Categories: New Arab Voices

Posted on March 21, 2011 by Amr El Beleidy
Caricature drawn by Sara Abd El Azim during the revolution, Photo: Sara Abd El Azim (Twitter @lujee), http://lewjee.blogspot.comCaricature drawn by Sara Abd El Azim during the revolution, Photo: Sara Abd El Azim (Twitter @lujee), http://lewjee.blogspot.com 

In the run up to the toppling of the then president Mohamed Hosny Mubarak, his parasitic group in power did their utmost to keep him in place. Government-controlled media took up mass propaganda by fabricating stories and advocating the ex-president’s merits.

The loyalists were using a message they thought would make most people quiet down, a message that had proven effective in the past – the president is your father.

It was a clever card to play, addressing the strong emotional bond between Egyptians and their families. A family in Egypt is widely seen as the building block of society, and its well-being is the number one priority to all its members.

Individuality is accepted so long as it does not harm or shame the family, at which point they have the right to intervene. But who decides what is harmful or shameful? The parents do, and traditionally the father has the last word.

Children are expected to love their parents unconditionally for life. And whether your parents treat you well or not, it’s a given you must learn to accept and deal with. Honour thy father and thy mother.

Kicking your father out of the house brings shame to you before anyone else. The government maintained that kicking the president out of power, in such a dishonourable way, would bring shame to the people. It would be unorthodox behaviour, and the president should stay for our own good.

But ‘I am your father’ is a phrase that could be used to insult. It implies an illicit relationship with the other person’s mother, the most sacred figure in any Egyptian family. Every time this message was repeated, I became furious and was even more determined than before to make the old man leave.

My father was the man sitting next to me as we watched the news on TV, and no one else has a claim to this right. Their message had backfired.

An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator touches a picture of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir squareFebruary 10, 2011, Photo: Picture alliance / © dpaAn Egyptian anti-government demonstrator touches a picture of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir squareFebruary 10, 2011, Photo: Picture alliance / © dpa 

There was a clash of realities. The revolutionaries in Tahrir square and throughout the country saw the ex-president as a man who is an employee of the people. They believed his job was to implement the people’s will. He believed his job was to will the people’s implementation.

He saw himself as our father, guiding us, with foresight and wisdom, through the perils of a world we were not ready to face by ourselves just yet. In these thirty years of emergency there was no room for discussion, all must obey. Those who don’t, risk putting us all in danger and must be dealt with accordingly.

In the end, the stronger reality prevailed.

But a revolution was not only happening on the streets, a revolution was and still is taking place in every home.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to suffered from similar issues to those I had with my parents. My father wanted me to stay in and not take part in the revolution. He did not believe the movement would get anywhere, and thought I was putting myself, our family and the whole country in unnecessary danger.

While I managed to leave home and join the streets, some friends were not able to do the same because their parents stopped them. Others were able to join but only on certain days or for a certain amount of time, depending on family dynamics.

But succeeding in overthrowing the largest symbol of controlling and abusive paternity in the country means that the younger generations have now won a crucial bet against the older ones.

We are not going to accept absolute power over our destinies anymore, whether from outside the house or inside, but I suspect the latter might take more than eighteen days to materialise.