The hidden triumph of the Egyptian revolution
By Amro Ali
'Thank you, you united us.' Flickr/Gigi Ibrahim. Some rights reserved.To those who cast doubt on the success of the Egyptian revolution. Step back, look around you, and reflect for a moment. As a result of the revolution, your social relations have been dramatically reconfigured.
You have made new friends of strangers. You speak a new political language never known before. Your relationship to the state and public has been redefined. You have been involved in an unprecedented archival culture that narrates everything that has been happening.
For every document, photograph and video will aid the next generation in resuming where you have finished off. For you cannot move forward without defining your relationship to the past.
Every document, photograph and video will aid the next generation in resuming where you have finished off.
Your understanding of history has been permanently altered. The 2011 revolution ruptured the political and social timeline giving you a new source of historical legitimacy.
It gave you a critical juncture that emits a wave of vivid memories of sacrifices, victories, and betrayals of your hopes. The 2011 revolution gave you a new validity to hold onto, and to rival any previous validity.
No longer do you live in vain waiting for a future democratic “paradise”, you now realise that such a paradise needs to be shifted from the future to the present, from a goal to a process, to be instigated in small doses to the best of your human capacity.
The revolution in effect destroyed the previous dominant situation and cannot consolidate the new dominant situation, which can easily be clouded by the smokescreen of arrests and crackdowns.
That is what the revolution achieved. It did not arrive to give you a choice of regimes. It arrived to initiate a new beginning, one that is already on its course.
You, among many, have been given a shared fundamental worldview that will determine the course of events when the climate is ripe in your favour.
In a marvellous transformation, you can no longer recognise your pre-2011 self.
This piece was first published on Amro Ali: Writing on Egypt, Middle East and other peaceful places.
Egypt in the balance: what the blogs are saying, 25 January 2016
By Rana Nessim
Flickr/Aljalja. Some rights reserved.Ikhwanweb @Ikhwanweb 1:03 AM: Junta Security Forces Arrest More Than 25 Anti-Coup Egyptians Within 24 Hours http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=32421 …
Egyptian Streets @EgyptianStreets 6:33 AM: 25 Photos of #Egypt's January 25 Revolution http://bit.ly/1PsyN5w #25jan
Ahram Online @ahramonline 6:42 AM: Egypt's President Sisi praises 25 January revolution ahead of 5th anniversary http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/185795.aspx …
Pesha Magid writes for Mada Masr “Downtown: Site of revolts to city of ghosts - Raiding private apartments, closing public space: Egypt’s security forces commemorate January 25":
“Government officials warned people against participating in protests on January 25 this year, as did the Endowments Ministry. And President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also warned against it, suggesting a new revolution would destroy the country. Even meteorological authorities warned against taking to the streets on January 25 due to bad weather.”
Hossam عمو حسام Verified account @3arabawy 6:50 AM: My photography: #Jan25 Revolution ثورة http://ow.ly/XtMHY
Jared Malsin writes for Time: “The Unlikely Revolutionary – A father searches for justice five years after Egypt’s Tahrir Square Uprising”
“The underlying causes of the aborted Egyptian revolution—social deprivation, economic decline and a lack of political freedom—have not been resolved. Ali predicts another eruption of protest, though it is impossible to say when or how. One of the lessons he takes from the experience of revolution is a profound sense of patience—and endurance. “If you want to dream,” he says now, “you’re going to have nightmares.”
Flickr/Aljalja. Some rights reserved.Ahram Online @ahramonline 7:51 AM: PHOTO GALLERY: Tight security ahead of 5th anniversary of #Egypt January revolution http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentMulti/185802/Multimedia.aspx …
Egyptian Streets @EgyptianStreets 7:52 AM: Two bombs were discovered below a bridge in #Egypt's #Menoufiya. The bombs have since been defused (state media). #25jan
كريم @Arab_Secularist 8:44 AM: #25Jan wasn't a mistake, in fact we need numerous 25Jan's all over the world, for every person who demands dignity & is living in fear.
Wael Eskandar @weskandar 8:46 AM: #25Jan is not an anniversary we celebrate, it's an anniversary to remind us that it's not over yet.
