My journey began in Tunisia. The Libyan war had just started, meanwhile, refugee camps were being set up in Al Choucha near the Lybian border for those fleeing the conflict. This was my first taste of what was a direct consequence of the uprising against the Gaddafi regime.
From there, I visited Morocco. At the time, the country was voting on a referendum to accept the proposed changes to the constitution as put forth by the King of Morocco. Despite protests demanding more ‘real’ changes, the answer was a resounding “yes”.
Afterwards, I went to Egypt, where I was confronted with a waining revolutionary movement and disillusion. “We have fought the concrete enemy, now we must fight the enemy within,” someone had told me in Tahrir hinting towards the revolution’s dismantling spirit at the time. The people of Egypt, however, were tired. They wanted life to resume without protests and distractions.
It felt like a volcano ready to erupt at the hint of anything that would jeopardize the revolution’s demands —Alexandros Demetriades
Soon after, I went back to Tunisia to cover the first democratically held elections. The mood was wonderful and people where more than excited about their country’s future. They were the first in the region to have made it this far . The Tunisian economy is still in disarray and the revolution has done little so far to elevate the people’s lives there.
I returned to Egypt to cover the Egyptian elections. People were hopeful that the worst was behind them. It felt like a volcano ready to erupt at the hint of anything that would jeopardize the revolution’s demands—requiring the army to step aside and cede power to an elected civilian authority. Things often spiraled out of control and clashes ensued killing dozens of people.
A year has passed since the first clashes in Cairo in January 25, 2011 erupted, which eventually led to the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. What was to be the celebration and homage to the martyrs that so willingly gave up their lives for the sake of democracy turned out to be a different reality altogether. Even though the general consensus amongst the people was that the army had to step down, the rise of the Islamists who controlled 70% of the votes in the newly elected parliament presented a new force in the political life of the country. Tahrir—the heart of the revolution—was split in two: on one corner the Islamists celebrated their parliamentary victory and forged an alliance with the army; opposite to them were the liberals, who were marginalized by the results trying to find their place in the new emerging political life of the country.
People have made it clear that their voices will not be silenced any longer. Blood that was spilled in the name of democracy must now begin to ‘mean’ something in the eyes of those that have survived and bear the scars of the recent past. The long and hard battles fought and won are but one piece of the democratic puzzle. All must now face the realities of what this change could mean and the reconciliations that need to be made to make it work.
Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia have each reached the point of no return. It will be a difficult and prolonged road with many uncertainties that has only just begun.