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Egypt’s days of despair

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Adel Heine’s weekly column

Adel Heine

It has been a dark week. As the winter returned, so did violence and death and all with a vengeance. All over the country people stood up to be heard, on the frontlines, in demonstrations or on makeshift football pitches. Standing up for what they believe in or for what they are against, they flocked together in peaceful marches and pitched battles in complete disregard for possible danger or dire consequences.

Many of them were hurt and many lost their lives. They believed it to be the only way left to stand up for their rights, having lost hope that there is a less costly way to deliver their message.

Hope is extraordinary; it fills us with anticipation that something good is on its way and it gives us the strength, tenacity or sheer stubbornness to live through terrible times. It allows us to have faith that all might still be well, even if current circumstances would indicate the very opposite, and it holds us back from the brink of despair.

When I was young we would take family vacations to France to experience a different environment, good food and most of all sunshine. I grew up where the summer usually falls on a weekday and I remember running to the window each morning, full of happy anticipation that there would be sunshine on the other side of the curtains. When familiar rain would greet me instead I would be disappointed, yet the next day my dash to check the weather would be just as enthusiastic as the day before. I hoped.

Later, during my nursing days, I encountered hope in many forms and nearly always against all odds. Patients would come to the ER because they felt very sick, yet part of them hoped we would tell them it was just a flu and no complicated medical procedures would be necessary. Couples struggling with infertility would hold hands as they embarked on their fourth round of treatments, determinedly telling themselves that this time it would work. Results from scans and biopsies were dreaded by people suffering from unspeakable diseases, yet they would cling tenaciously to the small chance it would work out in their favour. They hoped.

There have been many times my hopes have been dashed, an expression that makes the pain that causes sound a lot more fun than it is. Sometimes it was over little things, like not getting a job I really wanted or something highly unlikely that I did not take too seriously, like winning the lottery. Other times it hurt badly; when someone I loved told me they no longer felt the same. Even after being warned to not get my hopes up I have let them soar, to be bitterly disappointed by betrayal. And I had to accept that all the hope in the world would not keep a parent safe from an illness that ended up taking her life. For a while I was hopeless.

Sometimes big events happen people around the world can share. When Obama won the American elections the first time I remember his acceptance speech. The joy of his supporters was palpable and many were in tears and we watched what had always seemed impossible happen. And for a few days optimism abounded. If a country where segregation ended just over 50 years ago could overcome its history and elect a black man president, as people we should be able to overcome our differences was a shared sentiment at the time. For just a few brief days we had hope.

And for a while after 11 February 2011 Egypt was filled with hope. What nobody had really believed could happen did; collectively Egyptians had stood up for their freedom and their dignity and brought down a regime that seemed unmovable. For a little while people dreamed of a brighter future, of possibilities, of equality and the chance on a better life. They hoped and it was beautiful to see.

Sadly it did not last long and the events of this week were an accumulation of broken promises, lies and political shenanigans that left nearly every person in the country worse off than before. And after allowing themselves to believe, they got their hearts broken, over and over again.

This last week we have seen people who have nothing left to lose. They despair they will ever find fairness and justice, dignity and respect and a chance to care properly for their loved ones.

I never thought I would see the people of Egypt devoid of hope but this week I have. And it is heartbreaking.

About the author

Adel Heine

Adel Heine

DNE Art & Culture, and Lifestyle Editor


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