Impressions of Egypt From New York

Today I had lunch at 5pm and dinner at midnight. I am about to sleep now out of emotional exhaustion of following the news intently all day today. I have been on the phone with my family in Egypt getting eyewitness reports from what they see out their window, very close to Tahrir square and I am reporting back international news I see online, since the Internet was and still remains cut off. They are completely isolated. I am writing before I go to sleep in New York City in commemoration and thought of all those who were injured today, arrested, or even killed. Of course, Egypt was a black hole today with no light coming out. I am scared to find out what happened to our courageous protesters today. We have no access to any information regarding arrests and violence exerted by police on protesters. After I could get a breath of fresh air when I received news that the army came in instead of the police and that the violence had subsided, I received a call asking me if I had spoken to one of my cousins who we know went to the protest. "X" called frantically at 9am Cairo time pleading, "Please call me before they cut off the phones." I have been so worried trying to find out any home numbers of friends who might know if "X" is ok. I will try to sleep and hopefully wake up to good news and be able to reach "X". I am sure at this hour there are so many in detention, injured, and others still standing strong in preparation for tomorrow. A new day for a new Egypt, a people who will not stand silent any longer. Mubarak's speech was insulting to the freedoms my fellow Egyptians demanded and suffered for in the past few days. To change the faces of Cabinet and the ministries and replace them by mildly less corrupt individuals is not enough to avenge for the loud demands of our public. Atleast he realized he has to pay attention; he cannot be oblivious of his people much longer. Mubarak claims to be aware of his people's grievances. I beg to ask him when was the last time you passed through any street in your country with actual people on it, without it being completely cleaned, decorated, and rid of our beloved people, who you have had absolutely no regard, interest, or slight concern with as if they did not exist and as if the streets were not populated by nearly 80 million people. Mubarak has no idea of what suffering is or what his people have been living in these past decades since he has taken power. He claims to value freedom of expression and the press, but just as much as he values security and ensuring that there is no disruption of public space or disorder. He thinks that what Egyptians have been living through in his time is security, peace, and order. That is a laughable conception. Finally, anger makes sense, it is the only normal reaction of a people who have endless ability to endure hardship. I am so happy my former office at the National Council for Human Rights is gone, which had been turned into a complete joke with the recent appointment of an NDP affiliated secretary general to ensure that there are absolutely no human rights spoken of in Egypt. It always felt ironic to receive complaints from ordinary citizens who were always poor and desperate and were scared upon arriving at the gates of the National Democratic Party building which had large iron gates and special security searching everyone coming in. I always thought how are we supposed to be helping these people who are coming the NDP building because the national council was in the same complex within the same gates of the government they are coming to complain about. I am so happy it burned down, perhaps some corruption will symbolically go away with the burning down of the building. The happiest day at my job there for three years was watching protesters pushing these tall black iron gates of the NDP building in protest of an independent newspaper that was closed down by the government. The guards, who were equally as disenchanted as the protesters, I felt, internationally did not try to push the protesters back and allowed them to break through the gates. Just like today, the police should have united with protesters who want the same end, simply to live in dignity in a country where human life has no value as far the Mubarak government is concerned.

Making formal changes in the Cabinet and Ministry today comes as an insult to all those who have died, been injured and courageously fought in the remarkable protests of the last five days. Appointing different faces from the same breed of corruption is nothing of a concession to answer the demands of a people who are fighting for their dignity, to live at a decent standard of living. The Egyptian people deserve to live a decent life with basic human rights. They have been enduring great hardships, corruption, a lack of rule of law, and a government that does not care for public interest, a regime that only fends for its own motives and personal gains no matter the cost and bearing on ordinary citizens. Contrary to what I always believed, non-violent demonstration in the Middle East is possible and deserves great respect. Their demands must be answered and encouraged by the international community. And please, I say to the U.S. stop selling tear bombs to the Egyptian government. How can you encourage Mubarak to listen to the pleads of protesters and in the same breathe provide them with ammunition to harm those very same protesters. Too much blood has been spilled and too many people have been tortured and suffered under a ruthless dictatorship, and the people cannot endure Mubarak any longer. Change must happen if any sense of humanity will be observed.