Egyptian protests: social networking in practice

Natasha Pugh

Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Jan. 25 in an anti-government protest motivated by rallying on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. There have been continuous demands for constitutional reform and an ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been Egypt’s authoritarian leader for the past 30 years. Demonstrations have been ongoing without an official leader, and Mubarak has lost legitimacy as citizens become excited for the prospect of forming a democracy.
The government has underestimated the sophistication and the will of Egyptian citizens in this countrywide movement. In an act to immobilize demonstrators, nearly all Internet access was blocked in the country – a risky move for the government since, for many businesses, the Internet is an integral part of daily communication and practices.
Political cohesion preceded the events of the protest; social networking sites and mass texts were catalysts for the growing discontent of the public. Even without Internet access, the movement stayed strong across Egypt – especially in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which has remained the main stage of demonstrations and demands to remove Mubarak.
In the first three weeks of protest, Mubarak has remained in the country and has refused to step down from his position to maintain order. In a recent negotiating meeting led by Vice President Omar Suleiman, organizers began to lay the framework of their demands for a new Egypt. Fifty prominent Egyptian leaders, representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood and the young organizers responsible for activism on Facebook were among those in attendance.
President Obama mentioned in an address regarding the crisis that the voice of Egypt’s youth has been heard. It appears that, for the first time in a long while, the people of Egypt have a sense of hope that they have the power to make their country what they want it to be. Online movements in Egypt, which were inspired by similar social networking initiatives in Tunisia that motivated a revolt – and the ousting of the Tunisian president – have been successful forms of demonstration.
These past few weeks in Cairo provide something that all of us can learn from. We all have the power to make change, whether it be big or small. It takes a strong will and a relentless spirit to keep such movements going. Egyptians appear to be going forward with their protest – moving a few of the thousands in Tahrir Square to parliament buildings to show their strength.
I continue to be inspired by and have admiration for the young, the old, the professionals, the men and the women who represent this movement. It is a real revolution in action and it does not appear to be losing steam anytime soon. It will be interesting to see what will happen to Mubarak and the next steps citizens will take to move their revolution forward. Protesters are running out of patience and expect nothing less than to see Mubarak gone.