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Hug #27

February 3, 2011

Hug #27
Milwaukee and Western
January 28, 2011 8:00-9:00 am

As I am waiting for the water to boil I turn on the radio. The top story is the riots in Egypt. Today the Egyptian government has cut off all internet access and cell-phone use to prevent protesters from organizing. The riots have been in my periphery over the last few days, but this headline makes me snap to attention. This level of censorship is incomprehensible.

Just the day before I received an email from my friend Amira who is living in Cairo re: Urgent Call from Egypt. The email stated:

Please circulate as wide as possible

A Call to the People and Governments of the Free World

We call upon all of you to support the Egyptian people’s demands for a
good life, liberty and an end of despotism. We call upon you to urge
this dictatorial regime to stop its bloodshed of the Egyptian people,
exercised throughout the Egyptian cities, on top of which comes the
city of Suez. We believe that the material and moral support offered
to the Egyptian regime, by the American government and European
governments, has helped to suppress the Egyptian people.

We hereby call upon the people of the free world to support the
Egyptian people’s non-violent revolution against corruption and
tyranny. We also call upon civil society organisations in America,
Europe and the whole world to express their solidarity with Egypt,
through holding public demonstrations, particularly on People’s Anger
Day (28/01/2011), and by denouncing the use of violence against the

We hope that you will all support our demands for freedom, justice and
peaceful change.

Egyptian National Coalition

And so on this day, January 28, People’s Anger Day, Sara and I hug on the corner of Western and Milwaukee. We are not protesting but we are demonstrating. We are denouncing the use of violence. I hang on to Sara as commuters bustle groggily past, most barely even noticing us. A cop car pulls up to the light. For a moment panic strikes me — we’re going to be in trouble. A cop is going to get out, tell us we are breaking the law and we have to stop. But the light turns green and the cop car cruises through the intersection.

Today I am grateful. I am grateful for my liberties, grateful I can stand on the corner of a busy intersection and hug my best friend. I tell Sara about the news report. She says that if mass protests happened here that our government would cut off the internet and cell phones, too. But we don’t organize in such large numbers here. We just complain. I guess for Egyptians thirty years of complaining about a dictatorial regime was enough.

From what I gather from Facebook posts, my friend Amira is safe, although stuck in her apartment as riots and protestors storm the streets below. This hug is dedicated to her and to everyone fighting for democracy in Egypt. I will continue to dedicate my hugs to the cause until Mubarak steps down. I am enraged and hugging from afar.

riots in Cairo

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Amira Hanafi permalink
    June 5, 2011 3:55 pm

    My dear Aurora!

    I was just showing your project to a friend and I read this post. Thanks so much for thinking of me and all of us in Egypt on January 28 – a day that changed everything here, and changed me forever, too. Never before have I been able to see how powerful demonstration can be. Never before have I seen the power of people standing together, united for one cause. What was achieved with the presence of so many bodies together was beautiful and amazing, at the same time that it was painful and sad because so many lives were lost that day.

    I also wanted to tell you about the joy of February 11, the day Mubarak finally resigned. On that afternoon and evening, I walked across the city to get to Tahrir, where the ecstasy of the people was tangible, the smiles on people’s faces were unstoppable…I don’t know if I can put into words what the city felt like that day. You know that high you get when you’ve spent a day or night with someone you’re falling in love with and then you leave because you have to go do something? And then you wander around in a kind of daze? It was like that, only amplified a hundred times. It was like we were all in love with each other, everyone out in the streets. Public displays of affection between sexes in Cairo are taboo, but on that night, it no longer seemed to matter. People were hugging all over the place. I couldn’t help but touch everyone around me.

    And what particularly reminded me of you and your project was this moment when I was walking over the Qasr al-Aini bridge that night, the same bridge that figured so importantly on January 28th, and I spotted a young man near the railing holding a sign, written in red, that said “FREE HUGS.” I didn’t hug him, though I wanted too, for fear of breaking the taboo of male/female contact…but I loved him anyway.

    So thanks for the hug from afar, and thanks for keeping on hugging. I love thinking about you ladies doing what you do every week.

    With love,

    • June 14, 2011 7:39 pm

      Thank you for this, Amira, for sharing your experience and insight. You were definitely on my mind during that time. It’s incredible how great joy and relief brings bodies together physically, even when affection is taboo. Take care. I am hugging you from afar.

  2. April 18, 2013 12:43 am

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It really helpful & it helped
    me out much. I’m hoping to give one thing back and help others such as you helped me.

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