Egyptian activists Ahmed Salah and Mahitab Elgilani shared their experiences in planning and participating in the Egyptian Revolution with the Swarthmore community on February 20, 2012. They spoke about the challenges and successes they have had in the January 2011 protests in Tahrir Square.
“There have been many groups [that have made] an impossible movement possible,” says Salah of the coalition behind the revolution which began in 2011. Salah described the strategy for motivating mass engagement among Egyptians of all ages. He asked himself, “Maybe we can solve the problem of people not being in the street, by giving the illusion there are already people in the street?” Thus, rather than begin protests in large places, then, Salah says the first protests were in back alleys and smaller streets. As the crowds wound through the smaller streets, they attracted more people, and moved to larger avenues. Thus, the movement grew exponentially.
Introducing Mahitab Elgilani, Salah referred to her as the movement’s “cover girl,” because her visible enthusiasm during protests often attracts the attention of photographers. Elgilani reported that protesters have faced physical violence and chemical weapons, some of which are made in the United States. At other times, protesters have received poisoned food. She said, “Despite all this the Egyptian Revolution, since January 25th, has remained nonviolent.” She continued, “Every time a martyr falls, it creates a wave in the streets which causes hundreds more to come down for justice.”
Salah encouraged the audience to write to their congressional representatives and ask that the US government stop allowing the Egyptian military’s money into the country. “You can do a lot,” Salah tells students in closing. “Politicians need to be reelected…if you write emails to your representatives in the Congress, in the White House, this may work.”
Salah, an Egyptian Revolutionary, was the executive director of The House of New Future Center for Legal and Human Rights Studies in Egypt and works as a freelance translator on the side. Salah was one of the co-founders of the Kifaya Movement (the Egyptian Movement for Change) in 2004 and remained a member of the Coordinators Council of Kifaya until mid-2008. He led the first, and only, youth movement in Egypt during the years 2005-2006, called Youth for Change. In addition, he is also the co-founder, strategist, ideologist, and foreign affairs representative of the April 6 Youth Movement, which launched in August 2008 until November 2010. In these capacities, Salah was able to coordinate political activists to stand in opposition to the Mubarak regime and served as a principle organizer for the January 25th revolution. At present, he is working hard to create democratic representation from across Egypt, and to continue with the Egyptian Revolution until its complete success, serving as the head of The Coalition of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.
The non-violent struggle for democracy in Egypt continues.