This was a difficult day. I awoke to the news of the lives lost to sectarian violence the night before in Muqattam. In light of this, rather than head directly to the Radio and Television Building where Copts have protested the burning of a Helwan church for the past several days, I thought I would spend time in Tahrir, in an effort to recall the hope and optimism that followed Mubarak’s departure. As my cab driver had related last night, I found Egyptians from all walks of life milling about the square, furiously discussing the future of the country, but agreed that both Copts and Muslims were essential to the success of the revolution.
Worthy of note was the transformation of the way in which young and old interact: There is a respect for the young the likes of which I have not seen in this country before. Whatever attitudes of condescension may have existed in the past are now often replaced by a profound respect for the enormous accomplishment the determination of the young has brought about. The old seem to hang on the words of the young in a way that is both moving and inspiring.
It was equally moving and inspiring to witness the Coptic protest in Maspero: Much like the revolutionaries of January 25, to whom they repeatedly acknowledged a great debt, these Copts were giving voice to long held but suppressed views. For one familiar with the internal politics of the Coptic community, the scene was unforgettable: Defying the wishes of the Church hierarchy and the traditional expectation of quiescence in the ‘national unity’ narrative, the Maspero protesters demanded, quite simply, acknowledgment of their concerns.
I returned to my hotel with a palpable sense of history in the making. Within hours, though, the young people I had heard chanting and debating in the morning were attacked in a scene reminiscent of the last days of the Mubarak regime.
A cry went up from the square that gave me chills, and I soon saw the banners and tents on the square (above left) torn to shreds by thugs (above right). ‘History in the making’ became ‘history repeated.’ The road ahead for the revolution is a long one, to be sure.