This guest post by ALIA ALLANA, a despatch for Kafila from Cairo, is the tenth in a series of ground reports from the Arab Spring. Photos by Alia Allana
A week into protesting, the revolution became about preservation lest someone forgets.
Mohammed Mahmoud Street, the sight of intense fighting was officially off-limits for protestors. A concrete wall separated the protestors and police. Atop the wall army soldiers kept guard. The aim was simple: to keep protestors from barging past and facing-off with the authorities, like they had done for the past few days. But sometime in the night, a maverick with a graffiti can had his way and the beige concrete wall now read, “Change is coming soon.” Continue reading ‘Did the generals think we were fools?’ Alia Allana reports from Cairo→
This guest post byALIA ALLANAis a despatch for Kafila from Cairo, the eighth in a series of ground reports from the Arab Spring. Videos and photos by Alia Allana
A peaceful protest with men selling candyfloss and making chai turned into an orgy of violence.
Tahrir Square had been quiet for the earlier part of the day today. The Sunday afternoon saw couples strolling, a mother carried her sleeping child, his face was buried in her bosom, scooters with loud speakers blared music. There was no chanting and very few slogans. Small and sporadic groups of people protested. They called for change.
I wish you empowerment to resist; to fight for social and economic justice; to win your real freedom and equal rights.
I wish you the will and skill to break out of your carefully concealed prison walls. See, in our part of the world, prison walls and thick inviolable doors are all too overt, obvious, over-bearing, choking; this is why we remain restive, rebellious, agitated, and always in preparation for our day of freedom, of light, when we gather a critical mass of people power enough to cross all the hitherto categorical red lines. We can then smash the thick, cold ugly, rusty chains that have incarcerated our minds and bodies for all our lives like the overpowering stench of a rotting corpse in our claustrophobic prison cell.
Even as the western and Indian media go ecstatic over the new democratic upsurges in the Arab world, something else has begun to happen. The Tunisian ‘virus’ that spread rapidly via Egypt, is now finding newer and equally hospital bodies elsewhere – that is to say, bodies made vulnerable by the years of plunder by corporate capital. Now, what precisely, is the connection between corporate capital and the Arab ‘jasmine revolutions’? On the face of it, nothing. However, as the state legislature in Wisconsin sat considering a bill to severely curb state workers’ rights of collective bargaining a few days ago, thousands of state employees descended on the building, virtually occupying it.
And as protests against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining rights entered the fifth day, the support for the movement has begun to expand. Demonstrators were joined by union supporters from Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as national union leaders and civil rights advocate the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The editorial and the list of articles in the dissenting dialogues Issue No 2, February 2011 are posted below. The entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf file from the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum website.
As the second issue of dissenting dialogues goes to press, we join in worldwide celebrations of the ongoing democratic revolution in Egypt, itself sparked off by an uprising in Tunisia. The Egyptian uprising, which has tremendous regional and possibly global consequences, came against a background of simmering unrest directed at a dictator who presided over a brutal, authoritarian regime. This regime was distinguished by its incarceration and torture not only of its own dissidents but of prisoners “renditioned” to it by the CIA, the denial of basic democratic rights on the pretext of fighting Islamism, and rising youth unemployment and inflation.
Although the timing and form of Egypt’s popular revolt could not have been predicted, an examination of the recent history of Egypt contextualises the forces at work. For a start, we cannot avoid looking at the recent history of neoliberalism in Egypt, its relationship to the authoritarianism of President Hosni Mubarak’s government, and the regime’s relationship to imperialism. The post-war history of Egypt also charts and indeed defines the historical trajectory of Third World sovereignty. Egypt’s revolt has to be understood in the context of the progressive socialist, anti-colonial struggle for national self-determination of the Bandung era from the 1950s until the liberalisation of the economy in the 1970s, the International Monetary Fund’s “restructuring” in the early 1990s, and the recent capitulation to the accumulation strategy of global finance capital. Continue reading “dissenting dialogues” on Egypt, Sri Lanka and other debates→
According to a report in The Guardian, the movement in Egypt that overthrew the regime of Hosni Mubarak is “a movement led by tech-savvy students and twentysomethings – labour activists, intellectuals, lawyers, accountants, engineers – that had its origins in a three-year-old textile strike in the Nile Delta and the killing of a 28-year-old university graduate, Khaled Said”. It has emerged, says the report, “as the centre of what is now an alliance of Egyptian opposition groups, old and new.” The April 6 Youth Movement (primarily a Facebook network), came into existence in in 2008, in support of the ongoing workers’ struggle in the industrial town of El-mahalla El-Kubra primarily on issues related to wages. The struggle in the past few years, also moved towards a restructuring of unions with government appointed leaders. The list of demands for the April 6 strike also included a demand for raising the national minimum wages that had remained stagnant for over two and a half decades. Increasing workers militancy over the past few years was a direct response to the World Bank imposed ‘reforms’ that had pushed lives of industrial labour to the brink. It was this sharpening conflict, consequent upon the serious impact of structural adjustment policies, that provides the backdrop in which the middle class youth decided to rally in support of the April 6 2008 strike. It was they who converted the call for an industrial strike into a general strike, according to some reports. It is virtually impossible to get a sense of any of this in the ecstatic reports of the ‘networking babalog’ making a revolution that is now all over the Indian media.
For those who worry themselves sick about laptop radicalism, this is essential reading:
The web is in many ways a more modern, much larger version of the kinds of public spaces and forums that have made citizenship possible throughout history. Losing it for a week didn’t stop Egyptians from protesting or airing their frustrations; we still know how to use physical public spaces, after all. But it did remind us that a forum for the open exchange of words and ideas is central to any sustainable democracy; alternatively, we end up in a perilous cycle of control and chaos. Instead of expressing pent-up opinions with fists and bullets, as is happening now in the streets of Cairo, people who can express them freely in conversation, even in a virtual one, have a chance to hear one another and deliberate together about the future. Never mind the vacant symbolism of “Twitter revolutions” and Youtube activism: losing the Internet at the hand of our own government simply offers us a powerful reminder of why we actually want the Internet to begin with, and why we’re doing any of this. [Read the full article by Haisam Abu-Samra]
Excellent as the al-Jazeera coverage is, if you’re tired of it, see videos from Egypt on YouTube, created and uploaded by the people whose revolution it is. It will give you the closest possible feel of what it’s like to be there. Not even al-Jazeera can manage that!
And if you’ve been watching the events in the Arab world and consoling yourself that it’s not that bad in India, consider this: India recently gave Hosni Mubarak an award in Nehru’s name for ‘international understanding’ and Vice President Hamid Ansari addressed him thus:
Your support for regional and international efforts to promote and maintain peace in the West Asian region is eloquent testimony to your commitment to the promotion of international peace and goodwill. I feel deeply privileged to convey my warmest greetings to you. [Press Information Bureau]
Transcript of a land line phone conversation between my friend NAHED MANCYP (based in Toronto) and her mother a (a blogger herself) and grandmother (both currently in Alexandria). Her mother will write a piece soon which can get to Nahed only after the ban on the internet is lifted in Egypt. Thank you Nahed.
We arrived in Alexandria from Cairo right after Friday prayers. The streets where completely empty. I actually made a bet with dad. Dad said, I don’t think anything is going to happen. I said, no something will. Half an hour later I began feeling really embarrassed because it looked like nothing would happen. The streets where deserted, there were no officers or cars. Continue reading Egypt today: A first hand account.→