Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

February 05, 2011

Inside Egypt: Day 12, an update from American Activist, Aishah Schwartz

Each day from January 25, I have awakened with a mixed sense of anticipation and fear; never knowing for sure what might have transpired from the last time I tuned-in to watch the news; which has caught me by both surprise and horror time and again.

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PRLog (MWA-Net) – Feb 05, 2011 – I was contacted today by the U.S. desk of PressTV for a telephone interview, which is what prompted me to sit down to my laptop's keyboard for only the second time since the Egyptian Revolution began 12-days ago on Jan. 25. Many people are aware that I live in Egypt. Although not in Cairo, I have been monitoring the status of activities in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, via Al-Jazeera English, PressTV, BBCW, Facebook and Twitter.

That said, in monitoring PressTV's coverage of protests surrounding the Egyptian revolution, I noted that the Iranians have been turning out by the tens-of-thousands in staunch disapproval of both the Egyptian President and the U.S. government; which made me somewhat wary of agreeing to their interview request. I have been the subject of several Arabic language news articles, and more recently a video documentary, from which I have learned that, when translated to Arabic, my words do not always come out as intended, which can lead to being misquoted or misunderstood. So, I decided to do what Aishah does best; write!

I am very much aware of the frustration that some nations have with U.S. government foreign policy, as I have also in my capacity as an activist, voiced concerns about it in campaigns and efforts aimed at garnering support for an end to the embargo on Gaza.

However, regarding the current situation in Egypt, as a Muslim American living by choice in the country, one might also be able to appreciate the situation in which I find myself; that is to say, walking a fine line as a foreign national endeavoring to lend an empathetic ear to the Egyptian people that I have come to love, and the community in which I have made myself a part of since 2007.

I love Egypt and the Egyptian people. I choose to live in Egypt for the opportunity it affords me to live peaceably as a Muslim woman. At the same time, I am also very much aware of my status as a guest. These sentiments having also been expressed to the Egyptian President in an interview published by the Cairo-based government sponsored magazine, October Weekly, following my December 2009 visit to Gaza.

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Each day from Jan. 25 through today, the 12th day of the protests, I have awakened with a mixed sense of anticipation and fear; never knowing for sure what might have transpired from the last time I tuned-in to watch the news or logged onto the internet; which has caught me by both surprise and horror time and again.

On Jan. 25 and again on the 28th, I watched as millions of protesters filled Tahrir Square in Cairo and marched along the Corniche in Alexandria. The energy and spirit of the Egyptian people rushed through my veins, similar to the way it did when I marched alongside the Palestinian people to the Erez border in Gaza on December 31, 2009 - water breaching the rims of my eyes numerous times throughout the day.

When thugs took to the streets on February 2, attacking protesters, not only in Cairo and Alexandria, but across the country, I was horrified and dismayed; grief-stricken for the lost lives, the wounded, and the repercussions that would echo world-wide as the images of men on camels and horses hit the airwaves and internet; knowing they would become the butt of late-night talk show jokes made in ignorance.

Scarcely sleeping or eating, in empathy with the protesters, all I could do was pray and continue to offer updates through the internet; when it was finally turned back on after days of exile at the command of the Egyptian government in its quest to deter communication between protesters.

It has been a relief to be able to pour my pent-up energy out onto the keyboard of my laptop. The nearly 6,000 friends I have on Facebook were eagerly waiting to hear from me, expressing concern for my safety and offering prayers for the safety of the Egyptian people. Facebook has become an extension of our families; joining friends and those of like-minds in a spirit of solidarity that I don't think any other venue may ever match.

Then came Feb. 4, day 11 of the protests declared as 'Departure Day'.
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Given the horrifying events surrounding the Feb. 2 attacks perpetrated against the protesters resulting in deaths and scores of injured, there was no way to predict how many would turn out for the demonstration.

As I reached hesitantly for the TV's remote control on the morning of Feb. 4, tears instantaneously filled my eyes as images of the day's protests filled the TV screen. All I could do was stand there thinking silently to myself, "'They came', 'They came', 'They came', 'Subhan'Allah, they came'".

Ramy El Minshawy, journalist.
And they filled the streets of Alexandria, Mansoura, Qena, Al-Arish, Suez, and more. Al-Wafd journalist, Ramy El Minshawy, reported that more than 30,000 protesters demonstrated in Tanta. "Aishah, I think the last chapter of the novel is being written and, insha'Allah, we will see our dreams come true," he added.

