Postcards from Egypt: ’30 million people filling the streets like a river’

Rev·o·lu·tion [rev-uh-loo-shuhn]  – noun

1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

2. Sociology . a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence. Compare social evolution.

What an amazing adventure the last three years have been. Never, when I decided to move to Egypt, would I have imagined I’d be living through history being made, or that my eyes would be opened to so many truths, lies and misconceptions that I had held for many years of my life.

I have felt fear, not for myself, but for loved ones, and for the people of Egypt. I’ve felt immense pride to witness these events as they have unfolded. I’ve felt all this and such hope as an American who has always known “freedom” … something I still have a hard time imagining, and have always taken for granted.

Last night after the announcement of President Morsi being ousted, I went with my husband, stepson, nephew and their friend down to Roxy where the palace is located and where the largest part of the protests next to Tahrir Square took place.

Robyn (Asmma) Payne and her stepson join in the celebration.

 There was really an amazing feeling of joy with families out waving flags and smiling from ear to ear, fireworks and music about Egypt playing with a sense of hope and peace that I haven’t felt since the beginning of the revolution in 2011.

Yes, many see this as a step back, but we must remember that we Americans know freedom, but for much longer than 30 years, not just Mubarak, but two other presidents before that to the time of the pharaohs.

Most Egyptians have lived in fear with no knowledge or faith in their own voices under the rule of others. Many didn’t step out last year, not out of ignorance, but out of an instilled fear that something may happen to their families because they voted for “so and so” or spoke out publicly against those in charge.

Now they know that they can speak up. They see the police and Army backing them, not killing them for speaking out for what they want.

I personally don’t believe that democracy is best for Egyptians, but the true nature of democracy, as proven by George Washington, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and many more who at the time were deemed “traitors” to the King of England, and their “sovereign” land; rebellion for the right of freedom.

I also believe that the definition of “democracy” is changing with the times.

I realized while talking to my mom, who lives in California, that the news Americans were receiving was not accurate. My mother said she’d read that there were “a few hundred thousand” protesting.

I sent her pictures and showed her the videos of the over 30 million people filling the streets like a river.

This has been the will of many of the people, not the “military coup” that is being portrayed. The facts are that the people planned to rally on June 30, unhappy with the way things have been going.

It took one of my husband’s friends three days to get gasoline for her car. In the city it took hours of waiting in lines for gasoline. The price of food has been going up daily, and many people have lost incomes and can barely feed their families.

When President Morsi was elected, he to please give him 100 days to turn things around. This was a statement of his own compulsion and that of the Muslim Brotherhood. He stated, “my promises, oppose me.”

Already, a non-profit group has set up a “Morsi Meter” to track his campaign promises. In reality, government accountability to its citizens is probably still some ways off, but this may be the start of realizing that goal.

The military, knowing of the plans of this rally, and after the Muslim Brotherhood staged preemptive rallies of their own and clashes started, gave all parties involved a week to sit down and come up with a solution so people would not end up being killed as before when the Revolution  started.

As the week went by and tempers got shorter, they tried to set up meetings, but Morsi refused to meet. The time limit passed and no solution presented. More than 20 million people across Egypt came out to show that they agreed and no longer wanted Morsi as president, along with 17 million signatures collected against him. At that point the military had to make a choice to let things perhaps slip into clashes that could result in hundreds or thousands of people being killed, or doing their “duty” to ensure the safety of the nation.

This time, compared to January 2011, they were prepared. In 2011, I don’t believe anyone, including those involved, imagined that a protest against the police would result in the ousting of Mubarak. No one, not even the Army, was prepared for a revolution.

This time, the military was not only prepared, but were firmly behind the people, not the government. They gave Morsi 48 hours to sit down with everyone involved to come up with a workable solution for the country. Instead, he came on television and fervently refused any dialogue, or the option to step down to stop the bloodshed that had already started.

While many Americans and other foreigners are criticizing how this was achieved, we really don’t have any rights to comment on this. Those of us who choose to live here have the right and the ability to leave, but the majority of the people are prisoners of their own country. They can’t just go down, get a visa for Spain and take their family on vacation. They aren’t allowed to leave, and without proving they have a full bank account or own their own homes with careers, they aren’t allowed into other countries, either.

It’s easy to criticize when we can leave anytime we want, and go to our own countries when things are unbearable, but this isn’t an option for most people here. It’s those same “trapped” people who have stood up for their right to survive, who found their voice, and let go of the fear of prosecution for raising those voices.

Even though the supporters of Morsi are now only 1 or 2 million people, they were rioting last night, fighting with the Army and anti-Morsi supporters, whereas the anti-Morsi protesters used peaceful protesting to let their voices be heard.

Since I wrote this last night the fighting has increased with anti-Morsi supporters attacking Army personnel and shooting at them right now downtown Cairo.

Please keep Egypt in your prayers.

Robyn (Asmaa) Payne was born travelling with her parents all over California and to New Zealand until they settled down in Redding, California. This instilled a sense of wanderlust in her. She graduated from Central Valley High School in 1988 and has since lived and moved all over the U.S. She moved in October 2010 to Cairo, Egypt, where she has lived and learned many things about the country she loves and now calls home. She has been remarried for a year to an Egyptian and spends her time with him, his son and family. Her parents, four children and grandchildren reside on the West Coast. She has been working as an English/Art teacher for an international school and will instruct preschoolers in the next school year. 

Robyn writes periodic “Postcards from Egypt” for anewscafe.com. Click here to read her other posts.

Robyn Payne

Robyn (Asmaa) Payne was born in Weaverville, California and was raised in Mountain Gate where her family still lives. She graduated from C.V.H.S. in 1988 and has lived all over the country since then but always ended up back in Redding. In October of 2011 she left Redding once again and now lives in Cairo, Egypt, with her Egyptian husband and step son. She loves to write and is looking forward to sharing more of her new country and the people and places she loves here.

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