2011 archive

The Joker’s Country

Many people, after my last post, were wondering if I am depressed. I wasn’t. I felt sad & helpless, but the reason behind my feelings of sadness and helplessness was something I could not pinpoint, until I figured it out two nights ago while watching The Batman Begins Sequel “The Dark Knight”. If this sounds strange to you, bear with me, because as always, there is a reason to my madness.

In the Dark Knight, the Joker’s plan was simple: He believed that modern civilized society, with all of its rules & rights, was nothing but a facade to be tossed aside the moment you apply some pressure on it. Do that, and people will give to their fears, completely ignore their morals, and humanity will show its true ugly face. And at first his plan seemed to be working, but it ultimately failed at the two Ferries test, where he controlled two ferries, one carrying regular law abiding citizens, and one carrying criminals, and both were filled with explosives. He then told both of them that they had until midnight, and only one ferry can survive, and that each had the switch to blow the other up. Terrified people on both ferries immediately went for the blow each other up option, but in the end, faced with the horror of their choice, how pushing this one switch would end countless lives to save their own, neither group could really do it. The Humanity in the hearts of people who lived in Gotham won, and the Joker lost his bet on their souls. Y’all saw the movie, so you know this. What does that have to do with anything? Well, the thing that dawned on me was this: The Joker was not wrong in his theory, he just chose the wrong sample group to conduct his experiment. Had he done this experiment in Egypt, he would’ve won his bet fair & square. Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?

Exhibit 1: The minute the police disappeared, and crime started rising, people were so terrified of possibly getting hurt or robbed, they immediately supported the idea of Military trials for civilians suspected of committing crimes, where they can be sentenced from 1 to 7 years without lawyers in 15 minute trials. There are now 16000 such prisoner, and people don’t care because they believe them all to be thugs or criminals. Why? Because the Army said so. Innocent till proven guilty suddenly was no longer a priority, & the fact that we were having military trials for civilians AFTER a revolution that got started because of the lack of justice is in itself a very bad joke.

Exhibit 2: The mostly angry public opinion at the protesters when they clash with the Police in Mohamed Mahmoud or the army at Egypt Cabinet, due to the instability this causes the country. Never mind that both clashes were provoked by the respective security forces, people were more mad at the Protesters being there, then of the fact that they were getting maimed and killed. After all, those clashes affected the economy.

Exhibit 3 : The complete denial that people have regarding how clean this election is, especially in its second phase and to the fact that the SCAF are implementing policies into laws that affects the generations to come, by ensuring that no actual change or improvement will be there for them. The reason behind this? People not wanting trouble, since they are almost over and done with the elections. I always marveled at those who believe that ” This is good enough” and ” it’s a start.” It’s like they are stating their lack of concern for the future being sabotaged, since all they care about is right now. They even stop following the news since it makes them angry and depressed. Yep.

Congratulations, Ladies and Gentlemen of the silent majority, you are the people the Joker was talking about. At the first sign of trouble, you abandon your ethics, your beliefs, all the rules of civilized behavior, and you support whatever solution that you believe will cause your problems to go away, at any price, literally. The freedoms and dignities of other people, their lives, whatever. You just don’t want any headaches or inconveniences to your plans, even if the soul of your country is at stake. And best of all, you will justify your point of view with a litany of reasons that reveal your prejudices, your fears, your lack of a moral compass. What? Too self-righteous? Too Harsh? Really? After all the evidence? Want more? Fine, let’s look at the Free Maikel Nabil campaign for example, shall we?

The people who champion the Free Maikel Nabil cause cry their lungs out at the injustice that this young man faces with his bogus charges, illegal sentencing & inhuman conditions he lives under, and everyone simply ignores them. Why? Well, because they have heard that at some point he supported Israel, so..ehh..fuck him. Well, newsflash assholes, not only was he charged for documenting in an epically long blog post the violations that the army conducted against the revolutionaries starting from the 18 days and not his support for Israel, there is no law that prevents an Egyptian from declaring a favorable opinion of Israel if he wishes to do so. To put it to you more bluntly: It’s within his right to declare his support for Israel if he wishes and to write posts that criticize the army, and your personal opinion of how distasteful that may be or how deserving it is of punishment is completely & utterly irrelevant. This is why it’s called a right: because it’s there protecting you, even when you- according to public opinion- least deserve it. Again for all of you not getting this: A right is a right because even in the worst circumstances, even when you least you deserve it, you are entitled to it. (I am repeating this sentence especially for all of you assholes who claim to be human rights activists and supported the Free Alaa cause and yet refuse to support Maikel Nabil because of the “Israel issue”. What a bunch of hypocrites you are.)

But what’s even more maddening, is that we can’t hate them for any of this, because we know that they simply, for some reason, just don’t get it. And it’s not just that they don’t get it: they simply refuse to see it. Hell, when one female Protesters at the Egyptian Cabinet Clashes was dragged and beaten by army soldiers, her cloths torn off, showing her bra, many of them wondered openly why was she at the Protest to begin with and why was she not wearing layers in this cold, unless it was in order to have the soldier beat her up and tear her cloths so she can cause a scandal for the army. Mind you, they are watching the same video as we are, yet somehow, the issue for them is not her getting beaten up by the same army that’s being paid to protect her, or getting sexually assaulted in broad daylight by them, but rather why was she there and if she had this diabolical plot to get the poor army soldiers to beat her up so she can show her bra to the world. Yes, let’s focus on the blue bra, and ignore the boot of the soldier on the stomach right under it. That’s the real issue here, clearly.

But despite it all, we understand. We get it. We get your fears, your hate, your deeply nurtured prejudices, and we refuse to give up on you. We will continue being there, reminding you of your humanity, because we refuse to believe that you are not good people, and that we live in the Joker’s Country. Maybe we are as delusional as you, but to be honest, we just feel guilty and responsible. We do.

One of the points that always get overlooked in the discourse of the revolution is the feeling of responsibility that has befallen many revolutionaries. At times when none of you are watching, in moments we don’t talk about with others, we face what the revolution has wrought, and we take a long hard look at ourselves and what we’ve done. The worst thing about this exercise is how lousy the story gets the moment the 18 days were over. If we hadn’t made the choice to revolt and then hand over power to the same people who used to give the best military salutes for 30 years to the man we revolted against, then all of the misery that followed from the thousands who were injured and maimed, the hundreds dead that we know about (and those we never even heard of their deaths), the thousands who ended up receiving years long sentences from completely unfair & illegal military trials, to the hundreds of thousands who lost their jobs, to the millions facing hard times economically due to a transitional government that failed to enact a single economical plan or measure to improve the economy in any way, and to the public, which we introduced terms like “forced virginity tests” into their everyday vocabulary, would not have happened. Yes, we definitely share a responsibility for all of this, but it’s not for causing it, because we didn’t cause it, but for being unable to stop it. Any of it.

We couldn’t protect you from those who used your fears to push forward their agenda of oppression and injustice. We couldn’t protect you from those who incited you to attack your brothers and sisters by claiming they are attempting to destroy your lives. We couldn’t protect you from their inaction, their guns, their military courts, their prisons, and their clear as day goal of aborting this revolution & preventing it from enacting any kind of real change or bringing any justice to all those who were maimed, tortured, imprisoned and murdered. We were so tired after those 18 days, that when the SCAF showed up and offered to guide the transitional period, we jubilantly agreed, because we wanted to believe so much that they are with us, and because we truly didn’t want to clash with them as well. Basically, when it truly mattered, we were chicken-shit and lazy. And we have been paying for this in blood ever since.

In my last post I wondered if the lives lost in Mohamed Mahmoud and Egyptian Cabinet were worth fighting for the symbol of Tahrir, but that was the wrong way to look at it. When the military took over, they promised to hand over Power by the end of September 2011 (remember?), and when that date passed and no power was handed over, they decided to extend the transitional period until end of March 2013. Then the Mohamed Mahmoud events happened, and with the mounting casualties the SCAF was pressured to move the date to end of June 2012, and then the Egyptian cabinet events happened, and with the mounting casualties they are now talking about speeding up the process and possibly having the Presidential elections as early as the end of January. And here comes the lesson: With every life lost, we speed up the transition from military rule to civilian rule. This is why we call them our martyrs, because they are literally getting us closer to our freedom with their very lives. I have always heard that Freedom is only won by blood, but I never wanted this to be the case here. Those people’s blood is on all of our hands, not only their killers’, because their sacrifice became necessary due to our complacency. They are winning us our freedom with their blood, and many of us call them thugs. I guess it’s easier than facing the ugly truth about them and us.

And by the way, the pressure that was placed on SCAF to speed up the process was obviously not internal pressure, since so many of our people were very much pro the protesters getting killed, but rather external pressure. Oh yeah. In case you didn’t know, when news of Egypt now comes on international media channels, they showcase a pictures of a protester getting beaten up by a soldier, with the picture of Marshal Tantawi, who with his military garb and Nubian features looks very much like one of those military rulers of Rwanda or Liberia, or one of those African Banana Republics. In contrast, whenever they showcase news from Tunisia, they showcase a Tunisian girl waving her country’s flag. Brilliant, isn’t it? The outside world sees that something is clearly going wrong here, while the locals are still undecided about that, and believe silly conspiracy theories of invisible hands and third parties, just like a good third world country would.

Egypt…..The Banana republic… The Joker’s country…. Over my dead body. People of Egypt, You deserve better. Believe it!

Underneath

Lately I have been hard to reach, even when I am surrounded by friends and loved ones. I don’t want to talk or think, my brain is a merry-go-round of ideas and knowledge that I wish were not there. 2 weeks ago I was noticing how everyone around me is falling apart: physically, psychologically, and emotionally. And the worst part is the helplessness you feel, knowing that you can’t offer them any real comfort or solution. We are in the shit. The Dark Days.

This is not an uplifting post. You have been warned.

My helplessness reached its peak when my friend S. came over two nights ago, and she was not alright. Fighting to release the thousands that are getting military tried over the months has been a draining crusade for her, and it only got worse the moment she got involved in trying to ensure that the death reports of those killed in Mohamed Mahmoud do not get forged, which meant she had to be at the Zeinhom morgue the night those bodies would come in, surrounded by wailing families and crying loved ones, seeing dead bodies after dead body come in, and almost getting arrested by the authorities that didn’t want her stopping the cover-up. She told me after wards that she now sees those dead bodies everywhere, and she can’t escape them. But that night, 2 nights ago, she had just come back from Tahrir, where a man , standing inches away from her, ended up getting set on fire due to an exploding Molotov cocktail. She could see the fire engulf him, the smell of burnt flesh and hair, his agonizing screams for help. She was silent. Very calm and silent. She was sitting next to me and I couldn’t reach her, and all I could do is hold her without being able to tell her that things will be alright. Because..how? How will they be alright exactly?

