Saturday, February 05, 2011

Scenes from the Egyptian Revolution; a Background

To an outsider it may seem puzzling why a revolution started now in Egypt, but as a keen observer I could see it coming all along, perhaps at a different timing.

Don't get me wrong though, the timing was perfect. Talk about accumulations ... tens of years of accumulations. If you take police brutality as one reason for protests, it has been practiced systematically ever since 1952 against political opponents, though in recent years it has also crushed to death innocent people, even those who have not been accused of any crime. Several high profile cases against policemen have been filed. Still, the source of the problem, the culture of state-induced violence and impunity as well as the emergency law imposed since Mubarak assumed power (not a coincidence), remains a culprit towards dignity for Egyptians.

Let's focus on the last five years. Hundreds of protests, sit-ins and marches were organised by thousands for various political and economic reasons. Because Mubarak and his regime do not have a hint of respect or care for "their" people, they dealt with most of these protests with violence alone instead of diplomacy or any concrete steps towards development. Inevitably this attitude has created vendetta among tens of thousands, mainly downtrodden workers and government employees.

Then the Khaled Said tragedy began. Within a few hours, Facebook pages were created in his memory. At the same time, various political movements organised marches and protests calling for punishing his killers. Through time, the page, created by anonymous, started to shed more light on similar abuses and other regime failures. It has been a haven of debates and most of its fans bitterly criticised this regime. Have you noticed the momentum? Are you watching the snowball rolling? A man gets killed at the hands of policemen, thousands know and are angered, more people get killed the same way, fuelling more anger and frustration, the emergency law which is accused of letting loose policemen on innocent people does not get cancelled still.

A few months after Khaled Said, thousands of kilometres away, a vegetables vendour gets his cart confiscated and a policewoman slaps him when he objects. Hurt and frustrated, he sets himself ablaze, dying a few days later. The self-immolation sparks ever-growing protests calling for basic human rights; bread, dignity, social justice, freedom. No amount of government promises, then sniper shootings and police brutality could quell them. Almost a month later a regime topples and a president flees. This is the Tunisian Revolution.

The Egyptians watched the fall of a repressive regime wistfully. They congratulated the brave Tunisian people and showed solidarity. The Egyptians saw a live and practical example of how to get rid of dictatorship. And it wasn't in the Western "brave new world", but in a country which shares the same language, history, culture and Arab identity. Now was the time to emulate them and let the domino effect work.

Again, within a few hours, the anonymous Khaled Said Facebook page creator called for a "revolution of anger". He succeeded at gathering thousands in "silent protests" before, but this was the first time he actually called upon people to GET ANGRY. This day was the 25th of January, strategically on the government-chosen Police Day, only 11 days after Tunisia's dictator fled. No one expected the response to be very huge. "When you want to slap someone, do you tell him beforehand or do you do it suddenly?" a shop vendour remarked. Luckily, everyone was proven wrong.

In a striking real "remake" of V for Vendetta, then, this anonymous V has been addressing thousands of people via Facebook for months on their rights and sharing with them dreams of prosperity and dignity. Blend all of the effects you may and you can now find the mouth-watering aroma of the revolution. The butterfly effect, the domino effect, the snowball effect.

At one point I said to myself, if Khaled Said hadn't been killed, and his horrific postmortem photos hadn't been published, who knows, maybe this revolution wouldn't be happening. How insane, how ironic, how delicious could it get?

1 comment:

marooned84 said...

I saw the V talking today, and he proved to be a real self-denying hero. I'm proud of what happened no matter what the outcome will be. At least we will not be stagnant anymore: either a running river or a contaminated pond.