Dear friends: I write to you today from a very different Egypt to the one I have experienced for the past 30 years. After 19 days in Tahrir Square, we managed to save our beloved country from the brutal dictator who just wouldn't let go, even when millions called upon him to. Finally, Mubarak has stepped down.
I wanted to thank you all for your supportive comments and also answer some of your questions from my previous post. In the process, I will shed some light on why the people revolted now, and why I believe this was an Internet revolution.
Let me first clarify that when I say that, I don't mean that the Internet was the only factor involved, nor do I mean that Internet users were the only ones protesting. Rather, I'm speaking of the main catalyst which I believe inspired this revolution.
We have been living in tyranny under the Mubarak regime for 30 long years. During that time, this great nation of 82 million people suffered a lot of setbacks on almost all fronts. A third of our country is illiterate, and unless the "educated" go to a private school all the way, they're getting a paper certificate but not much education. 40 percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line. Many suffer the lack of good health services, even clean water, at times.
We’ve lived with that for 30 years, and only in the past five years or so have we started speaking up -- murmuring at first, until millions screamed in Tahrir Square. And I’m arguing that what brought the voices out was the presence of the Internet and, in particular, social networks.
This was not a revolution affected or pushed by a foreign influence. This was not a revolution carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. (By the way, 90 percent of Egyptians, including myself, are Muslims. Most are moderate, and many are secular. We’re perfectly peaceful, perfectly non-violent, and we don’t bite!)
For years, when dealing with the outside world, the Mubarak regime used a marketing ploy that led people, including many Egyptians, to believe that the choice was either Mubarak or Al Qaeda-style, fundamentalist Islamic rule. In one of his last hideous speeches, he said, to ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, something along the lines of “It’s either me, or chaos.”
The youth who organized on social networks, notably Facebook, to save their country from a dictator’s regime will once again take charge and rebuild their country. And in just the way they were joined by those from all walks of life in Tahrir Square, they will be joined by those from all walks of life in rebuilding their country. They planned the revolution on Facebook, and they're planning the rebuilding on Facebook as we speak.
There is now a healthy plethora of pages and groups on Facebook dedicated to discussing how to rebuild the country, and how to move forward. We're already seeing individual initiatives (joined by thousands, even tens of thousands, of people) to eradicate illiteracy, rebuild the economy, and revamp education.
You might wonder, "How can some people on Facebook, even if they're in their thousands, revamp education?" Well, just remember what happened when millions worldwide wondered, "How can some people on Facebook overthrow a 30-year-old dictatorship?" The beauty of this revolution is that it taught us Egyptians that WE CAN!
And we will!
Thank you all, again, for your support. Long live Egypt!
Rasha A. Abdulla, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair
Journalism and Mass Communication
The American University in Cairo
— Rasha A. Abdulla is an author, lecturer, and consultant, as well as chair of the Journalism and Mass Communication department at the American University in Cairo.