Cold comfort I proved to be..    

I haven’t written in two months. Two months I have spent running for parliament, stopping my campaign to run around all the field hospitals in Mohamed Mahmoud and ensuring they are well supplied, to losing the election and heading to Suez to lead another one, one that I managed to “win”. The things I have seen, on the street, I do not wish on anyone. One day I will write about that experience, but not today. Today, allow me to take you into my fragmented mind a bit. I have been silent, I have been tied up by advisors over what you can and cannot say during an election. This is over. The elections, for me, are over. I am done being silent. I am now loose, and I don’t think this was the desired effect

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One of the biggest mistakes of this revolution, and there are plenty to go around, was that we allowed its political aspects to overshadow the cultural and social aspects. We have unleashed a torrent of art, music and creativity, and we don’t celebrate or enjoy it, or even promote it. We have brought the people to a point where they were ready to change. To change who they are and how they act, and we ignored that and instead focused all of our energies in a mismanaged battle over the political direction of this country. We clashed with the military, and we forgot the people, and we let that small window that shows up maybe every 100 years where a nation is willing to change, to evolve, to go to waste. Even the work that was being done, it focused on teaching them their political rights, or superficial behavioral things like “don’t litter” or “don’t break traffic laws”, and nothing regarding respecting the women or the people from other faiths that share this cursed land. Wasn’t a priority back then, because in our arrogance and hubris we assumed that people will change by themselves. That they will act right, despite the fact that throughout the history of humanity, there wasn’t a single proof that people, by themselves, will act right. Sorry everyone, we were arrogant and idealistic. Forgive us.

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The parliamentary elections are fraudulent. I am not saying this because I lost- I lost fair and square- but because it’s the truth. The fraud happened on the hands of the election workers and the Judges. People in my campaign were offered Ballot boxes, employees and judges in polling stations were instructing people who to vote for and giving unstamped ballots to Christians in polling stations where they are heavily present to invalidate their votes, and the Egyptian bloc has about half a ton of correct ballots- ones that showed people voting for them- found being thrown in the streets in Heliopolis, Ghamra, Shubra, Zaitoun, Alexandria, Suez and many other districts. The amount of reports of fraud and legal injunctions submitted against these elections are enough to bring it all down and have it done all over again. Hell, a simple request for a vote recount would be enough to expose the fraud, since the ballots were thrown in the street. The people, however, are not privy of this, because it all looked very functional and organized to them. This is very important, because it tells you the shape of things to come.

When you ask the average Egyptian, you will find that they didn’t have a problem per say with corruption, but rather with the fact that things were both corrupt and dysfunctional. How many times have I heard the phrase of “He could’ve stolen all he wanted, and we wouldn’t mind, had he only made the country better while he stole” regarding Mubarak? Hundreds. Well, now we will get our wish. The shape of new Egypt will not be a place that’s free of corruption, but rather more like South American countries: Corrupt, yet functional. People will do their jobs, but they will allow the same level of corruption to exist on the down low. Give us a make-over, a window-dressing, and we will be happy & impressed with the apparent improvement. We never were high maintenance people anyway. You want security? We will place a bunch of cops in the street and you will feel secure, even though they won’t do much to protect you from criminals. You want democracy? We will create a media campaign, organize polling stations, and have you stand in cues and put your ballots in the box, while vote counters can tally the votes in any way they wish, and judges can change the total at any time they choose to, and you will be none the wiser and will believe whatever results you hear. Democracy is brilliant, ain’t it?

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Sorry to go back to the March 19th referendum, but there is something that was just brought to my attention: Did you notice that back then we voted yes or no, so we can elect 500 people to the parliament, who will put the rules to choose 100 people for the constitutional committee, who will be chosen by 80 different authorities/syndicates/groups alongside with the parliament, who will choose the remaining 20, so that we can write a constitution in 6 months that will be presented to the SCAF, and if approved by them, will be put into a referendum for another Yes or No vote?

God Bless Tunisia. The only time they went to vote was for the members of the constitutional committee.

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There is a disconnect between the revolutionaries and the people, and that disconnect exists in regards of priorities. Our priorities are a civilian government, the end of corruption, the reform of the police, judiciary, state media and the military, while their priorities are living in peace and putting food on the table. And we ignore that, or belittle it, telling them that if they want this they should support what we want, and deriding their economic fears by telling them that things will be rough for the next 3 to 5 years, but afterwards things will get better on the long run. Newsflash, the majority of people can’t afford having it even rougher for 3 to 5 years. Hell, they can’t afford to have it rough for one more month. We tell them to vote for us for a vague guarantee and to not to sell their votes or allow someone to buy their loyalty, while their priorities are making sure there is food on the table for their families tonight. You sell them hope in the future, and someone else gives them money and food to survive the present. Who, do you think, they will side with?

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In the past two months I have been both a candidate and a campaign manager, and what you see as a campaign manager is very different than what you see as a candidate, especially when you are a campaign manager in Suez. To make a long story short, in the 10 days we were there, this is what went down: We had one of our campaign workers fall victim to a hit and run “accident”, a campaign operative getting arrested by the military police at a polling station for filming the army promoting the Salafi Nour Party (with a big banner carrying the Noor Party slogan being placed on the side of an Army Truck) and his film confiscated of course, our campaign headquarters got attacked with molotov cocktails by thugs sent by a “moderate” islamist centrist party (hint: It’s not ElAdl) , the hotel we were staying in got repeatedly attacked by thugs till 3 am, with the army platoon leader protecting the Hotel informing me that if I don’t resolve the situation, he will “deal violently” with those outside and inside the hotel, the Leader of the 3rd Egyptian Army calling us looking for me, the Chief of Security for Suez doing the same thing, Lawyers and thugs working for a semi-leftist party filed police reports against us claiming we hired them and owed them money when we didn’t, and the other campaign manager finally going to deal with the situation, ends up getting arrested, and the two campaign members that were with him were left outside under the mercy of groups of thugs, and we managed by the grace of god get them all out unharmed and we escape Suez while Trucks filled with guys with guns going around Suez looking for us.

Oh, and we also sent in one of our campaign operatives dressed as a salafi into the Suez central committee for vote counting, where Army personnel assured him that they have helped the Noor Party and told him that they hooked them up with two seats, while winking.

Oh yeah.

In other news, we won a seat there.

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So, why would the military be “helping” the Salafi Noor Party get votes? Well, mainly because they invented them. It was a match made possible by State-Security, who probably alerted the military of how reliable were the salafis in their previous “cooperation” to scare the living shit out of the population into submission and supporting the regime. Remember the All Saints church attack, the one that happened this New Year? Remember the documents proving that our very own State Security had arranged it to take place to force the Coptic population to support Mubarak? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. Only on a higher level. Ensuring that the Salafis have a big chunk of the parliament (one that is neither logical or feasible considering their numbers in Egypt) achieves two goals: 1) Provide a mechanism for the security apparatus to keep the Muslim Brotherhood in check if they ever thought of using religion as a weapon against SCAF (As far as the salafis are concerned, the MB are secular infidels) and 2) to really frame the choice in our (and the international community’s) heads between a “Islamist country or a military regime”, because, let’s face it, The MB are not scary enough for the general population. But the Salafis? Terrifying shit. You add to that the piece of news that the average Egyptian duty-free buying alcohol limit over night went from 4 bottles to a single bottle, and that they now have a “women only” cue in the Airport, and you have the Upper-class and Upper-middle class – alongside with the west- pissing in their pants and psychologically ready to accept military rule over Islamic one. A fake and a false choice, especially that new parliament will have no power what so ever over anything.

So why bother with the elections? Well, because this is a fight for the nation’s morale. We know that you don’t know this country, that you live in social and cultural ghettos of your own making and that if we are not competing you will end up with a 95% Islamist parliament and you will believe that this is an islamist country and 50% of you will be booking their tickets out of here tomorrow rather than living in Egyptistan. That we too need to go down and see for ourselves how things work, since this is an election without data, real media coverage, and very few people have the experience or the knowledge of the areas that you would need to win an election in a district. Here is a fun fact: about 40% of the people head to the polls not knowing who they will vote for, and are simply there because they are afraid of the 500LE fine they must pay for abstaining to vote; about another 50% go to the polls with a piece of paper that has the names & symbols of the people they will vote for, people that they don’t know, or their history or anything about them. They simply asked their friends and they told them that these are “good people to vote for”, and this is true across the board in all classes, upper and lower, uneducated and educated. And you can’t blame them really, because each district has over 100 candidates fighting over 2 seats and only 4 weeks to campaign. If you are the average new voter, there is no time to meet or evaluate or educate yourself about all of them in order to choose objectively between them. I know people that voted for me simply because I was the only candidate they met. I am not kidding.

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So many times I have met people who are terrified at the electoral successes of the Islamic parties in the election, and while they acknowledge that there “must be a deal” between the SCAF and the Islamists, they sit back with a knowing smile and tell me : “But you know what? The SCAF are not stupid. They will screw the Muslim Brotherhood over. They are just waiting for the right moment and they will destroy them. You just wait and see!”

I tell them that they are disgusting for thinking this way. That they are like a raped woman who is rooting for her rapist to rape the other woman who got away so that she wouldn’t be the only raped one.

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I love it when a fellow revolutionary asks me : ” I don’t understand what’s going on. Why are the Police/Military shooting and killing people and prolonging street conflicts in Mohamed Mahmoud/ ElQasr Eleiny? What do they want? What’s the big plan?”

Well, to put it simply, The Big plan is the same as the immediate plan: they want you dead. It’s not that they want to kill opposition; they want to kill the opposition, literally. This country ain’t big enough for the both of you, and they have everything to lose. And they have guns. And the media. And all the keys of power. And you want to overthrow them. How do you think they will react to that? Give you cookies?

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One question that keeps nagging me for the past 10 months: Who, exactly, cut off the communications on the 28th of January?

Some people say it was the Ministry of Interior, but that’s not right, because the soldiers and officers on the street had no idea that the communication is about to get shut-off. Most of them were surprised by it as the rest of us, and using their radios was not an effective way to relay a plan or organize a police force against demonstrators. This is why they were so easily beaten. Every Police Officer I met has told me that they woke up to find the phone network down, and none of them were given a plan to begin with. If there was no plan, and no coordination, why would they shut down all communications? And if the MOI is the one that cut-off the communication, how long would it have taken them to realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot and switch it back on to save their soldiers from the epic beat down that they received? Half an hour, maximum? The communication was down for 4 days.

