On January 18th, 2011, a brave women named Asmaa Mahfouz started a successful viral attack on the Egyptian government through a video of herself passionately calling for all to come and protest on January 25th, for men to prove their support, for those that thought it was hopeless to create hope, and for Egypt to reclaim its flag and freedom. Inspired by the fall of the first of the Arab Spring state’s governments in Tunisia, on January 14th 2011, Mahfouz continued the fight for all Egyptians in this extremely public expression of discontent. Public dissent was severely punished, and this punishment hushed most citizens of various Arab Spring countries, into silence, terrified of expressing any ill opinion they might feel towards the regime. Mahfouz, however, embraced this fear, and the oppression and censorship of protestor campaigns only fueled Mahfouz’s desire to get her message across. This was the beginning to Mahfouz becoming a pillar in the Egyptian revolution, and in world activism.
“If we still have honor, and want to live in dignity on this land, we have to go down on January 25th” (Iyadelbaghdadi 2011). This line from Mahfouz’s initial video highlights the passion in her voice, in her face, and in her presence as spoke to many Egyptians. On January 25th, due to the power of her presence, there were hundreds that were present in Tahrir Square. The men, women and youth that showed at the square exemplified the heart of the protest, not only their pleading desires to have a fair government, but also doing so in a well-mannered, nonviolent way. Contrary to the name January 25th 2011 in Egypt obtained, The Day of Rage, this protest was designed and carried out as a peaceful movement. An original organizer of this day, Wael Ghonim, even said, “we are not promoting chaos or destruction or attacks on any public or private property…We are taking to the streets to demand our rights; we will protest, stage a sit-in, and defend ourselves only if we are attacked” (Ghonim, 154). The idea of peaceful protest that Mahfouz, and others such as Ghonim, encouraged others to join into is exactly what happened when this day came, sit ins, prayers and chants, but a striking absence of protester violence. Mahfouz knew, as an experienced political activist, that a peaceful protest shows the stark difference between the activists and the violent regime, and is therefore all the more powerful. Through her work as a founder of the April 6 Youth Movement starting in 2008, and participation in many events demanding human rights, such as the days of silence in the memory of Khaled Said, Mahfouz used this experience to inspire and organize a pivotal piece of the fall of Egypt’s regime. Although through all of this political action Mahfouz faced personal oppression from the government, such as restrictions on flights in and out of the country, and by the time of the January 25th revolution, she was under the impression that if she even left her house she would be detained by secret police instantly (The Cairo Post 2014), Mahfouz continued to proclaim her presence in the fight for Egyptian freedom. This endurance and passion is what made Mahfouz’s supporters add to the huge crowed on January 25th, which then lead to the resignation of Mubarak and the fall of the regime. Although after January 25th and the days following Mahfouz admitted that she had expected more, and was disappointed by the military taking power after Mubarak’s fall, this did not mean she was done with this cause (EuroparltvEnglish 2012). She continues today speaking for human rights, for Egypt, and for peace, never letting small downfalls discourage her, for she is Asmaa the brave.
The first resource that I was interested in finding this amazing women was the first video Mahfouz posted, on January 18th 2011, asking for others to join her in this protest on the 25th of that month. One of many copies this particular video was from one Iyadelbaghdadi’s YouTube account, along with the initial call to action the three-minute video also goes into the reasons for the protest and the unrest in Egypt. This source both gives me insight of why she is advocating for the situation, and what the situation actually is, the situation being the unjust treatment of citizens by the Egyptian regime. Another resource that I used to understand Mahfouz’s story was EuroparltvEnglish. This was a video interview with Mahfouz after accepting the Sakharov Prize for freedom of speech, and she spoke to what the honor meant to her, and referenced her video from 2011 leading to the revolution thereafter. Finally, an article by Democracy Now! Gave a commentary on the video that Mahfouz initially posted, from a third party view. I use this for a different perspective on the video itself and the situation. Through this third party view, with no direct interview with Mahfouz, it gives a new angle on how people interpreted the video, as well as showing how far the video and Mahfouz’s word spread. Although I encountered and used several other sources, including two books written on The Arab Springs, these three built the foundation of knowledge and perspective for my research on Asmaa Mahfouz.
Al Jazeera. “Is Another Revolution Brewing in Egypt.” Al Jazeera English. January 24, 2016. Accessed October 15, 2016. Aljazeera.com
Democracy Now! “Asmaa Mahfouz & the YouTube Video That Helped Spark the Egyptian Uprising.” YouTube. February 8, 2011. Accessed October 15, 2016. Democracynow.org
El-Naggar, Mona. “Equal Rights Takes to the Barricades.” The New York Times Company. February 1, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2016. Nytimes.com
EuroparltvEnglish. “Interview: The Fight Is Not over — Asmaa Mahfouz.” YouTube. October 10, 2012. Accessed October 15, 2016. Youtube.com
Frontline Staff. “April 6 Youth Movement.” PBS. February 22, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2016. Pbs.org
Gelvin, James L. The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Ghonim, Wael. Revolution 2.0. the Power of the People Is Greater than the People in Power: A Memoir. London: Fourth Estate, 2012.
Iyadelbaghdadi. “Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the Vlog That Helped Spark the Revolution.” YouTube. February 1, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2016. Youtube.com
J, S. “Children of the Revolution.” The Economist Newspaper. June 21, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2016. Economist.com
Morgan, Robin. “Ms. Magazine | Women of the Arab Spring | Spring 2011.” Ms. Magazine. April, 201. Accessed October 14, 2016. Msmagazine.com
The Cairo Post. “Activist Asmaa Mahfouz Barred from Leaving Egypt.” The Cairo Post. October 23, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2016. Thecairopost.com
“Women in the forefront of protests in Tahrir Square.” by “Mohammed Omer” Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic (CC0 1.0). Accessed 3 November 2016. Flickr.com
Student Author: Mellea Mead (Social Work; Champlain College)
Bio: I am a 3rd year social work major at Champlain College, and a human loving life.
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams, Ph.D., Champlain College Faculty Advisor