People defending the violent action of the army in Egypt against protesters always ask us to look at the “big picture”. They ask for patience for the democratic process to take hold, and for a civilian authority to eventually reign in the soldiers.
But when I see videos like this (which I ask all of you to spread as wide as you can), in which soldiers so viciously hit demonstrators and defile their women, I see what the big picture really is: It’s about human dignity and the value of every single egyptian life. That was the whole point of the revolution and the Arab spring.
This is not about some long elaborate process in which eventually the rulers will learn to respect the civilians. This is about once and for all establishing the primacy of the citizen as the sole source of power and legitimacy in the country.
Author: Carsten Agger Published: December 11th, 2011
Den egyptiske journalist og revolutionære socialist Hossam El-Hamalawy forklarer i dette interview, hvorfor han stadig er optimistisk med hensyn til udsigten til at få afsat det diktatoriske regime. Han siger blandt andet, at det er forventeligt, at det hele ikke falder på plads på én gang, og at det uanset udfaldet af det seneste valg let kan tage tre til seks før der sker nogen mærkbar bedring af situationen:
Has this affected the legitimacy of the elections? Of course, it did. I had already taken the position even before the current uprising of boycotting the coming elections because they are happening while the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is still in power. You cannot have clean elections while Mubarak’s generals are still running the show or when the army, together with the police, had just massacred people in Tahrir, and Maspero. They were not even held accountable, and now they are the ones supposedly in charge of supervising the whole process?
More importantly, it’s not about who you vote into this inept parliament. My argument was that even if you elect one hundred percent Revolutionary Socialists in parliament – forget about the Salafis or the Ikhwan– still you will not be able to achieve the goals of the revolution. If you bring a prophet or a saint to be the prime minister today in Egypt, he will still remain a puppet in the hands of SCAF. If you elect a president today, while the situation is still as it is, he will also be a puppet in the hands of SCAF. SCAF are opting for a model which is like the old Turkish model where you get the people enjoying elections, electing civilian politicians in suits, and having civilian cabinets, but with specific red lines that cannot be crossed, and once they are crossed you will get a phone call from the army – or you will get a coup.
The fierce level of confrontations with the police has definitely been unprecedented since January. You can draw parallels between them in terms of police brutality triggering the uprising, in terms of the tactic of occupying the square, in terms of even repeating the same battles on Mohamad Mahmoud Street that were very reminiscent of the 29th of January – the day after the ‘Friday of Anger’ there was a massacre on that street. But there are differences, of course. Not all sections of the population took part in the uprising, unlike January where there was a higher level of participation.
The other qualitative difference is that you were then revolting against Mubarak; now you are revolting against his own army generals. This is a plus, meaning we’ve come a long way. In February or March if you would have chanted against the army generals in a protest you could have been lynched by the people themselves – not by the military police – I mean by the people. Many people believed the lies and the propaganda of the army at the time about them protecting the revolution, or that it’s Tahrir that’s causing all of the instability, but ten months later when you get this full scale uprising basically against the military and a strong occupation that lasted for a few days with the one demand of putting the army generals in jail then you know you’ve come a long way in terms of the consciousness of the people
The uprising didn’t succeed, obviously; we still have the army generals running the country. But it’s not going to be the last uprising, and we have, at least, I would say, from 3 to 6 years of ebbs and flows, of battles to be won and others to be lost. But in general I’m optimistic. I’m not pessimistic about it.
En vigtig konklusion er, at den optimistiske forestilling om, at Mubarak ville gå af, og så får vi et overgangsstyre og en hurtig overgang til et frit og demokratisk samfund, trods alt er alt for optimistisk i et land, hvor militæret så at sige har ejet så stor en del af samfundets aktier (modsat Tunesien, hvor det trods problemer er gået noget bedre).
