It is impossible not to get awestruck by the events unfolding across the Middle East, especially the Egyptian revolution. Coming on the back of the Tunisian uprising, protests in Egypt unseated Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power in what has been described by some as an 18-day miracle.
The ouster of Mubarak, more than Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, has caught the imagination of the world because Mubarak is a more widely known figure and has been a symbol of permanent power. Also, Ben Ali was quick to cave in, Mubarak clung to power for as long as he could.
Across the world people watched in fascination history being made on their television screens. From a region viewed through the prism of terrorism and war came a totally contrasting image—millions of people, mostly with no political affiliation, unarmed and non-violent, but resolute and brave, challenging the US-backed mighty Mubarak whose brutality has been legendary.
Contrast this with the attempt at regime change in Iraq—violence, deaths, uncertainty and an influx of terrorism.
There have been many heroes in the Egyptian narrative—ordinary people with ordinary lives. Wael Ghonim, a Dubai-based Google Executive for instance, set up a Facebook page that had membership of 500,000. Asmaa Mahfouz, a 26-year-old woman wrote on Facebook: "People, I am going to Tahrir Square", just days before Jan. 25, the Day of Rage. She led the first wave of protests, braving the notorious Egyptian police.
Inspired by the Tunisian uprising and aided by social media, these people were galvanised into action with nothing by their side but a will to die for freedom. A fine example of civil disobedience Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of.
It was heartening to see protesters—young men and women, children and elderly citizens—camping out at Tahrir Square, which, after Mubarak’s resignation, was cleaned up and repainted by themselves. It was equally heartening to see private citizens
shouldering tasks of directing traffic and guarding museums during the uprising.
We don’t know yet what lies ahead for Egypt, for the saga is not finished yet. But we do know that ‘the mother of the world’ (that’s what it’s known as in the Middle East) has woken up; it can’t be taken for granted anymore, either by future governments or self-serving superpowers.
Not only has the so-called Arab Street found its voice, it has given hope and inspiration to oppressed around the world.