Who cut off the Communications? Mubarak? But the Police were his private army. They existed to serve him. How long would it have taken before he had the MOI chiefs’ informing him that cutting off the communications was getting the soldiers he needed to stop the revolution killed and beaten? How long would it have taken him to execute the order to bring it back on? Ten minutes? Why didn’t that happen?

And if both the President and the MOI both wanted the communications back on, at least the cell phones, who had the power to refuse their orders or stop them?

Who cut off the communications? And why?

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I didn’t partake in the events of Mohamed Mahmoud. I was there every day, getting medical supplies and helping people, but I didn’t partake at all. And in the current battle still going on at the Egyptian Cabinet building, I didn’t even set foot on any pavement near Tahrir for the past 3 days. I didn’t go not out of fear or cowardice, but because those two events crystallize to me the real problem in the Egyptian revolution: The schism between the symbol and the cause, or rather how we are always fixated on the symbol, and not the cause itself.

For example, the case of Khaled Said was not about Khaled Said himself, it was about Police brutality and lack of accountability towards those who are paid to protect us and instead have no problem killing us. The cause was to end this, not to try the murderers of Khaled Said. But instead of focusing on that cause, we focused on the symbol, and we ignored the cause. Police killing without accountability still happens to this day, but The killers of Khaled Said received a verdict, so Justice is served. The same goes for Alaa, who wanted- through his bravery- to give the cause of stopping the military trials for civilians the push and international pressure it needed, but instead, and in spite of his intentions, ended up becoming the Symbol that everyone rallies around, ignoring the cause. All got jubilant when Alaa got transferred to a civilian court, all the while, more than 12,000 other Egyptians are still serving year-long sentences they received in military trials that took on average 15-20 minutes for the entire trial. The Symbol and the Cause.

Tahrir became an international symbol, thanks to the foreign media, and everyone believed that the regime was brought down because of the people in Tahrir, even though every revolutionary knows that the regime was brought down because the revolution was at every square in the country, not just Tahrir. But, amazingly, we also believed the Hype that the media created. We believed in the Symbol, and it became a fixture in our thinking. If there is a problem, go to Tahrir. Hell, centralize the entire revolution into Tahrir, and instead of going to every other square and concentrating our bases in the country, we demanded – like the chauvinist Cairiens that we are- for them to come to us. That as long as we have many numbers in Tahrir, we will get somewhere, we will bring down the regime.

But here is the truth: Tahrir is not a magical land, one which if we occupy we can hold all the magical keys of our kingdom and bring down the evil regime of whomever is in Power. Tahrir is a square. A piece of land. A symbol, but a piece of land nonetheless. And just because it worked before, it doesn’t mean it will work again. We are like an old married couple trying to recapture the magic of their early days by going to the same place they went to on their honeymoon, or dance to the same song they fell in love to, and discovering that it’s not working because there are real problems that need to be resolved. Symbols are nice, but they don’t solve anything.

And this is why I didn’t get involved: I couldn’t understand the Battle for Mohamed Mahmoud, because it’s a battle to hold on to a street of no actual significance or importance, and yet some of the best youth this country had to offer died or lost their eyes or were seriously injured protecting it. The same thing goes for the current battle. What is the purpose? What is the end Goal? A battle for the sake of battle? Just like maintaining a sit-in for the sake of maintaining the sit-in, even though a sit-in is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself? I mean, I would understand if the aim was to occupy Maspiro or something, but they are not even attempting that. They are maintaining a fight in the street, because they got attacked at that street, so the street immediately becomes a symbol and we must fight back and not be driven away even as we get beaten and killed. Because it’s all about the Symbol, and not about the cause or the goal, and people are dying.

It’s like reading Bad Poetry….Now what?

There is no solution. It’s the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. There must be a way out, but I can’t seem to find one without more blood getting spilled. There is no panacea here, no exit strategy. Just helplessness, and waiting for whatever it is that will happen next, even though we can rest assured it won’t be good news. I am sorry that I cannot comfort you, but maybe, just maybe, this is not the time to be comforted.

The Last Choice

Today the mood in Cairo was wary & melancholic. With the reality of what went down yesterday at Maspero hitting them with its full might, the general population that yesterday found itself on the brinks of chaos is utterly terrified. The number of phone calls I received from people who were worried and horrified made me wish I could shut off my phone, with everyone looking at the future with an incredibly bleak outlook. It’s easy to fall into that mood- after all you have your army killing your people, a long oppressed minority of it at that- but if one looks beyond what happened, one sees a very different picture. What happened yesterday was the beginning of the end of the military rule over Egypt: The days of the SCAF ruling us are numbered. And not because they don’t want to, but because they will no longer have any other choice.

A quick recap over what has went down yesterday: a huge demo held by Coptic Christians & muslim supporters protesting against yet another fight over the building of a Church was attacked by the Egyptian armed forces there to protect it and plainclothed thugs. Shots were fired at protesters killing them, rocks were thrown by protesters in return, protesters were overrun by armored vehicles, the Egyptian State TV issued a plea asking Egyptian citizens to come to the Demo and “protect the army from Christian thugs”, and a street battle that resulted in over 24 dead and 150 injured. The street battle after a while turned into Egyptian citizens fighting each other, without any of them being able to figure out who was fighting who. Pandemonium, for a lack of a better word.

But the moment the dust settled the questions started presenting themselves: This was obviously planned, so what the hell was the SCAF thinking? How could they attack and kill Egyptians on the street so casually, while their sole purpose is to protect them from getting killed? How could they risk enflaming the country into a huge sectarian battle by having state Media so conscientiously attacking the Christians and promoting violence against them? How did they not see that the choice they made is an inherently flawed one that it could spell their doom? How do you explain last night?

Well, the easy explanation is that they- like every single political force in the country throughout this year- fell into the trap of thinking that they have won and asserted their power, only to have the whole thing blow up in their faces. After believing the political street to be dead, and that the revolution is almost dying, they figured they now have the power to put “people in their proper place” like the old days. So, they went down yesterday to terrorize the Christians, counting that they won’t put up a fight (because they never really did before), and that the sectarian rhetoric will cause them all to fear for their lives, stop them from causing trouble, and quite possibly scare them from participating in the elections. With every single respectable political party formed after the revolution having prominent Christians in their founders and as their candidates, they figured that threatening us with the possibility that the next election will turn into a Muslim vs. Christian election will discourage people from voting and participating, leaving the new parties with fewer seats, with the Christians being underrepresented as always in the parliament, and thus allowing the ex NDP people control of the Parliament as the only other choice against the “Islamists”. To basically return us to the pre-revolution status quo. But had they thought this through for more than 5 minutes, they might have seen the inherent flaws in their old-and-reliable plan. They, somehow, didn’t and now they have overplayed their hand and about to face the consequences.

What consequences, some of you may ask, believing that there is no way to hold the army accountable for anything that they have done. This is not true at all. Yesterday was a game changer, and it proved that the old ways no longer work. Let’s go over the consequences shall we?

  1. They have shown how weak they really are: The SCAF might be the last remaining part of the Mubarak regime, but it’s not nearly as powerful, because they don’t have the tools of oppression that Mubarak had. Mubarak had the executive branch, a ruling party, talking heads, politicians, “intellectuals”, control over the Media and countless soldiers; SCAF only has the soldiers and Media, and neither are enough to control the situation for them. The soldiers yesterday were beaten up by the protesters, and in many incidents were shown running away from battle due to the sheer number of people they were facing. I personally saw a group of soldiers going up 6 October bridge, banging their batons against their shields, prompting many people to run away for 5 seconds, before standing their ground and advancing against them, and the soldiers stopped, suddenly looking hesitant and scared, and started walking back down. They suddenly remembered why they couldn’t fire on the protesters in Jan25: Because there are far more of us than there are of them. They can’t rule this country by brute force, because they will face real resistance from the population, even when they are unarmed. And the Media had to backtrack very quickly and are now facing the wrath of God from the average Egyptian, with no one able or willing to defend the SCAF, or what the armed forces did. They wanted to showcase their control, and failed miserably, because even they are not strong enough to carry this country alone.
  2. The old arrangement will no longer work on the Christians: The security apparatus always played a dirty game with the Christian population by inciting attacks on them by islmaist groups, thus ensuring that they continue to support it in order to be protected from the evil muslims, the closest example of which was the Church Bombing that took place earlier this year. But now that they have shown themselves willing to kill Christians, and inciting the population against them, they can no longer play the Christian protector, because they have killed Christians with their own hands. If the choice is between someone that is willing to kill you or someone that will protect you but oppress you, it makes sense to go with the Protecting oppressor. But if the choice is between two forces who are willing to kill you, well, screw both of them. The Army has now lost all credibility as the “protector of the citizens”, and thus can no longer be trusted to play that role by anyone. Instead, they left the Christians with no choice but to seek true democracy and civilian rule, because military rule -like islamist rule- now also leads to their oppression and murder. They have lost the trust of that segment of the population for a very long time, and thus left them no choice but to continue to fight, the exact opposite of what last night events intended to do.
  3. The Internal Consequences: The Army has Coptic Christians. Not necessarily in positions of power, but they do exist in all the ranks (except the top ranks of course) and have now placed them in a choice between their religious brethren and their army ones for no reason, which they are not at all happy about. If the Christians inside the army start thinking that their leadership is sectarian or promotes sectarian violence, they will start having serious cracks in the cohesion of the armed forces. Add to that the rising toll of their casualties, which , while not yet significant, are increasing alarmingly as far as the soldiers are concerned. Also, for the first time in their history, an increasingly rising number of the Egyptian population- who are known for their army worship- are starting to have an unfavorable view of them. All are not good signs.
  4. The Global Consequences: The way the world will read what happened won’t be in the context of “The Egyptian army killed its own citizens” (which is the real issue), but rather in the context of ” The Egyptian army just killed the Egyptian Christians”, which means that the Egyptian army will now be looked upon as a sectarian army, which is the death of them. Not only will they lose whatever international legitimacy they might have had, they have now put their allies in a corner: The US can’t justify giving military assistance to an army that kills its own Christian citizens, especially with how cozy they have shown themselves to be with the political islamist forces. The same goes to all western countries, international institutions, and global public opinion, which is largely in support of the Egyptian revolution, and not the Egyptian army, especially if they start viewing it in the “Islamist anti-christian” context. And since no one can defend what they did, there won’t be a counter-argument, because they have no people abroad who can defend them any longer. A Tsunami of international pressure will reign down on them with economic consequences, and it’s exactly the kind of headache they don’t want and can’t deal with economically right now. It’s a bad business.