I remained glued to the TV, laptop screen and telephone the remainder of the day, energized by the scenes. The protesters, men, women, children, young and old, regardless of religious affiliation, education or societal status, were chanting and even singing; sounds that never seemed to diminish throughout the long hours of the afternoon and into the night as they continued in defiance of government stipulated curfews.

Although the day ended without producing the result protesters hoped for, it cannot be described as anything less than one of the most astonishing days in the history of the Egyptian people.

While observing that progressively stronger comments continue to emerge from U.S. government officials, I have also noted that U.S. activists and others in the international community, continue to express frustration that there has been no outright call from the U.S. government stipulating withdrawal of the reported 1.5 billion U.S. tax-payer dollars provided in financial aid to the Egyptian government each year - largely attributed to its military forces - as a source of leverage in more adamantly pressing the Egyptian President to step-up to the global call for transition that needs to occur "now", as, to their credit, specifically stated in the words of President Obama, and reiterated by Secretary of State Clinton, U.S. Press Secretary Gibbs and Sens. Kerry (D-Mass.) and McCain (R-Ariz.)

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Despite world-wide denouncement of acts of violence or suppression against protesters and journalists, the situation on the ground in Egypt continues to shift from peaceful to frightening, as reports from protesters have sporadically indicated that more and more pressure is being put on them to withdraw from Cairo's Tahrir Square.

From Twitter Feb. 4: "#JELive: Reuters reports 'heavy gunfire' but sources tell Al Jazeera that the shots were fired by military into the air to clear the area." This was acknowledged by a contact on the ground in Cairo with friends in the Square; an alarming turn of events in light of repeated TV coverage showing newly appointed Egyptian Vice-President Omar Sulieman declaring that the protesters would be allowed to continue peacefully.

Additionally, Vice President Suliman has called on family members of protesting youth to urge their children to stay home; a call that has, indeed, according to Dr. Hatem Aly, on the scene in Tahrir Square, been embraced on the part of parents, but ignored by the ever-increasing number of undeterred youth.

Dr. Hatem A. Aly, on the ground in Tahrir Square, Cairo.
Despite lurking dangers, Aly also shared his jubilance in finding on arrival to Tahrir Square the afternoon of Feb. 5 that it was swelling with the voices of 30,000+ protesters. "We will not leave until he leaves," echoed Aly.

Suffice it to say, a sense of unease remains on all fronts here in Egypt. Although the Egyptian military continues to appear to offer protection in the Tahrir Square area, pro-government demonstrators, 'thugs' and escaped prisoners lurk in nearby neighborhoods, posing a threat to protesters attempting to return to their homes; forcing communities to continue self-policing efforts for security purposes.

No one can be quite sure in which moment things might turn from bad to worse, as it appears outwardly that the Egyptian President will continue to defy the global outcry for him to step down; a defiance that seems to be equally matched by the spirit of the Egyptian people.

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Aishah Schwartz, a Muslim American, is founder and director of the 2006 established Washington, D.C.-based Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) and a retired 17-year litigation legal assistant. She is also a published freelance non-fiction writer/journalist and internationally renowned human rights activist with a focus on the rights of Muslim women and the plight of the Palestinian people affected by the Israeli imposed illegal embargo on Gaza.
Egyptian or American: A lesson in understanding the difference and why Egyptians are protesting
American Activist, Aishah Schwartz on Tunisia's Revolution
Aishah Schwartz, The Gaza Chronicles
Aishah Schwartz/MWA Documentary on YouTube


  1. America talking about Transformation , not about Mubarak ( who is their friend) leave his throne.They are looking for candidate , who is loyal to Israel. And my opinion, all Mubarak's money should be arrested and put in to egyptian economic. It is so dirty game and so honest. They don't care how many egyptian will die . So far for each isralian 100 palestinean died and America is OK about it .

  2. May Allah bless you. I am so pleased to read this journey.

    Today, we are as the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani students showed our solidarity to the Egyptians by having a protest at the campus.

    We know that Mubarak was one of the people who supported Saddam Hussain to kill the Kurds. We know that the Egyptians were asleep when Saddam attacked us by chemical weapons. We know that not so many people ever heard our words. But we want to change the history. We are as a nation support anyone who fights for freedom. That is because we understand it.

    I would like you to keep writing your journey until the last day of Not-Mubarak.