Today We Should Remember the Martyrs

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Today millions of Egyptians, for the first time, will get to decide who will be their President.

Yes there is some cynicism and concern about the election. (Which I wrote about in ‘The Agenda’ magazine last weekend and talked about it on radio on ’Today with Pat Kenny‘ earlier this week ). However I think the overall feeling here is pride and excitement.

And the Egyptians should be proud. They have toppled a dictatorship that was supported by some of the leading powers in the world, and they are attempting, against great odds, to replace it with democracy.

But it is important today to remember how this was won.

It was won by millions of people mobilising on the streets and in their workplaces, by the thousands who got injured in protests- and by those who sacrificed the most, the hundreds upon hundreds of mainly young martyrs, who gave their lives in January last year and since. For instance the people who were injured and died when I was in Tahrir last November (I blogged about this here and here.)

I come from a country where martyrs (from centuries of national and social struggle) are sung about, have buildings named after them, where their legacy is actively debated, contested, celebrated and libelled. My first book was about a famous Irish socialist and nationalist martyr James Connolly, and in that book I looked at how the memory of such a figure can mean very different things to different people.

However today in Cairo one thing can be said for certain.This election today, would not be happening if it was not for their sacrifice.

Even the people who will cast their votes for candidates who served the old regime, only have that right because of the bravery of the revolutionaries (one may wonder if these people will feel a tinge of shame after they cast their vote and walk past a mural of one of the young martyrs on the walls of Cairo and the other cities in Egypt).

So putting to one side debates over how much power the new President will have, we have to conclude that this is an historic, wonderful day for Egypt and an important moment in the living history of a revolution that many feel is still unfinished.

And today we should remember the martyrs.

David Lynch is a journalist and author (“A Divided Paradise: An Irishman in the Holy Land” (New Island)) who has been reporting from Cairo since last October for ‘The Sunday Business Post’ ‘The Village’, ‘The Blizzard’, RTE Radio amongst others. He blogs at www.arabspringinmystep.com

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