Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Momentary Relapse of Values

Where we go from here depends on how much we believe in the values we preach. Despite the values we adopted for a brief period of time during the 18 days that overthrew Mubarak, we relapsed into a state similar to that we've been in over the course of the past decades. The state I'm referring to is a combination of denial, ignorance, fear and apathy.

These elements are intricately linked in a loop. They feed off each other and one has to wonder what it would take to break this cycle. State media and other news sources are spreading lies which leads to ignorance, but that of itself is not enough. Denial must exist in order for you to act against every logical bone in your body that tells you not to believe state media that is well known for lying. Denial comes from fear; fear of authority, fear of a uniform, fear of the future, fear for safety, fear of change. In a country that has been at a stand still for decades, change may be more frightening than one would expect. And because the truth lingers in the background and seeps in, apathy is there to fend off any impulse to act against injustice.

The cycle needs to be broken, but what was it that brought about such a relapse after a miraculous awakening of dead Egyptians? The biggest change since the fall of Mubarak was the absence of the face of the smug leader smiling as his people suffered. The bitterness of thirty years directed at that face. Many may have went out with a pretense of scorn against injustice, but in reality the matters had become a personal matter between them and Mubarak. That is why many Egyptians will not speak up today against injustice. Those who opposed Mubarak during the 18 days before his fall and do not speak up against the SCAF injustices never really stood for something, it was always a personal vendetta between them and Mubarak.*

Egyptians have reverted to the same signature shortsightedness that haunted them throughout these years. The main question is 'How will this affect me?'. The self serving attitude is the norm that has simplified life for Egyptians over the years. That's not to say there aren't other flavors and reasons as to why Egyptians have backed down. There are those who firmly believe in the wisdom of their choice of silence. Many believe that things are not what they appear and numerous others are deceived by what the regime wants them to see.

It is saddening that protesters are more respected in the free world than they are in their own country. In the 18 days the international pressure to respect revolutionaries forced the couch party and other apathetic Egyptians to respect those calling for change. That pressure is now relieved by the lack of international media coverage and Egyptians are free to despise their proud countrymen.

Effectively, it comes down to values. Do the majority of Egyptians believe injustice to be unacceptable only when inflicted upon them personally or when inflicted upon just anyone? The answer to that will determine how we move forward or whether we move at all. Injustices must be taken personally, but not only when inflicted upon our person, otherwise, we have no hope of escaping failure at merely being human.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Battle of Abbaseya

Something about this protest in particular reminds me of the protest against the murder of Khaled Said last year. The protest that objected to the brutality and impunity of Egyptian police was met with brutality. The message was clear, we can do whatever we want. In essence the protest of 23rd of July was similar. We went out to protest against the SCAF’s lies and dirty tactics and we were met with lies and dirty tactics.

The march started to Abbaseya a little after four in order protest in front of the Ministry of Defense. The weather had become more bearable and became much cooler along the way. What started out as a thousand protesters quickly grew to a little over three thousand as we marched on. The march was reminiscent of 28 January, and we called on to people to join us. This time it was different. Some people supported the march and others did not. The further we went from Tahrir, the more the people’s aggression towards us became palpable.

We arrived to the end of our road, blocked off by the military at the Mosque just before the bridge that takes you to Salah Salem road. It started out well, we were chanting against the SCAF and we were expressing our disappointment in a ruling council that had betrayed the people. Ten minutes had passed when the first clashes erupted from a side street near where the army troops were standing. The exchange of stone throwing commenced and from then on it was a disaster.

The military, being chanted against was happy to see rocks and glass flying at protesters from all sides. The protesters tried to escape but the stone throwing would not stop. The protesters fought back, but all too feebly. As time progressed they fought some more, but all exists were blocked either by the military or by men armed with rocks, Molotov cocktails and swords.

The military fired rounds in the air, but there was nowhere to escape to. The protesters were stuck between the military and hostile men who would not stop their aggression. As time passed by, there was shotgun fire, but the injuries from all the stone throwing were numerous. Every minute a protester was rushed in to the faculty of medicine close to fighting area.

