Once again, Dina El-Gebaly, our CWCP Fellow in Cairo, is helping us figure out what some Egyptians are thinking and feeling nowadays, during this revolutionary period. This time, Dina has interviewed Abbas Fahmy, an Egyptian political activist whom she met while on neighborhood patrol. Both Dina and Abbas are members of the same neighborhood watch group, the Zamalek Guardians. Mr. Fahmy, 44, is married and a father of two beautiful children. He is a marketeer by education and an executive film producer by profession. Thanks to his father's profession, Abbas has lived the first 25 years of his life in different countries around the world. Cairo has been his permanent residence since 1991. This interview took place during the second week of March 2011.
Dina El-Gebaly: Did you support/were you against the Revolution? Why?
Abbas Fahmy: I definitely supported the revolution from the very first moment I heard about the call for demonstrations on Jan 25th (however skeptical I was at first about its chances of success). Now it makes me wish I had the courage to have been among the initiators, the spark for it since Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei has been calling for change. How could I not be? I have been a by-stander all my life, a witness to all the filth, abuse and corruption that were rampant and omnipresent in our life.
DEG: Did you participate in the protests? If so, what was it like to participate in an actual revolution? Describe your experience.
AF: Yes! I participated on Jan 25th in Tahrir Square and on the infamous Friday 28th on Qasr El Nil Bridge. It was a rush, a high that is unequaled. It gave me a sense of pride that I was doing something right, something that was not only for my personal gain but for the gain of every fellow Egyptian that I know or don't know, whether alive or yet to be born.
It's worthy of mention that on the morning of Tuesday [the] 25th we knew that the police was in state of total frenzy and panic. We had been tuning in on their communications.
After that fateful "Day of Rage" was done and the curfew was decreed, I had the sinking feeling that the revolution will prevail. It was the moment I understood that it had reached the "point of no return." The momentum gathered was unstoppable. It was "them" against everyone else. I had realized that it was a do or die. At a later stage I turned my efforts more towards keeping the momentum alive and the information flow going.
DEG: Did you use any social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, cell phones) to communicate about/debate events in Egypt during the revolution?
AF: Just like millions of us, I was glued to the all the technology I could use. Facebook, emails, cell phones, Instant messaging, Skype were not a routine, they were the ONLY routine. Of course, then came the decision to cut off the Internet and then the cell phone services of all 3 providers on Friday [the] 28th. I truly believe that waking up on Friday with no way to communicate actually helped inflame the situation and pushed even more people to pour into the streets. The communication black-out emboldened and aggravated us all even more and we found other, albeit primitive, ways to communicate.
DEG: Did the Muslim Brotherhood play any role during the revolution? What are your predictions of their future political role?
AF: Initially they did not. But later the presence of their sympathizers, without interference and trying to hijack the movement, definitely helped the cause.
I believe that the time has come for their presence to be recognized and for them to have representation, hoping that the moderate ones among them will work for the overall good of the country and not to push an extremist agenda. I laugh at countries, namely Israel, that ring the bells of fear and warn the world about them when they themselves have fundamentalist [views] among their government. The Likud party itself is built on extremist Jewish ideologies. So to all those people I say: Fear not and have faith in the intelligence of the Egyptian people.
DEG: Is there anything you would like to communicate to people who weren't in Egypt during the revolution?
AF: To all the Tunisians I say thank you for showing us that it CAN be done. To all the Egyptians that live abroad I say your support and anguish were strongly felt and your online activism was equally important. To those who decided to flee the country I say: You missed it all! You will never appreciate the taste of what has been achieved as much those who fought for it.
DEG: What are your major fears and concerns about the current political & social situation in Egypt?
AF: The unpreparedness. Since time immemorial (since ancient Egypt), Egyptians have neither been accustomed to choose their leader nor to freely voice their opinion or discontent. What is expected to happen is the initial chaos and status of "free-for-all" that we are currently in. Democracy is not only a process, it's also a culture. It will take time to breed it.
DEG: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about Egypt's future?
AF: I am super optimistic! Mainly for one reason: the old regime will never come back. It will have its place in history books - hopefully under a chapter called "the dark ages of Egypt." We will make mistakes, that's for sure, but the only way is going forth. I am a believer in the overall genuineness of Egyptians.