Soon after the military coup that deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, I announced that I would join the pro-Morsy demonstration outside of Cairo's Rabaa al-Adaweya square. My home is in Sanaa, Yemen, but all of us who placed our hopes in the Arab Spring have a stake in what happens in Egypt: I wished to protest the killing, forcible disappearance, and jailing of coup opponents -- crimes that have been met with terrible silence from human rights activists and political elites. Not only have such figures refused to condemn such violations of freedom, they have given their blessing and justified such measures.
I declared publicly that I was going to Rabaa al-Adaweya to defend the gains of the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution -- freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and the right of the people to select their rulers. For my activism, I have been the target of a massive incitement campaign by the pro-coup media: Regime supporters have threatened me with death, even to put me on trial for spying and interfering in Egyptian affairs.
On Aug. 4, I arrived at Cairo airport with my friend Bushra al-Serabi, the executive director of Women Journalists Without Chains, to fulfill my pledge. I had all the possible scenarios in mind: I thought the Egyptian authorities might grant me entry and then attack me later in the street, or worse, fulfill their threats by arresting, killing, or prosecuting me.
It was an exciting trip, although it didn't end as I wished. Or begin, to be honest. Upon arriving at the airport, I stood in line to complete the usual visa process. A few minutes later, one officer in the airport recognized me and asked me to go to a special counter where they complete the entry procedures for bearers of diplomatic passports.
At that moment, an unusual commotion began: The officers' phones would not stop ringing, and I heard one of them whispering on the phone about me. "Tawakkol came! Tawakkol came! We won't let her in," he said, as if I was a very dangerous person.
The Egyptian officers informed me that I would be denied entry, and I was soon deported back to Yemen on the same plane on which I had arrived. The authorities gave me no clear answer why: They said that I knew the reason for my deportation better than them, and that my name had been blacklisted based on the request of a security body.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to stand in person with the protesters outside Rabaa al-Adaweya square to echo their legitimate demands. We shouldn't be ashamed of standing by people who dream of democracy, justice, and a life with dignity -- this is our duty. Egypt's current regime has ousted the first elected president in the country's history, suspended a constitution that won 60 percent support in a referendum, and completely excluded the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party from political life. There are limited options for those of us who care about Egypt's future: We can either side with civil values and democracy, or with military rule, tyranny, and coercion.
Morsy was not only Egypt's democratically elected president, he is now emerging as the Arab world's Nelson Mandela. The South African leader brought peace and democracy to his country; during Morsy's one-year reign, Egypt enjoyed freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully, and not a single one of his political opponents were jailed. Even when he was ousted by force, he killed no one, jailed no one, and never resorted to violent resistance. This is unparalleled in the region.
By maintaining this peaceful approach, Morsy and his followers will have a role not less than that of Mandela's African National Congress. Despite being subjected to killing, arrest, and oppression, Morsy's supporters have held fast to the democratic process and prevented Egypt from descending into civil war. The free world must recognize their positive role by supporting them and rejecting the crimes committed against Morsy, his party, and pro-democracy figures.