Sunday, February 06, 2011

Email from an ordinary citizen in Egypt

There's a revolt in Egypt and suddenly everybody on the internets is an expert on Middle East policy. While there are more than a few truly informed commentators out there, Frank Rich echoed my reaction to the explosion of armchair experts:
A month ago most Americans could not have picked Hosni Mubarak out of a police lineup. American foreign policy, even in Afghanistan, was all but invisible throughout the 2010 election season. ... And so now — as the world’s most unstable neighborhood explodes before our eyes — does anyone seriously believe that most Americans are up to speed? Our government may be scrambling, but that’s nothing compared to its constituents. After a near-decade of fighting wars in the Arab world, we can still barely distinguish Sunni from Shia.
It's not so easy to filter through the noise to get to the relevant views, but a long time list-serv friend just started a blog and her inaugural post reprints an email from an ordinary citizen in Alexandria. Read it in full for a real life view from inside but a couple of the salient points. For one, the author tells us not to believe the media, particularly Al Jazeera. She says the protests have been more peaceful than chaotic. Not that there isn't any violence though:
What we cannot understand is that ALL the jails in Egypt were forced open at the SAME time and prisoners released (incl. political prisoners and criminals) and let loose on the Egyptian population. We were in fear for our lives when we heard via TV the screams of Cairo inhabitants, particularly in Maadi, asking for help and protection from robbers who went into their homes en masse.
However, they apparently think it's been worth it:
The overall feeling is that, while this revolution has come at the cost of many losing their lives, everyone has a sense that it has shaken the country from the stagnation we felt it was going through and we are all hopeful that it will bring the changes that we aspire to.
I hope she's right.

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