So, now what?

Well, as far as I see it, there is only one solution out of this: Our political and social leaders need to sit down with SCAF and deliver the following message to them: “If you keep this up you are walking the path of your own destruction. The old tactics won’t work. The people refused to turn sectarian, and your soldiers are no way near enough to take control of the country. So why not cut the crap and finish this? Tell us what you want, and get out of power immediately, because if you continue doing this you will break the country and your institution. Neither one of us wants to live in a broken country, and you can’t sustain this, so this needs to stop, now. What we want is a country with a future, and the only way to get there is together. This is the only choice you have, because the Price of the other choice is one that you cannot afford to pay, but we are starting to be willing to pay it. This is not a negotiation; this is the only road out, and you no longer have space to maneuver. We are stopping you from signing your own death warrant, so let’s end this now.” And we take it from there. An exit deal, made right now, ending this fiasco, because the alternative is death to all. And make no mistake: they will have to answer to the death toll of yesterday, because the army cannot kill its people and be allowed to get away with it. Someone will be held into account as part of that deal. No one will win, but especially not the SCAF, because it’s no longer an option for them.

Too many people will say that it’s too late for this, and might even see this solution as a soft-handed approach to the SCAF, but there is no other logical way out. Yesterday, while observing the clashes at Abdelmeneim riad, the people who were violently clashing were regular citizens, Egyptian vs. Egyptian, with no army or Police forces in sight. Needless to say one couldn’t tell the muslims from the Christians (because we all look alike), and neither could the people fighting each other. After engaging in a street brawl where not a single person could tell who is with who or against who, they stopped a started chanting. One team started chanting “The People and the Army are one hand” and the others started chanting “Muslims and Christians are one hand”, thus providing us with the choices that we as Egyptians were told to make yesterday. And then, strangely, both sides at the same time changed their chants to “One hand”, and both sides started chanting that fiercely, stopped fighting each other, and joined each other into one big marsh chanting “One hand, One hand”, and thus showing us that they made the right choice. They were presented with the choice between the Army and National Unity, and they refused to make that choice and collectively and organically made the only correct choice: Each Other. Egypt. In the midst of the battle, they realized on a very basic level that they can’t chose one over the other, and that , even if they have prejudices, they really do not want to fight each other. There is a lesson in that incident for all of us, and it may just hold the key to our salvation.

Lest you forget

There is a general feel of malaise and melancholy affecting jan25 protesters, for they feel as if they have accomplished nothing: that the SCAF has halted the revolution and ended it, and it was all for naught. Now this kind of talk infuriates me, not because of its self-pitying whiney nature from otherwise strong people, but because it’s categorically not true. Let me count the ways:

  1. I’ve been in this since 2005, from the Blogosphere old guard, and for 6 years me, alongside of the others I’ve worked with, were simply trying to get the people to get one idea into their heads: If we all, as people, get together in big numbers, and go to a public square protesting, we will bring down the President. That he is not the inevitable, immovable, god-like figure we made him up to be. And we accomplished that, pressuring Mubarak enough to bring him down. This is the first time in 7000 years of continuous tyrannical rule that Egyptians managed to depose their ruler by their own hands. That’s a change in a 7000 year behavioral pattern of eat. Think about that.
  2. Historically, Egyptians have always succumbed to the violent actions of whatever internal security force that runs Egypt, foreign or domestic. Up until the revolution, people were discounting the nation that Egyptians, even if they are out in numbers, would ever win a face-off with the police, always citing the 77 riots, and how 2 million Egyptians went to the streets and were beaten up by the police despite their size. Jan25 has also reversed that trend forever, by beating up the police every single time they have faced them, to the point that in order for the police forces to get into and take back Tahrir, they have to be there in the protection of the army forces. The memory of 77 is replaced and erased forever; for now we pity the police more than anything. This, historically also, has never happened in 7000 years.
  3. Being under tyrannical rule for this long, Egyptians also grew apathetic to whatever it is that the government does, and got used to not being part of the decision-making process. Now, they are embedded with the idea of democracy, voting, and having their voice count. I don’t think any of you realize how many people will head to the polls this election, with some estimates pointing towards up to 80% voter turnout. This is unprecedented, and unlikely to go away. The days of voter apathy are over. We did that.
  4. Also, in the history of this great nation, never was there an incident where Egyptians held their rulers accountable. Now, we have not only removed the president, we have also put him on trial. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Kangaroo court; the historical precedent is there, not just on a local, but on a regional level. This has NEVER happened. We are now the people that removed their president and put him behind bars on trial. Think about what that means before you discount it. We not only created history, we have changed the narrative of this country forever.

Some will respond that this is well and good, but we haven’t accomplished our goals, to which I respond that this is normal, because, let’s face it, we were not ready. What happened is of such magnitude that we chose not to truly believe it, to the point that we are willing to revert to the notion that this is of no significance, and that we accomplished nothing. And not only were we not ready, we also made mistakes, specifically because we weren’t prepared at all to take on the military institution that secretly runs this country. But this might not even be our fight. We have brought the country thus far, and are still pushing, but the real game is 3-5 years down the line, when the newer generations emerge. Three days ago I went to the meeting of Students for Change, which is a group of 16 year olds amongst various school that wish to reform the educational system, and organizing their fellow students all over Egypt, and have a plan to do so. Those are 16 year olds who learned from us, are organizing themselves, and will soon enough become a force to be reckoned with. Can you imagine what they will do when they turn 21?

There are generations to come that will carry this out & will never repeat our mistakes. This revolution is only the start, and it won’t end until the equation is balanced, even if we lost steam for now. And we should also know that we will get there, but we just won’t do that at our time table. We were overly ambitious, hoping to change 30 years of corruption and institutional disintegration in a few months. It doesn’t work like that, but we managed to get the country to take the big leap forward in the right direction. We are simply not all there yet. And we are not aided by the state the country is in after 30 years of Mubarak’s rule, for he left the country’s foundations in such a horrible condition that brought it to the fragile shape that it is in right now. Those who accuse you that you did this to the country are either morons or liars, claiming that you broke something that was already broken, and completely ignoring that what you aim to do, more than anything, is to fix it. And we will get there, because really, what other choice do we have?

And if you believe we will never be able to bring down the military rule of Egypt and turn it into a real civil state, well, 6 years ago, we, a tiny minority started chanting “Down with Mubarak”, which no one dared to do before, while the rest of the country looked at us as aliens; 6 years later we as people pressured him down. Now, we are breaking the taboo of chanting against the SCAF and military rule, which was even a bigger taboo than chanting against Mubarak. Do you see where this is going? We have started deconstructing the military state, and sooner or later we will get them to back off, and maybe, just maybe, remind them that they work for us, and not the other way around. This day will eventually come, because the process has started, and all we need is time, and time is on our side.

Please understand, this is not an invitation to stop, or not go to Tahrir on 9/9. This is your country, and protesting is your blood-earned right, so don’t let anyone dissuade you from exercising it if you believe that it’s necessary. This is an invitation to give yourselves some credit. Our generation, for better or worse, forever changed the history of this country. Be proud of that.

 

الخطة هيه هيه

“وحتى يستمر مجلس قيادة الثورة في اتخاذ قراراته ارتاءي ان يكتسب شرعية دستورية تعطيه صلاحيات التقرير والتنفيذ, فأصدر دستورا مؤقتا في 10 فبراير 1953 وتقرر ان يستمر العمل بيه حتى نهاية الفترة الإنتقالية أي حتى يناير 1956 , وقد ضم هذا الدستور سبع مواد عامة,وأربع مواد للسيادة العليا لمجلس قيادة الثورة, الذي له حق تعيين وعزل الوزراء, كما يتولى المجلس السلطتين التنفيذية والتشريعية معا” …”وهكذا دشن الدستور المؤقت سلطة مجلس قيادة الثورة وادمج سلطتي التنفيذ والتشريع معا, فضلا عن اطلاقه يد قائد الثورة في اتخاذ مايراه من تدابير لحماية الثورة والنظام القائم عليه. وبالرغم إن هذا الدستور قد نص على ( إن الأمة مصدر السلطات) فانه افقد السلطة التشريعية, ليس استقلالها فحسب, إنما وجودها ذاته, واصبح استقلال القضاء مجرد اريحية من الحكم” ص. 120

“وفي رواية الصاغ إبراهيم الطحاوي, الذي عهد عليه بتنظيم “هيئة التحرير” أول تنظيم شعبي تقيمه الثورة, إن عبدالناصر استدعاة في أحد أيام شهر أكتوبر 1952 , وقال له  لقد يأست من ان تصلح الحزب نفسها وتسير في ركب الأحرار, ولذلك فلابد من وجود هيئة جديدة… وذلك امر له دلالته المبكرة, بعد شهرين من قيام الثورة, فما يتعلق بموقف القيادة من التنظيمات والاحزاب…وليس صحيحا إن قيادة الثورة حاولت احتواء الاحزاب بالتودد إلى الوفد, حزب الاغلبية, مع دعوتها لتطهير نفسها. أو إنهم في اجتمعات مجلس قيادة الثورة قد خرجوا بنتيجة واحدة: هي إن الجيش لا يحكم, إنما يقوم بالثورة ثم يسلم البلد للمدنيين, وانهم قرروا مبدئيا اعادة برلمان  1950 وترك الحكم لحزب الاغلبية يصرفه ريثما تجري انتخابات نظيفة…لم تكون المسألة بهذه البساطة في ذهن القائمين بالثورة, وإلا كانت حركتهم مجرد انقلاب عسكري, غيروا بـه شكل السلطة فحسب, ولا بد إن قضية الحكم والسلطة قد طرحت نفسها في اذهان الذين كانوا يخططون لتلك الحركة وذلك في خلال فترة الاعداد الطويل لها. لقد تحدثت بيانات الثورة الأولى عن الفساد والمفسدين والحكم البائد..الخ ولم يكن مقصودا بذلك الملك وحاشيته وحدهم, وليس منطقيا إن يستعان في تحقيق أهداف الثورة بـنفس القيادات التي كانت تحكم قبلها, وإنما المنطقي إنه لا يمكن مواجهة الأحزاب قبل فضح قيادتها وتعرياتها امام الرأي العام تمهيدا للإستفادة بجماهيرها وحشدها في تنظيمات جديدة, ولم يكن قانون تنظيم الأحزاب الذي اصدرته قيادة الثورة سوى خطوة تكتيكية عجمت به عود القيادات الحزبية, تمهيدا للخطوة التالية. لقد امسك الضباط بالجيش, وشكلو الحكومة, ولم يبقى إلى الشارع السياسي, لتكتمل حلقة السيطرة على الجهاز السياسي والاداري والشعبي كله.

