Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Accidental Journey, Part Two

I did say a couple of days ago, that I was going to let you know how Magdi has been. As you will recall in Part One, I said that Magdi had told me about Egypt's troubled political environment, long before the revolution there. Corruption and cronyism were the rule of the day in the Mubarak regime. A state of emergency had lasted for decades, in order for this dictator to hold power and he enforced  that with his military and security police.
When I first began to talk with Magdi, a group of young activists called 6 April had been planning protests against the government, demanding the state of emergency be lifted and elections held.
Magdi was attempting to help them organize, mainly through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Mind you, that kind of activity could get a person in deep trouble with the government. Of course, this was news to me! All I knew of the politics there was that Egypt and Israel had a peace treaty. I am actually old enough to remember that piece of history forged by Carter, Sadat, and Begin. What I was clueless about was the internal state of Egypt. With a rapidly growing population and rampant corruption, the economy was suffering terribly and unemployment was very high. But, if one tried to affect political change, he could look forward to being arrested, with a lengthy jail sentence resulting, complete with torture. I will simply say that Magdi was more than a little familiar with this.
As these members of 6 April, most of them university students, began to hold their protests, I would ask every Sunday for my church to pray for them. I asked them to pray for Magdi, and anyone else working on behalf of human rights. I would then follow the reports in the Middle East news media, as here in the U.S., no one was paying attention. Student protesters were routinely beaten and arrested by the security police at these gatherings, though they were unarmed and demonstrating peacefully.
Because of all this, when the "Arab Spring" erupted in Tunisia and quickly spread to Egypt, I was not all that surprised, and  in fact, I was delighted! Many people in America were baffled and crying that "Islamic extremism" was taking over in the region. Now, with part of the seats in the new parliament occupied by the formerly outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, hysteria about all of this has only increased in the West. We tend to forget how messy America's own revolution was, and the fact that the British most certainly thought us nothing but a rag tag bunch of armed extremists.
As for Magdi, he continues to struggle to make positive changes happen in Egypt. He was beaten last year by the police in a particularly bad incident, detained, and his cell phone confiscated to get rid of the video he had captured on it. Yet, as soon as his stitches had healed, he was back in Tahrir Square for another round. So it goes with my brother! I worry for his safety much of the time, but I am proud of him, as well. We are not able to chat  nearly as often as we used to. Even more rarely, we talk on the phone( he got a new one!). The situation in Egypt continues to be fluid and not really stable at this point. Some there have expressed to me that they are very frustrated. I remind them, though, how long America fought and then, how long it took to draft a working Constitution. Another full year went by after that before we had a Bill of Rights. So, I tend to be patient as I watch this play out and I still think there is great cause for hope. I believe Magdi sees it, too.
I smile as I write this, remembering something he said to me once. I always loved to tease him-it's a "sister thing". One day, I was hinting around,( not so subtly) asking if he had a lady friend waiting in the wings. He has never married. He said no, and we laughed. Then he said "I am married to Egypt".
It was a bitter sweet moment. I had mentioned more than once that I thought he should make a new life in America some day. He would say "maybe" or that he would "love to visit". But, on this day, there it was, in all its brutal yet tender honesty. He had a wife, or at least a mistress, keeping him there. Now, I knew her name and it was obvious he was going to love her, nurture and defend her, and never leave her. Yes, she is called Egypt, and her middle name is Freedom.

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