These past times I have found myself often reminiscing with friends and new friends about our experiences during The Eighteen Days, this magical time and place from January 25 to February 11, 2011 – when we had the world, when our world was ours.
As we exchanged stories and anecdotes, I found myself recounting and remembering how I made it into elMidan shortly after noon on February 2: the ugliness and violence had broken out in AbdelMoneim Riad Square already, I made my way via Qasr elNil, flanked by the army tanks and APCs. The entrance to elMidan was guarded by our vigilante, the People’s Committees (لجان شعبية), who, amid the turmoil and rising tension, were still making sure to check the IDs of everyone entering to protect elMidan from infiltrating cops. At the time, the separate women-only gate was done with, I pushed myself through the throng of people surging to enter and defend elMidan, holding out my ID, shoving and being shoved to make it through the makeshift gates. Back then I wore my hair short, it was winter and I had on a parka worn over layers of shirts and a sports bra, I only realized I was passing for a guy when suddenly someone took notice of the fact that I happen to be female and shouted into the crowd “It’s a woman!”. And this warning exclamation was like a stone thrown into the flood of people, who, like ripples, swiftly and protectively moved away from me lest I be offended or inconvenienced by any physical contact – in this case, quite inevitable and definitely innocent. And I passed through the parting waves of people through the gate and into elMidan.
I hadn’t thought much about February 2 for quite a while, and whenever I did, my thoughts would usually wander beyond that trite story I just related to the confusion and ugliness and violence that ensued. However, since I told that story some days ago, I have been haunted by two contrasting mental images and flashbacks, both too painfully vivid to bear: one of the crowd protectively parting from around me on February 2, and the other of the mob viciously closing in on me on June 8. And I am overcome by sadness.
Needless to say, nothing about my recollection of these two instances is impersonal or objective, I am still processing and healing; but the sadness isn’t stirred by each memory separately but rather by the stark juxtaposition of both. The protective crowd on February 2 is no more the whole of Egypt than the savage mob on June 8, The Eighteen Days were not Egypt but our dream of it, yet, for a special moment in time and place, we made it happen and it was real, we were our dream. And it is sad to have it ravaged and plundered and hollowed out, it is sad to feel it slip away.
The struggle between the promise of our dream and the ugliness of their world often seems to be a perpetual one – diversity, equality, justice, and freedom against dogma, exclusion, and repression; progressiveness against conservatism. But the reality of the poverty, unjust conditions, and oppression of so many is sharpening the crisis and making a confrontation all but inevitable and imminent. We may be tired, we may feel sad, but we are still standing for everything we rose up for, our day will come.