Farah Mourad @Farhota 8:54 AM: Five years ago, this timeline was full of #25jan hashtags; it was full of hope and freedom hunger.
عبدالرحمن @Alsha7at 10:39 AM: Five years ago, the television lied and the internet said the truth. #25Jan
Terran @Psypherize 10:46 AM: I remember that first breath of freedom. We got a taste of it, and ever since then, we have been yearning for it. #Jan25
Gigi Ibrahim @Gsquare86 11:05 AM: They're scared of #jan25 because we never thought that 5 yrs after we would be sitting at home asking the question what are they afraid of?
Gigi Ibrahim @Gsquare86 11:25 AM: 25 January 2011 my album from shubra to Tahrir #jan25 #Egypt https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/gigiibrahim/sets/72157628713654359/page2 …
Sarah Mansour @Soor88 11:28 AM: If they secured Sinai + Lybian border like they do Tahrir square now, they would destroy terrorism over night! #25Jan #IhdouKidaOmal
Egyptian Streets @EgyptianStreets 11:50 AM: #Egypt's police disperses 'tens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters' at a protest in Matareya (state media). #25Jan
Flickr/Gigi Ibrahim. Some rights reserved.Jack Shenker writes for The Guardian “State repression in Egypt worst in decades, says activist”. He quotes Hossam Bahgat:
““The level of repression now is significantly higher than it was under the Mubarak regime, and people from older generations say it is worse than even the worst periods of the 1950s and 1960s [under the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser].”
Asma @LibyanBentBladi 11:58 AM: Goosebumps!! 50 Tweets From Tahrir That Will Make You Relive the Revolution http://www.theglocal.com/articles/411/50-tweets-from-tahrir-that-will-make-you-relive-the-revolution?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=BoostedPosts&utm_content=articletweetsfromtahrir&utm_campaign=January2016#.VqYNmewM9nE.twitter … #25Jan
Cairobserver @Cairobserver 11:59 AM: Revisiting films about Egypt's 2011 revolution http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/185784.aspx … via @ahramonline
The New Arab @The_NewArab 12:02 PM: #OnThisDay: Shaima al-Sabbagh, an #Egyptian activist was shot while attempting to mark #Jan25 revolution http://ow.ly/3yVHXw #25Jan
Alaa Abdel Fattah writes from his prison cell for Mada Masr “Jan 25, 5 years on: The only words I can write are about losing my words”:
“Today it seems like we won that final battle for narrative. While the state still has its supporters, their numbers are shrinking rapidly, especially among the youth. Most people are no longer debating the nature of the events of summer 2013. The coup versus revolution debate is passé.”
Mohanad Mishrif @Mohanad_honda96 12:18 PM: Honor those who have died by living the values of the revolution they died believing in. #jan25
Tahrir Supplies @TahrirSupplies 12:20 PM: Here's to the days where everyone you knew was out there doing something good, with good intentions, hoping for the best.
Hafsa Halawa @HafsaHalawa 12:22 PM: Just because the streets are empty, and there is no longer street mobilisation, it doesn't mean people aren't mobilising. #Egypt #Jan25
yussuf abdellatif @michou_94 1:01 PM: UPDATE 15:00pm still around 100-200 pro Sisi demonstrators, police tries to move them but they seem unmotivated #egypt #tahrir #cairo #jan25
Flickr/Gigi Ibrahim. Some rights reserved.Middle East Monitor @MiddleEastMnt 1:20 PM: 544 Egyptians arrested ahead of #Jan25 revolution anniversary https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/23527-544-egyptians-arrested-ahead-of-revolution-anniversary … | #Egypt #25jan
Reem Abdellatif @Reem_Abdellatif 1:30 PM: You can blame Sisi & his regime all you want, but change will never come unless #Egyptians change themselves. #jan25
Leil-Zahra Mortada @LeilZahra 3:12 PM: "#Egypt 5 years on: was it ever a '#socialmedia #revolution'?" Erm, NO! http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/egypt-5-years-on-was-it-ever-a-social-media-revolution … via @MaeveShearlaw #Jan25 #Tahrir
Menna منّة @TheMiinz 3:18 PM: Photo Gallery: 18 days that shook Egypt - The 25 January Revolution http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContentMulti/185902/Multimedia.aspx … #Jan25 #25Jan #Egypt
Elliott Colla @AbuMrouj 3:27 PM: Egyptian martyrs of last 5 years: Mubarak: 841 SCAF: 215 Morsi: 154 El-Sisi: ≈ 1200 May their sacrifice not be in vain. @gamaleid
Soraya Bahgat @SorayaBahgat 3:56 PM: Today I also think of the hundreds of women who were subjected to mob sexual assaults in #Tahrir #Egypt #Jan25 #25Jan
Mohamed El Gharbawy @Gharbawy 4:15 PM: Revolutions don't have a fixed date. All the factors that led to the #25Jan Revolution still exist, so sooner or later it will happen again.