إن من قام بثورة هو من سيحكم أو يطاح به, بمعنى إن من واجبه ان يحكم, وان ليس أمامه خيار ترك السلطة, فليست الثورة من أعمال الترف والهزل, يشرع فيها الشارع ثم يتركها اختيارا, وإنما هي أهداف بديء بها واستقطبت قوى وهدمت قوائم واستفزت خصوما, هي مركب من ركبه لا ينزل عنه وسط الموج الا بمنزل, كما أن من دخَل حربا, لا يخرج عنها الا بنصر أو هزيمة.” ص. 116- 117

من كتاب “ثورة يوليو والحياه الحزبية- النظام واحتواء الجماهير”  لأحمد زكريا الشلق

Bits and Pieces

There is a question that SCAF had at the beginning of the revolution: Is this a dignity revolution or a hunger revolution? After a while, they decided that it’s a dignity revolution, which is a lot easier to remedy than a hunger revolution. You see, a hunger revolution will tear everything apart, but a dignity revolution? Simple. Just give people some dignity.

” So, you want dignity? Fine, we will give you some dignity. First thing we will do is  create a referendum where YOU get to choose how the country works, even though WE will condition you to vote the way WE want you to. And WE won’t allow anyone to subvert your will or choice no matter how much they protest. Then WE will give you a parliamentary elections that will be totally honest at some point during the year, where YOU get to choose the representative according to a system that WE choose. You would like that, wouldn’t you? Oh, but you have an issue with Mubarak. He robbed you of your dignity. No problem. We will put him on trial in front of cameras, just FOR YOU, even though he will never see a day of prison. How about that to restore your dignity? Happy, huh? Now who is your favorite SCAF?”

Now that would work, if only that hunger revolution wasn’t coming as well….

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Unlike many of my compatriots, I was incredibly happy to see the Sharia Friday go down the way it went. Here is why:

  1. It ended the myth of Leftists-Islamist cooperation: For years I have been telling my leftist friends that any Leftist-Islamist alliance is a stupidly conceived idea on every level and is detrimental to the leftists more than anything, as history has shown every time such an alliance took place (Let’s not use Iran as our example, how about the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections? Oh, there was an alliance, and the MB ended up honoring the alliance by voting out every so called “leftist opposition politicians” from the Parliament). But no, please, let’s ignore that the Egyptian left has nothing in common with the Islamic right, neither socially nor economically (The economic programs of every Islamic party are the epitome of capitalism), and that the Left got screwed by the Islamic right repeatedly through-out the revolution, and make such an alliance and then act shocked when they dishonored the agreement. I understand that many people on the left believe in such an alliance because the Islamists used to get tortured in the same cell they used to get tortured in, but sometimes the enemy of my enemy can kiss my ass too. Just saying.
  2. It gave us a great hint to their size and financing: It was estimated to be 1-2 million and to have cost about 20 million LE, and this is all the salafi groups and the MB combined. If we apply a family multiple, let’s say 6, for each one there, then you have maximum 12 million islamists in Egypt, out of 85 million. Sweet. The money thing, however, not so sweet. They have incredible funding, which means this election will get very interesting very quickly.
  3. It scared the living shit out of the moderates: The best part about the whole experience was how alienating the islamist message was to the majority of Egyptians. Egyptians , for the last time, are moderates and this Afghanistan crap doesn’t appeal to them at all. So, the Islamists may have proven they can get numbers, but they have lost the center with this move. Good Job.

So in a nutshell, the Sharia Friday was great. More of this please. How about one every week? I really want them to bleed money.

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Did you watch the Mubarak trial? Didn’t you like how they added the Mubarak Case and the MOI case together for the first day, so you can see all the people you despise in one Holding Cell? Yeah, that wasn’t done to psychologically manipulate you at all.

Also, please watch it every day. It will only take 3 years, and if Mubarak isn’t dead by then, he will face house-arrest until he dies and will never see the inside of a jail cell. His sons, on the other hand, will get 3-5 years sentences topsand then leave the country to retire in Switzerland or something. Habib Aladly will be executed, of course.

Personally, after the first day, I am done with it. What will happen next will be a legal fiasco and a political circus. Not interested in either.

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For some reason, there are some famous revolutionaries who keep repeating the narrative that the Jan25 revolution wasn’t the peaceful revolution that the whole world saw. They cite incidents of violence reported and recorded on videos to support that theory. Incidentally this is the same group that always talks about violent escalation and the such.

Well, I am sorry, but this was a peaceful revolution because we didn’t go to the streets carrying weapons or pushing for violence. When we got attacked, we naturally defended ourselves, which naturally involved violence, because, well, our Police was shooting at us. And I have personally seen countless times when demonstrators around me would prevent people from carrying rocks or sticks in preparation for clashes with the Police on JAN 28th. So, this narrative is simply not true.

And while we are on the topic, I am officially going on record and stating that I am not pro violent escalation of any kind. Totally against it.

Self-defense, however, is another matter.

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One of the Silver-linings of the July 8 Sit-in was that it ended the phenomenon of people being lead by loud voices with no plan out of fear of not appearing revolutionary enough. Yep, that won’t work again.

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The Trick that the SCAF is using is simple and genius: Have people focus on the past (Mubarak Trial) and the present (Military Trials/SCAF actions) so that they don’t pay attention to the future, i.e. the parliamentary elections, which is in two months. And to those who say that the elections doesn’t matter and that it’s all about the revolution, well, the SCAF managed to completely screw the revolution for 5 months by a single referendum on 8 articles. Can you imagine what they can do with a democratically elected parliament?

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It’s not good to have demonstrations in Ramadan. It’s better to stay away during Ramadan, rest, strategize and come back ready. Ramadan, on its own, is a counter-revolution. No one is paying attention to anything, people distracted with fasting, eating, prayer than TV, and they have zero tolerance for anything beyond their own objectives in this month, which do not include the revolution. Hell, we have Tamer Hosny on TV, playing a revolutionary on a TV show.

You are playing the game of Public opinion, and your enemies have all the weapons. It wouldn’t hurt to be more strategic.

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A lot of people were shocked by SCAF statement #69 , where they singled out and attacked the 6th of April movement, even though it made perfect sense to me, because it’s all about monitoring the elections. First you get your minister of international co-operation (Mubarak loyalist Faiza Abulnaga) to make a big stink over international funding for local NGO’s , which they would need because election monitoring logistics are very expensive. Then you have SCAF issue an election law that forbids international monitoring of the elections, leaving it in the hand of the Judiciary, the same Judiciary that oversaw the fraud in every single election ever held in Egypt. And finally, they issue a statement against local groups that got trained on election monitoring abroad.

So, if the local NGO’s won’t get funding, international monitors won’t be allowed and internationally trained local groups that can actually monitor the elections are labeld agents and traitors, who will monitor what is only and arguably the most important election in the history of Egypt?

We need to start mobilizing people and training them on election monitoring. We can’t allow this one to get rigged.

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Not everything is a protest, a sit-in or a marsh. There are other tools that allow you to 1) Get all the people who support you to do so without leaving their houses, 2) prove that you have the numbers to back it up, and 3) stay away from fights with thugs.  Here is one: How about collecting signatures? A nice 8 million signature campaign demanding the firing of all Police Officers accused of torturing people, for example?

Do it, and then let’s see them try to downplay that.

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Dear SCAF, mentioning the part about how April 6 got trained in Serbia was a nice touch. People think Serbia, they think Milosevic killing muslims; they don’t think Otpur, the non-violent youth movement that took down Milosevic, and the one 6th of April models itself after.

Well done.

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It’s safe to say that the brand of the “revolution” has been damaged after being relentlessly attacked for months in state-media and by the reckless actions by some revolutionaries. It’s not beyond repair mind you, but what needs to be done to ensure that the revolution is a success has become too big to grasp for the average individual. For example, in the July 8 sit-in there was 7 demands listed, one of which is “cleaning the Media, the MOI and the Ministry of Justice”. Oh yeah, that’s one demand, and it mentions no specifics. And if you give people such a huge demand without mentioning the specifics of how it should be done, you are bound to lose them because, well, start with which one?

And here is the interesting thing : No one is against the demands. They are simply not big fans of the revolutionaries at the moment. Fair enough. Let’s change tactics.

Instead, let’s all pick one or two causes we are very interested in (MOI, Education, Media, whatever) and focus only on that. Do what “No military trials for civilians did”. Stick to the issue, keep pushing and it will become a national issue and part of the debate. Others will start supporting it, including Parliamentary candidates, who will want to be seen as advocating the people’s causes. And voila, you have yourself a lobby. And if you are not interested in lobbying, just monitor their activity and act as a Watchdog. Make sure that they are doing their job the way they should and expose them the moment they don’t. Off the top of my head, a Media Watchdog is incredibly necessary at the moment.

So yeah, let’s create Lobbies and Watchdog institutions on every issue, and work on it. Present solutions and policies and push for them.  Before you know it, they will become a permanent fixtures of our civil society, which will only make it stronger.

———————————————————————————-

The question of Elections first or Constitution first is irrelevant, because neither provides a solution to the real problem: Who, exactly, should be in the committee to write the constitution of your country?

Should it be constitutional law experts? Or Human Rights Lawyers? Or Sociologists? Or Psychologists? Or religious leaders? Or all of them? And if so, who?

———————————————————————————-

The 1952 revolution was a head without a body. The 2011 revolution is a body without a head. The head is trying to transplant itself on the body, and the body is violently rejecting the transplant.

Never mind that there is a Renaissance of culture taking place in Egypt ever since the revolution: art, poetry, music and humor – forces no army in history has ever defeated.

Never mind that there is an entire society being shaped as we speak, from political parties to underground media to empowered human rights activists, putting seeds that will change the future of this country forever.

Never mind that Independent unions have now jumped from 3 at the beginning of the revolution to 90 now. If each one has 20,000 members, welcome to a whole new player and force in the Egyptian political arena.

But never mind all that, remember when I said that peaceful protesting, that what we were trying to do, was nothing but being a safety pin for this country? That the moment we fail, other forces will look at peaceful protesting as futile, and will start using more radical means?

And did you pay attention to what went down in Suez, Sinai, and Gerga lately?

These are not isolated incidents, and they are not planned either. It’s an allergic reaction to a transplant operation that could never work.

Now imagine what will happen the moment the Delta rises, and it will, thanks to SCAF’s insistence on still appointing generals as governors instead of letting people appoint their own, or because of lack of serious land reform, or due to lack of services, or any of the other reasons that fueled those people to revolt. It will happen, because, as always, it’s only a matter of time.

