Egypt, I don’t know where to start….I feel restless, can’t sleep and keep watching Al Jazeera, BBC world news, tweets about Egypt and everything that will give me news about Egypt. I’m lucky as I returned back to the Netherlands just before chaos started. But I’m worried. I left dear friends behind.
In the seven months that I spent in Egypt I got a sense of the dissatisfaction of people with the situation in Egypt and at the same time their fear of overly expressing their grievances. Poverty and high food prices were the main issues for people that I and my colleagues spoke to within the context of a study looking at the impact of bird flu and the rise of food prices on people’s livelihoods in Upper Egypt. Unemployment, lack of freedom of speech, financial insecurities are issues my personal friends had been struggling with.
A few of my friends, although lucky enough to have a job in the private or public sector, haven’t received their salary for months. Another does receive his salary; 140 Egyptian pounds per month but this salary, equivalent to about 17.50 euro, would not even be sufficient to buy a week’s basic food supplies, let alone other basic needs such as housing, electricity bills, clothes and transport. Another has big debts at several banks because he can’t find a job. The future doesn’t look particularly bright for people like them; people in their end 20s beginning 30s, who finished university or college and are eager to earn an income and maybe start a family. As a consequence these people accept any type of job, whether it is cleaning, serving tea or any other job far below their aspirations. No wonder these people become frustrated and disheartened. These protests give them an outlet for all the build up frustration and a sense of significance; of being part, and contributing to major changes in Egypt which are Insha’Allah for the best. I seriously think that most of these people are willing to stay put and fight if necessary regardless of the consequences for their safety. Egyptians are tremendously proud and fierce if tempted, this is something I learned quickly while in Egypt.
I’ve been able to communicate with my friends everyday for the past week, mainly through Skypecalls. They are all physically ok, although one of their friends has been arrested by the police for filming the demonstrations and haven’t heard from him so far. Some of my friends have been part of the demonstrations but most are now at home where they feel prisoners in their own house. Some of them have joined neighbourhood watch teams as armed gangs of idiots are abusing the current situation of lawlessness and chaos by robbing ordinary peoples’ homes and shops. Many are anxious and the situation seems to be worsening for them. Telephone cards are no longer sold so there is no way of communicating with the outside world and they are running out of cash to buy food as ATM machines are not operational and transportation is coming to a halt (no petrol is available and trains are no longer running).
I just received a message from one of them:
Dear Ellen i am OK
Don’t worry about us we are out calling for our freedom and we will not rest till we get it.
it is not easy but also we are not weak thousands of us has moved if not millions we will rest after we through [throw] moubarak away wish us luck and pray for us
I am proud, worried, excited and sad all at the same time but what can I do but pray and wish them luck…?