Omar Robert Hamilton writes for The Guardian “The memory of the Egyptian revolution is the only weapon we have left”:
“The question is what might come next. The possibilities line up before us: decades of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi overseeing a country slowly crumbling into the sea. A series of intra-military coups. More uprisings of the hungry and dispossessed. A slow democratisation process played out between competing elites. State collapse and an Islamic State insurgency. An acceleration in climate change, the flooding of the Nile Delta and widespread famine. Or, something different, something none of us can see yet. I can’t say that I’m optimistic. But I’m not dead and I’m not in prison so I have no right to say it’s all over.”
Bel Trew - بل ترو @Beltrew 4:38 PM: The Brotherhood (banned in #Egypt) announced 35 marches today in Cairo / Giza - couldn't locate any of them or see any reports on them.
The Big Pharaoh @TheBigPharaoh 9:17 PM: Dear Sisi, #Jan25 passed with almost no protests. Are you happy now? Paranoia over? Can you release prisoners then?
Khaled Diab @DiabolicalIdea 9:41 PM: One-woman Tahrir. Sanaa Seif: "I am alone but I am sure next year thousands will return." http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/185905/Egypt/Politics-/Activist-stages-singleperson-demonstration-in-Tahr.aspx …
The fascist history of Egypt’s revolution
Demotix / wecancam. All rights reserved.
"I have a question, professor."
"You are so fortunate. Those are very rare nowadays”, professor Ezz El Arab replied.
Professor Abdel Aziz Ezz El Arab, a historian at the American University in Cairo, is more serious about hilarity than the majority of us are about the most serious aspects of our lives. For every question, even the simplest, he had a question in reply. He is an embodiment of Albert Camus’ prophecy: “to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
Until 11 February 2011, the day Mubarak stepped down, I had not met him in a strike or protest. But his very existence and continuous ridiculing of every aspect of what we regard as necessary or normal incited rebellion in a Gramscian sense: contesting conventional wisdom.
Minutes after Mubarak stepped down, I bumped into this man in Tahrir Square. He was euphoric, to say the least. "How are you, professor?" I asked as usual, expecting his usual (non)-answer. This time, though, he did have an answer: "Marvellous" he replied, followed by a 20-minute speech on how optimistic he had become. He no longer asked questions, as if he had finally found the one universal ‘answer’. Like many of his comrades on the left, Ezz El Arab obviously fell into the traditional Marxist trap: perceiving the revolution as the ultimate resolution.
Witnessing their revolutionary prophecies becoming a reality, Egyptian revolutionaries were overwhelmed. Even the most critical amongst them could not comprehend the revolution in its complicated, byzantine, peculiar essence. Holding on to a teleological, unidirectional, inherently positive stereotype of “revolutions”, the left relegated—or utterly ignored—many key questions about the steps that should have been taken.
This void was filled by another sector which was, whether we like it or not, an integral part of January’s movement: the fascists. As much as the left were discontented with Mubarak’s abashment of the welfare state, deprivation of the working class, alienation of the intelligentsia, cessation of political space and de-humanisation of citizenship; the far right were no less vexed.
Recurrent international interference in Egypt’s sovereignty, desertion of its regional role, degradation of its cultural capital, the rise of a savage police-class, worries over Mubarak’s succession, and the overall feebleness of the state were few among many issues that mobilised the right against Mubarak’s state.
