It seemed like only weeks ago that conflict in Egypt was unheard of to me, yet here I was for the second time at a rally for Egypt in downtown Toronto. I turn to my Egyptian friend and ask her again, “So we’re here to show solidarity with the protesters in Egypt right?” “No, not quite. We’re also here to send a message to the American and Canadian governments,” she retorts.
At this point it had become obvious that I was taking part in a rally, or a protest -- or whatever they’re called lately-- but I hadn’t the slightest clue what I was doing there. Amid the chants of “One, two, three, four; Kick Mubarak out the door” I was probably one of the least informed people in the crowd and I have still only scratched at the surface. From what I gathered, this Mubarak was not a well-liked man. The principles of his regime were not liked by the people in the crowd, and his values were, to say the least, incongruent with those of the West. Last week alone, non-violent protesters were attacked by Mubarak supporters on camels and horses threatening to silence the people’s uprising. Canadian news reporters were implicated directly in the violence and shared their stories with the world. Governments of major influence in Europe were quick to denounce the violence and coercive tactics employed by Mubarak, but the U.S. and Canadian administration were slammed for their responses.
A revelation for a small-town student such as myself, conflicts are often multi-dimensional and express themselves on levels as powerful as the military and entrenched as faith. Some have called out the U.S. government for disingenuous pleas of non-violence. Clearly Obama doesn’t share the same political doctrine as Mubarak, but he seems hesitant to compromise his relationship with the Egyptian government. Others are empathetic to the balancing act the Obama administration is performing. Given our connection to U.S. and the alliance of the American and Egyptian armies, it is indeed a fine line for American and even Canadian officials to not sever these ties. Egypt is notably America’s most important ally in the Middle East, and its army supports the sovereignty of Israel. One way or the other, it looks like capitalism doesn’t always favour democracy, at least not with the apprehension to oil insecurity, military insecurities and conflicts between faiths.
These conflicts are much too deep for me to grasp in my passive approach to participation, especially in the two weeks that I have been following the people’s uprising. When asked by family and friends about these issues, from the rallies to the safety of my friend’s family, I am usually vague at best. As for my friend, she managed only last week to contact her mother via a Skype-to-cell call after phone lines and internet were cut out. Both her mother and grandmother were joining the protests in Tahrir Square the following morning.
So what was I doing, amid a crowd of strangers, chanting alongside them in bursts of “Five, six, seven, eight, Let Egyptians choose their fate”? From what I understood, people were there for many reasons, some dating past my life span, but most understandable to me was the right to freedom. “I think I support this too” I thought, but I don’t think I would have ever come out for this without a friend. It dawned on me that supporting my friend was microcosmically the very essence of the people coming together in Dundas Square, or Queens Park, or anywhere in the world staging rallies. These were groups of people coming together to support like-minded people in Egypt, whether it be for democracy, social justice, or friendship.