analysis, comment, reportage

Ahram Online back online!

In Egypt, Jan25 on February 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Nice to see my friends at Ahram Online are back online, after the site was first down, then ‘immobilised’ following the internet blockade over the weekend.

They are providing real-time coverage of today’s multi-million-person demonstrations across Egypt, and have a reach into the provinces and different cities that the Western media, and even AJE, cannot compete with.

A beautiful article on the Lotus Revolution, too, to kick off the resumption of their coverage, by my dear friend Hani Shukrallah.

On 25 January Egyptians set out to recreate themselves, their polity, and the very notion of Egyptian nationhood. Dead for over 30 years, the political realm burst out from the popular uprising of the country’s young women and men, fully armed, like Greek mythology had Athena spring from the forehead of Zeus.

It came almost surreptitiously, and like a bolt of lightning in a clear sky, Egypt found itself in the throes of a revolution, so vast, so astounding and unlike anything the country had seen in living memory, the only historical frame of reference available was the Revolution of 1919 against British colonial domination. The revolution which seemed to rise out of the depths of the virtual space of Facebook, Twitter and Utube, poured onto the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Ismailia, Tanta, Mansoura, Damanhur, Kafr El-Dawwar, Fayoum, Beni Sueif, Arish, and Marsa Matrouh, to name just some of the dozens of cities and towns engulfed in what Egyptians have started calling “the Lotus Revolution”.

Eight days later, on 2 February, the old order fired what I am convinced will prove to have been its final shot. And as such, it was truly worthy of that order: regressive, vicious, irrational, and inept. The Middle Ages’ scene of whip, stick and sword-wielding men attacking the peaceful protesters on horse and camel back will go down in the annals of human, and not just Egyptian, history, and very possibly the Guinness Book of Records, as among the most memorable images of a dying autocracy gone senile.
It was no laughing matter, however. Hundreds of men and women, who had been peacefully, indeed joyfully, protesting for over a week, were seriously injured; a number of them were killed.

Yet it was on the night of the second of February that the battle for Egypt’s future, and it’s very soul, was fought, and won. Maybe a couple of thousand young men and women held the square against seemingly endless hordes of trucked-in thugs, hurling Molotov Cocktails at everything in sight, at the demonstrators, at apartment buildings overlooking the square, and at the Egyptian Museum, Egypt’s and humanity’s greatest storehouse of Ancient Egyptian antiquities.
On the night of 2nd February, and through the early morning hours of the 3rd, our children: my son Hossam (19), my waif-like niece, Salma (whose political baptism of fire was on that same square 9 years ago, receiving a police beating while protesting the US invasion of Iraq), my adoptive nephew, Mustafa, (whose late father, and my beloved friend, cinema director Radwan El-Kashef, would have been tremendously proud of him today), and the hundreds of other young men and women who were with them – have saved both the nation’s heritage, and its future.

Also a piece by Nabil Shawkat on the counter-revolution,  which supports several of the theses advanced in my article published yesterday:

The next morning, Wednesday, the counterrevolution encircled Tahrir Square. I had spent two hours in the square, then gone out for breakfast. Coming back, the small roads around the street were filled with pro-Mubarak crowds, looking a little a bit younger, rougher, and not really interested in politics. These pro-Mubarak people looked distinctly like the thugs that we’ve seen for years around police stations and near riot-police cars. They dress in thick jackets, don’t really talk much, and usually carry sticks. They are the ones who block polling stations, beat up demonstrators, and generally harm anyone deemed disrespectful of the regime. I don’t mess with them.
But the attempt to maintain a “demographic” balance in the pro-Mubarak crowds was still there. Standing on Talaat Harb Square, very close to the Tahrir Square, I noticed a car full of children, really young, five or six year olds. There was one adult in the car, a woman in the backseat who couldn’t possibly be their mother, unless she had two triplets in quick succession.
This wasn’t a place for such small children to be. But it could explain why the car was there. The anti-Mubarak demonstrators brought their children to Tahrir Square, and the counterrevolution, not to be bested, wanted to keep the same appearance. The pro-Mubarak organizers wanted children in front of the cameras, so they ordered some as if from a fast food restaurant. Someone, I am guessing, must have offered a lucrative price, and a grownup took the money and offered to drive the children. The woman was hired to keep them quiet, and perhaps was the mother of one or two of them. I could be wrong, but if that scene suggested anything, it suggested conspiracy.


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