And when that happens, well, God save us all.

———————————————————————————-

Food for thought: People cheered when the few remaining members of the sit-in were attacked by the Police and the Army. The reason? The people were mad that the Protesters were blocking things in Tahrir for 3 weeks, and intended to stay there for the duration of Ramadan, which they believe that no one should have protests during at all at the Square to facilitate and not block the insanely blocked Ramadan traffic. So they cheered.

Now, after the Police and the Army broke-up the sit-in, they stayed in Tahrir, arresting and terrorizing anyone who looked like a protester in order to ensure that no more protests or sit-ins take place. And they are doing so with gleefully violent abandon, because, well, they finally took back the square after 6 months. So they are out in force, being agressive and rude to people, and causing daily traffic jams and blockage. During Ramadan. And will probably continue to do this until its last day, at least.

Can you see where this is going? :)

Tahrir: an Exercise in Nation Building

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine asked me what I was doing at the Tahrir sit-in. When I asked him what he meant by that, he commented that I was acting differently this time, that instead of analyzing and taking a macro view of things, I was actually on the ground, not writing, and doing things all around the square instead. He simply found it out of character, is all.

I explained that I was there because I believe in the demands, and that the “Tahrir dance” we have been doing – going to Tahrir to get the government to move its butt – has gotten tired, and that in order to ensure that they continue moving said butts, it’s better to simply stay in Tahrir. But that was only part of the truth: that’s why I went there, but what intrigued me and got me moving around, doing things and staying there, was the fascinating social experiment that the sit-in was creating. In essence, Tahrir was very quickly becoming a miniature-size Egypt, with all of its problems, but without a centralized government. And the parallels are uncanny.

It didn’t start off being this way: it started off being more of a camp. That first Friday was a mess, trying to find the appropriate spot amongst your friends, dealing with the sun and how it turns your tent into more of a sauna than a habitable environment, your friends showing up to show their support (and to also find a refuge from the horrible heat of the protest). That first night, we were a nomadic society, dealing with issues of habitation. But at night, after the Muslim Brotherhood left, more tents came, and it turned into a very relaxed happy camp environment for all those involved. The next day, I managed to get an electrical connection from those stealing it from the street lights, which changed things dramatically: immediately we moved into civilization. I went and got electrical plugs, a fan, and an ice-box , thus ensuring that the modern society experience was complete. And that’s when it hit me – I was facing a unique opportunity here, one that very few people get; the opportunity to create a new nation, alongside everyone else, from scratch. We were in a space without a centralized government or arbiter, where all the political movements and parties of Egypt had presence, and were free to duke it out or to work together to create the best nation possible. A chance to create the “Free Republic of Egypt” I spoke about before. So immediately I went to work promoting and helping to facilitate ideas such as the school, the cinema, the library and the radio, bringing in Mahmoud El Esseily to do a free concert, and discovering great talents like Ashraf the Rapper, thus creating education, art and culture. And naturally everyone loved them, worked on them, cooperated and financed them (great kudos go to Tahrir Square Nation, Darbel Bahlawan and the Andalus Center, along with the great people that made things happen such as Nazly Hussein, Ahmed Samih, Moataz Atallah, and last but not least Lara Baladi and Khaled Yusef) and some wrote about them, and it seemed like we were really creating utopian society, forgetting that there was no utopia. But how very quickly this utopian society turned into a parallel miniature Egypt, with all of its problems, took everyone by surprise, although in hindsight it may all seem very predictable. Paradise was found, and lost, predictably, but the lessons and insights it gave me made the whole thing invaluable. I will give you my experience, as I saw it and lived it, and you can see where the parallels are.

It all started with the tent area we were in: the first night the tents were next to each other, in an unstructured formation. Immediately we started having issues with those passing by: asking intrusive questions, staring at us (we had girls, in our tents, and we were talking to them in the open…imagine) and leering at the girls. So the next day, we changed the formation of the tents, to create more of a circle of tents with a big space in between, to allow our visiting friends and people without tents a place to sit, socialize and sleep, and creating a single entrance/exit into the circle of tents – all in order to protect us and shield us from the intrusive eyes and actions of the same people whose rights we were there to fight for. In essence, without noticing, we – the people judging suburban compounds as being elitist and classist – created one without noticing. And what made it hilariously worse, was that in our quest for securing the area by creating one passageway into the circle to control access to it, we also ensured that we wouldn’t be able to escape if we got attacked. Egyptian safety standards at their best.

And then came the street kids. Three of them showed up, 8, 12 and 13. I came into the circle one day and found them hanging out with us because the people in the camp, in their quest for equality , took them in and even started teaching them things and playing with them, while sharing our fans, comfortable habitat, cold water, juice and snacks with them. And when supplies started coming, we started unpacking and organizing them and they helped us in doing so without asking, and in cleaning the area. We got so comfortable in that dynamic that we started asking them when we got new stuff to put the water in the ice boxes and to help us in cleaning the tents and surrounding areas, thus effectively, unwittingly, creating what very much looked like a child labor situation (even though it’s not, and not a single child was forced to do anything but always asked to help), and one where the children worked for their food, drink, fun and accommodation, which is trickle-down economics at its most basic level…by a bunch of human rights activists and revolutionaries.

Then you had the security situation, which in essence was always about keeping the entrances of Tahrir secured and manned at all times, all done by a bunch of volunteer individuals who kept checkpoints secure. You immediately started noticing that at some checkpoints people were not being searched by the people claiming to handle the checkpoints, and you started hearing that volunteers were leaving the checkpoints because the other “volunteers” were treating people violently or with disrespect, facilitating fights, or allowing women who have knives in their bags to come in, or allowing the street merchants access to the square for a fee, even though we didn’t want them there (border control issues: weapons and drug smuggling, and an undocumented immigrant workforce that is necessary to support the economy but is completely unregulated, thus causing all kinds of problems). At the same time, you have the Mogamaa situation, which is the central government building that everyone agreed to shut down for a day to pressure the government. A group decided to handle doing that, and when it was time to open it the next day, that same group refused to open it and called everyone else cowards and not revolutionary enough. You started noticing that this was the same group that wanted to get people to attack bridges, and allowed smuggling, and caused fights at the check-points. You and others who noticed the same thing started working together and connecting the dots and monitoring those, thus creating the Tahrir Intelligence Services. You noticed that they belong to three groups: the Free Revolutionaries, the Independent Revolutionaries and the Voice of Freedom, which no one knew or had heard of before that day, and were controlled by a man that calls himself “General Hassan”, who always caused problems and tried to do stupid stunts that would surely make the outside world hate us. When you finally forced them to open up the Mogamaa on Wednesday morning, they started running all around the camp side and doing all kinds of stunts and starting fights to upset people and get them stressed out and agitated. Upon monitoring them, you noticed that they are three groups of sixty working in shifts. One of us followed them on Thursday morning at 4 am, and he saw them leaving the Abdel Meneim Riyad exit to board three Central Security trucks. When he tried to film them, they noticed and attacked him. We had been infiltrated by a bunch of saboteurs working for the state. Their last stunt? Coming to our tents at 4 am, trying to put numbers on them and get our names for a mandatory security meeting to make the Square “more secure”. We noticed they didn’t try to mark all the tents, and in our group, they went for my and Nazly’s tents only. And then they started causing noise and trying to wake people – most of whom went to bed around 3 or 4 am – up at 5:30 am, to join them in a march, because the “lying State TV” was claiming there were no more people in Tahrir, so we should show them how many we were by marching at 6 in the morning. For real.

So, if Tahrir was a miniature example of Egypt in a controlled lab environment, those movements symbolized foreign intelligence services, spies and double-agents; basically external forces trying to destroy our state and foment divisions amongst our people. And then you have the street kids, which to us are the product of poverty and the failure of the state’s social services, all the while completely turning a blind eye to the fact that they are part of an organized street gang that stole our phones, laptops, sleeping bags and supplies, because apparently accusing them of that would be “classist” of us. And even if we know it, kicking them out would be wrong, because we are supposed to “reform and rehabilitate” them, so we continue to give them access to our circle, while the robberies are continue to happen, although on a lesser scale. The combination of those two forces – the “terrorist” spies and the organized crime units proved to be too much to handle for some tents, so they packed up and left the Square, which symbolically meant they were immigrating. We didn’t mind that much, because the empty spots were occupied by other tents, and we didn’t ask ourselves who the hell would join a sit-in on its sixth day anyway?

All of this forced us to contemplate the issues of security, crime and punishment, which are a hell of a lot harder to address in practice than in theory, especially with a population like ours, one that has no problem utilizing violence for disciplinary ends. We then heard that a group – which turned out to be the “Free Revolutionaries”- created a prison for “caught thieves and criminals”, in which they were gathered and tied up, hanging, in order to deliver them to the Military Police. So activists like Mona Seif and Ragia Omran from the “No Military Trials for Civilians” group ended up going to them and fighting with them against both the idea of the prison and handing them to the MP to be given a military trial, one of the main things this sit-in is trying to stop. And then we faced the other dilemma: who would we hand them over to instead? The police? Hahahaha!

And then we heard stories that two thieves were caught by people, beaten up, stripped of their clothes and tied, hanging, from a tree and beaten for all to see and the media to document – this in a protest that demands human rights for those arrested by the police and the end of police torture. So, when the news came that some people caught a 12-year-old thief that they wanted to torture, activists like Ramy Raoof had to secure him a human rights lawyer to go to the scene, because we had noticed that the people stop what they are doing if for some reason a lawyer tells them that what they are doing is illegal. And this hint later on developed into the solution that everyone agreed on yesterday: they creation of the security tent, where caught criminals are taken and investigated, and then handed over to the Public Prosecutor’s Office by a human rights lawyer from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center. One problem, solved, for now.

We started realizing the need for some sort of decision-making body, so attempts to create one started in earnest, by holding meetings at which at least one representative of every tent (whether for individuals or movements) met up to figure out what were are going to do, effectively starting another debate if this was even democratic at all, because, really, what does it mean to participate in a sit-in protest? Do you have to have a tent, or can you be one of those people who support and come when they can? And since the decision-making process is in favor of those who have tents (since they are the true sit-in participants), and not in favor of those who come and join the sit-in after work and go back to their homes at night, bringing supplies and ice with them (who in this scenario, symbolize Egyptians abroad who come to the country for visits and subsidize our fragile economy), it echoes the calls to prevent Egyptians living abroad from voting, since, really, only the true Egyptians stayed in Egypt and didn’t abandon it and escape it to greener pastures and only visited when it’s convenient for them (expatriate rights). But even that became a side-issue, since there were at least four such meetings every day, for the past seven days, not trying to reach a decision, but trying to create the mechanism by which we will take decisions. All of them so far have miserably failed (democracy building).

