Naira Badawi’s phone has been ringing non-stop.
Among those calling? Her fiancé, Egyptian-American Amr Taha, was in Tahrir Square when the announcement of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was made. Taha has been camping in the centre of Cairo on and off since the anti-Mubarak protests began.
“He’s celebrating with every other Egyptian in the square! We’re ecstatic. We’ve been waiting for this all our lives,” Badawi said.
As news of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation travelled around the world, Egyptian Canadians gathered to celebrate. Hundreds assembled tonight in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square.
Badawi said she and fellow Egyptians are celebrating a “victory.” Although they are happy with the end result, Badawi said many have paid the price for a “free” Egypt. With thousands of injured and hundreds dead in the three-week old protest, she was worried about her fiancé.
Badawi, who helped organize the rallies in Ottawa and Toronto two weeks ago, remembers when phone lines were shut down in Egypt on Jan. 28. Two days later, Taha called her and told her what had happened to him that day.
“He was going to pray, but before the prayers could even start eight policemen came up to him and beat him,” she said. “They threw him into a truck with other men and drove them to a political prison.”
Taha said that they were blind-folded and interrogated, she said.
“They were treating him and everyone else very civil in the prison. He didn’t take his American passport with him,” Badawi said. “He wanted to be Egyptian. He didn’t want to get any kind of immunity.”
Taha, who is studying dentistry at the Modern Sciences and Arts University in Cairo, met Badawi, a student of political science and philosophy at the University of Toronto, through mutual friends in Toronto. Taha’s relatives in Egypt are relatively well-off, while Badawi’s are poor. However, Badawi said that life for all Egyptians was getting unbearable.
“Life in Egypt is one big struggle. The unemployment rate is insane. You might have an engineering degree or a business degree and you still might never get a job,” she said. “It makes people not even bother. It diminishes their ability to aspire to do anything.”
But unlike previous generations, the new generation of Egyptians decided to do something, she said.
“The previous generations were too scared to do something. If we expressed any kind of decent to our parents … they would say, ‘Don’t even bother. You’re going to get killed. We’re going to get killed.’ They weren’t willing to lose everything for their country like our generation is. It was worth it.”
When the protests started, Taha’s mother told him not to attend the demonstrations. But Taha went anyway. Once his mother saw that it was an amazing success, she changed her mind, Badawi said.
“She actually called him up and asked if she could meet him,” Badawi laughed. “She ended up going out and protesting with her husband and her son.”
With Mubarak gone, Badawi thinks Egypt can start over. Badawi talked to Taha while she was at the Yonge-Dundas celebrating. After 18 days, he’s finally at home. He’s absolutely ecstatic and he’s lost his voice completely, she said.
“He said the atmosphere was beautiful. Everybody was just so united. Everybody was so happy. They were having talks about what was going to happen in the future for Egypt. He said he’s never seen that sort of discussion and dialogue among Egyptians.”
Badawi and Taha are not planning on getting married anytime soon, but when they do they want to start their new lives in Egypt. Badawi said that they were planning on living there even before Mubarak’s resignation, but this is just makes their plans even greater.
“It’s going to affect (future generations) beautifully,” she said. “They’re so lucky that we have this laid out for them before they’re even born.”