The future of Egypt – the views and hopes of a Cairo resident
One year on from the Egyptian revolution, we report direct from Cairo
30 years… 30 years of blind-sighted oppression and contradictions in every corner; from the government’s brash authoritarian rule to the popular, self depreciating houses of worship, it has been a brain-draining experience for the silenced and forsaken Egyptian society; under the rule of Hosni Mubarak; the infamous tyrant with an estimated fortune of $70 billion Dollars, and yet thanks to him Egypt goes down in history as a corrupt and striving developing country, with one of the worst education systems in the world where public schools and universities are ghetto territories for the uprising next generations of prison-bound convicts and the hard-working unacknowledged lot who become victims of social distress, poverty and unemployment, incompetent teachers choose fist over motivation, and the kids are far from learning anything at all but the treachery of disorderly dodgers, and the big private schools aren’t the best alternative!
Parents spend a good fortune for an education that is not so different from the unenlightened public facilities, but instead is well supported by the capitalist face of deficiency. The economy itself is a joke; the market prices are sky-high compared to the average income of an average citizen. 20% remain below poverty line. The police are often bribed for just about anything, and so the drug lords keep running their businesses smoothly without getting caught, and the cops instead harass the “little”Â men or the junkies and rich kids off to pick up a score, the drunk keep on driving, and so do the 16 year olds, women constantly assaulted by men in and out of uniform, accidents happen, and go unpunished! The Ministry of Interior itself was only protecting and working for the ruling parties, the Elite and their entourage!
Up until the 25th of January, 2011; when an inevitable fate took its course on the entire of Egypt to become outraged by one final authoritarian assault; when a few weeks earlier Khaled Saeed an Egyptian residing in Alexandria was beaten to death by two policemen in a public street for standing up for himself against an unnecessary yet familiar police intervention we’ve all encountered with one way or another.
It was discovered later on after further investigation that the Police had planted a piece of hashish down his throat to accuse him of drug possession and accordingly giving them a motive to “bust him”Â, but the truth was only obvious given the innumerable amount of people who had to deal with an unfair police intervention at some point of their lives; Such behaviour was normal. Disturbing photos of his barely-recognizable face were posted on the internet and hell broke loose from that moment on, once inspired by the first successful revolts that took place in Tunisia.
Activist movements such as “Kefaya”Â (Arabic for “Enough”Â) and “6th of April”Â paved the way for the Egyptians, primarily the sick and tired exasperated youth-of-today to march down to Tahrir Square in Cairo and protest once and for all against the entire political system, the government and the president himself! Millions (yes, millions!) of people from the various social classes in Cairo; rich aristocrats, homeless families, multi-cultured students, landlords, cabdrivers, shop owners and house wives, Christians and Muslims, all rounded up eventually and united for the sole purpose to take it down; the system and all its filth, with no other thought in mind! It was a movement free from any political or religious influences, and no particular strategy was evident, people would walk on by and witness the exhilarating commotion and simply put their plans and errands aside to join the multiplying circles of protests.
Journalists and media channels were more than intrigued and eager to capture every single moment or incident that went down in the square! The sound of freedom was wild in the streets and in the hearts of every man and woman at last unshackled to give it to the man; the proud and savaged middle finger! And how viciously overwhelming it was at the time! Such righteous anger, that is fuelled by the need for liberty, freedom of expression and intolerability towards submission no doubt gives birth to change, to art and to music, we’ve seen it happen all over the world, and it was now slowly making its way to Egypt; a stage was put up in Tahrir Square for all those musicians interested in performing songs, poetry and spoken word in the name of resistance! Paintings and drawings were hung on the walls, even a clinic was set to aid with the innumerable injuries and a good amount of humour was uplifting in times of distress.
Mubarak stepped down on the 11th of February 2010 after several attempts to tame the outraged civilians, by blocking Facebook and Twitter and sending out police riot squads to terrorize Egyptians with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets; causing hundreds of injuries and several deaths! And later an even desperate attempt; a speech by Mubarak was set to infuse all sorts of sympathy towards him, but it was too late after a good 30 years of sucking Egypt dry from all its resources, encouraging police brutality and censoring if not entirely annihilating any hiss that would slightly go against the fascist regime!