It was difficult to find a spot where rocks were not being thrown. They came from all sides. They came from the top of the buildings along with Molotov cocktails all across the thin strip where protesters resided. They were hard to avoid and there was a consistent sense of danger.

The mosque was locked and would not let protesters in. There were army personnel inside the mosque. The protesters broke down the iron gate of the mosque that kept the protesters cordoned and created an exit.

At long last the Central Security Forces (CSF) appeared from behind the Molotov throwing aggressors and fired their long range tear gas canisters, upon which numerous protesters rushed out through the safe exit through the mosque gates into a safer street at the back.

On the way back, residents were accusing protesters of being spies and one of the bloggers Amr Gharbeya was kidnapped. He was accused of being part of the 6 of April movement which has been dubbed an enemy by the SCAF.

This is a brief recap of the events but they don’t do it any justice. In fact, there was no justice on that day. The protesters were trapped and the army and the violent antagonists were prepared for such a confrontation. The SCAF had already prepared the scapegoat, the 6 of April movement. People in the neighborhood were deluded into thinking the protesters aimed to burn down the Ministry of Defense.

There was so much blood. There were scores of protesters being rushed out of the battle front in order to get treatment with mostly bleeding heads. The people throwing rocks back were defending everyone else against a gruesome attack. The military stood idly, proud that the plan had worked. Protesters were no longer concerned with getting to the Ministry of Defense, they were concerned with their own survival. We walked through protesters with many injuries, but with even more determination. There was tension in the air, and a sadness that so much violence would occur for no reason.

It’s a hard truth to swallow that the army is currently betraying the people. No one is convinced. The Muslim Brotherhood are happy to condone injustice as long as their elections are not touched. The couch party does not care if we achieve stability through colonization. The rest of the regime are happy to spread lies so that they continue to thrive. Most people are too lazy to think. They don’t even ask themselves the expected questions. Why would the army not stop violence? Why was there nothing thrown at the army? Why did the army trap the people and not let them escape? But no, these questions are too much of an effort for most.

One of these days the foolish lazy people who do not even apply logic to the insanely naïve statements given by the SCAF will realize that they handed their lives and their dignity to an oppressor on a silver plate.

Those who went out in the first 18 days and do not understand what is going on today have forgotten why we went out in the first place. It was never about elections, we've always had elections. It was never about government, we've always had a government. It was about dignity, and we never had dignity. We still don't and that's why giving us all else but that will not console us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We are the People

The bravery, resilience, valor and persistence expressed by people all over Egypt to fight injustice brings the cynic in me to his knees. The events around me have come to challenge my thoughts and perceptions ever so strongly.

We often times forget that those who shout out orders over their phones and their wireless radio and command people left and right are merely human. It is only chance that gave them the power they have over others. We forgot the most important lesson of humanity, and that is that we’re all human. We need to belong to others like us. Often times we are blinded by the company we keep. It is dangerous to believe that the power we have comes from any form of superiority.

We are the people. The world was made for us. Countries were made for us. We have to ensure that we could all enjoy this world.

I look at old people and I’m haunted by a recurring thought. Could they have been somebody else? I look at an old man, who can barely make a living, toiling all day for a few pennies. He could have been somebody, you know. He could have been a manager in a big firm. He could have been an army general. He could have been a successful doctor, lawyer or an engineer. But fate has led him to where he is at today, and not necessarily because he is incompetent or unintelligent, but because the world we live in does not offer us that many chances.

I look at other old men in power; some of them important because they possess wisdom and others because they have had an opportunity to be in a position of power. Do they not think of themselves when they see other men who toil all day? Do they not think that it could have been them?

The world is hard enough as it is without an oppressive government that butchers the few chances that a good life may offer. I’m not calling for all people to be important. I’m not calling for everyone to be successful. I’m just calling for a chance for everyone to know what they’re made of, to be all they can be. Is that too much to ask?

We sometimes forget that men shouting orders are just men. They’re humans who have been given an opportunity to rule over others. The military governing Egypt at this time didn't get power over people through their intelligence, or competence or even by exercising force. They tried to shoot us, but it didn’t work. The military got their power by lying. Who are they to change the lives of millions? Is that worthy of any respect? Not to me. They are just people. I did not choose them to be my masters. They were afraid of us, and in order to overcome their fear, they decided to rule us.

