Thursday, 28 July 2011

Who are you?

Fangari's Famous Finger on El Mogama3

Fangari's Famous Finger, became a showpiece after one of his announcements on behalf of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in which he raised his finger in warning against disobedience, not realising that the new generation of internet savvy youths, no longer tolerate authoritarian language.

"Who are you?" refers to the notion that the revolutionaries are funded from abroad with subversive plans to destabilise the country.

Translation: Who are you?
Mogama3, Tahrir on 22nd July 2011

Vodafone and the Revolution

Vodafone was forced to shut down its services as well as send out pro government messages at one point during the revolution. Pressure groups are asking why Vodafone caved in? I was in Tahrir on July 22nd, when I discovered Vodafone promoting its services with revolutionary messages like: "power in your hands" and "choose your system:"

Slogan: Power is in your hands
Message: With Vodafone USB stay on the net in your own comfort. Choose the system that suits you, a line or a card.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The people versus the people

Religious sectarianism and the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists, are no longer the headlining issues. The new headline is: the people versus the people.

Now more than ever, Egyptians are divided by the protest in Tahrir.

The latest sit-in of Tahrir, which started on July 8, labelled as the beginning of the second wave of the Revolution, may have pushed people too far. Mainstream Egypt is exceedingly growing impatient with protesters.

One group supports protesting in Tahrir. I call that group Camp Tahrir. The second no longer supports action in the street. I call that group Camp Stability.

Camp Tahrir feels the Jan 25 demands have not been fully met, but pressure in Tahrir has led to some of the demands being met, even if partially. It seems to work.

On the other side of the fence, Camp Stability feels Camp Tahrir doesn't reflect the opinion of the majority and it's not an elected body. They feel Camp Tahrir is increasingly a detrimental force to Egypt's overall economic well-being and stability. 

Both camps wish to see a prosperous democratic Egypt. Both camps are entitled to an opinion on the matter. Both opinions are no less valid.

One of the achievements of Jan 25 was freedom of speech, a fundamental right that the revolution fought for, yet worryingly I notice how people are exceedingly less tolerant of each other's opinions. Absolutist opinions make way for stereotypes. 

If you support Tahrir, you're one or more of the following: you're a traitor funded from abroad, you're possibly a spy or a saboteur, you're unemployed or a thug and you're probably someone who's politically ignorant. 

If you're against Tahrir, you're one or more of the following: you're a member of hizb el kanaba (the couch party), you're possibly someone from fulul el nizam (remnants of the system), or you're one of the Roxy crowd and you're probably someone who's politically ignorant too.

In place of state sponsored censorship, we get people sponsored absolutism. You're either with us or with them. History has shown where absolutism leads to. 

Divided opinions have led to the creation of a state within a state, metaphorically speaking. 

Recent allegations by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that the April 6th movement is funded from abroad, with an agenda to create a wedge between the people and the Army, has divided people further. The incidents of Abbassiya pushed opinions even further apart.

There are probably one or more forces with agendas, trying to manipulate people into one camp or the other, but looking at it from the outside in and from the inside out, for I have spoken with both camps, it seems to me the threat is not presented by an ominous force trying to sabotage the revolution or the country. 

The threat is right here represented by the people, unable to find consensus and unable to move forward together on agreed principles. 

Absolutism can ironically sabotage the revolution and what it stands for. Therefore it seems to me that now more than ever a bridge needs to be built to connect the two camps.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

No Trust

I think the issue right now is the lack of trust towards the government, by the revolutionaries, speaking in general terms.

The focus of this piece is Tahrir, but I wish to acknowledge the efforts of protesters across the nation, in places from as far as Suez to Alexandria. Places I have not been able to document, because of a lack of resources.

I spoke to a protester yesterday, who's participating in the current sit-in. He told me he's planning to stay in Tahrir until demands are met, which include no military trials for civilians, a change of current ministers, and transparent and fast trials against the corrupted and those responsible for the deaths of martyrs.

He summarised it, as wanting to give Egypt its rights back. It's an admirable quality of resilience and persistence.

Speaking to him and others, I feel there is a frustration at the lack of concrete action by the current government. It seems a segment of people have lost their faith in the ruling government, a result of its inaction at fulfilling some of the pressing demands.

The people of Tahrir, might feel legitimacy is in Tahrir, where people's power counts. It's turned into a utopian republic of Tahrir.

Looking at it as an outsider and as an insider (I feel I'm wearing two hats in this process, as I was not part of the Jan 25 revolution), the problem lies in the lack of communication from the government to the people.

I wonder why a roadmap has not been put in place to alleviate some of the immediate concerns? A lack of transparency has created a lack of trust. Goodwill replaced by disbelief, as I witnessed in the Tahrir sit-in that started on Jul 8.

On paper transparency and openness about the future seems like a simple solution, but in life and politics things are sadly far more complex.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Proud Mom in Tahrir on July 8

This is an unedited clip of an interview with a mom I met in Tahrir, in a women's tent.


Mom: I'm a mom here, not one of these young women. I'm from the former generation. I'm very proud. It's not a matter of girl or boy now. A girl now is better than a boy or equal to a boy, in her thinking, her mind, her freedom. We didn't succeed in the past, yes, to change the system or to bring freedom to the country, but we were able to bring up an alert and strong generation. A generation that knows its demands, knows its freedom. They defended us and they got us our rights. So there's no difference between a girl or a boy.

I: It's great to see a girls' tent and girls taking part in the revolution.

Mom: Girls and women. Like I told you, I'm a mom here. I'm a girl's mom here.

I: Are you not worried? Are you not scared?

Mom: I was scared, and she showed me how not to be scared. I didn't teach her not to be scared. She taught me how to break the barrier of fear. Thanks to her I realise, time and life passed, and I regret I did not turn out like my daughter. I thank God that my daughter did not turn out like me. She turned out stronger than me and better than me. And she will obtain Egypt's rights. Her and all the youths like her.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The right to dream #Jul8

The right to dream الحق في الحلم 
Hope أمل 
Transparency شفافية 
Freedom to demonstrate peacefully حرية التظاهر سلميا 
Freedom of speech حرية الكلام 
Equal Rights for all Egyptians حقوق متساوية لجميع المصريين 
Respect, Dignity, Social Justice الاحترام والكرامة والعدالة الاجتماعية 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

In less than 140 characters

Today I was trying to formulate the idea of the documentary in less than 140 characters. The discipline of tweeting will force me to convey my message in a sentence. I salute Twitter!

The documentary is starting to take shape. Today on my 6th version of my proposal, I realised writing about it here in Cairo is a very different experience to writing about it in London. No matter how well informed you are about a situation when afar, being there on the ground, experiencing it and then writing about it as it happens, can't be underestimated.

My reality of events in Cairo is very different to what it was in London.

I feel I'm here with my feet on the ground. I'm interacting with people, watching local television, discussing politics and the news, drinking Sahlab in a street café in downtown Cairo, laughing at how ridiculous things were, how tragic they were, before Mubarak's departure. My perspective seems to be more solid. The longer I'm here, the more natural it seems.