En vigtig detalje er også, at oprøret i januar og februar selvfølgelig ikke kun var det på Tahrir-pladsen – Tahrir har været vigtig, men Mubarak var aldrig blevet væltet, hvis ikke der var udbrudt demonstrationer og strejker over hele landet; og et endegyldigt opgør med militæriktaturet kræver tilsvarende, at oprøret generaliseres og kommer helt ud på arbejdspladserne:
According to a labour organizer friend of mine, you witnessed at least 1,500 industrial actions in February alone, which is the total amount of all industrial actions in 2010. Now, these actions continued in February through March, and went down a little bit in April, May, and June. But then you had September, which was probably the month that had the biggest hit in terms of strikes, where roughly three quarters of a million Egyptians took part in a strike; they were mainly in the public transport sector, the teachers, the doctors, and the sugar refineries. Here we are only mentioning the major blocs, but you opened up the newspaper at the time and all these wildcat strikes were happening everywhere.
We did not witness any strike actions in solidarity with Tahrir in this uprising; it is true that the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, and some independent unions, supported Tahrir and they had their banners there and a symbolic presence there, but they didn’t mobilize full scale. My explanation for this is that, on the one hand, the Independent Federation is still not rooted enough so as to be able to put together a general strike; and number two, the working class is usually the last class to move – it’s very easy for the youth and the radicals to just leave their family or university for a month to go to Tahrir and set up a camp. If you’re a worker and you have four kids and you’re working a 9 to 5, and sometimes even a 9 to 7 job, to put together a strike action is a completely different story. They are usually the last to move, but when they move it’s game over.
The general strike is coming. I have no doubt about this; what you don’t know is what’s going to be the outcome of the general strike. But the ball is in our court – can we push it left or right, that’s what we’ll see. At the moment there are several important protests taking place, mainly in Alexandria. Tomorrow in Cairo there will be a protest in front of the State Council in Dokki on Giza Street – it’s called Magles Al-Dawla – where workers from two privatized factories are going to show up for a court case to demand the re-nationalization of their companies – which they already won, by the way. That’s the other problem: even when you have a strike that reaches victory it never means that the government is going to fulfill its promises. Just pick and choose the name of any company that’s right now on strike and I will tell you that they have been on strike since 2009, or even 2007!
Tahrir Square is for sure the symbol of this revolution but we will not fall into the trap of taking Tahrir as a barometer for how the revolution is progressing or regressing. That’s what we’ve been saying to activists for the past months who have been demoralized. For example, you call for a ‘Million Man Protest’ in Tahrir to denounce military tribunals and only a few hundred show up, so you get demoralized. But at the same time, within the same month, you have 750,000 Egyptians going on strike and, in effect, destroying the emergency law. Even if they didn’t show up at your own protest in Tahrir Square, they effectively broke the emergency law.
Der er mere – meget mere, så læs endelig det hele. El-Hamalawy taler også om den amerikanske og efterhånden internationale Occupy-bevægelse og mener analogt til, hvad der er brug for i Egypten, at bevægelsen kan få stor betydning – men at den er nødt til at nu ud over og væk fra de pladser, de er begyndt med at besætte:
If your movement remains confined to the square than you’re not going to succeed. You have to take this movement from the square to the workplaces and the university campuses. We did not topple Mubarak in Tahrir. Yes, Tahrir was a heroic battle, a heroic sit-in, and a heroic occupation, which will definitely go down in history as one of the most fantastic struggles that happened this century, but at the same time, the regime could have held out; Mubarak could have stayed in power for a much longer time if it wasn’t for the labour strikes that broke out. So, I’m very proud of our colleagues and brothers and sisters who have taken part in the Occupy movement everywhere, but they have to link their struggle to the workplaces. If they don’t bring in the working class – which is a big challenge, and I’m not saying it’s something easy – then this movement is going to die.
Og det kan de, der gerne vil se et vellykket oprør mod de økonomiske kræfter, der i disse år insisterer på at frede bankerne og samfundets rigeste, mens almindelige mennesker får lov at betale prisen, så få lov at tænke over. A big challenge, and I’m not saying it’s something easy.
Alaa is a techie, a programmer of note. He and Manal, his wife and colleague, work in developing open-source software platforms and in linguistic exchange. They terminated contracts abroad and flew home to join the revolution. In Tahrir he moved between groups; listening, facilitating, making peace when necessary, defending the square physically when he had to.
