Early yesterday morning before turning on TV or opening the internet I sat on my doorstep in the deserted street. I looked at the dark ring around the manhole cover in front of me, an indication that the sewer was ready to overflow – the pipe is obviously blocked somewhere up the street. Two days previous I had gone to the water management office to tell them this and was promised a team to clear it within the hour. I looked at the piles of rubble left by builders, the rubbish and old plastic bags tumbling along the street when caught by a slight breeze. I had a rare moment of peace. In that moment I heard the words in my head “It is what it is.” Those words seemed to lift me up – like I was getting some kind of acceptance as opposed to depression – It is what it is…..
I thought about the previous day when I felt such a heavy depression all day long. So heavy I didn’t even do my usual amount of time on the internet. I had felt trapped, drained and hopeless.
It appeared the government had decided to let the sit-ins continue indefinitely at Rabba Al Adaweya and Nahda in Cairo. We had already been through 2 years and 6 months of ever decreasing tourism in Egypt and a devastated economy.
We had been though 365 days of Islamist rule under President Morsi. We had witnessed unchecked torture and murder of ordinary people by Morsi’s followers. We had witnessed the kidnapping and killing of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai without anyone being called to justice – this was foreign to us, this was not the strong Egyptian Army we knew in the Mubarak days. We had seen Morsi attempt to take complete control of state powers and become a dictator by issuing a Presidential Decree. We had listened to experts on TV putting forward their suggestions for economic recovery and seen all go unheeded as the economy declined day by day. We saw the money flowing to Morsi from Qatar and did not see where or how it was spent. We had listened to rants and threats against tourists, pharaonic monuments and copts. We had watched in horror as Morsi sat in a football stadium and listened to Brotherhood Sheikhs call for Egyptians to go to Syria on Jihad. We had watched in shock the resulting murders and mutilation of 4 Shiite Muslims in Giza the following day. Finally we suffered a summer of power cuts, shortage of cooking gas, food prices doubling, shortage of gasoline and unending queues at the gas stations.
Then on 30th June like a current of energy running through the air, the streets and squares of every town and city filled, as if by magic – with quiet, solemn and determined ordinary people. In the air the feeling of “Enough is Enough” was palpalable. The people called on the Army to oust Morsi and the Islamist Regime and nobody was going home until this was done. The dictator and some of his Brotherhood leaders were arrested. The rest formed encampments at Rabaa Al Adeweya – a street intersection not far from Tahrir Sq in central Cairo and at Nahda – outside the University at Giza. To these camps they took ordinary Egyptian people they had kidnapped on the streets and tortured them – many they tortured to death. For what? Not for information, but because they didn’t like them, those ordinary Egyptian citizens were not Islamist extremists and from photos released I suspect there was an amount of sadistic enjoyment involved also.
On 24 July General Sisi of the Egyptian Army called on the Egyptian people to confirm his mandate to fight terrorism in Egypt by going to the streets and squares one more time – on the 26 July. This the people did once again. On 26 July they filled every square and street in every town and city in Egypt. On the 30th June and the 26rd July the largest popular and peaceful street revolutions in the history of the entire world had unfolded in Egypt. This was not like the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011 – that “revolution” was NOTHING in comparison to the popular declarations of 30 June and 3 July 2013. The world media and governments went into overdrive in their condemnation and rejection of the will of the Egyptian people. This is something still ongoing and still unexplained today.
General Sisi and the Egyptian Government did not answer the call of the people immediately. The weeks passed. Egypt once more hung in suspension. At Rabaa and Nahda the Brotherhood built walls across the streets, occupied the mosque, set up a hospital, brought in their women and children and positioned a playground in the front line of the protest area. The Brotherhood supporters marched around the towns and cities intimidating and in some cases attacking and harming people and property while continuing to shout to the world that the protest camps were peaceful. They armed the camps with guns, ammunition, gas masks and assorted weapons. The government called every day for peaceful talks and reconcilation. It became a joke that they kept on doing this while the Brotherhood kept refusing and insulting them. International mediators came and went – they also failed but refused to honestly admit the Brotherhood would not reconcile to talks and political process. Obama sent McCain and Graham to wreak more havoc and make the Egyptians even more angry – then denied it.
41 days passed between 3rd July and the 14th Aug when I found myself in a hopeless depression. 41 days of government calls for the sit-ins to dispand and for the Brotherhood to take part in the political process. 41 days of warnings from the government that the sit-ins would be disbanded one way or another. 41 days of listening to Brotherhood leaders vowing to die for Islam, vowing to allow their women and children become martrys for Egypt to be an Islamic State, vowing to burn Egypt if they were not allow to rule Egypt. 41 days of listening to the government telling us this could not continue.
By the 13th of Aug I had pretty much lost faith in those government statements. This state of suspension looked set to continue for another 3 to 6 months. I did not see how I could live like this anymore. The frustration and enforced inaction was maybe worse than being in prison because while my body was free – I was not free to live in any other way. I had tried to occupy myself with making plans for the future with the people in the Souk etc. But really it was all going nowhere as long as there was political stalemate and absence of security. I was not free to work, not free to plan a future, not free financially to leave and go home to Ireland. My body was free but I was in prison.
Yesterday morning 14th Aug I left my doorstep, turned on the TV, opened my computer and found, much to my surprise, the security forces had moved to clear the sit-ins at Rabaa Al Adaweya and Nahda. It seemed that in my acceptance of “It is what it is” suddenly everything was changed. Yes, there will be deaths that could have been avoided by the Brotherhood, but not by the government or security forces. Yes, there will be problems. Yes, the Brotherhood have already started to burn and destroy Egypt. Yes, the foreign media and governments will once more go into condemnation and hypocritical criticism. No, I don’t know when this new situation will end. But, for the first time since 25 Jan 2011 I have hope. The Interim Government are solid, steady, intelligent, of good reputation and experience. They have a good and practical roadmap to bring Egypt through this. We have a civilian government backed by a now free and strong army with a principled head in General Sisi. They have done everything right, practical and in a patient, sensitive way to bring Egypt through this latest crisis. I look forward to a free, democratic and prosperous Egypt – provided foreign governments keep their noses out and their hands off this great country.
This post is in response to the numerous emails I have received from friends and guests of Mara House asking if I am safe and what is happening. Instead of answering them all I am sending this to all. I will be writing further posts today and in the days to follow on different aspects of what is ongoing with myself and in Egypt.