By Farah Yousry
CAIRO: As jokes comparing the Egyptian regime with its Tunisia counterpart abounded on the streets, serious open discussion of a potential revolution in Egypt was harder to find.
Cautious happiness was the best description of the most prevalent sentiment on Egypt’s streets after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s president for over 23 years, bowed to civil unrest and fled the country.
While some were not sympathetic with the looting and violence that took the Tunisian streets by storm, others regarded it as collateral damage in the road to a brighter future.
Amr Mohamed, a fuul sandwich vender in his mid-30s, said, “I am happy about it … but the riots and the violence that happened in Tunisia are unacceptable.”
Mohamed added that something similar is highly unlikely to happen in Egypt, explaining that Egyptians’ fears over being handcuffed the next morning is what restrains most from acting the same way as Tunisians.
“I go home and sleep without getting involved in anything,” he added. “[It’s] better [to] be safe than sorry.”
Many of those interviewed on Sunday were reluctant to talk openly about their opinions or their feelings regarding recent Tunisian events. Some expressed their wish that a similar revolution would happen in Egypt. Others gave various interpretations of the latest news in Tunisia and provided a wide variety of justifications for the recent presidential upheaval.
Khaled Hammad, a shipping company worker in his mid-30s, voiced his hopes for Egypt’s political future yet simultaneously provided reasons as to why a similar revolution would be more difficult in Egypt.
“[Tunisians] are influenced by the French,” Hammad said. “If I were to start a revolution here in Egypt, a thousand people would turn me in.”
He explained that due to the large population of Egypt in comparison to Tunisia, social and economic gaps are bigger in Egypt. According to Hammad, if he “as a simple person thinks of starting a similar revolution, those who are well-off would not support the cause” and would prevent the revolution from being effectively carried out.
Though revolutionary aspirations seemed to have tickled the imagination of many, fear still held a significant presence.
When asked, many declined to comment on the record and said that they do not want to get involved in any political activities, including the open expression of their feelings and thoughts regarding Tunisia.
A middle-class 63-year-old woman in a pastry shop — who refused to provide her name out of fear that she would be held accountable for her quote — said that something similar was not likely to happen in Egypt.
The woman added, “Mubarak is loved and people would not do that to him.”
She also stated that Tunisians surely have valid reasons for their civil disobedience, but Egyptians under Mubarak’s rule do not.
“I am an old lady,” she stated. “Go ask younger people. They are the ones who will witness the future of the country.”
Nour Al-Ghamry, an 18-year-old political science student at Cairo University, said that she is genuinely happy that people in the Arab world were able to “stand up for their rights.”
“I wish I could witness something similar soon,” Al-Ghamry said. –Additional Reporting by Yasminah ElSayed.