Tahrir Activist Speaks Out

Egyptian journalist gives personal account of revolution

Sahar El-Nadi and the Egyptian Revolution
Sharon Kim

Sahar El-Nadi, an eyewitness of the Egyptian Revolution, talks about Tahrir Square creativity as a tool for mass education and social transformation yesterday evening at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Presenting images of children shouting “Leave, Mubarak,” and men collecting trash as a “donation for Mubarak,” freelance journalist Sahar El-Nadi—a native Egyptian—presented an audiovisual account of the Egyptian Revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday evening at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“Tahrir can’t be told. It has to be witnessed,” El-Nadi said. “I want you to see what I saw.”

Utilizing her firsthand account of the events during Egypt’s 18-day revolution, which eventually led to the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, El-Nadi showed video clips and photographs to convey her experience of an “ethical revolution.”

“In just 18 days, Egyptians have made huge leaps of progress in every walk of life,” El-Nadi said, citing organizational skills, creativity, mutual trust, and even recycling as examples.

El-Nadi’s footage documented the participation of diverse individuals from across Egypt as they contributed to the revolution in various ways: providing medical care to participants, engaging with the media, and welcoming new protestors to the Square.


“It was like going to the Super Bowl,” she said. “People came from far away villages just to try out [protesting the government].”

Though her presentation culminated in a standing ovation and left some attendees in tears, audience reaction to El-Nadi’s statements was mixed.

El-Nadi claimed that the revolution was historic in that there were no instances of sexual harassment or sectarian violence in Tahrir Square during the uprising—a statement with which Ed School student Jared A. Jones took issue.

Jones, who used to live in Egypt, said he was skeptical of El-Nadi’s statement, pointing out that the widely-publicized sexual assault of CBS journalist Lara Logan disproved it.

Jones went on to say that though El-Nadi’s images and videos were emotional, her clear political bias may have clouded her judgment as to the reality of the revolution.

“This sounds like a lot of the rhetoric that has been coming out of Egypt for the past few decades,” he said. “Very one-sided.”

El-Nadi openly admitted that her talk was not impartial.

“I’m very biased,” she said. “It’s like talking about your child.”

However, Jones said El-Nadi had failed to realize the true beginnings of the revolution—as an outlet for the economically underprivileged.

“My fear is we’ll remember that people didn’t die out of economic frustrations, but to get rid of Mubarak,” he said. He added that he feared El-Nadi’s talk was an indication that Egypt may not truly reform itself if those who are suffering are ignored in the aftermath.

“When you know the real reasons for revolution like that [and ignore them], you doom yourself to repeat [history],” he said.

Jones’ step-mother Deborah L. Davis, a psychologist, said she wanted to attend the talk to explore the account of human nature and emotion during a revolution.

“It was fascinating to hear from someone who had been there,” she said.

— Staff writer Michelle M. Hu can be reached at


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