Ten years in the past I watched as protesters toppled Egypt’s brutal regime. Now their hopes of a brand new period of freedom lie in tatters

Ten years ago I watched as protesters toppled Egypt's brutal regime. Now their hopes of a new era of freedom lie in tatters


Just a few days after the revolutionary excessive of the 2011 anti-regime protests in Cairo, demanding the resignation of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the temper had shifted.

Professional-government thugs had been unleashed into the crowds. They began concentrating on demonstrators, journalists protecting the occasions, and Westerners. A few of them had entered our lodge.

We had been informed to pack our issues, cram into vehicles and drive from the Hilton, overlooking Tahrir Sq., to a comparatively safer lodge a number of kilometers away.

I shared a automobile with cameraman Joe Duran, who sat within the passenger seat, and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper within the again seat.

On the sixth October Bridge, a mob compelled our taxi to cease, and encircled us. They smashed the home windows. They threw rocks into the automobile. The motive force, surrounded by the violent attackers, appeared to freeze.

In Arabic, I bear in mind saying: “I gives you $500 for the home windows for those who maintain going.” I plucked that work out of skinny air. I nonetheless do not know why that quantity specifically got here to my thoughts. When he drove off, I assumed we had been protected.

We pulled into the doorway of the Marriott in our shattered automobile. Dazed, we made our manner into the foyer and registered on the entrance desk.

Quickly after, the New York Instances columnist Nick Kristof informed me some journalists had been altering the names they checked in with, in order that any thugs coming into the lodge demanding visitor lists would not know which rooms the international press had been in.

My identify is Arabic anyway, I assumed, so I must be positive. “Does it say CNN anyplace in your type?” I bear in mind Kristof asking me. I wasn’t certain, however I made a decision to danger it. No level in lingering too lengthy on the reception desk.

CNN's Anderson Cooper, Hala Gorani and Ben Wedeman anchored shows from Cairo during the Arab Spring in 2011.

That evening, we broadcast CNN’s particular protection from the ground of a lodge room. I bear in mind pondering it seemed like a hostage video. We might have many extra nights like this, together with a very tense night barricaded within the CNN Cairo bureau, a settee wedging the door shut.

I anchored hours of stay protection with our then bureau chief, the legendary Ben Wedeman, and Cooper. We sat huddled on digicam tools bins, illuminated with as weak a lightweight on our faces as potential, because the places of work wanted to look unoccupied from the surface.

Hopes for democracy

The federal government’s pushback towards the rebellion lasted a number of days.

The regime and its supporters tried to beat down the favored motion, however the military was not siding with Mubarak. As had been the case for many years in Egypt, it was in the end the generals that held the reins of energy. After they dropped Mubarak, all of us knew he would not final lengthy.

Massive crowds throng Cairo's Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring in February 2011.

On February 11, 2011, 17 days after the beginning of the protests, it was over: Hosni Mubarak stepped down. This could mark the start of a brand new period; the hope was that a long time of nepotism, corruption, police brutality and repression would give technique to one thing resembling democracy.

Just a few years later, I lined the 2013 Egyptian presidential election, which led to the victory of a Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi.

However, in the end, a revived army would crush the Islamists in 2013 and convey the military again to energy. They’d been there all alongside, tolerating what turned out to be solely a short experiment with democracy.

Misplaced — crushed even — on this tragic story are the unique protesters, who dreamed of a democracy that might characterize them.

Optimism crushed

Within the first few weeks of the rebellion, journalists like us shared of their optimism: Might this be actually the second the Arab world would, slowly and painfully, evolve right into a system that serves its personal folks, reasonably than the unelected autocrats who had drained their nations dry for many years?

Ten years in the past, we allowed ourselves to imagine it.

At present, a lot of those that had been on the frontlines of the protests are exiled, imprisoned, or worse.

Elsewhere within the area, there have been way more tragic outcomes.

In Syria, the regime crushed its personal residents’ cry for democracy with such brutality that peaceable protesters had been shortly changed by extremist rebels, preventing a authorities backed by outdoors forces for management of a shattered land.

At present, these of us who lined Egypt in 2011 nonetheless really feel the extraordinary emotion of these early days deeply.

There have been some scary moments however the historic significance of the occasions we had been documenting acted as rocket gasoline as we ran from mobs and hunkered down in lodge rooms.

However for the revolutionaries in Egypt and past, it wasn’t meant to be.

The Arab world, in some ways worse off than earlier than the Arab Spring, should wait for one more era to demand freedom from their leaders. And one can solely hope that this time, they are going to be victorious, if solely in order that the sacrifices of those that got here earlier than them is not going to have been in useless.



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