Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Egypt activists recall Mubarak ouster as a distant dream

10 February 2016, 08:00

Cairo - As the sun began to set on February 11, 2011, the protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square wavered between hope and despair, waiting for a signal that Egypt's autocrat would step down.

Hosni Mubarak had been expected to resign the day before, after 30 years in power. Instead, he delivered a truculent speech insisting he would stay on until September.

But the military had already decided his fate: he would have to go after days of protests had paralysed the country. So just before sunset, the announcement came.

Mubarak was gone, the army was now in control and Cairo exploded in euphoric celebration. Five years later, that day has a dreamlike quality for activists who say they are now living through the darkest times of their lives.

Also Read: Sisi regime eclipses Mubarak's 5 years after Egypt revolt

"I was ecstatic," said Mona Seif, a human rights campaigner who was in Tahrir Square that night.

Seif said she knew then that activists like her still had a struggle ahead. But she told AFP she thought "the hardest thing has passed", referring to Mubarak's overthrow.

There are now more activists in prison than at any point during Mubarak's reign. Seif has a brother behind bars -- prominent leftwing activist Alaa Abdel Fattah -- and her sister Sanaa was in jail until being pardoned recently.

Their father, Ahmed Seif, died in 2014 with both children incarcerated. Egypt's preeminent human rights lawyer, he spent his last year alive in courtrooms, trying to free them and other activists.

Alaa and Sanaa were allowed to attend his funeral, but wearing white prison garb.

Bloodiest crackdown

Egypt is now ruled by another leader who came from the military.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected in 2014 after overthrowing the unpopular Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and unleashing the bloodiest crackdown on dissent in the country's modern history.

Protests that are not approved by the police are banned. Alaa, Sanaa and many other activists were jailed for violating that law.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly Morsi supporters, have been shot dead in the streets, and the government is locked in a war with Islamist jihadists who have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

Reports of police abuses are also on the rise.

Also Read: Gazan killed in tunnel collapse on Egypt border

Activists who had remained sanguine as the country lurched from one crisis to another after Mubarak's ouster are now reluctant even to talk about that day.

"No, leave me alone. It's too depressing," one dissident told AFP.

For them, February 11 was not just about removing a dictator, although that in itself had been unimaginable just 18 days previously when the protests began.

It was also about empowerment, social justice and self respect in a country that brimmed with daily humiliations and abuses by corrupt officials and police.

"The nature of despair (now) is so different," said Seif.

"Under Mubarak, you didn't have a lot of hope. But you haven't experienced a moment with the full potential of hope and open space and then the fall down from it."

'The undoing'

Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, was also in the square on February 11 five years ago.

"This is the undoing of what they accomplished," he said of what has happened since.

"What makes it so difficult to stomach and upsetting is not simply that the situation is very bad right now, but the fact that for a brief moment we created an opening, we forced open political space and public discourse."

Heba Morayef, a prominent rights defender who went to Tahrir to celebrate Mubarak's ouster, remembers that day as "pure joy".

But "very soon we were back to doing the usual work as human rights activists".

Also Read: HRW denounces Egypt minister's 'mass killing' comment

Rights activists fought abuses and military trials during the interim period of army rule until mid-2012, and then were busy during Morsi's year in power, which was marred by crackdowns on opponents.

Many leftwing dissidents who had led the anti-Mubarak protests supported the massive rallies demanding Morsi's overthrow in the days before his ouster in July 2013.

What confronted them next was a pit of despair in which talk of human rights was practically portrayed as treason by pro-government media.

"I can imagine change in the future, but it's difficult to see change in a positive direction," said Morayef, the associate director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Despite this, Seif says she will always cherish what she experienced on February 11, 2011.

"Whatever comes, no matter how harsh it is, you can't just go back and regret feeling it."



Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...