On the surface, many issues concerned the left and the right equally; such as corruption, power succession and the lack of state autonomy. However, the two opposing wings were discontented for utterly different reasons.
The left was concerned with Mubarak’s excessive tyranny. It attributed the state’s corruption and foreign loyalty to Mubarak and his son’s absolute power. On the extreme opposite, the fascists were concerned with Mubarak’s fragility, and all they actually wanted was a more tyrannical leader who was capable of controlling corruption, instability, and state dependence—that person not being Gamal Mubarak.
The fascist military regime ruling today is not necessarily January’s antithesis or counterrevolution, but its offspring.
The unspoken agreement between the two wings seemed to be along the lines of ‘let us get rid of the Mubaraks first and delay all other controversial questions to the next step’. But after Mubarak was overthrown, the left was too busy celebrating and fantasising its 'revolutionary' success (which was for a big part illusionary), ignoring previously deferred questions. For a detailed account of celebratory leftist movements and 'celebrations' that served counter-revolutions see Lantier and Stern’s impressive work. The authors label the movements as quasi-leftist and discredit their revolutionary agenda. This exclusion of movements that did not benefit the revolution, I argue, is itself an offspring of the ideological belief in a teleological, inherently positive, path of revolutions. I rather think that those revolutionaries failed to calculate their gains and were overwhelmed with the revolutionary miracle they were supposedly witnessing. Regardless of the movements’ debatable intentions, there is no doubt that their deluded messianic celebration of the revolution’s victory was the opium of January’s revolutionary masses.
A sober disillusioned understanding of Mubarak’s handover of power to a ferocious, conservative Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) refutes the ‘revolutionary’ essence of the already disputable ‘success’.
The way his step down was celebrated was even more revealing of the event’s non-revolutionary character; scenes of Mubarak regime cadres discussing tactics and strategies to achieve the January revolution’s goals with the same media hosts who disparaged the revolution from the start were ubiquitous. A famous talk-show host, Amr Adib, discussed “Mubarak’s Scandals” with Mostafa el Fiky, where Mubarak’s men use their proximity to the overthrown regime to propose insider information against the regime they represented a few days prior. Another example is of the former prime minister under Sadat, Abdel Aziz Hegazy, openly criticising the revolutionary youth while simultaneously heading the post-revolution national dialogue and supposedly maintaining an affiliation and affinity with their ‘noble goals’. Not only ironic, but also alarming, were scenes of military officers being carried on the shoulders of protestors. Pictures of Nasser, Sadat, and other military leaders (like Saad Eddine El Shazli) were raised in Tahrir Square and selfies with military tanks went viral.
There was persistent public condemnation of what became known as “factional demands”, such as the delegitimisation of workers, students, peasants, minority movements as well as every group that sought actual/realist political and economic gains. Under such discourse, the only “legitimate” movement, as stated by General El-Fangary (SCAF spokesperson), was one that serves “Egypt’s supreme interests”, “Egypt” being an indisputable, sacred, super-being that reflects the only acceptable collective will as perceived by the state, its media, and its political elite. Such nationalistic exclusion and vilification of opposing voices as “anti-revolutionary” or worse “anti-Egypt” preluded the fascist conclusion of January’s revolution.
January 2011 (and even June/July 2013) were two revolutions in one. The first was motivated by socio-economic grievances with the slogan “bread, freedom and social justice.” The second was motivated by political/national grievances with a slogan that Sisi later used in his campaign “Tahya Masr" (long live Egypt). That is to say, the fascist military regime ruling today is not necessarily January’s antithesis or counterrevolution, but its offspring. Perceiving SCAF and (by extension) El Sisi as the frontline of January’s revolution explains much of the military regime’s moves: the puzzling and controversial disqualification of Omar Suleiman’s candidacy for president, the stark defeat of National Democratic Party cadres in the last parliamentary so-called elections, the severe offensive administrated by the media against Mubarak’s businessmen, such as Ahmed Ezz and Salah Diab, and the law that convicts defaming January’s revolution. It also explains the figures in support of Sisi and his fascist policies.
