UPDATE: 3/1/11: Dalia to speak at the Women in the World Summit, NYC–March 10-12
DALIA ON TWITTER: @daliaziada
Dalia Zaida is a human rights’ activist and popular Egyptian blogger. Her writings before and during the current uprising provide insight into the causes behind the revolt and the confliinterview-dalia-ziada-7069ct between pro and anti-government groups.
“I wish my country be the best country in the world. And the only way to make this happen is to first bring democracy and apply it.” Dalia Ziada
Time Magazine called this translator, researcher, lecturer, and poet a champion of Muslim Rights. She’s the recipient of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Journalist Award, 2010.
When I saw in the Daily Beast how passionately Dalia took to the streets to protest and read her blogs, I wanted to track her down to ask her about her experiences during these tumultuous times in Cairo. In spite of her chaotic life right now, she took the time to answer my questions…
EYE: You’ve been called a key leader in the Egyptian blogging community. You’ve discussed the importance of blogging in your life in this video on youtube.
How effective has blogging been in inspiring this revolt?
DALIA: Blogging and social media in general played a very important role in the Egypt revolution.
This is from my blog the night of January 27, when internet access was blocked:
“For the third consecutive day, Egyptians are persistently expressing their anger and calling for change. The Egyptian Police Day, January 25, 2011 will be remembered forever as People Day, the day when Egyptians broke the barriers of fear and had their voices heard…
The protests in urban and rural districts of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and Upper Egypt were not organized by the well-known opposition elite and intellectuals or by the popular leaders of opposition political parties and groups. They were created by young cyber activists who organized themselves via Facebook and Twitter.”
Please read my post describing in detail how it all started.
EYE: On the youtube video you say you found blogging by accident in 2006. How has it changed your life?
DALIA: I wanted to create a free website for my small translation firm. Then, one day I found a blogspot website. I loved it, and instead of creating the website, I started posting. Then, I got addicted to writing my thoughts and sharing them with the world. It helped me communicate and network with people who share the same interests with me.
“I do not fear them because they can’t do us anything worse than they have done already.”
EYE: You’ve been very angry and vocal against the government. Do you fear retaliation?
DALIA: We have suffered a lot from this government. I do not fear them because they can’t do us anything worse than they have done already: no work opportunities, pollution, bad life, poisoned food, a very bad economy, lack of freedoms, etc. Dying with dignity is much better than living with humiliation.
EYE: You’ve said that what is happening in Egypt right now is “history in the making.” What do you hope comes out of it?
DALIA: I look forward to change in the way the state deals with citizens in the future. I look forward to having the state a servant of the citizen not the opposite. I wish my country one day be like Europe in their education system, like US in their economic system, and like Argentina in their political system.
I wish my country be the best country in the world. And the only way to make this happen is to first bring democracy and apply it.
EYE: We’ve seen many photos in newspapers and on Leil-Zahra Mortada’s Facebook page of the Women of Egypt. People are confused in America about the amount and role of women in this revolt. What do the women want and will they continue to revolt?
DALIA: Women want a better life for themselves and their famillies. As I say in my blog, the most encouraging feature of the upheaval is the massive participation of women, not only the young and educated who use the internet but the grassroots and uneducated older women from rural cities.
The young women are playing a very important role. They’ve been participating effectively in promoting the protests from the beginning and organizing people. There are many women in the streets right now.
“The big enthusiasm and excitement among the protesters makes you feel really strong…”
EYE: Has the protesting been scary? We’ve seen a level of violence that must have been frightening for those involved.
DALIA: No, it was not frightening at all. The big enthusiasm and excitement among the protesters makes you feel really strong and capable of making whatever you want.
EYE: How and when did this passionate voice of yours develop?
DALIA: That was long time ago when I wanted to fight against Female Genital Mutilation at a relatively young age. It happened to me. You’ll hear me talk about it in a video on youtube.
As an undergraduate, I helped launch a campaign with four of my classmates to spread awareness about the horrible psychological and physical consequences of FGM. We tried to convince parents not to practice it against their innocent helpless daughters.
EYE: You are a human rights’activist and you wear the veil. How important is that to you?
DALIA: I wear it for cultural and religious reasons. I think it does not affect my work as activist in any way.
EYE: How successful was the “Day of Departure”?
DALIA: Not really. But at least it was peaceful. Please read my Washington Post article about that particular day. I write about President Mubarak’s canny strategy that is keeping him in power for the time being.
“One day they will understand we love Egypt more than any one else.”
EYE: You write about the tensions between you and your mother in that article. You said that after Mubarak’s recent speech, there were tears in neighbors’ and family’s eyes. Your mom looked at you and said that you were heartless and ungrateful. That must be very difficult to deal with.
DALIA: It’s too bad that this revolt is causing friction in the family. She still believes I am an agent to some foreign force that wants to destroy Egypt. The state-owned media is doing a horrible job brainwashing the minds of people with conspiracy theory. One day they will understand we love Egypt more than any one else.
EYE: You published a book of poetry in 2010. What were you inspired to write about?
DALIA: My first poetry book was published in January 2010 and distributed in Egypt. A few years before I wrote a poem about the power of the word “No.” It was a mix of revolutionary and love poems all in Egyptian dialect.
“I believe that it will turn into a more democratic, successful country in the near future.”.
EYE: Where do you see your country in nine months? And yourself?
DALIA: Ah! It is so hard to tell where Egypt shall go in nine months. But I believe that it will turn into a more democratic, successful country in the near future. In nine months, I should be graduating from Fletcher School with MA degree in International Relations and I will be continuing my work for civil rights and women’s rights in the Middle East.
EYE: Thank you, Dalia, and be safe. I’ll be reading your blog and following your activities and writing. Please check in with the EYE and update us on how the situation there is progressing.