Anyone who knows me knows how proud I am to refer to the River Nile of Egypt as my mother and the Great Pyramids as my uncles.
And they also know that even though I love my Egyptian roots and culture, I am proud to call myself an American, too.
Both countries have given me so much for which to be thankful.
But today, I can’t tell you how honored and dignified I am to be an Egyptian — to say I am one of the people brave enough to risk their lives for freedom. I like knowing that, all along, I was one of those people.
Even before I was born, President Hosni Mubarak was in control of Egypt. He’s been sucking its wealth and oppressing its people, ensuring his family and friends’ abundance while the masses struggle.
Only 5% of Egyptians realize the country’s wealth. The rest are without hope, freedom and, worst of all, opportunity.
Young Egyptians who graduate from college can’t find jobs in their fields, and the ones who do struggle. I wanted to be a newspaper journalist since I was 9 years old, long before I came to the United States. But my potential could sadly have never come to fruition had I stayed in Egypt.
What I long for is the same opportunities for my Egyptian people, for my cousins and uncles who live there, and for my former classmates. And now it looks like they will get it.
I spoke to my uncle, Gamal Mandour, and one of my cousins, Mariem Mandour, in Egypt on the phone Thursday night. Khalo (Uncle) Gamal said the government shut down access to Facebook, but the phone lines were still working.
A huge protest was planned after the Friday prayer, he said.
Khalo Gamal said the people, especially the young, are just fed up, and that all of this was bound to happen.
The protests have set up a storm of events, he said. Even if things were to calm down, this is the root of a new beginning in Egypt, Khalo Gamal said.
The people weren’t willing to back down, regardless of the brutal police response.
On Friday morning, I tried calling him again on his cell phone but couldn’t get through. I worried.
So, I called my other uncle, Mohamed Mandour, who lives here in Southern California and is following the news closely. He said I should try the landline.
I did. I got through.
I was relieved to speak with my cousins, Bilal and Khadija, then with Khalo Gamal.
Khadija said if you stand on the balcony for just a few minutes, your eyes will burn from the tear-gas bombs the police have been firing at protesters.
My family lives in Shubra, in the heart of Cairo, which is only a few miles away from Tahrir Square, where thousands of protesters gathered.
Khalo Gamal said Mubarak would be addressing the nation on television.
I asked him what he would like to hear Mubarak say. Khalo Gamal said he would like to hear that Mubarak will step down, not hand the presidency to his son, Gamal Mubarak; dissolve the parliament, which is made up of majority Mubarak cronies; and lay the groundwork to fix the country’s social and economic issues.
The ruling-party headquarters in Cairo was set on fire Friday, but four hours later, nothing had been done to put it out, Khalo Gamal said.
By the end of the day Friday in Cairo, when I spoke with Khalo Gamal again, he said Mubarak hadn’t spoken. By early Saturday Cairo time, Mubarak eventually spoke. He said that he would ask his government to resign, but that he would remain the country’s president.
My family and I think he should resign. I think Egypt feels the same way.
Egyptians are kind and simple people, but they’ve been oppressed for far too long.
Khalo Gamal, a faithful Muslim, said he does not want whoever takes over from Mubarak to isolate Egypt, mistreat the Egyptian Copts or people of other faiths, or prohibit young minds from expressing themselves through the arts.
He wants whoever takes over to give people their basic rights, to instill a sense of success, dignity and hope within their hearts. He wants the government to respect its people.
My mom, Shadia Mandour, is upset with the way the Egyptian government is treating protesters. She doesn’t want to see anyone lose their lives or get injured. But I think many more lives will be lost before Egypt is free.
I’m so proud, so happy for my beloved Egypt. I want to stand beside my people as they take matters into their own hands, as they demand their natural rights — the rights given to us all by God.
I want to stand beside them as a reporter, reporting from the heart of the conflict.
Until that day, here’s to my Egypt, to its freedom, to a new beginning.
MONA SHADIA is reporter for Times Community News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.