Far Away From the Square

by Fatima, Egypt.

I tell this story from the blurry memories of my younger self. I do remember that it was a time when the whole world seemed to stand still. Tomorrow was so unpredictable then. Yet somehow, and despite everything, it looked much brighter than before. What seemed like just another mundane Tuesday coinciding with my very troubling birthday turned out to be a day forever glorified in history. It was the first day of one of the most tiresome and unpredictable battles in the history of our beloved Egypt. This day was the 25th of January, 2011.

The streets were unusually empty, except for a group of policemen passing every now and then. “People are scared” – I was thinking to myself, and the phone rang before I could let that thought sink. It was my relatives. They joined the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. In crooked voices and painful exhales, they told me that they’re not alone, that people from every race, ethnicity and religion have joined the cause. And the picture I’ve always longed to see came to my mind: the people clamoring in unison and the echoes filling the sky. I’ve just turned twelve and the only wish I had ever made has come true. I made another wish that day. I wished to join the lines of our freedom fighters. Alas, I lived too far from the Square and the twelve year old me still had her doubts. “I am sure they’ll run away at the first sign of struggle”, I thought. Again, I was wrong.

Whether you lived near the square or not, you couldn’t really tell what was happening. The media coverings were even more misleading. Some channels would show empty fabricated shots that were possibly taken much earlier. Other channels would show violent struggles of a population gone mad against its “benevolent” rulers. Some channels would tell you that the protesters were simply not there while others would tell you savage tales of delinquents and rascals tearing apart at our country’s security system. All these channels had something in common however: they frequently shouted the word conspiracy at your terrified face behind the glass screens. One day passed. The situation has gotten so out of hand that the channels displaying indifference had to drop their acts. Something was happening. I tried to call my relative to no avail. The mobile networks were down. I stared at the blank screen of my laptop as I whispered a terrified prayer.

Another day passed and you could notice the absence of the police forces lining the street. The streets became more vacant yet less bleak. “You’re on your own now, citizens” you could hear the last of them shouting as they all retreated. More days passed and you could almost hear the faint sounds of protests, even in the far outskirts of the city. “The people want to bring down the system” shouts overtake the air so wholly that one would breathe it in and feel its rage bubbling in his veins. The president is coming on air, you hold your breath and listen. “I will not run for president again”, the dictator says in his overly articulated manner. The protests rage fueled by the clash of opinions and politics. You picture the fire in your heart and you smell the smoke from the burning fire station nearby. You hear the sirens wailing as the criminals escape to the streets. You hear the distant screams of people getting mugged and watch your neighbors cry after their house has been looted. You watch your neighborhood coming together to make a civil force carrying scraps of barbed wire left behind by the police and hold whatever weapons they could make out of their kitchenware. More days pass and you take a trip to the crowded markets. You observe the emptying shelves only to realize that a few days separate the neighborhood from starvation. You wonder how the protesters are managing and you whisper your millionth prayer.

It’s February 10th, the Vice President is on air. “The president has resigned”, no one can hardly believe it. An explosion is heard outside. It’s not another bomb but a much gentler sound. You look up at the sky and see them: the fireworks. The phone is ringing and you eagerly pick it up. On the other end you hear: “We have won!”.

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