On January 25th, 2011, Egyptians from all walks of life—many of them in their twenties and thirties—came together via Facebook and Twitter and gathered to call for universal human rights such as dignity and freedom. Astonishingly, 18-days later, the 30-year reign of autocrat President Hosni Mubarak came to an end, and the Egyptian Army stepped forward to assist Egyptian citizens in a peaceful transition toward democracy.
Heba Afify, a newly minted journalist at the English edition of Almasry Alyoum, Egypt's leading independent newspaper, senses her country's bedrock of society, family and political identity shifting beneath her feet. Mubarak, who called himself the “father of Egypt”, demanded strict conformity and obedience. To his dismay, his ‘children’ took to the streets and stood up to him, opening the doors to all sorts of new opportunities. Heba realizes that she too must break free from the traditional role envisioned by her sympathetic – yet overprotective – mother. “During the Revolution, all the rules were broken,” Heba exclaims. “My mother needs to understand that the rules that were broken during the Revolution will remain broken.”
All the rules, indeed, have changed. Yet, many Egyptians still fear that Mubarak’s former cohorts could re-establish themselves as a ruling junta. Statistics on crime, unemployment and poverty are sobering – nothing seems to have changed for the better. And recent actions of the Egyptian Army, silencing critics with draconian punishments, portend that the Army is not on the side of the populace. Most of all, Heba senses that the unity and solidarity that Egyptians felt toward one another in those heady early days is becoming fragile. “It scares me to think that the Revolution might not be complete,” says Heba.
Heba and her fellow citizens are feeling the attendant growing pains of the transition to democracy. Worried they had just replaced one ruler with another, Heba and her fellow country-men and -women mobilize in order to “lead themselves” and define their own democracy.