Journals from Tahrir Square

Guest Columnist

Penelope Shepherd/THE CAMPUS

Since I last wrote, Egypt has almost been flipped on its head.
Mubarak announced he would not step down, only to step down the following day, the protesters have left Tahrir Sqare and life is more or less normal again.
Before I get ahead of myself though, let me congratulate Egypt, and say that the courage, discipline and sheer humanity the protesters showed is by far and away the most inspirational thing I have ever experienced in my life.
Since I am not Egyptian, it is difficult for me to comprehend exactly the sentiment of the people here. But I will try my best to describe the sheer euphoria that the entire nation felt on February 12th.
I was on my way up from grocery shopping when my bawab, which is a security person, came up to me, hugged me and said “Mubarak khalas,” which means “Mubarak done, finished.”
I didn’t really know what he meant though, so I went up to my apartment and when I turned on the news, the headline flashing on the screen read, “Mubarak Steps Down.”
I was so excited, I dropped my groceries and ran across the street to my Egyptian friend’s apartment.
I knocked on the door and the look on his face was complete euphoria.  So we decided we should go to Tahrir one last time to celebrate.
When we got there, thousands and thousands of people were in the square, we could barely move and sometimes we just got pushed along with the crowd.
People were shooting off fireworks like it was a party for a team that just won the Super Bowl.  After that, we went to a bar to celebrate, and all night we sang Egyptian songs and celebrated as one group, expatriates and Egyptians.  It made up for having been accused of being an Israeli spy a week before.
The next day, though, the realization began spreading that maybe Mubarak stepping down wasn’t as great as we had all thought.
During the revolution the people and the military had been “one hand,” as the protesters said.
Then the supreme military council took over the presidency and left all ministers in their positions.  Of course, Mubarak had handpicked all of these ministers, and many were former or current members of the military.
So while I congratulate Egypt, I do also think it should be tempered with the understanding that this was more or less a coup.
And even though the military is promising to hold elections and reform, they are still Mubarak cronies and have benefited heavily from the last 59 years of military rule.
Also the military made a fairly sinister sounding statement about how protesters needed to leave Tahrir immediately and return to normal life.
This message also caused some shockwaves here, leading many to protesters to return to Tahrir Square.
Shortly thereafter, the army began dismantling the camp that had been set up on traffic circle in the center of the Square.
I personally believe that until there are democratic elections, there should be continued demonstrations.  Of course nothing on the scale of the 18 days that lead to Mubarak stepping down, but enough to make sure that Egyptians remember they haven’t won quite yet.
For many people here, though, the sentiment is that anyone is better than Mubarak.
So many are content to trust in the military to keep their word and hold elections within in the next six to eight months.
But I guess the thing of it is, no one really knows what will happen.  I have a friend who works in the Embassy Economic and Political Analysis Department that doesn’t even know exactly what to expect.
It’s possible that the military will keep its promises and in two weeks’ time we will see progress and elections to follow.
But my very cynical guess is that free and fair elections will not happen because the military does not want to give up the grasp it’s had on politics for almost 60 years.  Let’s hope I’m wrong.