The end of an exceptional year will take Egypt forward

The end of an exceptional year will take Egypt forward

As we bid the year goodbye, I recognize a big sigh of relief from within and all around me. The year has been certainly challenging for many; for Egypt and most Egyptians it has been exceptional. It was a year that will certainly leave its marks on history: 2011 is when Egyptians amazed themselves and the world with a massive peaceful revolt. For almost a whole year Egyptians have been adjusting to intense and highly challenging events.

Jan. 25, 2012 will be the day that marks the avalanche of peaceful protestors who signaled the start of Egypt’s revolution a year earlier. It has been a trying year for all. What was originally hailed as a peaceful civilized mass protest was unfortunately met with so much recurrent brutality; much blood has been spilled. The resistance to the revolution has been continuous, yet the perseverance of the protestors has been relentless. The price of human life sacrificed has been high, and the expectation is there will be more as we approach the revolution’s first anniversary.

The year has not been without triumph or jubilation. Most of all, the mix of contradictions has had an everlasting effect on millions of Egyptians and will without a doubt have future global impact as the much documented story of Egypt’s one year of revolution continues to be shared. The mesmerizing images of the overflowing Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Jan. 25 and the many other happy returns throughout the year will not be easily forgotten. The most surreal by far will be the so-called “trial of the century” with broadcasted images of Hosni Mubarak lying down behind bars with his two sons by his side.

As laughter mingled with tears, hope and bigger dreams brushed shoulders with frustration and pain, and the revolution continues to play out. Egypt has been changing and Egyptians too. Memories of the first 18 days and ecstatic celebrations on the eve of Feb. 11 when Egypt’s 30-year ruler stepped down will continue to reignite Egyptian will power and drive. In hindsight, getting rid of the symbol of the regime has proven much easier than actually changing the octopus-like regime that has been strongly rooted over time. 

As political groups navigate the straits of power, institutional change continues on its illusive path. Political Islam rose from the underground, up. With a little help from some friends, they made it with flying colors through the closest thing to a democratic election Egyptians had engaged in for more than 50 years. Differences and bickering have been much of the flavor of the political spectrum so far.

Sparks of clarity, hopes for unity and serious lessons in political practice have added needed energy to the pot. The mélange, at best, gave Egyptians an abundance of choice for the first time. As the year comes to an end, people are learning to choose, holding elected people representatives accountable and questioning the government’s response, an ability that will prove precious harvest in the years to come.

The one true gain of 2011 was breaking a deeply rooted cycle of fear. Egyptians bravely broke one layer of fear after another in their plight for freedom and dignity. The fears of insecurity, lack of stability and sectarian strife have continued to be challenged as Egypt and Egyptians survived almost an entire year breaking down the homegrown barriers to progress. The revolution will only be complete when it moves beyond institutional change to societal change. 

The Egyptian Revolution continues under severe political challenges and even more daunting economic and social ones. Nevertheless, Egypt has much to hope for and look forward to in 2012: a newly elected Parliament, another possible Upper House national election, electing Egypt’s next president and, most importantly, a new constitution. One thing is certain: There is no route but forward.