We also have 12 stages in Tahrir now, belonging to various groups and parties, which are all loud and trying to drown each other out, all playing the same patriotic music, and which have people yelling and screaming from about their plight, the abuses of the SCAF and the rights and the blood of the martyrs, each with varying degrees of eloquence and ignorance, on and on and on, making us sick of hearing about them and wish for some different music or silence. Naturally, they represent the current state of the media in Egypt. And in order to make the resemblance more eerie, while some of us manage to get on one of those stages every once in a while, the only true media outlet we have is Tahrir Radio, which is an online radio, broadcasting maybe twice a day from there. Oh, and 2 days ago, a bunch of Salafists attacked the stage funded by various groups including the FEP (the party founded by Naguib Sawiris), for playing music and poetry alongside news and speeches, and stole a laptop and two thousand pounds from the bag of one of the girls there. Does that remind you of something that happens all the time in Egypt?

Or how about the fact that we lose electricity in the morning, because the government started shutting down the electricity circuits and then turning them on at night, so we have to go buy generators (i.e. mini power plants) , which require gasoline to operate, and every single gas station – all of which are outside our borders- nearby has “instructions” not to sell it to so we have to get it elsewhere and incur higher costs of transportation, and yet still face power-cuts when a generator runs out of fuel (Egypt’s energy issues)? Or that our main focus every day in the sit-in is to get more people from outside of your borders to come to Tahrir and join to make us stronger and having them bring supplies with them, which causes more trash, more street vendors, and more “crime” and thus making everything uglier (Egyptian tourism and its side-effects)? Or that many of the new tents are now occupying areas of the circle used for sidewalks and many people have closed the entrances next to them and created the equivalent of backyards or terraces that they are imposing on everybody (illegal construction and settlements)? All the while, there are those who are camped next to the Mogamaa, and they have the natural fence protecting them and a security guard at every exit – we call them Qattamiya Heights. Are you noticing the similarities?

For some people what I just recounted will be heartbreaking, but to me it’s brilliant, because it’s a learning experience in governance unlike anything the world has ever seen, and it gives all of those new parties and movements that aim to rule the country a chance to take a much closer look at the issues facing us and figure out the limitations of their solutions and cracks in their organizational structure. While fissures were created, the challenges also created a huge number of alliances that were never possible before, since every group, no matter how hard they worked, started realizing that they can’t manage or carry the problems of the country alone, and that in reality, theoretical solutions are not always the most practical or effective ones. They were all driven to their breaking point, and humbled, but also learned all of their weaknesses and are destined to come out of this stronger than before. You see, an extraordinary experiment like this allows the activists to have a great learning curve, and it also allows innovation to take place, such as the crime and punishment situation. Egyptians, when confronted by figures of legal authority that they still respect, act accordingly and without a violent challenge to said authority. If we had human-rights-oriented law enforcement, we wouldn’t have the security problems that we have now, because then Egyptians would respect the law.

Or take the other lesson, which I learned while searching people at the checkpoint (which didn’t have enough of our people because many of those part-time protesters almost never assumed any responsibility in helping with the security situation, coming over to have fun instead – another lesson there about citizen responsibility) was that the checkpoint people, even if they had some bad apples in them, act right if an imposing figure shows up and treats people decently no matter how much they abused him with rudeness. I was there with 3 other young guys, and my demeanor in always politely asking people to be checked and apologizing smilingly afterwards got them all imitating me instead of acting upon their discretion. They basically need a good leader and a role model that they fear or respect (I am a big dude) around, and they will imitate his behavior, and start acting the same way, and discover that it makes things much easier.

But the ultimate lesson came from one thing: “No Military Trials for Civilians”. This group was started by a few girls who refused to compromise on that principle despite everyone attacking them or warning them against antagonizing the military (myself included at first, and I admit I was totally in the wrong there, and then I started supporting them in the ways that I could), and their persistence against all odds and huge pressures to keep this issue alive, drew more people to their cause, and made it the number one demand on every list of demands in all of the movements there. We might never control this country or rule it, but that may not be our role. Our role is to frame the debate and the demands, and push and advocate for them by explaining to people how they relate to them and benefit them directly. We get to frame the debate, and whoever frames the debate in a democracy has a huge effect on it and its future. And in reality, if we are not dictators, that’s all that we should aim to achieve, because our people, despite what you may think, are not stupid people, and if you are persistent enough, they get it. There is lots of work to be done, and apparently we were not ready for it, which is why I would like to send a personal thanks to the SCAF and Egyptian security and intelligence apparatus for this awesome experience, which is, without exaggeration, the best experience of my life so far. You provided us with much needed training in governance, made us understand our intellectual and social vulnerabilities and weak points, and in the meantime you showed us how you operate and how far you are willing to go. All of this is brilliant, and very well-played, but since you won’t end us, or the revolution anytime soon, because the equation is still unbalanced, you just basically helped us in a way you can never imagine, and one you will surely regret in the future. We were amateurs, you made us professionals. The game is on.

But as an ending note, here is some food for thought: If Tahrir is a microcosm of modern day Egypt with all of its issues, and it managed to get there in a week, then being there for the next few days is crucial to understand what might happen in the next few years and how to prevent it. The lessons that we will learn from being there now, about our problems and the proposed solutions to solve them is invaluable for a nation that is seeking a new beginning like ours, not one that we created from scratch like Tahrir was. All of those people with readymade solutions should go and try them out there before proposing it nation-wide. All of those people from outside who know how to best solve our problems should come and help us solve them, because as a nation we will also need this help from Egyptians from abroad, whether we like it or not. Basically if you are interested in figuring out what the problems facing our society and the best way to solve them, Tahrir is where you should be heading to right now. And you must stay with us, and help us in every way you can if you choose that responsibility. We no longer want tourists who want to have fun and give advice from afar, we want people who love this country so much that they are willing to get their hands dirty, even if it means standing at a security checkpoint for 2 hours a day, and spending the rest with your friends there. Let’s go, and try, and fail and learn with us there, because that’s better done in Tahrir than in Egypt. It’s really simple: If everything is hazy, and you want to know what’s going to happen next in the country, Tahrir, right now, even if this sit-in lasts for one more day, is the place to be.

The First tweetback event: Ezbet Khairallah

Dear All,

I am writing to share information about the “tweetback” initiative that has been recently brought to my attention. The initiative is the first of its kind and aims to give back to Egypt by utilizing the power of social media at the time when the country is in most need of the support of companies and individuals such as yourselves. I think you’ll also find this interesting due to the novelty of the idea and the immense value it can add to your
company’s perception and reputation.

“tweetback” is Egypt’s first social media-driven humanitarian fundraising initiative to support popular endeavors that aim to effect real change in the lives of Egyptians. **

“tweetback” invites companies, foundations and charitable individuals to pledge donations to select NGOs and development projects in Egypt. In exchange, “tweet back’s” network of some of the country’s most notable twitter bloggers will announce the contributions in Arabic and English through their network of nearly 250,000+ followers (at the time of writing), providing donor organizations unprecedented access to their followers. **The “tweetback” team has brought together 20 of Egypt’s most-followed tweeps, including names like @sandmonkey, @amrwaked, @sarahelsirgany, @Safi, @ahmedelesseily, @pakinamamer, @noornoor1, @salmaeldaly, @travellerW, @nawaranegm @ahmednaguib & many more.

“tweetback” will bring this fundraising concept to Egypt for the first time in support of local NGO Khair wa Baraka. Khair wa Baraka has been working since 2004 in Ezbet Khairallah, an unplanned community in Cairo, to develop services and opportunities for local residents to allow them to live with dignity in a clean, healthy and safe environment.

“tweetback” plans to make the most of social media’s power to generate positive change by organizing a series of events, each in support of a worthy local cause. As a tool, Social media helped the revolution and now “tweet back” is mobilizing it once again in the quest to promote positive change and to help rebuild the country.

The first “tweetback” event will take place on July 26th 2011 at the Marriott from 12-2pm (and two which you would be invited of course if you decide to contribute) and it will include presentations about Ezbet
Khairallah with a close look at the projects for which LE2,000,000 need to be raised. Corporate pledges will be announced on the day to members of the press and donations will be collected via various channels. We are in the process of setting up an IVR line to receive donations and will use twitter to drive traffic to it starting next week.

In lead up to the event, the tweeps will do what they do best: create buzz about the initiative among their collective 250,000+ followers. They will also be on hand at the event to provide live updates about the donors at
hashtag #tweetback. *

If you are interested, e-mail us and we will send you the proposal that provides more details about the initiative along with the benefit packages for every donor. Because of the
tight deadline we’re working against, we would be most appreciative if you could reply with an expression of interest by latest Thursday July 21st. All correspondences should be directed to Rania Helmy who can be reached on rania.helmy@publicistinc.com .

Thank you very much in advance and I hope we find this as exciting and interesting as we do. Remember, pledging any sum, small or large, is a massive show of support, and will not go unrecognized. For more information, please visit http://www.peaceandplenty-eg.org/takeaction.php for details. In these adverse times these campaigns could not be more important, and will pave the way for a better country. In these adverse times these campaigns could not be more important, and will pave the way for a better country.  More of these initiatives will only happen if you show support for this very first one, which by virtue of the timing, and novelty, is in desperate need for your sponsorship. Please step forward and help in any way you can. We look forward to hearing back from you.

I would be especially grateful if you help me spread the word, forward this to any of your colleagues, friends, family or contacts that you think could contribute. Thanks again!

Kind regards,

Mahmoud Salem

Lacrimosa

They say that all revolutions follow the same cycle: They start in the winter, they heat up in the spring, they lag in the summer, and then you have the fall of the counter-revolution and the final battle for the future. If that cycle is to be believed, then again, the Egyptian revolution is ahead of its schedule, and we are still going through hyper-time. Events are accelerating ahead of schedule, and fatigue is getting to all of us. This is very evident in the national mood in Egypt now.
We are all talking to each other, but we are not listening to one another. This will bite us in the ass, no doubt about it, and yet no one really cares. The “non-revolutionary” population are sick and tired of the revolutionaries, who they view as nothing more than hooligans without a plan, while the average revolutionary response to “regular” people’s dismay or distrust is that they’ve always acted this way, ever since February. The “regular” people are always unhappy, but offer no realistic solutions or talk about the real problem objectively, so why bother? And this is why this revolution is the only revolution in history where the Revolutionaries had to convince their people, time and time again, that they are on the same side. And even that has stopped.