It was a glorious night indeed, when the news came that the president is no more! People were in tears, screaming at the top of their lungs in joy, all the streets in Cairo were parading like there’s no tomorrow!
Little did they know that the now Ex-President had one last trick up his sleeve.
All police were ordered to evacuate the streets, and more than 10,000 prisoners escaped and were in no time breaking into stores and houses, and running people over with cars. It was clear then, that anarchy had literally broke into the city, and the best part of it was that the fear meant to cripple the nation and delude them into requesting help or submitting to a familiar authority was nothing compared to the determination in keeping hope and making a change. There was no stopping the revolutionaries from taking on the roles meant for the cowards in hiding! College students were on the streets every morning collecting money to help in cleaning and re-painting the sidewalks and walls, Men were on the streets every night protecting their neighbourhoods with guns, baseball bats, knives, swords and all sorts of DIY weapons! They formed blockages at every intersection to catch any thugs they come across and hand them to the army tanks situated in every district to arrest the loose prisoners. At the time the army were thought to be “The Good Guys”Â still persistent to protect and serve, and for a brief while they were respected, but more on the matter later.
Security had to be restored eventually when it became clear authority wasn’t necessary to help maintain a certain type of order, and the coppers went back to work, some of them had their own protests claiming they played no role in harming anyone. Moving on.
The question now was “Who’s next in charge?”Â
It was time for all the wolves in suits to clench and grind their fangs and fists over the throne! Liberal political parties were being formed and admired for supporting freedom of expression and encouraging a more or less Secular state! While the extremists and religious fanatics were slowly emerging with the two now most powerful political parties; El Nour political party run by the Salafis; a group of radicals who want to apply the Islamic law over the entire state. Their beliefs are crude and they know nothing about running a modern state’s economy, but instead they possess the power to manipulate the masses of illiterate, and poor suburban areas around the country into believing they are God’s contemporary prophets, sent down to deliver Egypt from the Evil, opportunist Liberals.
While the other extremist party “Freedom and Justice”Â run by The Muslim Brotherhood are just as religious, they are but also exceedingly organized and have long been planning to take power since the 1940s. The MB have a reputation for using and supporting violence, and were linked to or responsible for a number of assassinations including Egypt’s most liberal president Anwar El Sadat in 1981 for imprisoning the most of them who had attempted at the time to overthrow Cairo’s secular state at the time. They also made several efforts to take down the former president before him Gamal Abd El Nasser. They are the most dangerous, hypocritical lot who put a great deal of effort in convincing whichever opposing organizations as well as the uneducated masses that they are here to help, to make better of the education system and of economy, to increase health facilities, employment and security. Since they were first founded they have been doing a lot of logistic work to increase their popularity and divert the public from their primary motive to rule, and now they have arisen once more to pursue the same objective of taking charge.
While all the political parties were getting ready for the parliamentary elections, several protests were taking place around the city, for various demands that have not yet been realised. On October 9th 2011 Coptic protestors marched peacefully to the Maspero TV tower to demonstrate against the Armed Forces for not protecting and in some cases attacking the Copts and other protestors, the military then went down to the Maspero building; tanks full of loaded guns, opened fire at protestors, ran them over and brutally attacked them for several hours. 28 were killed and thousands were severely injured! And on the 19th of November; Tahrir Square was once more home for millions of revolutionaries demonstrating against the SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) who continued the inhumane manslaughter, and were caught on camera assaulting women, and severely battering people who have been beaten down to the ground, if not already dead.
The three phases of the parliamentary elections went on until the 4th of January 2012, for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis; winning 56% and 23% of the seats, respectively, while the liberal political parties altogether did not exceed 20%. The horrid media publicity forced the SCAF to slowly retreat, while the atmosphere in Tahrir Square began to ease now with more focus on the elections. Something was going horribly wrong in that area!
