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People sleeping in front of tanks to keep them from moving ahead, as reported from Tahrir Square by Arita Baaijens to ExplorersWeb, bring back memories from Prague and Beijing's Tiananmen square.
Image by Arita Baaijens courtesy Arita Baaijens, SOURCE

Egypt Editorial: The first two weeks are critical, after that victory is near

Posted: Feb 11, 2011 01:24 am EST
(By Tina Sjogren) A ski trip from land to the North Pole is one of the toughest expeditions to take on. The golden rule for victory, passed down by those who made it, is simple: 'Make it through the first two weeks."

This is when the battle is at its worst - the pain, the fear and the doubts. Make it through, and the rest will just be a determined lug to success.

It has been 16 days since the Egyptian people assembled at Tahrir Square. Today, victory was near. But then President Mubarak appeared, in a talk "as a father to his children," promising to punish those responsible for the many deaths (forgetting to mention that they actually acted on his directive) but making clear that he means to stay.

Lhasa and Tehran

Born in an oppressed country, I have watched with concern the failed uprisings in later years. Lhasa - where those supporting protesters, like myself, were called "China-bashers." In Tehran, where the world simply looked the other way. And now in Egypt, where politics are confusing the basic call for human rights.

I too have failed revolutions running in my family: the Prague spring in 1968, and the 1956 uprising in my grandmother's Budapest. Both failed, I was told, for the lack of support from the West. Mostly America, who we so admired for its ideals, and were sure would stand by us.

Fear from the Free

In my adult life, I have seen fear from the free surround the freedom attempts of the freedom-less.

What would happen to our money (or our Everest summits) if we stood up for Tibet? I'm still not sure what we feared in standing by the young protesters in Iran, all I know is that we should have. In Egypt today, our fear is that allowing its people democracy would fly open the door for religious radicalism, heck, perhaps such is behind this altogether, some say.

I can understand the fear. Being a woman, the last thing I want is for someone to tell me where to go and what to wear. But I climbed Everest side by side with a team from Iran, and learned how to make spicy meatballs from an Egyptian friend. All they wanted was what we have: the freedom to form their lives according to their efforts and dreams.

They were neither children, nor anybody's fools.

The common factor

In all the uprisings, I have seen only one common factor, and it was not politics, religion, or money. The only common factor was a call for the human right to decide our own destiny.

In all the failed uprisings, I have seen only one common factor, and it was the lack of support from the free world.

If I am shackled and my friend looks the other way, I will resent him. In the western world we must stand behind the people who ask for no more than we take for granted for ourselves. If we don't, the very thing we fear might materialize. We will throw good people in the arms of the bad, simply because we weren't there.

In addition, the recent failed uprisings carry with them a very dangerous message: If you are in power, use brutality, control communication and stick to it - then people can be broken. No one will arrive to their aid, and power will belong to the strongest.

Keep lugging

As an explorer, Egypt lies close to my heart. Norwegian legend explorer Thor Heyerdahl tried to prove with his papyrus craft Ra that Egyptians went to America in ancient times. As daughter of a communist land, I know well the Library of Alexandria where most of the written knowledge was assembled and then destroyed. As a woman, I know Cleopatra.

Watching Mubarak talk down to the Egyptian people today, I can't help think of their greatness, so closely connected to my ancient Greek philosophy heroes Plato and Aristotle.

I hope that the people in Egypt find it in themselves to keep lugging to the square, day after day. That's how the North Pole is conquered (usually within 60 days).

In my darkest moment on the ice, someone sent me a poem. It was "Carry On" by Robert William Service and it said, "It's easy to fight when everything's right [...] It's a different song when everything's wrong."

The poem pulled me through, and so here I relay a part of it to the people at Tahrir:

And so in the strife of the battle of life
It's easy to fight when you're winning;
It's easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
With a cheer, there's the man of God's choosing;
The man who can fight to Heaven's own height
Is the man who can fight when he's losing."








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