About 8 months ago, a young Egyptian man called Khaled Said was beaten to death by the police. We raged and grieved and there were those of us who genuinely mourned his death. A Facebook page – “Kollona Khaled Said” – was created, and its fans have now reached over 300,000.
There is no denying that the activities initiated by the creator of this page – who to this day remains anonymous – have indeed made an impression on people and the government alike. One of the initiatives was dedicating January 25th – officially ‘3eed el shorta’ – to the remembrance of torture victims and to taking a stand against acts of abuse by the police. Which is a respectable move. Fueled by an incident that enraged the whole country, devoting a day to revolt against similar acts of torture committed by the police didn’t at all seem like a bad idea.
However, it is now ‘Yom El Thawra Al Masreyya’ (the Egyptian Revolution) in general. It is now a day for rebellion against everything that is wrong with this country; not just violence and torture by the police. It is now ‘Revolution Day’ instead of ‘Police Day’. They have taken a ridiculous occasion and actually turned it into something even more absurd.
Why do I say this? Let me tell you.
Needless to say, the name ‘Al Thawra Al Masreyya’ was inspired by none other than recent events in Tunisia, because – let’s be honest - we can’t stand it that another Arab country has stepped up and achieved what we Egyptians couldn’t. Moreover, If you check out the poster for the event on the Facebook page, you will see the Egyptian flag with the Tunisian star and crescent entwined together at the top. Another poster says “Tunisia did it on the 15th…On the 25th, Egypt will”. To the right the description of the event begins like this: “E7na msh a2al men Tunis…”
Seriously? So after years of waiting in silence and fear – the day we finally decide to speak up, the day THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION in all its glory arrives, happens to be driven by events that took place in another country? This is the one thing it took to finally make us budge, after all this time? If this is indeed a movement behind which thousands of Egyptians stand united, do we want to make another country’s flag a part of it? I say this with the deepest admiration for fellow Arab citizens in Tunisia in their fight for freedom; I share their triumph and their pride. But with all due respect, this is Egypt. This is OUR fight. It is OUR own freedom we seek; OUR own citizens who suffer everyday in poverty and oppression.
And if what we aim for now is a full-fledged “revolution” that targets getting rid of the corruption that plagues this country in all its forms, why is it schedueled to take place on January 25th in particular? Have we decided that the countless problems this country faces – stagnant education that numbs minds instead of feeding them, girls sexually harassed on the streets on a daily basis, long lines of people fighting for a loaf of bread, skyrocketing prices with no matching rise in income, to name a few – are all represented in the police and symbolized by 3eed el shorta? I’m sorry, but no! The idea of making a statement on January 25th was acceptable when our rage was caused by a particular tragedy and that is the death of Khaled Said. But the motives behind this so-called revolution against everything cannot be confined to the Police or January 25th in particular.
And now the anticipated day is upon us; and all the devoted, profile-picture-changing patriots of the country are getting ready to ‘yenzelo’ w ‘yghayyaro’, like the Facebook page urges them too. The question is, tenzelo fein w tghayyaro eih? Last time I checked, the concept of change for us Egyptians stopped at changing your status and profile picture, never beyond that. I mean, I can no longer understand what this movement calls for. Is it in memory of Khaled Said? Is it to raise minimum wage and change the constitution as it says in the demands stated on Facebook? Or is it just Tunisian fever spreading in the air? What does the date signify? What does the Tunisian flag on the poster say? What do YOU want to say? What are you fighting for? What are you fighting against? I am not against this because I believe it won’t work; as responsible citizens we have a responsibility to act and keep acting regardless the results. I am against this because it was started for the wrong reasons; it is founded on nothing.
In fact, there is only one thing I can call the January 25th event – and that is definitely not a ‘revolution’; but in fact plain ‘zeita’. Just like a mob of people shouting without knowing what they are shouting for can barely be called a protest, some Facebook page where people in fact RSVP as “Maybe attending” and post jokes like “Law el thawra 7asalet El Ahly haya7’od el dawry” cannot be called a revolution.
Revolutions are rebellious movements that alter the course of history. We cannot use such a term so lightly. How do we equate this to ACTUAL revolutions? To the French Revolution whose principles of liberty, equality and fraternity live on to this very day? To Lenin and his revolution that paved the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union and changed world history forever? To real revolutionists like Che Guevara whose picture we stick around everywhere? Sa7ee7, I forgot that Guevara is just ‘moda’; half of us don’t even know why he’s so well-known yet his face is plastered on micro-buses on the streets. Just like the cross and crescent that were scattered around everywhere, only to be replaced by the Tunisian flag two weeks later.
Oh and in case you haven’t heard, the new trend around town is carrying a box of matches around with you all the time; perhaps a bottle of gas too. You never know when they might come in handy.