Friday marked the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution and once again anti-government protesters took to the streets.
Writer and activist Nahla Samaha was among them.
Samaha didn’t march on Tahrir Square two years ago, she was giving birth at the time to her twin girls. She did, however, watch the revolution unfold from her hospital room in Cairo.
“I actually thought why were these people wasting their time demonstrating or protesting? It’s not like it’s going to get them anywhere.”
She continued to watch the revolution unfold from her TV set until last December when she watched the clashes at the presidential palace.
“That’s when I decided to take to the streets.”
Today, Samaha feels split about her dual roles as activist and mother. She talks with anchor Marco Werman about that divide and whether she and her family will stay in this new Egypt or leave for a more stable life.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. Egypt today marked two years since the start of its revolution. Once again thousands of anti-government protesters marched to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, but this time they chanted against Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and demanded quicker democratic reform. Writer and activist Nahla Samaha was among the protesters in Tahrir Square today
Nahla Samaha: The atmosphere was amazing. People from all walks of life.
Werman: Young people? Old people? A mix?
Samaha: Young people, old people, even some people brought their toddlers. Senior citizens, rich, poor.
Werman: What about the reaction from passersby who were not taking part in the demonstrations?
Samaha: As we walked through streets with residential buildings, and all the residents were looking out their windows and balconies, we would chant up to them, “[foreign language],” which means “come down, come down,” asking them to join as well. A lot of people in the balconies were waving flags, applauding us, so there was a general sense of support.
Werman: Nahla, two years ago you were not protesting, but for an activist you have a pretty good excuse.
Samaha: Two years ago I was delivering my twins in a hospital here in Cairo, and I was watching on TV at the hospital, and I had no idea what was going on, and I actually thought, you know, why are these people wasting their time demonstrating or protesting? Itâ€™s not like itâ€™s going to get them anywhere.
Werman: What was the turning point then for you? When did you get involved?
Samaha: All my friends were going to the [foreign language] during the core time of the revolution. It was everywhere, on all the political talk shows, social media, so there was no way of avoiding it. And then during last December’s clashes at the [foreign language], which is the presidential palace, we were actually watching it on live TV, watching the violence up close. That’s when I decided to take to the streets.
Werman: So how did it feel marching today?
Samaha: On a regular day walking down the street I might be slightly on the defensive. I don’t interact much with Egyptians on the street from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. There’s a great divide between the social classes in Egypt, but a demonstration or a march brings together people from different social classes, eliminates all these differences, and unites us all in one desire to live freely, democratically, and not in fear.
Werman: So Nahla, your twin girls are turning two. When you look to their future in Egypt, what do you see?
Samaha: Unfortunately, I’m not too optimistic about the immediate future. They are my priority, and if they cannot get the kind of quality of life and safety and security and education that I would like them to get here in Egypt, then we will most likely try to find a good life somewhere else.
Werman: So if you do leave, what will you tell your daughters, say, in 20 years, when they ask you why you didn’t want to stay in your country of birth?
Samaha: What I will tell them is what my parents told me when at some point we left as well, and I had moved to Canada as a young kid, because I wanted to give you a better life. Whether it was the right or wrong decision, it was the best decision I could make. I really am hoping I don’t have to leave, because as much as things like education and health care are better in other parts of the world, there is nothing like being in your own home country, you know?
Werman: Yeah, it may sound easy to say right now to them, but those are really complex considerations.
Samaha: Definitely, especially coming from our culture, living somewhere else, where you have to sort of reconcile two different cultures, one outside the house and one inside of the house. It’s difficult for child growing up, having been through it myself, but this might be a choice my husband and I will have to make at some point.
Werman: Nahla, thank you very much for speaking with us.
Samaha: No problem, not at all.
Werman: That was Egyptian activist Nahla Samaha speaking to us from Cairo. You can see her video from today’s demonstrations in Tahrir Square at TheWorld.org.
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