Journalists and reporters discovered, after several interviews with random voters, how most of those in the suburban areas were clueless as to who to vote for and Salafi and MB groups were taking it to their responsibility to seize every opportunity to spread the “good word”Â at the voting queues! There were some illegal practises, for instance a person would vote more than once with separate IDs, or with the same ID in different districts, and women in long black veils aka “The Nekab”Â would do the same. Some reported that they were males undercover. Such actions made the liberal political parties, specifically “Al Wafd”Â question the credibility within the entire voting process and are taking their complaint to the High Elections court as the 10th of January. If all goes as planned, the two manipulative anti-women’s rights, anti-tourism, pro-violence, xenophobic parties are most likely to lose their current stats and implode into their own bullshit! Either ways it is impossible to assume that the liberal, broad-minded power figures of today are to succumb to any exaggerated action-taking from the Islamic parties who are looking to segregate between men and women in schools and universities, sporting clubs, factories and offices…etc. And are persistent to inhibit liqueur consumption and export, ban the tobacco industry and all the foreign companies and tourism altogether, and to add up to their ridicule; shut down barber shops so that men would grow the appalling “Islamist”Â beard! The liberals are doing their best to protect the cosmopolitan spirit of the Egyptian society, by creating diversity within the parliament, not to allow the majority of one party to rule! Which gives us – the progressive Egyptians, the hope that we won’t get sucked into the dark ages? That maybe some day our country won’t become the next Saudi Arabian nightmare! And if all else fails there’s no stopping the revolutionaries now! Not after a year of continuous fighting back with no bearing of any other responsibility in mind but to stand up for freedom, the kind that is for free! No precautions, no fear of consequence, no backing down!
Ahmed Malek is one of the few exceptions at his age of 16 years old! He is an Egyptian student and actor who is part of the “6th of April”Â movement which started in 2005 by employers in the factories of Mahala; a city in Egypt famous for it’s weaving and textile factories. It was the first ever movement to protest against injustice and oppression in Egypt, until activist youth turned the movement into a public case that reached the entire country and is spreading all over the world now with the help of the internet and Facebook, and the activists who travel themselves. Malek is also a victim of police brutality.
On the 19th of November during the clashes in Mohamed Mahmoud St. by the Tahrir Square, where he was carried by a few of the protestors, leading a chant against the SCAF who attacked the square with CSF gas for the first time, a new gas that causes instant death or lung cancer! Everyone was throwing up and the army were more than brutal. The cops spotted Malek and handed him to the army who battered him senseless to the ground; no one was sure of how many were they against the 16 year old kid. Malek’s friends dragged him out the death pit and rushed him to a hospital. Doctor’s said he’s lucky to be alive still with a severe concussion and countless injuries all over his body! But it didn’t stop Malek from contributing to the revolution still; day after day, without fear or hesitation; or giving up of any sort! He believes that Mubarak’s regime is not over yet and that this is the main problem Egypt faces today! “Thousands of activists are still in prison, we still get beaten up everyday at protests and the prices are still on fire! We’re still under military rule and the SCAF are killing our hopes for Egypt; we lose at least one soul a month because of their violence.”Â Malek states. “BREAD, FREEDOM and JUSTICE that was our main chant during the revolution and we won’t stop until we achieve these three goals, when The People take power, when we have the actual choice to decide which path we are willing to risk going through, when our voices are truly heard.”Â
For a 16 year old who’s truly ascertained to make a change and is constantly up to date with all the political events and is notoriously active in the field of rebellion, Malek is truly an inspiration and I had to ask him of what inspires him too, and he admits “EVERYTHING… Our culture, our history, our kindness, our determination, and even our streets that got ruined by a corrupt regime. Just try to have a walk early in the morning and eat from those traditional bean trucks, and watch how the people smile, how at a moment they could really die for you, how if you really needed help you’ll find millions giving you their hands, how neighbours smile to each other even if it’s fake but they just have to do it as part of their nature, how the little kids create new games from the garbage just so they could have fun. I’m just inspired by how BEAUTIFUL EGYPT IS!”Â
The future is uncertain for us, for at times, the truth becomes so obvious that we can’t stop the flow of events that happen day after day; from the clashes between the people and authority to the spread of news and information over the sincere media channels. And in a sudden, things calm down; strangely so, people are bewildered again and awaiting on one thing or another to happen, to change or to grow! We still believe in a better tomorrow, we still riot and we will rise and fall until we witness the end of this long-drawn fascism, until the system is for our benefit, until justice is served! This 25th of January will mark a year since the first outbreak of revolts in Egypt, a lot of predictions are assumed that it might be an optimistic celebration, or another ferocious revolution, like nothing we’ve seen before! We’ll just have to wait and see…
Read more about the violent riots during the 19th of November.