He started the TweetNadwa series – the corporeal meetings of the Twitter community. In one of those, in Tahrir, I understood the remarkable role he played. We sat on the ground, a screen displaying rolling tweets, discussing the restructuring of Mubarak’s brutal security apparatus. Comments and questions could only use two minutes. If you liked what you heard you fluttered your raised hand. Passersby stopped and, intrigued, they stayed and contributed. The numbers grew to over a thousand from every background: enabled, together, working out ways forward, and Alaa in the middle, facilitating, directing, articulating, engaged, and passionate. (…)
He was to enter a major confrontation with the military when, on 9 October, a peaceful (mainly Coptic) protest was attacked by the army and, worried, Alaa went looking for his friend, the activist Mina Daniel. He found him in the Coptic hospital, among the dead.
Alaa and his friends then did something remarkable; from the morgue they took on the entire system. In the face of the hospital issuing death certificates from “natural causes” they persuaded the stricken families to demand autopsies. Activist lawyers pressured the public prosecutor to order them. They fetched the coroner and his staff and persuaded them to carry out the autopsies in the presence of physicians whom they trusted. And then they sat them individually with the families to explain the reports to them.
The hospital morgue only had three drawers, so all the while they treated the bodies of their comrades with ice and fans, and they treated the anger, grief and suspicion of the families with tears and embraces and explanations. Thus they foiled the attempt to cause sectarian violence, and to get rid of the evidence of the bodies, and they mobilised the families to demand an investigation.
Og nu er han i fængsel, fængslet af en af de illegitime militærdomstole for at have “opfordret til vold mod militæret”. Soueif skriver: No one believes that the military believe the charges they’ve levelled against Alaa; in attacking this central, charismatic figure they appear to be openly mounting an attack on the very spirit of the revolution.
Det er i alle tilfælde i disse måneder, at det afgøres, om oprøret i Egypten skal ende med at gøre en permanent forskel – eller om militæret med trofast støtte fra Vesten vil fortsætte deres egen udgave af Mubaraks terror.
Author: Carsten Agger Published: February 13th, 2011
Noget af det mest afgørende, der er sket i Egypten i løbet af de sidste 18-20 dage, er det rent psykologiske: Da det blev klart, at regimet faktisk ikke kunne forhindre de store demonstrationer, trods hårde kampe og en usædvanligt brutal indsats fra det frygtede uropoliti og siden fra regimets betalte bøller, glemte folk ganske enkelt at være bange.
I stedet er de nu vågnet op til et land, som er deres eget, og som de selv må tage ansvaret for, som Al Jazeeras Evan Hill skriver fra Cairo:
In 18 days, revolution uprooted a regime that had ruled the country with ruthless tenacity for 30 years.While the upheaval has opened the door to political and economic reform, its most lasting effect may be the opening of the Egyptian mind.
With the army on the streets and the old order in flames, the wall of cynical humour and pessimism erected by Egyptians as psychic protection against the crushing weight of their corrupt government seemed to split apart and crumble.
Suddenly, anything was possible.
As dawn broke, all-volunteer teams of street sweepers wearing rubber gloves and cotton masks struck out along Cairo’s decrepit boulevards, sweeping dust and debris into trash bags.
Where once it was commonplace to see Cairenes chuck wrappers and used food cartons with abandon, it was now impossible to drop a cigarette butt without a stern reprimand.
In and around Tahrir Square, civilians painted over and scrubbed away anti-government graffiti that peppered every surface, from the walls of the old campus of the American University in Cairo to the armour of parked tanks.
In Abdel Moneim Riad Square, near the Egyptian museum, where pro- and anti-government crowds had hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at each other in deadly combat on February 2, men and women now formed human chains to prevent passersby from smudging the curbs they had just painted in thick black-and-white stripes.
But the effort goes beyond rubbish pick-ups and street sweeping.
What is being suggested in Cairo now is nothing short of a mental house-clearing – a complete overhaul in the way the average Egyptian has learned to do business in a society that has been smothered beneath nepotism and emergency law for decades.
One flyer being distributed on Saturday put it this way:
“Today this country is your country. Do not litter. Don’t drive through traffic lights. Don’t bribe. Don’t forge paperwork. Don’t drive the wrong way. Don’t drive quickly to be cool while putting lives at risk. Don’t enter through the exit door at the metro. Don’t harass women. Don’t say, ‘It’s not my problem.’ Consider God in your work. We have no excuse anymore.”