It is very difficult to retrospectively dissect the two or point out which was initially more powerful, but it is very easy to observe the domination of the second. It is also easy to ask the crucial question of “what went wrong?”—a question that was in no way exhausted by the Egyptian left—and to which it is very hard to find definitive answers.
But as Professor Ezz El Arab taught us, questions are not asked to be answered. Questions are rather asked to challenge conventional wisdom and the status quo it is built upon. Questioning/challenging the ‘purity’ or ‘sacredness’ of the January revolution is a crucial prerequisite for the proceeding revolutionary phase. This revision is not only important to learn from past mistakes, but also to determine the appropriate tactics that may contest current hegemony.
If Sisi’s regime is nothing but a counterrevolution, the answer/resolution is simple and straightforward: keep pushing! If that is the case, the solution is simply to push January’s revolutionary techniques (mobilisation, confrontation, coalition, etc…) further. But if Sisi’s state is nothing but an imminent offspring of January’s revolutionary momentum, then the resurgence of such momentum is definitely not the appropriate choice.
In all cases, it is impossible to know whether Sisi is a counterrevolutionary delegate or a revolutionary comrade, in 25 January terms, unless those terms are redefined and reevaluated within their realist empirical and historical contexts. It is only when we break this Marxist taboo of revolutionary sacredness that the left will be able to appropriately reflect on the past three years and move forward. Only then will we be able to comprehend the concurrence of "enzel ya Sisi" (rise up Sisi) with “yasqot yasqot hokm el 'askar" (down, down with the military regime), and understand why the first ruled out the second. Only then will we be able to revert our current position. Questioning and doubting conventional revolutionaries’ understanding of the January 25 revolution is the only way to achieve that.
It is worth noting that it is not only the ideological bias to ‘revolutionism’ that halts the Egyptian left from questioning January’s revolution. There is also a secular/material reason: this (partially delusional) memory of January’s utopia is the only thing that still holds the ‘revolutionaries’ together today, after all the divisions and disputes that shortly followed. Doubting January’s revolution risks the loss of this grip, but it is still worth it; for this state of doubt forms the core essence of revolutionism and paves the road for contesting the world/nation as we are forced to know it.
The photojournalist who ‘damaged Egyptian national unity’
By Aya Nader
Demotix/Mohamed Meteab. All rights reserved.
In a small cell in the infamous Torah prison, heavy steel doors and a room as dark as a grave surround prisoner Mahmoud Abu Zeid - known as Shawkan. A web of bars comes between him and the sky, a sky he cannot see except from a small hole in the ceiling. The photojournalist sits silently, learning with each passing day more about oppression and injustice.
For more than 850 days, Shawkan’s camera has been as cold as the regime currently ruling Egypt, locking up those who expose its crimes. A contributor to publications such as The Guardian, BBC, and Time, the photojournalist was arrested on 14 August 2013 the day security forces brutally dispersed a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Yet Shawkan did not get a chance to document the massacre. On arriving at the scene, he identified himself to the police as a journalist. Moments later he was beaten, tied up and thrown into a police van.
12 December 2015 marked the day of Shawkan’s first trial.
In a case now referred to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) by the Impact Litigation Project at the American University Washington College of Law (WCL), decisions made by the prosecution followed neither logic nor law. According to Amnesty International Shawkan is the only Egyptian journalist to have been held beyond the two-year cap on pre-trial detention with his imprisonment now spilling into three months of illegality.
Despite having no political affiliations, the photojournalist was referred to Cairo’s Criminal Court in a mass trial of 738 defendants. Shawkan faces a long list of baseless charges, some of which are possessing firearms, attempted murder, illegal assembly, terrorising citizens, and damaging national unity. Among those accused in the same case are high-profile members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, as well as random defendants arrested from the sit-in.
Not surprisingly, on 12 December 2015 the court postponed the trial yet again to 6 February 2016. The supposed reason for adjournment was “lack of ability to transport all those accused to court”, as if the authorities were not already aware of the huge number of defendants.
