The situation in Egypt is worth a case-study on how a social networking tool like Facebook can act as a catalyst to mobilize people to organize an uprising that could topple governments and expose the wrong-doings of many.
It was the very same Facebook that led to the uprising in Egypt as well. The person in question here is a 26 year old woman, Asmaa Mahfouz who was so fed up with the authoritarian Mubarak-rule that she posted a status message on her FB account that read, “People, I am going to Tahrir Square." The comment acted as a war cry for the distressed Egyptians and fueled their emotions to revolt against the Egyptian government.
Asmaa was quoted as saying in an interview to Al-Mihwar TV (Egypt), “Yes. I was angry that everybody was saying that we had to take action, but nobody was doing anything. So I wrote on Facebook: 'People, I am going to Tahrir Square today'. This was a week before January 25."
"I wrote that I was going to demand the...rights of my country. I wrote that I was 26 years old...," the Middle East Media Research Institute quoted her as saying in a report.
Asmaa also added that the Tunisian uprising reiterated the Egyptian belief that change was possible and that it was up to the common man to stand up and protest and fight for their rights. Asmaa added, “Whenever we talked to the people and told them to express their views, they would say: 'Who can we talk to? We will be thrown in prison and tortured.' When they saw what happened in Tunisia, the people realized that there was Arab person that revolted and demanded its rights."
Asmaa also considers that it was complacency that led to the agonies of Egyptians over the last couple of decades. She was brave enough to be the lone voice initially that echoed the sentiments of millions in Egypt. "...People began to set fire to themselves, one after the other, and the response of the officials was that these people were mentally ill. The people's blood began to boil."
She recalled, "The number of people setting fire to themselves gradually rose, and in response, people began to say, on the streets and in Facebook: 'How come nobody is doing anything? Why aren't you taking action? Everybody says that something must be done, but the streets are empty."
She even went a step ahead and coaxed all those who were concerned about their country and accompany her in the protest. “Anyone who is worried about me or thinks that I am mentally ill should come in order to protect me...If the police want to burn me - fine, I will be at Tahrir Square in half an hour. There were lots of messages saying: Wait until January 25. I said: There is no reason to wait for the 25th. I went to Tahrir Square and raised a sign."
She shouted at the top of her lungs in Tahrir Square and mentioned in her heated rhetoric how four Egyptians burned themselves out of fear for security agencies and not poverty unlike widely believed. Soon she found supporters who joined her and started filming her with their cell phones. She was also cornered by security agencies and army officials. But she refused to let go and said, “If you want to set me on fire - go ahead. I am not budging from Tahrir Square."
(With inputs from agencies)