We managed to get over 2 million protesters in Cairo alone and 3 million all over Egypt to come out and demand Mubarak’s departure. Those are people who stood up to the regime’s ruthlessness and anger and declared that they were free, and were refusing to live in the Mubarak dictatorship for one more day. That night, he showed up on TV, and gave a very emotional speech about how he intends to step down at the end of his term and how he wants to die in Egypt, the country he loved and served. To me, and to everyone else at the protests this wasn’t nearly enough, for we wanted him gone now. Others started asking that we give him a chance, and that change takes time and other such poppycock. Hell, some people and family members cried when they saw his speech. People felt sorry for him for failing to be our dictator for the rest of his life and inheriting us to his Son. It was an amalgam of Stockholm syndrome coupled with slave mentality in a malevolent combination that we never saw before. And the Regime capitalized on it today.
Today, they brought back the internet, and started having people calling on TV and writing on facebook on how they support Mubarak and his call for stability and peacefull change in 8 months. They hung on to the words of the newly appointed government would never harm the protesters, whom they believe to be good patriotic youth who have a few bad apples amongst them. We started getting calls asking people to stop protesting because “we got what we wanted” and “we need the country to start working again”. People were complaining that they miss their lives. That they miss going out at night, and ordering Home Delivery. That they need us to stop so they can resume whatever existence they had before all of this. All was forgiven, the past week never happened and it’s time for Unity under Mubarak’s rule right now.
To all of those people I say: NEVER! I am sorry that your lives and businesses are disrupted, but this wasn’t caused by the Protesters. The Protesters aren’t the ones who shut down the internet that has paralyzed your businesses and banks: The government did. The Protesters weren’t the ones who initiated the military curfew that limited your movement and allowed goods to disappear off market shelves and gas to disappear: The government did. The Protesters weren’t the ones who ordered the police to withdraw and claimed the prisons were breached and unleashed thugs that terrorized your neighborhoods: The government did. The same government that you wish to give a second chance to, as if 30 years of dictatorship and utter failure in every sector of government wasn’t enough for you. The Slaves were ready to forgive their master, and blame his cruelty on those who dared to defy him in order to ensure a better Egypt for all of its citizens and their children. After all, he gave us his word, and it’s not like he ever broke his promises for reform before or anything.
Then Mubarak made his move and showed them what useful idiots they all were.
You watched on TV as “Pro-Mubarak Protesters” – thugs who were paid money by NDP members by admission of High NDP officials- started attacking the peaceful unarmed protesters in Tahrir square. They attacked them with sticks, threw stones at them, brought in men riding horses and camels- in what must be the most surreal scene ever shown on TV- and carrying whips to beat up the protesters. And then the Bullets started getting fired and Molotov cocktails started getting thrown at the Anti-Mubarak Protesters as the Army standing idly by, allowing it all to happen and not doing anything about it. Dozens were killed, hundreds injured, and there was no help sent by ambulances. The Police never showed up to stop those attacking because the ones who were captured by the Anti-mubarak people had police ID’s on them. They were the police and they were there to shoot and kill people and even tried to set the Egyptian Museum on Fire. The Aim was clear: Use the clashes as pretext to ban such demonstrations under pretexts of concern for public safety and order, and to prevent disunity amongst the people of Egypt. But their plans ultimately failed, by those resilient brave souls who wouldn’t give up the ground they freed of Egypt, no matter how many live bullets or firebombs were hurled at them. They know, like we all do, that this regime no longer cares to put on a moderate mask. That they have shown their true nature. That Mubarak will never step down, and that he would rather burn Egypt to the ground than even contemplate that possibility.
Sandmonkey, Egypt’s most famous English-language blogger, was arrested on 3 February 2011 while attempting to deliver medical supplies to Tahrir Square. About one hour later, his blog was suspended. The obvious conclusion is that his arrested was not at all random – that Hosni Mubarak’s security forces were following him online and planned his arrest (the Sandmonkey tweeted that he was on his way to deliver medical supplies to Tahrir shortly before he was arrested).