[Prelude: Read my post for background information about what happened during the Egyptian Revolution.]
It was February 6th, the day after Mubarak had given his third speech, it spread rage and passion amongst the protesters as they elicited vows of murder if he did not step down. That morning Mary, 8 months pregnant, decided she couldn’t watch from the safety of her television screen any longer for fear of anything happening to her unborn son, and went to Tahrir Square.
After all, what was Mary going to tell her unborn son?
That she was afraid? And then expect him not to be afraid?
I met Mary during my visit to Egypt in the summer of 2011. Seleem, her beautiful baby boy was born healthy into a new free Egyptian era. I was touched by Mary’s experience at Tahrir Square. Her courage as not just as a woman, but also as a mother. It reminded me of the guilt I felt when thinking about what I would tell my kids I was doing in Canada while Egyptians were risking their lives and fighting for their freedom.
“I made sure I wore my silver cross. Tahrir Square was where honesty, equity and unity bred, “ Mary said, smoothing out her dark brown hair, tied into a tight bun.
“I wanted to show everyone that yes I am a Christian and we’re part of this revolution.”
Mary held onto the small silver and engraved cross dangling from a chain around her neck.
When she got to Tahrir Square, she parked several streets away because all streets leading to the square were blocked off. Mary walked, struggling and heaving with the weight of her impregnated big belly. She walked for half an hour to reach the long and stiff line-up to enter Tahrir Square.
Mary reached the checkpoint line-up. Mary couldn’t see the checkpoint. The checkpoint was blocked and barricaded by a heavy steel, red and white fence. Mary heaved gasping for air. Sweat trickled down her flushed face. Her hands holding onto her pulsating stomach. She wondered if she’d even get to see Tahrir Square before she passed out, gave birth or died.
“I swear, I got to the point where I just wanted to push everyone aside and get to the front of the checkpoint line, but thankfully I didn’t!” Mary laughed, her hoarse, loud laugh, contorted her chubby round face and squinting her green eyes.
A young man in his early twenties, walking back and forth by the line-up to ensure things were in order and running smoothly, noticed Mary’s protruding stomach and immediately went to her side. He called for a few others to help Mary and him get to the front of the line. A young man wearing red rimmed glasses, his hair neatly combed back, stepped forward and supported Mary’s other arm.
“I kept apologizing to people as we walked by, and not a single person didn’t try helping somehow or jump aside to make way for me.”
When Mary arrived, she saw the steel barricades surrounded by young men their arms intertwined to ward off everyone. On the women’s side, the woman searching and checking Mary’s ID was wearing the Niqab (face veil). Mary greeted her with a wide radiating smile spread out across her flushed face.
“Wallahy, we love you guys! We honestly do!” The niqab wearing woman blurted after having checked Mary’s ID and everything. She flung her arms around Mary and gave her a quick, tight hug.
“I know habebty! I know!” Mary said squeezing the woman she barely knew tight.
Once inside, Mary joins the chants. March marches and stands shoulder to shoulder with men and women of all ages, religions and walks of life. The issue of religion? It had no place in Tahrir Square, the core and pounding heart of Egypt, where the real Egyptians fought for what matters. These Egyptians fought against the government that has been pitting brother against brother and sister against sister in the guise of religion, and for the purpose of distraction.
August 14th – Evening
“Even today, six months after the revolution, whenever I’m out driving during Ramadan and its iftar (breaking the fast) time and you know the people on the streets who hand out water and dates for people to break their fast? When they try giving me anything, I always tell them to keep it and give it to someone fasting because I’m Christian and they automatically reply that they love us and would never do anything to harm us, we’re brothers and sisters. And then obviously refuse to take back the water and dates they’ve just given me.” Mary smiles, her face exuberant with excitement and her eyes wide and bright reflecting her crazy and wild nature.
One of the most popular pictures of the revolution is that of Christians protecting Muslims while they prayed at Tahrir Square. What happened to this spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood? During those 18 days religion was not a problem because the government lost its control and power over the people. When events like that of Maspero happen, and we react exactly the way the government wants us to by turning on one another and forgetting our cause, you can rest assured Mubarak and Tantawi are patting themselves on the back.