Finding Your Voice: The Aftermath of the Butterfly Revolution

The aftermath of any revolution is quite messy and life never turns out as expected. On my second night of a recent visit to Cairo I had dinner with some colleagues and friends and as expected the conversation eventually turned to the revolution and upcoming presidential election.

At the table were three women each representing a different sector -- government, social and business. Each held the other in high regard and each was very concerned with the upcoming election and what it would mean for them going forward.

Osman Suleiman the current vice president had just declared his candidacy to run for president. He represents the old guard that they all worked hard to overthrow. On the other hand the Muslim Brotherhood had also declared their candidacy reneging on their previous commitment to not compete for the presidential election.

I was fascinated with the conversation which was part serious, part tragic and part humorous. Each woman held a different point of view as to who they could live with as their new president. Each of these women represented a more moderate and liberal view point of view and each were resigned to the fact that there was no candidate with a serious chance to win that held their view point. For them the choice was between the Muslim Brotherhood and the previous regime.

The debate at the table was whether they could live with an attack on women's rights which they all felt was inevitable if a Muslim Brotherhood candidate won, or to give up on what many of them gave their lives for, toppling the old regime. The choice for them was protecting their rights as women or having a change in who 'ruled' them. It was in some ways sad to see how torn each of them was that it had come to this. One of these women could not accept the old regime under any condition and would rather live under the Muslim Brotherhood and bear the attack on women's right (she was the one dressed in the most modern fashionable attire and was from the development sector) while the other who was from the business community and very modestly attired felt that she would under no circumstances accept the Muslim Brotherhood. She threatened that she would rather vote for the old regime rather than have her women's right further eroded upon.

In some ways this conversation filled me with deep concern for them. The students I had spoken to the night before were much more optimistic and had helped coin the term the 'butterfly revolution' a very soft and beautiful effort like a thousand butterflies rising up at the same time. These three women were resigned to the fact that the next few years were going to get increasingly tumultuous and difficult. Maybe theirs was a voice of experience.

Among the laughter, and mutual banter they were all still very confident that as a society they will come through. For them, with the revolution there was a fundamental change and ordinary folks had found their voice. This voice they were confident would not get bottled up again.

As a global community it would be important for us to keep reassuring this very brave society that we are all in this together and keep supporting them as they find their voice.