When early street protests turned into the 18-day uprising that brought down Mubarak, Azouz left the hospital to volunteer at a field clinic in Tahrir Square. She was furious that state television continued to air reports that said no one was injured in the security forces’ attacks on protesters. She was beaten by batons, overwhelmed with tear gas and pelted with rubber bullets that left scars like polka dots on her forearm and leg.
“In the space of an hour, maybe even less, five people died before my eyes, all of gunshot wounds to the head and chest,” she recalled. “I started thinking, ‘I don’t care how many people are against this revolution, I’ll stay here forever.’ ”
A year later, Azouz sounds deeply conflicted about the revolution and isn’t sure how or why she should continue to support a movement that appears stagnant, disjointed and powerless next to the influential military and Islamists. The tipping point, she said, came on a day when protesters outside the Cabinet building came under attack only a few yards from where patrons lounged at an outdoor cafe.
“I was in the middle of the street,” she said. “I looked one way and saw people laughing and flirting at the coffee shop, and I looked the other way and saw people dying.”
The fear, complacency and hypocrisy she witnessed in her fellow Egyptians so enraged her that she took off her veil, the small, desperate act of a woman who no longer believes that a beard indicates piety or that a uniform promises protection.
“Gandhi had a point when he said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ but others have to believe that, too, and it’s just not happening,” she said. “How could they change when they still don’t even have the basics? How can you ask them to think, to read literature and history, when they can’t eat?”
Azouz said she saw no viable candidate who could revive the revolution, so on Election Day she plans to spoil her ballot by writing on it an Arabic word that translates roughly as “void.”
“The message is that you won’t deceive me again with a paper and make me feel like I’m part of a decision that’s already been made,” she said “The best thing for the revolution is for Amr Moussa to become president, because maybe people will finally realize that we’re still at square one.”
McClatchy special correspondent Omnia al Desoukie contributed to this article.