It was both thrilling and strange to hear the song Teslam al-Ayadi (which is dedicated to the Egyptian armed forces) as we approached the U.N. headquarters in New York. The sound increased as we neared. We could also hear people chanting enthusiastically for Egypt as the song played. When we arrived there, we saw that many were so excited they could not hold back their tears. There were men, women, children, Muslims and Copts. All of them chanted enthusiastically as they genuinely smiled.
These people celebrated the restoration of their country although they are thousands of miles away. They celebrated the restoration of a hijacked country which all Egyptians thought would remain in an unrestored state. But it was God’s will that the country’s own sons protect it and save it from an unknown future. The country was thus liberated by the people and the army and we restored what we thought was lost forever. It thus made sense to find a banner reading “our army is the people and our people is the army.” The expression seems complicated but it truly expresses the Egyptians’ feelings. All Egyptians realized this truth which some tried to conceal. Circumstances that surrounded Egypt during the past years helped achieve the latter aim and crated some sort of separation between the people and the army. But proper understanding and trust in the army’s role in forming the Egyptian state was restored. The Egyptians rediscovered their army. They thus wiped the dust off the eternal relationship between the army and the people.
As a group, which included well-known artists and media and political figures, marched towards the rally, a Black-American man with a beard decided to walk with the group and insisted, in a strange manner, on chanting against the army and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Abdelfattah al-Sissi. He refused to hear any other opinion and he remained as such for about 15 minutes - which is how long it took us to reach the location of the rally in front of the U.N.. I linked this scene to what I later learnt; that many mosques during Friday prayers called for protests the following day - the same day of the protest in support of the Egyptians’ choice and decisions.
Egyptians rediscovered their army. They wiped the dust off the eternal relationship between the army and the peopleAbdel Latif el-Menawy
But, the former protest was called on in order to voice support for the Muslim Brotherhood. New York did in fact witness two protests at the same time. But the difference between them was huge. The one in support of the Egyptians’ choice was full of happiness and hope as a result of restoring the country. You can sense the amount of pride felt about belonging to Egypt. The other protest however was dominated by anger, sadness and depression. But the biggest difference between the two protests lied in the nature of protesters. Those who participated in the former one were all Egyptians. The latter protest included some Egyptians who are deceived and incapable of properly eyeing the situation and thus committed to obedience. The majority of people who participated in this protest were Pakistanis and Afghanis in addition to other nationalities. The huge expenditure on this protest failed to conceal the truth that these protesters are not defending a country but are implementing the orders of an organization either out of conviction or in exchange of financial benefits.
One of the scenes that touched me is when an old man insisted to talk to me. I headed towards him to see what he wants. He warmly welcomed me and said in a mixture of worry, happiness and fear: “take care of Egypt. Please take care of it. Don’t lose it again.”
On our way back, an Egyptian family stopped us to ask about the location of the rally. Their young boy who was around six-years-old was wearing a costume that resembles a military outfit. We directed them to where the rally was and I gave the boy the flag I had with me so he can raise it as he shares with the real Egyptians their happiness and pride in themselves, their army and their country.
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Oct. 2, 2013.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy
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