least I have not seen them. But you might find these same S.U.V.'s being used by folks who are "visiting" Iraq.  I also noticed a C-130 Hercules taking off later...either from Cairo or Luxor. And I thought: now isn't that special? 

 

The pink building to the right of the blaze is the famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo 

On my arrival at my hotel in Giza...I had a gut feeling that things would be happening soon.

 

I was lucky to have visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and gone down (up actually) the Nile to Karnak. Shortly afterwards, the museum was ransacked and so was Karnak, by thugs and thieves. These are some of the finest antiquities in the world. 
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