In prison, Shawkan contracted Hepatitis C. Malnourishment, confinement and hunger strikes have left him anaemic, and he is suffering from depression. Denied access to medication, his lawyers have appealed at least seventeen times to the general prosecutor to release him on medical grounds, but in vain. In addition, Shawkan has been denied access to reading material.
Shawkan describes in a letter how his indefinite detention has been psychologically unbearable, and how he is being beaten “over and over again”, listening to the jailers talking over “how to beat and torture us to cause more pain”.
On Wednesday, the photojournalist's family organised a sit-in in front of the journalists’ syndicate to demand his release. The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international press freedom organization, demanded Shawkan’s release.
Amnesty International has on several occasions also called for the photojournalist’s freedom. Reporters without Borders rallied for a demonstration during President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s visit to Berlin.
Shawkan’s dreams of travelling, his love for movies, and his longing for music should not be trapped in a cold cell. Shawkan is a photojournalist, not a criminal.
A regime that cages journalists for simply doing their job, one that feels threatened by a camera, is the real criminal.
Peace: a meaningless concept?
Flickr/Michael Loadenthal. Some rights reserved.Recent incidents in Israel and Palestine are clear indications of the demise of the Oslo Accords. A new strategy to halt potential upcoming violence and the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA) must be drawn up and fast.
“Peace” now has no meaning and has been discredited as both a concept and word. Since 1993, “peace” never guaranteed the cessation of killing. After all these years, more and more land has been confiscated, houses demolished, people arrested, killed, and executed. The continuous siege on the Gaza Strip and daily apartheid practices in the West Bank, accompanied with the inequality between the native people of Palestine who have Israeli citizenship and those who do not, does not stop.
Since Netanyahu came to power in 1996, peace has become a nauseating word. The Roman historian Tacitus once said of the Roman conquest of Britain that "the Roman army created a desolation, and called it peace". The same is happening to the Palestinians, Arabs, Europeans, Americans and Israelis. Both peace and its process are bleak.
As the world was celebrating Christmas; Israel executed four Palestinian teenagers just a few kilometres away from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Since October 2015, Israel has killed over 150 Palestinians, and most of these barbaric acts were captured live on camera.
Keeping the status-quo as is will increase the numbers of radicals and extremists on both sides.
Recently, wedding guests exemplified a radical segment of Israeli society; a video went viral of a group celebrating the death of a Palestinian toddler. An extremist group called, “Price Tag”, burnt the toddler alive. Moreover, Israel has arrested more than 2400 Palestinians since October.
If attacks in Israel continue, it is very likely the Israeli government will react and either occupy the West Bank and/or launch new aggression on the Gaza Strip. This will lead to the collapse of the PA, and a weakening of the de-facto shadow-government led by Hamas. Palestinians already have no trust in Fatah, Hamas and the PA in general. The current level of oppression, deadlock in peace, severe injustice, and the frustration among Palestinians is increasing and will perplex the whole situation. The other alternative is more radicalisation and extremism, and eventually fertile land for ISIS like-minded factions or groups.
Obviously, this will rewind the clock back to the pre-Oslo Accords period. However, the result is not likely to be the same. The international community will not accept continuous military occupation, and parts of Israeli society do not want to bear the price of its army’s madness. To do injustice then is to abandon the two state solution.
Numerous intellectuals, writers and activists are widely labelling Israel as an apartheid state and for this label to stick and be recognised internationally, the road and struggle are long and extremely difficult.
The alternative is to keep the status-quo as is, which in turn will increase the numbers of radicals and extremists on both sides. Regardless of the outcome, Netanyahu is playing with a ticking time bomb that will not only harm him but the entire region. All his actions are de-legitimising Israel, and empowering radicals and extremists.
Both Netanyahu and suicide bombers represent two sides of the same coin; both lethal and unstoppable.
It is of great importance to concentrate efforts in combating Netanyahu and his extremist government. With international pressure, mass non-violent demonstrations, the boycott of Israeli products, sanctioning Israel globally, and confronting Israeli apartheid through international trials, there may be hope.
Netanyahu and his government must be held accountable and stopped from fuelling hatred. Their actions are loudly echoing their disinterest in peace and they must be stopped.
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