I always wondered, what gives a man the right to take away another's life. Who are you to sentence someone innocent to 15 years in prison and completely destroy his life without a fair trial? Who are you to ruin those numerous seconds, hours and days where that person could have made a good life.The people sentenced to prison aren't a menace to society, those sentencing them are.

The main reason I want those false rulers out is because I’m fighting for a chance that I think most of us deserve. I’m fighting not for a better life for each of us, but for a chance of a better life. I’m fighting so that each of us gets that chance to be all they can be.

Now if you choose to do nothing, it’s your choice. If nothing is achieved at all, it should be our choice. But a few non select humans should not be in charge of decimating our hopes and dreams.

We’ve been in these chains for so long, that many feel as if they were part of their clothing. They believe that we should obey those who have cheated us out of our God given rights. Power is given to tyrants by people who accept the status quo. We need to remember that it’s not about them, it’s about us. They should join our ranks, we shouldn’t shrivel because of theirs. We are the people and it’s our right to demand a chance of a better life. It’s our children’s right to come into a world that fights for their chance to be all they can be. We are the people and we have to choose who we give the power to. Not liars, not thieves and not men in uniform who think they can scold us because they’re wiser.

The world is not idealistic, and we may win or lose this fight. I won’t pretend I have the answers, but I know one thing: we’ve been given a chance right here and right now to be all we can be. We can choose to make a difference. We can choose to use that chance. For the first time in ages we’ve been given this opportunity and it seems so unreal. It isn’t though, it’s a real as gets, the rest of life is what we’ve been conditioned to think. We are the people and even though we’ve always deserved this opportunity, we’ve had to work so hard to get it. We are the people and we deserve so much more than we’ve been given. We are the people and we’ve been given a chance. We can choose now to grow old and senile, or we can choose to grow old and wise.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Inside Story - Egypt: democracy in danger?

July 8 was more than just another protest. It was a message from the Egyptian people to the ruling military council that the old ways don't work anymore. This is my interview with Aljazeera English on inside story where I've tried to express the state of affairs at the time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Show Won’t Go On

The show’s over folks. There will be no more of that same old charade of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) playing good guy anymore. There will be no more acts in that play where they pretend to support the revolution. Things are back to normal. Corrupt officials and mass murderers are being released in anticipation of July 8. After all, the old regime has to face the people with all its strength.

The army is being lead by a group of sinister men. They are worse than Mubarak, and they’re willing to do anything to stay in power and protect their friends. The revolution isn’t yet to be celebrated no matter what Egyptian state TV says. The revolution continues to fight against injustice.

The real danger of the couch party is that it raises doubts about the realities that citizen journalist experience and convey to the public. Their main source of information is the state TV and the official press releases. These are mostly lies. Even those who read will be surrounded by lies from Ahram, Akhbar, Al Yom El Sabe3 and Al Wafd. The danger is that they hinder the collective consciousness of the Egyptian people that led to this revolution.

It has become apparent that it is futile to argue with the couch party, firstly because they will waste a lot of energy, but more importantly because they will not go out into the streets no matter what the circumstances. They only talk about politics because of the pressure to say something and adopt a point of view. In the end, the best way is to allow them to examine the evidence. Most of them are apathetic at heart, and they’re angry at something they don’t really know and so they blame the revolution.

The reason this is difficult is because we are dealing with the most powerful men in the country. They are rich and they command an army. Going up against them seems to be a losing battle. But it’s not the army we’re against, but the SCAF. How can we go up against these tyrants and win?

I don’t have an answer as to how we can do it, but I know why we can. The most important belief is that we’re right, that’s all we need. Fighting for what’s right must be worth something. David can take down Goliath. We have to believe that we can win with truth on our side. We have to believe that we can win when we’re fighting for justice. It doesn’t matter how it’s going to happen, the chance will come if we hold our ground.

We’re halfway there, and ahead of us lay two paths, one of a complete dictatorship or one of freedom. We can’t go back now, not after experiencing a taste of it, not after knowing how powerful we are and what we can achieve.