Here is a firsthand account of the Egyptian revolution from Youth Journalism International senior reporter Jessica Elsayed, a 17-year-old student in Alexandria, Egypt:
By Jessica Elsayed
Youth Journalism International
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – It’s scary and exciting at the same time to be here.
I can hear booms outside from tear gas canisters exploding.
The police station next door caught fire last night.
As part of a new people’s militia, men from my building are guarding us with wooden sticks or knives. One neighbor has two swords.
The butcher down the street sharpened knives and handed them out, not out of violence but for protection.
Looters are not welcome in my neighborhood. Elsewhere in the city, they’ve pillaged a big mall, driven off with new BMWs and attacked many jewelry stores by shattering windows and grabbing all they can.
It’s pretty intense.
Those who are doing the looting and setting the fires are from the police, something they’re not saying on television but everyone knows it. It’s really distressing.
The government blames protesters but everyone knows who’s really doing it.
I’m not scared because I trust the men in my building and I trust my neighbors. It’s very brave of them to stand guard.
No one sleeps as we watch the televised images of the revolution going on throughout Egypt, including my hometown.
People say that 30 protesters died today in Alexandria alone. There may have been more. Thankfully, my family and friends are safe.
The authorities are not letting people take the bodies from the morgue because they don’t want the corpses of martyrs carried down the streets, further inflaming a country that is seething with anger and filled with hope.
Protesters ignore the curfews, but stores and pharmacies are closed. My father went out to look for food earlier and medicine for my sister, but generally if people don’t have some at home, they won’t find it.
The internet is off. Phones are iffy. They’re even shutting off the water soon.
Al Jazeera, which we can see on satellite television, pretty much shows what’s going on. We can also watch the world news channels from the BBC, CNN and Al Arabiya.
Tonight could be crucial for Egypt’s growing revolution. We are all hoping something happens tonight for the better.
Tomorrow is such a mystery.
Since the protests began Tuesday, they have swollen in size and in the rage demonstrated against a government that has failed the people. It gets worse each day.
The country’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has to go.
Crowds everywhere chant, “You must go! You have no dignity!”
It is infuriating for Egyptians that Mubarak, in power for 30 years, won’t leave. The message is clear: we just want him to leave.
His speech to the country last night was much more provocative than comforting.
With Mubarak in power, people in Egypt cannot breathe. They have no rights whatsoever unless they’re one of the rich elites with ties to the government.
For ordinary Egyptians, there is nothing from this regime, and anyone under 30 has never known anything but Mubarak.
Egyptians have so much pride, but for decades he has hurt them. It didn’t have to get this bad.
The Egyptian people are counting on the Army.
We need the Army on our side. Politically, the Army is the source of everything.
People don’t trust the police – who are not respectful – but they have faith in the military units that have fanned out through the cities. There are tanks downtown here. Many families are bringing food to the soldiers.
A soldier serving in the Army could be my brother or my friend. We respect these men, and don’t believe they would hurt us.
Egyptians are very upset with U.S President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for failing to back them. The Americans must choose between the Egyptian people and the government.
They are trying to hold the stick in the middle, but they need to pick one side or the other.
Egyptians want a change in the system. They want a new president and new institutions that won’t be used to oppress our nation.
The country may be disorganized, but in these times, the people are united. In the end, change is going to come from the people.
After years of being afraid to speak out, people are starting to feel comfortable in their own skin. Everyone feels a little more brave today.
It is remarkable that this revolution was planned on Facebook. From the day after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia drove out a dictator, organizers on Facebook set a day of protest in Egypt for Jan. 25.
No one really believed it would happen, but young people, most of them not connected to any party, agreed to try. They clicked “will attend” on a Facebook event page, and they did.
The protesters are peaceful people.
The timing is perfect. Exams are over and schools and colleges are closed now for a mid-year vacation, which is one reason the crowds got so big on Friday.
Nobody cares that the ruling party headquarters went up in flames yesterday. Its furnishings were stolen from the people.
Other buildings that burned also don’t matter.
All of this can be fixed. Burned buildings can be fixed.
Being oppressed cannot be fixed except through revolt. Mubarak left us no other choice.
We’re optimistic. Everyone’s optimistic. We’re going to be OK.
It’s a different country than it was just five days ago.
The story above is story is based on a half hour telephone conversation with Jessica Elsayed in Alexandria, Egypt the evening of January 25. It reflects what she said, but she could not review it before publication because the government has cut off internet service in Alexandria. This story may be revised when she has the opportunity to see it.
Update on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2011: We spoke again today with Jessica Elsayed and read her the above text since she still does not have internet access. She approved it.