And beyond all this lies the truth that this revolution isn’t a bunch of unemployed, unhappy spoiled kids and poor people in Tahirir Square; it’s a violent reaction to a problem. And it’s not just one problem; it’s a set of problems that are detrimental to our country as a whole and that the majority chooses to ignore. Corruption has reached unprecedented levels in Egypt, accompanied with its cousin inefficiency, and the general consensus was this: every one minded, no one did anything about it. They simply adapted, and thought only of today, until the day came when the country moved as one.

But corruption isn’t the problem that the revolution is the reaction to. The real problem is the relationship between the citizen and the state, on every level you can imagine: from the concept of legal justice and how the legal system should function, to the concept of personal rights, to the concept of services provided (education, healthcare, etc..) and their quality, all the way to economic, social and urban planning, which are all missing or dysfunctional. And this isn’t new and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. It was all not addressed for the longest time, and when it was addressed it was done in the most reactionary way possible. There was no accountability, hence there was no advancement. More than anything, this revolution is about holding your government accountable, and unfortunately your only weapon, to ensure that some accountability is achieved and some progress is made, is pressure through demonstrations. Still.

Sorry Mom… Sorry dad….. Sorry General population: we don’t mean to upset you by confronting you with your problems. If we only we can just wish them away.

You are forced into this game of Tahrir, where the general population just wants peace and quiet while change only happens through pressure applied there. So, you always end up going there because that’s the pattern and you want this to stay peaceful, but you are always victim to organized attacks there by “thugs”. Always. And as time goes by, you find yourself getting accustomed to street battles, while your peaceful protests get you nowhere, so you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, peaceful protesting is no longer working. So you get dragged into one more violent confrontation after the other, while the media screams, “See, look, they are thugs. They can’t be trusted”, and some believe them while the others just watch in dismay as the illusion of the “peaceful revolution” starts dismantling before their eyes. All the while, the revolutionaries lose public support, are filled with fatigue, hysteria and in-fighting, like the protagonists of some psychotic Greek tragedy, they are continuing in their journey, as their compatriots keep falling left and right, half-way getting that the security apparatus is simply drawing out the battle to weaken them over time, so that when the time comes, they have their absolute victory, kill the revolution and we are back to business as usual.

If only it was that simple…

Here’s the rub: this is not about the protesters. If we all die, or get sent to jail, it won’t make an iota of difference, because, in reality, we are not the problem. The problem will continue existing regardless of us because people will no longer take mistreatment or abuse from the police or the army. The problem will continue existing because even the poorest most uneducated Egyptian gets that something is wrong and needs to be changed. And with the eventual death of the concept of “peaceful protesting” as a means to achieve our demands, another type of not so peaceful protesting will become more popular. It’s only, as always, a matter of time.

I have said it a million times: This revolution happened to prevent another revolution, one that will be much more violent and one that we all see coming. All of our demands were geared towards diffusing that powder keg, and as they don’t get achieved, our ability to diffuse it becomes null. This is not fear-mongering. It’s simply reality.

So please don’t blame us when that happens. Everything we have ever done, and all that we are doing now is ringing the alarm, hoping to wake you up to help us resolve this before it’s too late. We are pushing and fighting for Police accountability, because we can’t live in a country where the police can torture and kill its people and walk away. There is no pride in belonging to such a country. And we don’t know what to do, but the police are rogue, the courts are a sham, The SCAF is either unable or unwilling to even remove the people that killed jan25 protesters from their positions of power, and the system works for no one. We are stuck in this vicious cycle, and in the end something has got to give. They are counting on you hating us, on you reaching the inevitable conclusion that maybe, just maybe, we deserve what’s coming to us. And maybe this is why we stopped talking to each other. We have taken different paths now, and we don’t even insist on bringing each other along anymore.

One day this will all be over, and this whole drama will be nothing but a distant memory of a time when the whole world was on fire, and the future seemed no longer as a promise, but a threat. Hopefully we will both be there, in a country that has finally healed, and has a future. And we will get there, not because the revolutionaries are right or smart, but because of one inescapable historical truth, that has been proven time and time again over the past 2000 years: You cannot oppress your people for long, for they are always too many for you to control forever. Eventually that coin flips. You can count on it.

Unholy Alliance

The news from yesterday’s alliance of 12 parties with the Muslim Brotherhood for a unified election front and a single candidate list came as a surprise to many, since the alliance included parties such as Masr Al Horreyah and AlAdl party. Masr AlHorreyah came as a surprise – or in hindsight maybe it shouldn’t have- because it’s Amr Hamzawy again jumping out of alliances and into other ones as if it’s not hurting his image or credibility. Just so we can keep track, Hamzawy was slated to join the Free Egyptian Party, then decided not to and joined the Egyptian Social Democrat party, and then leaving that and creating the Masr AlHorreyah party (which really doesn’t have enough members to qualify legally as a party), and in turn joined an alliance of liberal parties with the FEP, ESDP and the DFP, which it abandoned yesterday when it went and created an alliance with the MB. But since one expected the parties to join the alliance with the MB to be the old weak parties that were known to strike deals with the NDP to allow them to win a seat or two, and therefore ones that couldn’t win without the MB support anyway, like Eltagamo3 and ElWafd, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a party like Masr AlHorreyah joined up, since it neither has the street presence or the support that would allow them to win a single seat anywhere. The only reason why I am sad to see this is due to my knowledge that some really good and decent individuals are members of that party, and yet somehow agreed to tie themselves to a political albatross such as Amr Hamzawy. He is the only known name in the party, and is also their biggest liability. Badness all around.

AlAdl came as a surprise because it’s one of the few parties that knows what it wants, and can get it without anyone’s help. Chances are that they can get the 10% that they want in Parliament without a problem, and thus don’t require the MB’s assistance like the other 11 clowns do. However, the parties are claiming that they creating a national unity coalition, and as the party positioning itself as the centrist party in the Egyptian political landscape, it has to join such a coalition. On the plus side, it could also save them unnecessary hassle come elections time, not having to go in direct election battle with the MB. It’s political pragmatism at its best, and it comes from a position of power, unlike the other parties. However, whether the AlAdl members would like such an alliance remains to be seen, since a lot of its core members are the religiously moderate Egyptians, the type of people who view religion as an important part of their lives, but don’t want whatever the MB is selling. This could get risky.

The Problem with such an alliance is twofold. The first one is that it gives the MB too much power and influence over the next elections, providing them with 3 possible scenarios , all of them good for their purposes: Scenario 1: If the parties trust them, and they choose to betray the parties like they did in 2005 with tagamo3 and Alwafd, then they singlehandedly could eliminate all those parties from the next parliament and have more say on the constitution than anyone feels comfortable with; Scenario 2: If the parties trust them, and they deliver voter support, then those parties now become dependent on MB support, which means the MB will effectively control them to do their bidding if they wish to get re-elected again; and Scenario 3: The MB delivers on its support, and the other parties betray them once they are in power, then the MB will play the victim card to the max, talking about how the liberal and socialist parties can’t be trusted, and how they are the only true patriots because they gave up on more power in exchange of having a national unity parliament with all the political forces, which would erase the fact that they have literally betrayed the secular forces of the revolution like 5 times now. Just like the ill-fated alliance with the left in 2005, this is squarely in the best interest of the MB, and it’s rumored to have only happened because the SCAF told them they must do it, because the West is getting mighty uncomfortable with how Egypt is looking like now. Must keep up appearances of a diverse budding democracy, because the world wants a happy ending for that Egyptian Revolution story, and if the Islamists take over, we won’t get no funding or weapons. The Turkey Model must be adopted at all costs.

The Second Problem with this alliance is its intentions: The parties involved just want to divide the electoral map of Egypt, and divvy up the seats they will win from before the elections by having the other parties not compete on them and quite possibly having their people voting for the party running in that district. If this sounds like a good idea to you, then you obviously don’t understand democracy: Democracy is about giving people a choice. Multiple choices in fact. Competing visions and programs. If this Alliance happens in this intended way, with everyone cutting their piece of the parliament pie upfront, why even have an election? What about letting people choose their representative from the best of a competing pool instead of telling them “This is the national Unity candidate. Vote for him or we won’t have a national unity government. Don’t you want us united?” by creating such an alliance? Plus, Competition will allow us an elimination process that will finally declare the death certificate for some parties that have been effectively dead for years, and have no street presence or constituency and are nothing but a brand now, like ElTagamo3 or AlWafd. Those parties have survived by accepting whatever crumbs the NDP agreed to give them, and cartoonishly played the part of “the opposition” for years, and now is their time to die, or at least have a serious wake-up call. Such an alliance would negate all of that.

There is also the problem with execution of said power-sharing arrangement: How to divide up the seats? Will it be based on ability? Ideas? Presence? Historical weight? Ideology? How? There are 13 players in such an alliance, and if- god forbid- the other parties (The FEP, The ESDP, The DFP, and the Populous Alliance) also joined, you will have 17 parties and 444 seats. We know that the MB wants 30-50%, The FEP wants the same if not more, AlAdl is sticking to its 10% goal, AlWafd demanded at the meeting that they get 60 seats alone, which is 12%, so if both MB and FEP both agree on 30% each, that’s 60%, you add the requirements of AlAdl and Alwafd, and you have 82% of the seats. That’s 18% for the remaining 13 parties, and neither one of those 4 players will agree to any less of those percentages, and none of them represent the left. Can you imagine the in-fighting that will happen? Can you see how easily such an alliance wouldn’t work?

The concept behind an election is that there are a limited of seats in any parliament, so it’s up for the parties to represent their ideas and create ground operations that allow them to get as many seats as they possibly can in a free and fair competition. This alliance doesn’t want that. It wants a selection, not an election, and to rob the people from having a clear choice between parties, which is the exact opposite of what this revolution aimed to achieve. They can call it a National Unity government, a United electoral list, whatever, it’s still designed to rob the people from having any real say on who in the parties gets to represent them locally, unless it’s an independent candidate, and very few of those who aren’t NDP actually have a prayer in hell ‘s chance for winning such an election. It’s a bad idea anyway you spin it, and I am glad that the other 4 parties are not joining and I hope they stay this way. My only condolence is that such an alliance between leftists, liberals, centrists, opportunists and cartoonish parties wouldn’t last for long without crumbling under the weight of its infighting anyway. God knows that every decent person in Masr ElHorreya- except for Hmazawy of course- has been on the defensive ever since that meeting, stating that “no agreement has been formalized” and “we are simply just talking” to their enraged members, fans and friends. This will only get worse the longer this lasts. Just watch.

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