As we approach January 25, I recall with deep nostalgia how my hopes for democracy in Egypt had soared after the massive uprising that swept away Hosni Mubarak and his sons from power.
In Montreal, Canadians of Egyptian origin demonstrated in front of the Egyptian Consulate. In frigid temperatures we echoes the chants of Tahrir (Liberation) square, we held very high the banner 'Bread- Liberty-Social justice'. I cannot find words to express our tremendous aspirations, our glorious dreams, and our pride.
It started as a protest against police brutality, escalated to defiance to an unresponsive leader, solidified into determination to finish with a despotic and incompetent regime, and ultimately triumphed by the abdication of Mubarak.
In January 2011, activists using social media, call for an uprising to protest against poverty, unemployment, government corruption and the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for three decades. The target date is set for January 25, a national holiday to honour the police forces.
Protesters take to the streets in large numbers, calling it a "day of rage". Thousands march heading towards the offices of the ruling National Democratic Party, as well as the foreign ministry and the state television, all located in the vicinity of Tahrir square, in downtown Cairo. Similar protests are reported in other towns across the country.
Feeling the heat, Mubarak appoints Omar Suleiman, an intelligence officer as vice-president for the first time during his tenure and subsequently dismisses his cabinet.
Protesters respond by calling for a "million man march" and a general strike to mark one week since the mobilization began. The late Egyptian film star Omar Sharif, is reported by Reuters to have added his voice in support.
On February 1st, Mubarak announces in a televised address that he will not run for re-election. He promises reforms to the constitution, particularly Article 76, which makes it virtually impossible for independent candidates to run for office. He says his government will focus on improving the economy and providing jobs. Accordingly, a 15 per cent raise in salaries and pensions is promised, to no avail.
The number of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square grows to reach an estimated million people.
On 2 February 2011, in a scene reminiscent of the Middle Ages, pro-Mubarak thugs mounted on horses and camels pierce the human shield around Tahrir square, attacking with stones, glass Molotov cocktails, and live ammunition. What ensued was a heroic battle where protesters who were outnumbered and outgunned held their ground. The 'Battle of the Camel', lasted throughout the day and well into the next.
The violent clashes left up to 1,500 injured according to Reuters quoting officials and the United Nations mentions about 300 deaths since the uprising started.
On February 10, Mubarak gives a televised speech which he says is "from the heart". He repeats his promise to not run in the next presidential elections and to "continue to shoulder" his responsibilities in the "peaceful transition" that he says will take place in September.
Protesters in Tahrir Square react with fury, waving their shoes at the screens, and demand the army to join them.
The following day, Hosni Mubarak resigns as president and hands over the power to the army. Vice- president Omar Soleiman makes the announcement amidst an explosion of jubilation in Tahrir, throughout Egypt and beyond.
What a tremendous achievement, what a wonderful moment!
Today, my eyes get filled with tears when I think of how this spirit of freedom was mercilessness crushed; how far Egyptians are presently removed from a democratic system after the military coup d'état lead by General Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, July 3 2013.
Unfortunately, the world isn't paying attention to their plight.
Nonetheless, I refuse to lose hope. I take solace by reading how other countries have suffered democratic setbacks and emerged stronger. I reconcile myself to the fact that democracy cannot be created overnight but my heart aches as I recall with sorrow the Egyptian Arab Spring that didn't bear fruit or flower.